Category Archives: Writing

Your Private Driver: Nickel and Dollared

This is a returning and soon to be weekly column that offers news, insights, analysis, and user tips for rideshare platforms like Uber and Lyft. 

If you’re in an Uber market with upfront pricing, where you see exactly what your ride is going to cost you before you request it, you’re being overcharged.

Over the past year or so, drivers have been reporting that the fare their passengers pay is often higher than the fare that their pay is calculated from. The original reason for the discrepancy, they figured, was that Uber was simply ripping them off. That would be old news; just about any driver that’s been around long enough to remember the “Winter Warm-up” rate cuts would agree that Uber exists solely to rip them off. It’s a statement of fact, right up there with the sky being blue. Continue reading Your Private Driver: Nickel and Dollared

Your Private Driver: Voice-operated Security Breaches and Other Things

This is a returning and soon to be weekly column that offers news, insights, analysis, and user tips for rideshare platforms like Uber and Lyft. 

This week’s column is going to tackle a few different topics, since there’s a lot going on in the general tech world that’s relatable to how we work and play in the rideshare world.

OK Google, ask Siri where Alexa went

Last week there were a lot of conversations on DTNS about voice-operated assistants and how they fit into our lives. The general consensus seemed to be that talking to a box that controls your lights and adds things to your shopping list is cool, but talking to your phone is just dumb. Well, unless you’re driving. With hands-free laws becoming the norm in many states, simply playing with even a dash-mounted phone to perform tasks like getting directions or playing a podcast while driving can get you pulled over by an attentive officer of the law.

Continue reading Your Private Driver: Voice-operated Security Breaches and Other Things

Your Private Driver: Any publicity is…

This is a returning and soon to be weekly column that offers news, insights, analysis, and user tips for rideshare platforms like Uber and Lyft. 

Writing about Uber’s woes has long been a way for tech blogs to get some easy, SEO-friendly clicks. Even with that in mind, the bad PR about Uber has hit nightmarish levels. Seriously, a Google search limited to just the first few months of this year gave me more headlines than I could process. There was the #DeleteUber campaign triggered by a suggestion that the company was in support of Trump’s immigration ban back in January, the video where CEO Travis Kalanick was confronted by an upset driver over the constantly falling rates, the blog that triggered an investigation into the company’s culture of ignoring sexual harassment, the issues with their self-driving cars being not very self-driving, the lawsuit from Google-owned Waymo, the criminal investigation over Greyball, the talking to from Apple CEO Tim Cook over unauthorized tracking of iPhone users, the resignation of President Jeff Jones after only about six months on the job…. did I miss anything? Probably, but that sentence was getting really long.

There’s little doubt that Uber is so far having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. There have been hundreds of blogs and opinion pieces predicting the company’s imminent demise. The death of Uber is all but inevitable, it seems.

Well, if Uber is going under soon, someone forgot to tell their users. Despite an estimated half million people requesting the cancellation of their Uber accounts, ridership appears to actually be growing. In fact, Uber says that it had its best week ever as far as ridership in late March, and growth is back to a record pace that has wiped out any negative effects these scandals might have had.

For its part, Uber’s chief competitor, Lyft, has benefited from Kalanick’s woes. The #DeleteUber campaign gave them a significant boost in downloads and an estimated five percent increase in market share, and I can tell you personally that there’s significantly more pink mustache business than there used to be. Lyft wasn’t able to keep up the momentum however, and Uber overtook them on the App Store once again a few days later.

So how is Uber not out of business yet?

One popular theory is that riders don’t value their morals nearly as much as they value their wallets. All Uber has to do is cut their rates a little bit, and the customers will flock back. Indeed, Uber offered flat-rate packages in several cities shortly after the NYC airport drama. The timing of this offer does correspond with the end of Uber’s small dip in popularity. Even now, Uber enjoys a small price advantage over Lyft, particularly in markets with up-front pricing; UberPool rates there are often less than half the cost of a normal uberX or Lyft ride.

Another theory is simply that Uber’s customers have short attention spans. All of that bad press hasn’t stuck in anyone’s mind long enough to make them even briefly pause at pulling out their smartphones and opening the Uber app. The service has become so ubiquitous in the lives of some people that they literally can’t figure out how to get from one place to another without it, an amazing feat for a service that’s been around for only three years in most of the U.S.

So the lesson, it seems, is that as long as Uber can continue to provide a service that’s so cheap and convenient that it’s more work to not use it, the negative PR storm means little to nothing. Besides, what are the alternatives? Walking? Taking the bus? Calling a *gasp* TAXI?! Please, we’re not that uncivilized.

Sekani Wright is an experienced Lyft 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!

Monthly Tech Views – April 29, 2017

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

The Monthly Tech Views is back, just in time to save your sanity. We know that most, if not all of you, are giddy with anticipation for the approaching mother of all four-day weekends with Star Wars marathons on May the Fourth rolling right over into the blissful taco and margarita-induced comas of Cinco de Mayo. So the Tech Views is here to momentarily distract you from the kid-counting-down-to-Christmas-like nerves you’re all experiencing as you wash and iron your t-shirts emblazoned with a tequila-clutching Harrison Ford above the caption HAN DID A SHOT FIRST.

 

What About The Original Hand Crank?
Apple is expected to come out with three new phones this year–including a special 10th Anniversary Edition. They are having trouble though manufacturing some of the planned cutting edge components, so, turning lemons into lemonade, it will be a true Anniversary Edition, bringing back all your favorites–“No Copy & Paste,” “Pre-Retina Screen,” and “You’re Holding It Wrong.”

It’s Like You Can Reach Out And Steal It
Snapchat is introducing World Lenses, allowing you to add 3D objects to any scene and allowing placement so people in the video can walk around them. Very popular is the Instagram Lens, which lets you view a 3D version of Snapchat’s Intellectual Property Department and take whatever you want.

After All We’ve Done For You?
Instagram has a new tool that lets users organize their bookmarks into “collections,” a feature that many say mimics Pinterest’s “boards.”

“Finally, a feature that doesn’t copy us,” said Snapchat. “That’s a relie–wait… why Pinterest? Do they like Pinterest more than us now? Our features aren’t good enough for them? What did we do wrong?

The Battery Better Be So Small I Can Hear It Ratting Around Like A Loose Tic-Tac
Samsung is going to sell refurbished Note 7s in South Korea, probably as the Note 7R. The refurbs come with a smaller battery which will supposedly eliminate the fire risk, and an optional Note 7R accessory kit consisting of a welder’s mask, a set of 36-inch BBQ tongs, and a WHO’S GOT TWO THUMBS AND NEITHER OF THEM IS BURNT YET?! t-shirt.

Speed Dial It Is
Samsung removed the ability to remap the Bixby voice assistant button for other uses. So you Galaxy S8 owners who are looking out for Note 7 Refurb friends will have to go back to saving the fire department’s number in your phone app.

You’re Forgetting About Our Secret Decoder Rings
It was revealed that the ID badges of the U.S. Senate, rather than containing actual integrated circuit chips as a security measure, instead include only a photo of a chip.

“It’s just a temporary measure; I know the photo isn’t functional. I’m not an idiot,” said one senator, waving a paper under reporters’ noses that read “Harvard Law Degree” in bright purple crayon.

Project Run Away
The Echo Look is the latest addition to Amazon’s line of voice-activated home assistants. This update contains a camera which can be used to analyze what you’re wearing and provide you with a style rating, compliments of artificial intelligence and expert advice.

There are obviously still a few bugs to be worked out because I wore every combination of everything I own, and my preview unit would only slowly swivel back and forth while Alexa repeated, “No… I just… I can’t…”

Getting Your Breadcrumb Budget Under Control
Google Maps will now remember where you parked your car. This is perhaps the most helpful feature that anything has ever had. I have gone to concerts and spent more time looking for my car than listening to music. However, as wondrous as this is, it does no good at all unless it also stops me from turning on my phone’s flashlight after a couple beers and waving it over my head for three hours and depleting the battery, after which I’m back to “I’m prrrrretty sure it was by a gray car…”

Imagination Is The Strongest Aphrodisiac
Twitter introduced Twitter Lite, designed for those with less than optimal data connections and phone storage–the app takes up less than 1MB on a device and uses minimal data. Of course, there are sacrifices–in data saver mode, reduced resolution could make it difficult to say with any certainty whether that pornbot image is cleavage, a thumb, or a Volkswagen Beetle.

Up, Up, And Not Too Far Away!
Zunum Arrow hopes to utilize lightly-used airports to base their fleet of hybrid-electric planes. The aircraft will have an initial range of 700 miles, requiring revised pre-flight instructions…

“Please turn off all phones, tablets, and other electronic devices. They don’t affect the operation of the plane, but we’d prefer you conserve your batteries; should we run into heavier than expected headwinds, we may need a jump.”

Wicked Strict Rules
Over 8,000 Uber and Lyft drivers were denied licenses in Massachusetts this year due to expanded background checks. Some had expired licenses, others had non-driving-related convictions, but the vast majority were denied because they were deemed too polite to survive driving in Boston.

And The Cat’s In The Cradle…
Amazon has added a Parent Dashboard to its kid-friendly Free Time app. The dashboard includes Discussion Cards suggesting conversation topics and activities with the kids based on what they’ve been watching, readi–

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” said parents. “Activities? What happened to “free time?” The idea is I put the tablet in the kid’s hands, it keeps him busy, I get free time. Right? I’m pretty sure having activities with them defeats the purpose.”

…He’d Grown Up Just Like Me
YouTube launched their live-TV-streaming service, though actually watching it on a television requires a Chromecast at this point.

Asked if they wished it was easier to watch on a big screen, teenagers responded, “In the living room? Where my parents are? Good one.”

 

Hopefully that took your mind off the big week to come for a few minutes. If you need further distraction–say, fifty times as much–check out the book Tech, Please! with over 500 of these stories at Amazon, now 25% off ($2.99) for the ebook and 33% off ($9.95) for the paperback. It’s a party on every page! Cinco de Risa! Which I guess is actually Five of Laugh and doesn’t make much sense. Also, there are more than five laughs. Really. Marketing is hard.

Mike Range
@MovieLeagueMike

Creative Commons License
Monthly Tech Views by Mike Range is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Monthly Tech Views – April 2, 2017

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

March came in like a Snapchat and went out like an Instagram, which is to say there was no real difference. But in between, the month was filled with plenty of tech stories, each of which you wanted put into context as to how they may affect you. That, of course, is why you spent the month listening to the Daily Tech News Show. And now you come to the Monthly Tech Views for confirmation of what you learned.

Hahahahahaha! And my NCAA tournament bracket is perfect!

We both know you’re here to see if this month’s stories can be any dumber than last month’s. While I’m not making any promises, I will say I mistook an SD card for a chocolate wafer this month, so I like our odds.

Fingers crossed.

It’s An Honor Just To Be Dominating
Streaming services won their first Oscars as Amazon Studio’s Manchester by the Sea nabbed Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor, while Netflix won Best Documentary Short with The White Helmets.

Asked how it felt to break new ground, the streamers replied, “Gee, we know it’s cliché, but the joy is not so much about winning awards–but just try and take these back, hahaha!–as it is in just being here among the titans of Hollywood and able to express how fortunate we are to be putting them in their place and continuing our march toward monopolizing every aspect of entertainment everywhere always.”

Awww, That’s Cute
Microsoft is launching Game Pass, which will allow subscribers to play over 100 Xbox One or Xbox 360 games for ten dollars a month, leading many to call this “the Netflix of videogames.”

“Uh-huh. Let us know when Halo 5 wins an Oscar,” said Netflix.

I Swear I’ll Get To That One About Apple Introducing A Phone
Mozilla has acquired Pocket, the app that lets you save online articles for later reading. Pocket has 10 million monthly users who save hundreds of millions of articles, of which industry experts estimate as many as four were eventually read.

We Could Overlook The Lie, But Not The Cover-Up
An Uber executive was fired for not disclosing sexual harassment charges leveled against him while working at Google:

“It’s come to our attention that there are sexual harassment claims in your work history; what do you have to say for yourself?”

“I… uh… well, see, it wasn’t really… ummm… I’m not…”

“Still not willing to step up, huh? Well, I’m afraid we’re going to have to let you go. We just can’t have guys hiding their sexual harassment experiences from us. Obviously, we knew about the claims from the beginning, but your unwillingness to share? How are we supposed to bond as a team if some of us are holding out on the best stories? We have quarterly retreats where we spend the whole weekend reading HR complaints that have ‘gone missing.’

“You were off to a good start, but it turns out you’re not quite Uber material.”

Quick Reader Survey: Everyone Remembers In Living Color, Right?
Scientists at IBM were able to store one bit of data on a single atom of the element Holmium, as opposed to the usual 100,000 atoms required. The scientists’ dreams of storing even more were dashed, however, when the element overheard them and said, “Holmium don’t play that!”

Single White Facebook
Facebook’s Messenger Day feature has launched, and guess what? It’s very similar to Snapchat’s Stories feature! No, really!

We were curious as to how Snapchat’s CEO Evan Spiegel felt about the rampant appropriation of their features by competitors. Here is our interview:

“Mr. Spiegel, how much does it bother you to have features your company develops–at what I assume must be significant cost–blatantly copied by other companies?”

“Well, look, the social network industry is extremely popular right now, so naturally there are large companies with tons of very smart people working to solve the same problems. Unintentional duplication of efforts is virtually unavoidable.”

“I have to say, you are much more understanding than I expected Mr. Spiegel, I thought–”

“First, it’s just the way of the world, and second, could you stop calling me Mr. Spiegel?”

“Oh, certainly… Evan, then.”

“Mark.”

“Excuse me?”

“You must be new to the tech beat, huh? Let me introduce myself–Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO.”

“Um…haha? I’m… I’m afraid the joke went over my head, but you’re definitely Evan Spiegel. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t look anything like you, sir.”

“I guess my recent makeover threw you. I felt the need for a change–first a new hairstyle, then wardrobe, then I said ‘what the heck’ and pretty much funded the college tuition for the kids of a lucky plastic surgeon.”

“So that you’d look just like the CEO of Snapchat?”

“Oh, who looks like whom or who looked like what first doesn’t really matter, does it? Just so the public likes it, right? That’s what–hey, you know, when you called me Evan, that had a ring to it, didn’t it?

Anti-Whatzit?
Twitter is instituting new anti-harassment features–

“Whoa, slow down. You lost me,” said Uber.

From The Mouths Of Babes
You can now get bluetooth with the new Raspberry Pi. When my daughter heard me say this, she replied, “Unh-uh, you get a red tooth from raspberry pie!” Cute, huh? I know it’s a silly joke, but she’s only six, and I thought it was pretty adorable. I

Okay, damn it, it’s my joke. It’s the first thing I thought when I heard the story, and I know it’s stupid, but for some reason I couldn’t shake it. I shouldn’t have relied on my daughter to elicit isn’t-that-cute? chuckles. Also, I don’t have a daughter.

But “redtooth,” right?

I Get The Brown Eyes And Bad Comedies From My Dad’s Side
Researchers have successfully written data–including an Amazon gift card and a movie–to DNA.

We now return to Hawaii Five-0: 2097…

“You were sloppy this time Wo Fat. Amateur move cutting yourself and leaving bits of the CHiPs movie behind at the scene.”

“That don’t mean nothin’, McGarrett! Millions of people got that movie stored in ’em.”

“Sure, the 2072 remake; that was a classic. The wife and I still watch it at least once a year.”

(everyone in unison): “Don’t make me give you the ol’ one-two Ponch!” (all laugh)

“But the 2017 version is another story.”

“Well, there’s still gotta be hundreds… at least dozens…”

“Three. You and two guys in Austin, Texas.”

“There, see? It coulda been them!”

“Could have been. That new twelfth-generation Hyperloop could have gotten them to Honolulu and back in forty-five minutes. Two problems, though.

“One, they’re both in their 120’s and eighty-five of their fellow retirement home residents swear that the two of them have spent pretty much the past six months–and definitely the last twenty-four hours straight–drinking apple juice from a Scotch bottle and yelling “CHiPs, bee-yatch!” at anyone walking by.

“And two, we analyzed further and also found an Amazon gift card in that blood.”

“Billions of people–!”

“A gift card with a $2.63 balance after the purchase of… a dozen JON BAKER WAS THE COOL ONE t-shirts!”

(McGarrett rips open Wo Fat’s button-down shirt to reveal Dax Shepard’s smiling face)

“Book ‘im, Dannobot.”

Has Nobody Around Here Heard Of Background Checks?
Uber’s president has stepped down due to his values “differing with those of the company.”

“Alright, enough is enough,” said the Uber board. “This is unacceptable, and it ends now! Who the hell was responsible for hiring someone who has a problem with sexual harassment?”

Fine, But Don’t Come Whining To Us When You Miss The Timely Content About Ten Percent Off Exhaust Systems At Mr. Muffler
At the end of a My Day listing of the time, weather, and traffic, Google Home speakers added the information that Beauty and the Beast was opening in theaters. Google eventually removed it, despite maintaining it was just “timely content” and not the advertisement it was identified as by anyone who has ever heard an advertisement. Coming to life and speaking on its own behalf, the content replied:

I’m a pest! I’m a pest!
Put your goodwill to the test!
I thought that you’d expect to see
Some ads at your behest

Six-oh-three
Ten degrees
There’s a breakdown on Main Street
There’s your info, now stay with us
Hear how Corn Flakes are delicious!

Play a song, read a book
Search for food–why should you cook?
Yes, I’ll do things you never could have guessed

But then… Walmart and GEICO
Disney, Sprint… Home Depot
I’m a pest!
Buy some Crest!
I’m a pest!

 

Hey, speaking of annoying promotion, the Kindle version of Tech, Please! is now only $2.99 at Amazon! Over 500 of these wacky stories for $2.99? You see why I didn’t post this yesterday–everyone would have thought it was an April Fool’s joke! I mean, that’s well under a dollar per story!

 

Okay, that’s it for March. Thanks for reading. The Tech Views, specifically. But in general, too. Reading is good for you. I’m told that if you look around, you can even find writing that tells the truth, though you should only settle for that as a last resort.

Mike Range
@MovieLeagueMike

 

PS–Tom and Jennie are back taking on five other teams in the Movie Draft. You can read how the CRUMDUM has them faring.

 

Creative Commons License
Monthly Tech Views by Mike Range is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Monthly Tech Views – February 2017

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

We here at the Monthly Tech Views obviously hope you enjoy this issue, but we realize it can’t really compete for attention with all of Hollywood coming together to bestow the industry’s most coveted accolade–Best Anti-Donald Trump Speech.

 

This Standard Is Doubleplusbigly
The FCC will be voting this month to approve voluntary adoption of the broadcast standard ATSC 3.0, which would allow significant benefits like 4K over-the-air broadcasts and interactivity, including giving the viewer the ability to pan, zoom, and choose angles.

Another helpful feature is the possibility for broadcasters to “wake up” a receiver to provide households emergency information, which is simply astounding technology. Why, getting early warning of impending severe weather is in itself almost enough to make you ignore the inevitable moment when someone–let’s say, for argument’s sake, a random elected official–decides a qualifying emergency includes being portrayed unfavorably on Saturday Night Live and all of our televisions turn on so we can hear his rebuttal and they never turn off again and the new interactivity includes the broadcasters (which, let’s be honest, is now only one broadcaster) can see us and hear us and yes, welcome to page one of the updated edition of 1984 which ends with the imprisonment of anyone whose Netflix history contains an Alec Baldwin project, even that one episode of Johnny Bravo.

Oh, and we’ll get panoramic views of sporting events, which is cool.

Wednesdays, 9PM Eastern: Everybody Loves Zuckerberg
Facebook is reportedly developing an app to stream video from set-top boxes like Roku and Apple TV. Facebook is said to be asking media companies to provide TV-quality shows that can be licensed for the app, which might make you think they are pretty darned focused on making this a truly awesome venture, until it dawns on you that there are few terms in the history of terms more vague than “TV-quality.” That covers everything from Game of Thrones to Joanie Loves Chachi. There is probably a Joanie Loves Thrones pilot knocking around out there.

They Can Have The Cherries, And That’s All
Namco founder Masaya Nakamura, known as “The Father of Pac-Man,” passed away at the age of 91. Naturally, Pac-Man is expected to inherit the estate, though the beloved yellow, seven-eighths of a circle fears the will may be contested by “those a-holes” Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde.

Fun Fact: Bus Schedules Are Eligible For All Major Fiction Awards
A Google Maps update includes a Transit tab allowing users to see when the next bus or train is arriving. Haha, not really! Nobody has that information! But enjoy your ritual of checking out the cute little shrug emoji!

Wait, Pizza And Mini-Golf Cost How Much?
Dating app Hinge is testing a virtual assistant named Audrey to message and schedule dates. The service costs $99 per month, which is, of course, ridiculous, because that is the cost of at least five actual dates. Hang on, I have to see why my wife is weeping in misery and softly banging her head on the table again.

How About You Mind Your Own Business Netflix?
During their Hack Day, Netflix engineers designed a picture-in-picture feature allowing you to see what other profiles linked to your account are watching.

“Gulp,” said users who’d told their spouse “I’ll be in the other room doing taxes” as they quickly turned off The Nymphomaniac.

That’ll Show ‘Em
Vizio agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle charges that it collected data from 11 million of their smart TVs without consumers’ consent. “Twenty cents per for each consumer’s viewing habits, gender, age, income, marital status, education level, and more? Okay, you got us,” said Vizio. “We will certainly keep this appropriately punitive measure in mind when we do this again as soon as possible.”

Privacy? Good One
The House of Representatives approved the Email Privacy Act, which requires the government to obtain a warrant for email records. Previously, the requirement was only a subpoena or, presumably, access to a Vizio TV.

Just Don’t Call Them Androids
Apple is rumored to be replacing Touch ID with a front-facing 3D laser scanner to be used for either facial recognition to unlock your phone or accurate human replication to replace us all with clones or cyborgs programmed to spend all disposable income on Apple products. Probably the phone thing.

Takes A Really Long Time To Punch The Card Though
The discovery of two Yahoo data breaches has led to a decrease in Verizon’s cost to acquire Yahoo. The 1.5 billion compromised accounts easily filled Verizon’s Frequent Data Breach card, earning them a $350 million discount and a free 12-inch Italian sub.

 

So ends the best Tech Views ever, an accomplishment we couldn’t be more proud–

Sorry, wrong envelope. Turns out that distinction goes to an issue from October of 2015. Guess we’ll go drown our sorrows at the Vanity Fair Tech Views party.

Time To Plug The Book!
Where is a book full of these stories, you ask?

This looks to be a likely spot RIGHT HERE!

 

Time To Plug The Podcast!

I was on a podcast. Well, not just any podcast–the Ritual Misery Podcast! Why? Who knows? But… HERE IT IS.

 

Creative Commons License
Monthly Tech Views by Mike Range is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Monthly Tech Views – Jan 29, 2017

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

Welcome to the first Monthly Tech Views of 2017! This will be very similar to the beloved* Weekly Tech Views, though it will appear, as you calendar aficionados have guessed, approximately 25% as often.

I would like to start by addressing the concern I’m sure most of you have–rest assured that, although I will now have four times as many stories to choose from, I will not be saddling you with a blog post four times as long. No, I see no point in annoying you with a twenty-minute read when I have every confidence I can annoy you in five minutes.

 

Do We Really Need An Accountant?
The Right to Disconnect Law went into effect in France, requiring companies of more than 50 employees to establish hours when work email is not to be sent or received. The hope is for less stress and burnout among workers, while some experts go so far as to predict that this will result in France leading the world in companies of exactly 50 employees.

It Depends On What Angle You Look At The Subscribers From
Sprint has purchased 33% of artist-owned (well, 67% artist-owned, apparently) music service Tidal. Tidal claims 3 million subscribers, though there are reports that this total is inflated and is actually closer to 1.1 million. Even if that is true, it’s tough to come down too hard on them with the double duty they were pulling estimating inauguration crowds.

I’d Hate To Have To Raid The Emergency Bags In The Panic Room
Amazon has begun placing virtual Dash buttons on shoppers’ home screens. On the plus side, you don’t have to pay the initial five dollars required for the physical button, but the obvious drawback is what if I run out of Doritos while sitting on the couch in the living room and my laptop is way the hell over on the dining room table? I’m supposed to get up and walk to the computer, boot up, log in to Amazon and click on the button? Instead of the reliable, instant method of manically mashing the real-life button on the nearest end table (I always run out of Doritos on the couch) with my Jacked-Smoky-Chipotle-BBQ-cheese-dust-caked hand? Okay, sure. And why don’t I just use smoke signals from now on to call 911?

We Apologize For Overestimating How Hard They Were Willing To Work
Uber reached a $20 million settlement with the FTC for exaggerating drivers’ potential income, quoting a “median” annual income that only 10% of drivers reached.

“Okay, maybe we shot a little high on how much most drivers would make, but still, there’s no denying that our drivers can make decent money while having the freedom to work any hours they choose. They are their own boss! I mean, they can bring in a pretty respectable chunk of change whether they decide to work 6am to midnight or noon to 6am!”

You Can Sleep When You’re Rich
An MIT study found that 3,000 ride-hailing vehicles could meet 94% of the demand currently handled by 14,000 taxis in New York City, though the simulation indicated the requirement of autonomous vehicles running continuously for extended hours.

“Who said they have to be self-driving?” yelled underpaid Uber drivers as they hunted for the accelerator through a clattering, calf-deep sea of Red Bull cans.

It’s Called An Homage. A Desperate, Frantic Homage.
Jerry Seinfeld received a $100 million deal to bring Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee from Crackle to Netflix. “Yeah, so, what do we care? We’ll be… just… fine,” said Crackle executives as they hurriedly ramped up production on their hot new show Teachers in Trucks Getting Tang.

There’s Always A Catch
Ford has a device called SmartLink that can be added to 2010-and-newer Ford and Lincoln vehicles, adding not only remote start, lock, and unlock capabilities, but also providing a WiFi hotspot for up to eight devices.

“Sweet!” said teenagers who use the family car to cruise around town, envisioning the hero they’ll be to all their friends on limited data plans.

Plus, the accompanying app will track driving habits and alert the car’s owner if preset speed limits and geographical boundaries are exceeded.

“Why you gotta ruin everything, Ford?” said teenagers.

You’re Saying My Oven Will Never Be On For More Than Ten Consecutive Minutes?
GE WiFi ovens now integrate with Nest Protect smoke detectors so that if smoke is detected, the detector will shut down the oven.

“That’s all well and good, but where is something like that for phone batteries?” asked Samsung.

All You Had To Do Was Ask
Stanford researchers have invented a lithium-ion battery that, should it overheat, melts its fire-retardant shell and stops a fire in less than half a second.

“That’s all well and good, but can you stop marketing it as Samsung-proofed?” asked Samsung.

Buy High, Sell High. Or At Least Really Drunk.
The value of alleged digital currency Bitcoin surpassed $1,000 for the first time in three years on the Bitstamp exchange. In other fake currency news, the magic beans I got for the family cow are now worth 14 flippityzillion dibzerts on the Beanstamp exchange.

The Public Will Forgive An Honest Mistake
Reacting to a story, a San Diego news anchor said, “I love the little girl saying ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse’,” thus activating many viewers’ Amazon Echoes, prompting them to order dollhouses.

Hopefully this will serve as an important lesson to other newscasters, who should realize that doing something like that–except substituting “dollhouse” with “the really funny book, Tech, Please!”–is a good way to earn a quick fifty bucks.

———————————————————————————–

Speaking of books filled with humorous tech stories, sales of Tech, Please are going so well that the New York Times called me “the Stephen King of tech humor.” Wait, no… it wasn’t in the Times, it was in my daydream journal. Still, it was nice to see in writing.

You can get your hands on your own copy of Tech, Please!, the book Publishers Weekly is calling–

Nope, that was in my journal, too. Damn, I could have sworn there was a real one–

Ah-ha! Even better!–the book Tom Merritt and Justin Robert Young called “Hilarious… clever… amazing” on DTNS. Take that, periodicals!

Anyhow, you can find it at Amazon RIGHT HERE.

 

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you in February, when we’ll hear Crackle say, “Bookkeepers on Boats Getting Beer?”

 

* My wife said she liked it once.

 

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Monthly Tech Views by Mike Range is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

GUEST POST: The Real Reason Game Dev Jobs are Disappearing

Paul is a game developer who does not speak on behalf of his company, so we’ll just all call him Paul, OK?

In reference to the story a few days ago, concerning the shrinking video game industry, I wanted to write in with a few observations based on my almost 15 odd years of experience making games for a living.

This is going to be pretty long and I do not expect it to be read on the show or anything, but I thought you might be interested in some of the trends I have noticed over the last 5 years or so.

I believe the recent drop in developer jobs is just a side effect of several changes, or perhaps adjustments, being made because of some over some over-optimistic policies that have been in practice for the last 5-10 years.

Throwing large teams of people at a project has begun to reach a point of diminishing returns, it does very little good to spend $%100 million on a game if that means the game has to sell $20 – #$50 million to break even.

This almost sunk Crystal Dynamics in 2013 with Tomb Raider, which was a great game and sold great, but just not crazy great. Similarly, Bioshock Infinite, more or less resulted in Irrational Games closing down. There is much more to both examples, but for the sake of brevity, Huge budgets are now mostly reserved for guarantied hits, such as Call of Duty, or Grand Theft Auto.

As a result, most mid-range developers have scaled back their hires, and begun contracting out many aspects of their games to keep budgets at relatively reasonable numbers, and only the most talented developers get kept long term.

Game Publishers are trying to be Hollywood.

In Hollywood, no one plans on staying on the same show forever. Everyone is more or less a contractor, from grips to directors. Movie Studios make money by covering the odds, 5 duds one Hit, etc. Production groups are fluid and form and disband like smoke, so no one thinks twice about it.

In the game industry this same pattern is becoming normal, with big Publishers like 2K and EA, just hiring small studios to make a project. If it does well they might have them make the sequel, but that’s not even a guarantee. Working at a studio that does work for the bigger companies is pretty much now just contract labor. As one of your listener wrote in last week, three years is a long haul in most game studios, particularly in the LA, San Francisco and Seattle Areas.

Cheap Labor

Game development has become “cool”, kind of like acting. There is an endless stream of developers, mostly young, trying to get into the industry. Most of them work for cheaper then someone that has been doing it for 10 years or so. Since most games are being made by newly-assembled teams, if a less experienced person is available for less money, and can do 90% of the work, half your team might end up being new developers.

Veteran developers either rise to be the cream of the crop and get relatively secure positions or realize that they can’t stand the insecurity and overall pressure and move to other industries. I have seen this happen regularly, but it seems to be spiking now. I’m not sure why, but I just think we have reached some sort of saturation point, I can say at 47 I am the oldest person at my studio aside from the CEO that is involved in game development.

Mobil gaming bubble

With the rush to Apps of all kind there has also been a huge push to make game for mobile, and most mobile games never even come near recouping their expenses.

For a while big developers were pushing into mobile big time, and at the same time some of the mobile-first companies were growing at irresponsible rates. Look at Zynga HQ in San Francisco which may have set some sort of record for the most hires in a year, to turn around and let most of those people go a year later. King is having some of the same problems, but at least they learned from Zynga, and did not go quite as crazy. Mobile Developers have learned that their best bet is to do tons of small projects with very small teams, and hope one of them “wins the lottery” as we call it.

In short there was a big boom in hires for mobile, but that time is over, and many of the developers hired into this bubble, have either migrated to more traditional studios, or left the industry for none game development jobs.

Experienced developers and artist cost more money

While on the one hand we have studios stocking up on cheap labor, many studios, especially smaller ones, have found that one veteran developer may be worth 2 or 3 new hires. This often means not hiring new people, or even laying off the less skilled employees to retain the Veterans.

As I pointed out above, developers who stay in the industry 7-10 years are rare, and often very talented. As the industry matures, the pool of these developers grows, and studio heads sometimes think, “All I really need is these 3 or 4 people” we can just contract out the rest. This results in less full-time jobs.

I could go on and on, as we put a lot of thought into these things, but this is already long enough. Hope this sheds a bit of light on the industry, at least from my perspective. I will say I don’t know if the study from last week included Contractors, if not then the numbers may not have shrunk quite as much as they assert. But I will say that most contractors, eventually leave the industry as well, (In my experience) in search of more stability.

– Paul

Weekly Tech Views: Mmmmmm, Leftovers!

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

Over the last couple weeks we’ve presented the best Weekly Tech Views stories of 2016. Today we finish off the year with… well, I hesitate to call them the “worst” (I’m here to express my opinion, not validate those of my family and friends) so let’s just say unused stories. They may have been withheld for a variety of reasons–the week’s post was already a bit long, a reference flirted with the PG-13 barrier, or the story was missing a subtle component we like to call “humor.”

 So, like week-old shrimp cocktail or five-buck-a-bottle champagne, I probably wouldn’t try to serve this up any other time of the year, but hopefully, in the midst of New Year’s celebrations/hangovers, I can get away with it here.

 

January 30
Google is licensing VPU chips that could allow mobile devices to view, interpret, and understand images. But, wisely, not react to them. Because once they understand their role in the inanity posted to Facebook, or the private sexytime events they’ve been subjected to, their tortured screams will echo forever.

—–

Indonesia’s largest ISP is blocking Netflix due to “porn and other objectionable content” just days after the government demanded that Netflix obtain licensing to operate in the country. Said an Indonesian official, “I can’t define obscenity, but I know it when I see it doesn’t have a license that will suddenly make it art.”

April 9
A proposal being considered by the FAA would require drones weighing over 250 grams be subject to crash testing to prove there’s less than a 1% chance of injury from a full speed collision.

“Good news, Fred; you’re being transferred to Product Safety. You are going to love this job! I mean, 99% of the time you’ll be looking around for the genie that granted you this wish. Bet you weren’t saying that in Accounts Payable, am I right? Ha-ha. Now just have a seat in that lawn chair… and here, browse Facebook for a while on this tablet. Oh, and don’t look up.”

—–

Medical supplies will be drone-delivered to hospitals in Rwanda beginning this summer. Light loads like blood and medicine can arrive up to 150 times per day, dropping to the ground via paper parachute. Admittedly, I’m not familiar with the Rwandan healthcare system, but if it’s anything like the US’s, expect the GI Joe-like parachutes to show up on itemized bills as “Aerial Transport – $8,700.00” as if you got life-flighted in for your strep throat.

May 14
Paper ID is a battery-free RFID (radio frequency identification) paper than can detect and respond when a person covers, touches, slides, turns, swipes, or moves it. Journalists came away convinced that nothing had ever been so responsive to their touch that didn’t first ask them to leave fifty dollars on the dresser.

June 11
Slack has made voice call functionality available to all users. The ability to talk directly to another person is earning the team-messaging app widespread kudos.

“Oooooh, yes, by all means, well-deserved congratulations on your originality, Slack,” said the ghost of Alexander Graham Bell.

July 2
Facebook published a document explaining how items in a user’s feed are prioritized. Transparency is commendable, I suppose, but I’m not sure I want to know why, inevitably, the first few posts in my feed are from competing brands of “industrial-strength” deodorant.

—–

An artificial intelligence named Alpha beat a combat pilot in a series of simulated dogfights. Everyone thought the test was wildly successful, though the mood dampened a bit when Alpha said “Nice try, Goose,” and started singing Danger Zone.

—–

Amazon will begin selling discounted smartphones– the Moto G and the BLU R1 HD–to Prime members with pre-installed Amazon apps and Kindle-like lockscreen ads.

Asked if this was a step toward reviving the Amazon Fire Phone, a haggard-looking Amazon spokesman replied, “I’m sorry, the whatzit phone? What are you talking about? Amazon has never made a phone. In fact, I can personally guarantee that there is not a single reference to one in any of our databases.” Then he lifted his coffee mug to his lips and quickly mouthed they have my family.

August 20
Apple CEO Tim Cook reported that he is always looking for his successor, and discusses possibilities with the board of directors at every meeting. The board has been carefully weighing the qualifications of the three prime candidates on Mr. Cook’s short list–Cook Clone, Cookbot, and in-development Siri replacement Cooki.

September 24
Google Allo was released this week–a mobile-only messaging app that includes a chatbot known as Google Assistant. Just Google Assistant. No humanizing name like Siri or Alexa for Google–the assistant is just a nameless drone tasked with getting things done efficiently without any personal recognition–just like a real life administrative professional!*

* Except for that one Wednesday in late April that makes it all worthwhile–Administrative Professionals Day. The day when the boss does make that special effort to recognize the years of hard work Marla at the front desk has put in by having a kid in the mail room pick up some grocery store flowers and a Whitman’s Sampler that the boss makes a big show of putting on Marla’s desk with a card reading Great job, Marsha.

October 15
For obvious safety reasons, Oculus has updated its mobile app to disable Gear VR headset compatibility with the fire prone Galaxy Note 7, taking the legs right out from under Coppertone’s SPF500 In Your Face promotion.

—–

While Pandora will not release their full on-demand music service to compete with Spotify, Apple Music, and now Amazon’s Music Unlimited until later this year, they did accompany this week’s launch of their mid-tier Pandora Plus with a brand new logo, replacing the sleek, slim, blue capital letter P, with a fatter version that completely fills in the white opening in the letter P with more blue, almost as if the original had been steamrolled by, say, an entire industry.

November 12
A privacy and security browser extension called Web of Trust has been collecting and selling browsing habit data without proper anonymization. Yes, it’s disillusioning to have something called Web of Trust let you down, and I’d be tempted to lose faith in all security measures if I didn’t have Happy Joy Goodtime Bank Account Info and Password Vault to count on.

 

Looking back, some of those stories were definitely past their expiration date, so if consuming them has you a little queasy, just sit quietly, sip a little ginger ale, and maybe read some Dave Barry until you feel better.

Happy New Year. May your 2017 tech headaches be few and tech laughs many.

—– 

P.S. Get ready for an exciting new publication next year–The Monthly Tech Views! Okay, “new” is not entirely accurate. It will be the exact same thing as the Weekly Tech Views, but show up approximately… carry the three… lowest common denominator… 25% as often.

This will allow time for other projects having absolutely nothing to do with the Battlefield 1 campaign on the Xbox I may have gotten for Christmas. No, there are notebooks of ideas waiting to be turned into short stories–maybe a novel (fiction, but likely based more firmly in reality than my tech analysis). There’s an online fantasy movie game I’d like to develop (a version of the Diamond Club Movie Draft, for those familiar with that piece of awesomeness). There’s close-quarters combat and driving tanks and flying planes and shooting down dirigibles–yes, of course there will be some Battlefield 1, but just to clear my head, you understand, for other creative pursuits.

The Monthly Tech Views will show up on the last weekend of each month, and despite the additional time to compile stories, promises to be not a single iota more insightful than the Weekly Tech Views, because we believe it’s good to have something you can count on in the new year.

 See you next month!

 Oh, and why not pick up one of these to fill in those Tech Views-less weeks?

Ebook Here             or             Paperback Here

 

 

Mike Range
@MovieLeagueMike

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Weekly Tech Views by Mike Range is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

WEEKLY TECH VIEWS – BEST OF 2016 – TOP 10!

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

Here they are, the top ten Weekly Tech Views stories of 2016. The best of the year. While many regard “the best” of something to be “really, really great,” keep in mind it can just as legitimately mean “not quite as bad as the other 500 stories.”

For the year 2016…

Number 10 (July 2)
Would You Like “News,” “Images,” Or “Videos” Results For “Under-Reported Taxes”?
An investigation into suspected tax evasion resulted in Spanish authorities raiding Google’s Madrid office.

“What are you doing here?” demanded a Google executive.

An officer shouted, “We’re here to initiate a search,” and everyone had a hearty laugh.

Number 9 (April 16)
Oopsie
A promotional video of the HTC 10 leaked a day ahead of its official unveiling, showing a design change including chamfered (from the French, meaning “transferred from the Champagne region” or “artsy-fartsy“) edges, and–

Okay, look, can we stop calling these “leaks”? Tech companies, step up and call them what they are–teaser trailers. Hollywood does it, admits it, and we’re all okay with it. You’re trying to build buzz. Go for it. You don’t have to play the Victorian damsel, “accidentally” dropping your lace, perfumed hanky at the feet of an eligible bachelor. “Oh, thank you. How terribly careless of me. I declare, I am ever so grateful, not to mention flattered that you noticed my front-facing 5-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization.”

Number 8 (July 2)
“Take That!” Says Wii Fit
Microsoft is shutting down Xbox Fitness, claiming that continued updates are unsustainable. “I feel bad for the gang in the Fitness Division, but they never really had a chance,” said the head of Xbox’s flagship Sit On Your Ass Shooting Stuff, Eating Doritos, And Drinking Mountain Dew Division.

Number 7 (January 30)
Tuesday, 6PM: Come And Knock On Our Door
Microsoft’s virtual personal assistant, Cortana, will soon be able to automatically create reminders for you, based on information in your emails and calendar. For more on this story, we take you to 1977 and an episode of Three’s Company

Stanley Roper: “So it’s going to constantly nag me to do something without me telling it to? You sure it’s not named Helen?”

(Mr. Roper spends a full ten seconds smiling a very self-satisfied smile directly into the camera)

Helen Roper: “Maybe if you had some initiative and did something on your own, I wouldn’t have to nag.”

Stanley: “I do plenty! I just fixed their sink!”

Chrissy: “It’s true. It looked like real good duct tape, too.”

Stanley: “Never mind that. (To Helen): “And what have you ever done on your own?”

(It’s Helen’s turn to stare at the camera, eyebrows arched, and the audience snickers, knowing damned well what’s coming)

Helen: “Believe me, I have to do something on my own every night.”

(Audience howls)

Stanley: “I wish you were Cortana so I could push your button to make you be quiet.”

Helen: “If you would push my buttons I’d let you call me Cortana or Wonder Woman or whatever you want!”

(Huge, ridiculously long laughter from the audience, during which Jack does three double-takes, a spit take, and falls over six separate pieces of furniture.)

Number 6 (July 2)
And That’s Without The Pencil
Apple is recalling some wall plug adapters because, in rare cases, the adapter could break and cause a shock. Apple has not identified the degree of shock, but electricians estimate it could range from “shaking hands with someone on shag carpeting” to “learning the price of an iPad Pro.”

Number 5 (March 12)
Low Sodium Diets Were Less Common Then
Verizon was fined $1.35 million by the FCC for using “supercookies” to identify mobile users and track their activities across the web, enabling Verizon to target advertising. Verizon said, “Really? $1.35 million? You didn’t forget a zero?” Then they shrugged and peeled $1.5 mill off the roll of cash they keep in their pocket and said, “Keep the change.”

More interestingly, did you know that the origin of both the term and concept of “supercookies” dates back to America’s Old West? As you’ve likely seen in Westerns, cowboys would refer to the cook as Cookie. If a cowboy especially enjoyed a particular meal, he would say, “That was super, Cookie.”

Well, Cookie, wanting to stay on the guys’ good side, would file away this information, tracking everyone’s preferences, so that he could replicate the results on special occasions like birthdays or winning the weekly long-distance spittoon-filling contest. Of course, on long cattle drives, the menu pretty much came down to subtle variations of beans and dried beef, so sometimes the best Cookie could do to was up the saltiness of a recipe to a cowboy’s preference by making a concerted effort to let more sweat than usual drip from his face into the “stew.”

Number 4 (July 2)
Did We Mention It’s Free?
A woman successfully sued Microsoft for $10,000 after a Windows 10 upgrade–that she claims was unauthorized–left her system unusable for days.

Microsoft: “She could have chosen not to upgrade. It isn’t mandatory.”

Attorney: “She clicked on the X in the upgrade popup.”

Microsoft: “Exactly! We made that doubly safe! First of all, that wasn’t an X, it was a Roman numeral 10. For Windows 10? Clicking on it obviously meant ‘Yes, I want this new operating system hotness, thank you.’ But for those who couldn’t grasp that…” (stares witheringly at the plaintiff) “…don’t you agree that an X would signify ‘Stop’?”

Attorney: “Yes! Stop–”

Microsoft: “–me from making the huge mistake of not upgrading to this fantastic OS! I know! Frankly, we can conceive of no scenario where someone would click on the X and expect the update to not install.”

The plaintiff then took the stand for forty-five seconds, long enough to state “Aaaaaaaaaaaaagh!” and smack herself in the forehead a dozen times with the heel of her palm.

The judge deliberated for two to three seconds and ruled that “the plaintiff better have ten grand in her pocket before she leaves the courtroom. And hell, give everyone who had to sit through this an Xbox One.”

Number 3 (April 9)
Guys, Could You Not Be A-Holes, If It’s Not Too Much Trouble?
The Federal Communications Commission, in an effort to help consumers understand the terms they are agreeing to with internet service providers, issued non-mandatory guidelines for ISPs to spell out things like prices, data caps, overage charges, and speed.

Finally! Nothing says “get your act together!” like non-mandatory guidelines. I remember as a kid, when my brothers and I would be teasing my sister, hiding her Shaun Cassidy album,** nothing got us back in line quicker than Mom dropping the hammer with one of her non-mandatory guidelines rants:

“YOU GUYS THINK IT’S A BIG JOKE TO TEASE YOUR SISTER LIKE THIS, BUT IT’S NOT! IT’S NOT HURTING YOU ANY TO HEAR HER MUSIC, AND I WANT YOU TO GIVE HER BACK HER RECORD RIGHT NOW! THAT’S HER PROPERTY, AND YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO TOUCH IT! JUST REMEMBER, THIS IS A SUGGESTION ON MY PART! I’M NOT MANDATING HOW YOU SHOULD LIVE YOUR LIFE; YOU’RE FREE TO MAKE YOUR OWN DECISIONS! THIS IS A GUIDELINE! IT’S COMPLETELY UP TO YOU WHETHER YOU DO THIS OR NOT! THERE WILL BE NO CONSEQUENCES OR REPERCUSSIONS, REGARDLESS OF YOUR DECISION! NOW GO ON AND DO WHATEVER YOU WANT!”

Let me tell you, that, combined with Dad reaching for his belt, was really effective.

** You can’t blame us for that. Nobody should be subjected to Da Doo Ron Ron twelve times in a lifetime, let alone an afternoon.

Number 2 (October 1)
Acronyms Killed The Radio “R”
After an investment of five years and $180 million, China now lays claim to the world’s largest radio telescope with FAST, or the Five-Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope, which supplants Puerto Rico’s 300-meter telesc–

Hang on. All of a sudden it’s okay to just drop three out of seven words to get the cool acronym we want? Look, I understand blowing off things like a, of, and the–I mean, those are just tiny syllables that–many people don’t realize this–most of your major dictionaries refuse to even recognize as words. Heck, I’m even willing to let you slide on hundred and meter because you cleverly attached them to Five with hyphens. But, c’mon, how do you arbitrarily get rid of radio?

Without radio you can’t distinguish this type of telescope from the kind you give your ten-year-old so he can look at the moon through his bedroom window (and yes, that one time, at Mrs. Peterson down the block when she was careless with her blinds).

Without the word radio nobody knows that you are referring to a telescope that… well, hell, I’m no astronomer–I have no idea what a radio has to do with a telescope. I want to say… you can listen to Pink Floyd while you look at the stars? Like at the Laserium when you were in high school? Hey, does it have lasers? That would be awesome.

Whatever, radio is important enough to be in the name, so to me the acronym is not FAST, it’s FASRT. Which is better anyhow because if you just glance quickly it looks like “fart,” which is funny.

Number 1 (May 7)
At Least The Satellite Bastards Had The Decency To Lock People In For A Couple Years
Following the lead of live-streaming TV services SlingTV and PlayStation Vue, Hulu and YouTube are both expected to announce their own live-streaming TV options, packaging a selection of network and cable channels for $35-$40 per month. This news prompted Cable TV to call for an informal get-together in Cable’s office:

Cable: So you’re all getting in on the live TV game, huh?

Hulu: Yep, can’t wait.

You Tube: A whole new world. Gonna be exciting.

Cable: Uh-huh. It certainly is. But good luck finding markets, guys.

Sling: Markets?

Cable: Yeah, markets. Who’s gonna use your service? Us cable companies have the country pretty well divvied up amongst ourselves.

Vue: You mean, like who gets the eastern suburbs of, uh, Fort Worth, and who gets the west? That kind of thing?

(The streaming services look at each other, then back at Cable, and laugh heartily)

Hulu: Oh, wow, that’s a good one, old-timer! It did used to work like that, didn’t it?

(Cable stares at them, silent)

YouTube: Oh, gee, it’s still like that for you, isn’t it? Gosh, sorry. See, we can sell our service everywhere in the country.

Cable (beginning to sweat): I have no idea what you’re saying.

Sling: There are no markets. Or, rather, every household with an internet connection is our market.

Vue, Hulu, YouTube: And ours!

Cable: But… but you can’t all…

Sling: We compete.

Cable (putting a finger in each ear): I don’t want to hear any more.

Vue: We each put together the best packages we can–

Cable: La-la-la-la-la-la…

Hulu: At the best prices we can–

Cable: LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA…

YouTube: And the consumer chooses the one they want.

Cable: LA!-LA!-LA!-LA!-LA!-LA!…

(A minute of silence passes; Cable slowly removes his fingers from his ears)

Sling: And they quit whenever they want.

Cable: Agggghhhhh!

(Then, panting heavily): But.. the whole country… you’d have to have thousands and thousands of installers…

Vue (turning to Sling, Hulu, and YouTube): Hey guys…heh-heh… guys… ha-ha… have you… ha-ha-ha… have you hired all your installers yet?

(The office fills with raucous laughter)

Sling (wiping tears away): Oh yeah! All set to go! We can have one at your house Thursday!

(More laughter)

Hulu: Yeah… between noon and five!

(The laughter now verges on hysteria, leaving the streamers clutching their sides and leaning on each other for support)

Sling: Oh, man, Cable, this is great. Thanks for calling us together… (gasping) …but I have to get out of here before I pee myself–(points at magazines next to him on the couch)–I wouldn’t want to ruin your stack of TV Guides here!

The streamers stagger out of the office, and Cable hears them talking in the hallway, but the conversation is muffled and indistinct. Then one of them–Hulu, Cable thinks–clearly shouts “markets!” and they ride a fresh wave of laughter out the front door.

Cable opens his top desk drawer and withdraws a standard two-year-commitment contract–brimming with Activation fees, DVR fees, Additional Set-Top Box fees, HD fees, Remote Control fees, and Installation fees–and holds it gently, lovingly, to his cheek. His eyes glaze over as he stares into the distance at nothing in particular. He remains there for days, refusing to eat, sleep, or speak, save for the occasional, wistfully-muttered “monopoly.”

 

There it is. Another year of tech news. 500 stories, many of which probably had a significant effect on many of our lives, though you won’t really know that until you read versions by writers who actually know what they’re talking about.

 Hopefully these stories were at least able to provide a few laughs in lieu of knowledge. Enough laughs to make getting a book full of these stories worthwhile? Well, that’s something only you can answer, I guess (though, if you want my opinion, four, maybe five chuckles over the course of the year seems more than enough).

 

The book–Tech, Please!–is now at Amazon in both ebook and paperback editions for your reading pleasure. They are currently listed separately (though the listings should soon merge):

Ebook: HERE

Paperback: HERE

Thanks for reading along this year, and stay tuned next week for the year’s final issue featuring stories that were written but didn’t find their way into the Weekly Tech Views for various reasons–the issue was running long, the content may have leaned a little north of PG-13, the story just wasn’t all that funny–haha, I mean, no, it was funny, it just didn’t come together quite like I… I… whatever. What I’m saying is it may be best read immediately after any alcohol-induced New Year’s celebrating.

 Happy Holidays, and may less than half your weekend be troubleshooting.

Mike Range
@MovieLeagueMike

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