Category Archives: Writing

Your Private Driver: The LAX Dilemma

This column provides tips, insights, and observations on TNCs like Uber and Lyft from a driver that’s worked with them for several years.

Los Angeles International Airport presents some relatively unique complications for TNC drivers and passengers that combine to make the experience of getting a ride there abnormally frustrating. Among those issues are heavy traffic congestion, an unusually central location on the west side of the city, and a cramped area which is really too small to serve the country’s second-busiest airport. Yes, I know that a convenient location may not seem like much of an issue, but I’ll get to that part in just a moment.

Continue reading Your Private Driver: The LAX Dilemma

Your Private Driver: The Uber Traveller

This column provides tips, insights, and observations on TNCs like Uber and Lyft from a driver that’s worked with them for several years.

The consideration of whether or not to utilize a rental car on your next vacation isn’t anything new. For a few years now cost-conscious travelers have discovered that using a TNC service in lieu of renting a car can be cheaper for most visitors. Yes, that compact car from Enterprise says that it only costs $20 a day, but after insurance, taxes and fees, gasoline, and especially parking, that rental car can get significantly more expensive to deal with over the course of a trip. Business travelers have largely already realized this, and as a result Uber and Lyft have significantly eroded rental car companies’ share of the ground transportation market.

Continue reading Your Private Driver: The Uber Traveller

Your Private Driver: Uber Versus Lyft

This column provides tips, insights, and observations on TNCs like Uber and Lyft from a driver that’s worked with them for several years.

In the ride-hailing app wars, two companies have emerged to compete for dominance of the already crowded market: Uber and Lyft. In the cities where they operate, both services offer a similar experience for a similar price. So does it actually matter which service you choose to get around? Well, Lyft definitely has the more social-media friendly image after The Great PR Disaster that was Uber’s 2017. Despite that, Uber has managed to maintain its crown as the king of market share, accounting for a whopping 74.3% of all trips in the United States, the only country where rival Lyft currently operates.

Other than image, there are some minor differences between Uber and Lyft, but are they enough to actually sway your decision regarding what app you should use? Let’s find out….

Continue reading Your Private Driver: Uber Versus Lyft

Monthly Tech Views – Best of 2017, and Signing Off

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

Can you think of a better way to end 2017 than with some fake news?

Yes, of course you can, but at least this news is admittedly fake. And possibly funny. Possibly.

So here is what I consider the best of 2017’s Monthly Tech Views. Enjoy. Or don’t—who am I to tell you what to do?

 

Smile For The Database!
Facebook is testing “face photo” captcha to prevent unauthorized access to accounts. When prompted, you upload a picture of your face, which Facebook will verify, and then, they say, permanently delete.

I don’t know. I’m not saying they are definitely amusing themselves creating fake yearbooks with captions like MOST LIKELY TO KNIT A SWEATER OUT OF THAT NOSEHAIR or that your image will end up wallet-sized and suddenly everyone in Data Entry thinks you are Terry’s significant other, I’m just saying they haven’t offered to let me watch the photos get deleted.

So what’s next? Full-body photos? The less clothing, the more security? Haha, not even Faceb–

Bingo!
Facebook wants your nude photos. For security!

The idea is that if you are worried about someone posting a photo of you at your most Kardashian, you can submit the photo (or photos, you bold little monkey) to Facebook. Then, if someone tries to post that image, Facebook will block it. This, of course, makes you doubly safe, because not only is the other person’s attempt at revenge porn foiled, but also no big company has ever been hacked and lost control of millions of peoples personally identifiable information.

Sometimes The Counter Is A Little Too Far Away
Amazon’s new Kindle Oasis e-reader is waterproof in up to two meters of water. This is a long-awaited feature because everyone faces a time when they are awkwardly adjusting their clothing with a Kindle pinned between their chin and chest, and it inevitably slips loose, but nobody’s toilet is two meters deep.

Surprised It Wasn’t Middle Fingers
A new Snapchat feature recognizes where your photo was taken and suggests appropriate filters. A guitar if you’re at a concert, maybe a surfboard for the beach, etc.

Anxious to see what the competition was up to, Instagram executives tried it out:

“What’s the photo?”

“Our office.

“And?”

“The filter is… a picture of Garfield.”

“The cat?”

“No, James A. Garfield, because presidents from the 1800s are all the rage right now.”

“Oh, like Garf—“

“There’s another Garfield! And another. The photo is covered in Garfields. Ha! Their contextual feature is garbage—it has no idea where we are.”

“No, damn it, it knows—that’s the Copycat filter.”

Blame It On The Mainframe
Not wanting to be left out this year, accounting firm Deloitte announced its own security breach. The attack exposed 5 million emails and possibly usernames and passwords. The breach was discovered in March, and while the company thinks it may have started last October, some experts are convinced Deloitte, auditor for the Grammy Awards, was hacked significantly earlier, explaining 1990 Best New Artist winner Milli Vanilli.

Walmart—Rolling Back Prices And Your Inclination To Whine About Grocery Shopping
Walmart is partnering with smartlock maker August to test a service that would have groceries not just delivered to your home, but put away inside your home.

You just give the delivery person a one-time code to have access to your house, and you save all that grocery shopping time that can now be put productively to use figuring out a way to ditch the budget meeting at work and hovering over your computer, watching like a No-Doz-feuled hawk the intricate network of webcams you installed to make sure the delivery person doesn’t step on the cat or drink your beer or eat a two-fingered scoop of peanut butter or spit in your milk or pick their nose before putting your apples in the fridge.

Forget The Cost, I’m Not Altering My Whole Nose-Wiping Routine
Levi’s Project Jacquard smart jacket went on sale for $350. It has capacitive threads woven into the sleeve, making it touch sensitive and able to communicate with your phone via bluetooth, allowing you, for example, to control your music by swiping right or left on the sleeve.

Sure, $350 may sound pricey for a denim jacket, but just think how much easier it will be during your long daily commute, standing in the aisle of a crowded bus, being constantly jostled by your fellow passengers, to hear the first three seconds of every song on your device

Good Point
There was a rumor that Discover Card’s website revealed the names of the iPhone 8, 8+, and X before Apple officially unveiled them at their event.

Said a Discover spokesman, “Well, we aren’t called the Don’t Find Anything Out Card.”

The Worst Part Is All The Other Robots Calling Him KnightSoak
A Knightscope security robot was found floating in an office plaza fountain. The robot was equipped with facial-recognition capability, HD video capture, infrared and ultrasonic sensors, and an irresistible desire for loose change.

Just For Fun, How Much For Skynet.com?
PayPal began its life as x.com, a domain obtained by founder Elon Musk. Musk has now bought back the x.com domain from Paypal, citing “great sentimental value, and certainly not because I’m distracting you with electric cars and tunnels and rockets while I create real life X-Men.”

Coming Soon To Netflix: BLOW (Billionaire Legends Of Wrestling)
Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have been arguing recently over the possible negative effects of artificial intelligence, Musk warning that, unregulated, it is “a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization,” while Zuckerberg called it “totally rad, dude.”

Okay, what the Facebook CEO actually said was “that kind of talk is irresponsible.”

Musk countered that Zuckerberg’s understanding “is limited.”

However this plays out, I know we can all agree that the most unfortunate aspect of these two extremely intelligent, forward-thinking tech billionaires going after each other is that it is too late for their claymation likenesses to pummel the hell out of each other on MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch.

Would You Like To Play A Game?
Withings connected health devices are now officially being sold under the Nokia brand, including Body devices, Go activity trackers, and, most significantly, the Thermo thermometer.

Competing smart thermometer companies gathered for a somber press conference to let the world know they would fight to maintain market share, doing everything in their power to win this Global Thermo Nokia War.

While Interns Gain Valuable Experience Sitting In The Passenger Seat Yelling “Ding-Ding-Ding-Ding”
Lyft drivers now have access to “power zones.” This allows drivers to make more money when providing rides in high-demand areas. This makes sense, I guess, but when I start my ride-sharing service, Power Zones are going to be areas where drivers are given a shovel and five minutes to lean out the window and drive Sonic the Hedgehog-like over the coin-covered asphalt to keep whatever they can scoop up.

Wait, Are You Saying They Don’t Have Cars In China?
In China, users of bicycle-sharing services are expected to double to 50 million this year.

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., 50 million of us are expected to just leave that French fry on the floor because bending over in the back seat of our Lyft is too much effort.

I Don’t Know Lint Art, But I Know What I Like
HTC’s U-11 phone will contain Edge Sense, allowing you, for example, to launch the camera by squeezing the phone. The feature is highlighted in HTC’s exciting new slogan: You can never have too many photos of your pocket!

And It’s Great For Playing Back To The Future
Snapchat has added a tool that lets you remove an object from a photo and have the blank space automatically filled in with background. The tool is called Magic Eraser, which sounds a lot more upbeat than the “I Can’t Believe I Ever Loved You” Tool.

It’s An Honor Just To Be Dominated
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.”

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.

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

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

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

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 rounded up a bit, but don’t forget the importance of schedule flexibility. We still say our drivers can make a pretty penny, no matter which eighteen hours of the day they choose to work.

I’ll Sleep When I’m 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 required self-driving vehicles running continuously for extended hours.

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

Buy High, Sell High. Or At Least Really Drunk.
The value of the 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.

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!

 

And on that musical note, it’s a wrap for the Weekly/Monthly Tech Views for 2017. And a wrap in general.

Thanks to those of you who have read my nonsensical spouting the last two-and-a-half years, and to Tom Merritt for letting me contaminate the respected Daily Tech News Show website. I’ve had a great time making fun of technology and those who provide it to us. Or inflict it on us. Hopefully you’ve gotten a few laughs along the way.

This is not to say I’m done making fun of things, I’m just doing so in a more general interest manner. I would love to have you take a look at my takes on movies, tv, Christmas napkins, parades, public bathrooms—you know, the classics—at medium.com/@movieleaguemike.

Thanks again for reading. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Happy New Year,

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 – November 2017

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

It is truly the most wonderful time of the year, when the Monthly Tech Views emerges from its burrow to see if there will be six more weeks of turkey sandwiches.

Surprised It Wasn’t Middle Fingers
A new Snapchat feature uses object recognition to suggest contextually appropriate filters for your photos. Possibly a guitar filter if you’re at a concert, maybe a surfboard for the beach, etc.  Anxious to see what the competition was up to, Instagram executives tried it out:

(click)

“What’d you take?”

“Just a wide view of the office.

“So what filter are they suggesting?”

“It’s… it’s a picture of Garfield.”

“The cat?”

“No, James A. Garfield, because all the kids love presidents from the 1800s.”

“Okay, okay, but why Gar—“

“There’s another Garfield! And another. Another. All the same. The photo is covered in Garfields. Ha! Their contextual feature is garbage—it has no idea where we are.”

“No, it definitely knows this is Instagram—that’s the Copycat filter.”

I’m Going To Have So Many Friends On Beadbook
An Austrian designer has created a series of “substitute phones” in an attempt to cure smartphone addiction. The devices–which I would bet a million dollars he wanted to spell F-A-U-X-N-S but nobody in the damned test group would pronounce it right–incorporate a series of stone beads to allow users to perform swiping, scrolling, and zooming motions as if using a real phone. The devices are already a huge hit as evidenced by the onslaught of blog posts debating the superiority of BeadOS vs Beaddroid.

Why Buy An End Table When We Can Just Turn This Box Upside Down?
Amazon’s new augmented reality feature lets you virtually place items in your home to see how they would fit. This will certainly be a very helpful feature for those who did not go overboard on Black Friday to the point that every square inch of space is already occupied by empty Amazon boxes the cat is playing in.

Now Kids Don’t Have To Worry About Creasing That Binding That Mom Pays So Much Attention To
Audible has a new feature for romance novels called Take Me To The Good Part. I am in no way arguing with the usefulness of this feature, but is it all that impressive a technological achievement to search for “throbbing” and “heaving”?

Umm, Luckerberg?
Facebook discovered that 270 million of their accounts were illegitimate, which was more than they expected. Less surprising was that 99% of these belonged to disgruntled users going by the name Mark (rhymes with Zuckerberg).

And Raise Your Hand To Ask To Use The Bathroom
SoftBank and Dragoneer have agreed to invest in Uber, contingent on Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick requiring board approval for any replacements to the three board seats he controls.

What this means legally is that he controls those seats the way I control my ability to purchase any tech gadget over $50, as I have to get approval from the rest of my family, which consists of my wife and our cat, and the cat has reportedly designated my wife as proxy.

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind, Out Of Our Misery
ESPN is working on a shorter version of SportsCenter for Snapchat–a three to five minute edition covering only the most important stories of the day. This is a godsend for Cleveland Browns fans, as the team will never be mentioned.

Smile For The Database!
Facebook is testing a “face photo” captcha as a security measure to prevent unauthorized access to accounts. When prompted, you upload a picture of your face which Facebook will check and then, they say, permanently delete.

Okay, it seems not the most difficult thing to get a photo of someone to upload if you really want to trick the system, but aside from that, doesn’t it feel a little weird? I’m not saying they are definitely amusing themselves by creating fake yearbooks with captions under our photos like MOST LIKELY TO KNIT A SWEATER WITH THAT NOSEHAIR or that some particularly nice images will end up wallet- or locket-sized and suddenly Terry in Data Entry’s friends think you’re the significant other, I’m just saying they haven’t offered to let me watch the photos get deleted.

What’s next, full-body photos? The less clothing, the more security? Ha, not even Face–

Bingo!
Facebook wants your nude photos. For security!

The idea is that if you are worried about someone posting a photo of you at your most Kardashian, you can submit the photo (or photos, you bold little monkey) to Facebook. Then, if someone tries to post that image, Facebook will block it. This, of course, makes you doubly safe, because not only is the other person’s attempt at revenge porn foiled, but because no big company has ever been hacked and lost control of millions of peoples personally identifiable information.

Wait Until You Try The Route Through Snake River Canyon
An update to the Waze travel app includes more accurate directions for motorcyclists. You may think the routes for motorcycles and cars would be the same, but motorcycles can access certain areas that larger vehicles can’t, yet prior to this update, Waze inexplicably had motorcyclists avoiding ramps that would launch them over a row of 45 flaming barrels.

————-

New Stuff!
Hey, want a change of pace from my goofing about tech? I’m posting quite a bit at Medium now–it’s all short form (4-minutes or less) and strives for funny, with topics like CBS turning their whole lineup into versions of Young Sheldon, Macy’s Mansplaining Day Parade, and Thanksgiving specials you’re glad you missed. Any eyes on these would be appreciated (and maybe even worth your time). https://medium.com/@movieleaguemike

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

Your Private Driver: So how much money can you really make driving for Uber?

This column provides tips, insights, and observations on TNCs like Uber and Lyft from a driver that’s worked with them for several years.

“How much money do Uber drivers make?”

It’s by far the most common question asked regarding Uber. I hear it from curious passengers. I read it on online forums and social media spaces from people looking to make some extra cash. I see it asked by those who have recently found themselves either unemployed or under-employed hoping that they can still find a way to keep the lights on and food on the table. Everyone has their own financial goals in mind, and want to know if Lyft or Uber or a similar service can help them achieve them. Unfortunately, it’s also the hardest question to give a simple answer to.

Continue reading Your Private Driver: So how much money can you really make driving for Uber?

Monthly Tech Views – October 2017

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

As we all enjoy our eighth straight meal consisting exclusively of fun-sized Snickers Bars, how about some fun-sized October tech stories offering the same nutritional and informational value?

Democracy Is One Thing…
Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar’s Omidyar Group listed six aspects of social media that threaten democracy, including the spread of false information, political manipulation, and hate speech. In addition, while not technically affecting democracy, they do emphasize that it would be super cool if you’d knock off the Stranger Things spoilers.

Sometimes The Counter Is Juuuuust Too Far Away
Amazon’s new Kindle Oasis e-reader is waterproof in up to two meters of water. This is a long-awaited feature because there will be a time when you are awkwardly adjusting your clothing with the Oasis pinned between your chin and chest, and it will inevitably slip loose, but nobody’s toilet is two meters deep.

Is That A Nose?
PornHub is using facial recognition AI to identify the actors in its videos. This is a formidable undertaking, because not only are there ten thousand faces to identify, but they are so seldom where you expect a face to be.

Proving Once Again That Podcasting Is A Guaranteed Road To Riches
Google acquired podcast app 60dB. The app launched just one year ago and was known primarily for airing the hit business podcast Get Rich In One Year With A Podcast App!

Zigging When You Expect Them To Zag
You know how after a company gets hacked, people say, “this is the best time to deal with them because their security is going to be crazy high right now”? Well Equifax refuses to bend to your stereotype. Marching to the beat of a different drum, the credit reporting agency went ahead and got hacked for the second time in five months (their plan was to march to the beat of their usual drum, but it too was hacked and now sounds like a xylophone).

Let’s Pump Up The Volume! Of Insulin! But Only As Needed And In A Safe Manner!
A new insulin pump can determine how much of the drug to deliver by using an algorithm in a smart phone app that accounts for meals, sleep, and activity. The key to the algorithm’s accuracy is in automatically reducing reported activity levels by 75% because we’re all big fat liars and often attach activity monitors to our pets. As an added measure, it also delivers a severe electrical shock when we report a cherry Pop-Tart as “fruit.”

It’s Just A Harmless Buzz, Like That Venti Latte Macciato
A study shows people are more productive with 70 decibels of ambient noise in a coffee shop, though the same noise level at work does not achieve the same results. And some insist that coffee shop, office, or Kenny G concert, any noise is too much noise and silence is the perfect concentration environment.

I am with the coffee shop crowd—I find some degree of ambient noise critical to my blueberry scone focus. I write many of these pumpkin spice Tech Views in a coffee shop. Because I am latte disciplined enough to not actively decaf listen in on conversations, I find that the background noise serves as that barista is hot; I’m going to ask her out… Are you kidding? Why would she go out with you?… What do you mean? Why wouldn’t she go out with me?… You answered your own question—she’s hot… I’ve been out with hot girls before… Name one… Janice Wilson–she’s hot… Dude, you “dated” her in junior high. Once. And she only went out with you because your parents were friends and her mom made her do it to keep her from going to the dance with my productivity in a positive way.

Once Again—We Are No Longer Accepting Applications
The new iOS app Nude will scan your camera roll and use machine learning to identify nude photos and move them to a PIN-protected vault inside the app. The creators feel the artificial intelligence will provide much quicker identification than the previously utilized “network of jealous spouses,” allowing speed settings ranging from 1940’s School Librarian to Kardashian.

There’s Fast, And Then There’s Fast
Hyperloop One is now Virgin Hyperloop One after a significant investment from Richard Branson. The additional funding will certainly be helpful, but executives also think the Virgin name will help distinguish themselves from Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, “the slutty non-Virgin Hyperloop that will let anyone have a ride.”

Who Is The Real Winner Here?
Microsoft’s Surface Precision Mouse provides different functions depending on whether you use Windows, MacOS, or Android. While Linux users get no navigational functionality at all, you can rig it so left clicking dispenses a tiny Pez candy.

Don’t Mess With Cupcakes
Google Maps tested a feature that would estimate the calories you would burn if you walked your searched route, said calories indicated by the international standard of measurement known as “mini cupcakes.” So if your trek would burn 330 calories, that was three mini cupcakes. They removed the feature after overwhelmingly negative response, predominantly from exhausted users who finished their trek and waited in vain for Google to show up with the tiny treats.

 

For more empty literary calories, you can check out this selection of my recent short Medium posts (two of which appear in the Slackjaw humor publication) where I tackle the hard news, like…

  1.  CBS turning their whole schedule into versions of Young Sheldon bit.ly/Sheldonized
  2. Cookie-scented bathroom air fresheners bit.ly/CookieHell
  3.  Missing Stranger Things by being forced to walk in the park bit.ly/BingeBlocked

 

And remember, a diet of all Snickers isn’t good for you. Mix in a KitKat.

 

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 – Sept 2017

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

September has gone in the blink of an eye, and we find ourselves fully entrenched in autumn, when, as Wordsworth so famously put it: leaves scatter haphazardly on the wind, a flaming dance in the sun, alighting randomly upon the earth to shrivel and perish, much as our credit histories across the internet after an Equifax breach.

 

For the month of September, 2017…

To Breach His Own
Three Equifax executives sold $1.8 million in company stock days after a security breach at the credit reporting company exposed information on 143 million consumers, but a month before the breach was made public.

The more cynical among us may suspect something shady, but without being there, who are we to say that Tuesday isn’t Pizzaburger Day in the Equifax cafeteria and Wednesday isn’t Randomly Sell Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars of Stock Day?

What The Public Doesn’t Know Won’t Hurt Us
In more let’s-not-be-too-hasty-informing-the-public-that-their-financial-information-is-likely-exposed-Lady-Godiva-like-to-the-world news, Equifax acquired Watchdog ID, an identification protection service, two weeks after discovering the security breach. The company did announce this acquisition, though they had yet to reveal the pressing need for such a service.

But what you need to understand is that, sure, ne’er-do-wells may be tearing your credit asunder like an exuberant puppy eviscerating those expensive down pillows you used to own (please note real life Exhibit A, courtesy of producer extraordinaire Jennie Josephson), but that doesn’t mean a company can just go around announcing something like that publicly while shopping for an ID protection service.

I mean, what if your favorite baseball team’s best hitter broke his foot playing Dance Dance Revolution 8: The Feet of the Furious–do you think they’d tell everyone before trading for another hitter? No! The team that only wanted your number three starter in exchange would suddenly be holding out for your number two guy, a minor league second baseman, and tickets to Hamilton.

So isn’t having a stranger 2,000 miles away buying Caribbean vacations and a six-pack of jet skis on your credit card worth it if it helps save a huge corporation a few bucks?

Sox Trade For Pitcher With Complete Mastery Of Fastball, Slider, And Apple Watch Series 3
Speaking of America’s national pastime (baseball, not fearing hacked major corporations, though the gap is narrowing) the Boston Red Sox were caught stealing the opposing team’s signs and relaying the information to the dugout with the help of a smartwatch.

Many fans are taking this revelation hard–not so much the affront to the sanctity of the 178-year-old institution, but the fact that sign stealing has not yet been sufficiently tabulated into one more nerdy analytic for the fantasy baseball community to obsess over.

Baby Steps
In response to the Red Sox sign stealing, area football coach and new Red Sox consultant Bill Belichick said, “That’s a start. But explain to me once again why you didn’t have the Yankee dugout and hotel rooms bugged?”

Blame It On The Mainframe
Accounting firm Deloitte announced its own security breach. The attack exposed 5 million emails and possibly usernames, passwords, IP addresses and business information. The breach was discovered in March, and while the company thinks it may have started last October, some experts are convinced Deloitte, auditor for the Grammy Awards, was hacked significantly earlier, explaining 1990 Best New Artist winner Milli Vanilli.

I’m Sorry–I Didn’t Understand Why You Were Expecting More
Apple’s High Sierra macOS arrives October 1, containing, among other features, an improved Siri, because, of course–what’s it going to do, get worse? Swear at me while not letting on what the weather will be like tomorrow in Akron? (But in case you’re interested, it will be 72 degrees and sunny in Athens).

One Step Forward
Uber plans to have its London UberX service composed solely of electric or hybrid vehicles by 2020. The company is even offering drivers up to 5,000 pounds toward upgrading their vehicles.

Uber gets a lot of grief here, so I wanted to take this opportunity to tip my cap to them for doing something positive. When the Halley’s Comet of good Uber news streaks by, you try not to miss it.

And Four Steps Back
Our new friends at Uber may want to accelerate that 2020 timetable, seeing as Transport for London has concluded that Uber is “not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator license” due to a) unsatisfactory reporting of criminal offenses b) obtaining medical certificates improperly c) insufficient background checks and d) the use of software to evade regulators. As such, Transport for London will not be renewing the license on September 30.

Said a Transport of London spokeswoman, “We aren’t saying that Uber’s going green initiative isn’t appreciated, just that we all have kids who loudly announce they are really going to buckle down and do their chores, two days before Christmas.”

Walmart—Rolling Back Prices… And Your Inclination To Whine About Grocery Shopping
Walmart is partnering with smartlock maker August to test a service that would have groceries not just delivered to your home, but put away inside your home.

You just give the delivery person a one-time code to unlock your door and have access to your house, and you save all kinds of time that can be used to figure out a way to ditch the budget meeting at work and hover over your computer watching like a No-Doz-feuled hawk the intricate network of webcams you installed to make sure the delivery person doesn’t step on the cat or drink your beer or eat a two-fingered scoop of peanut butter or spit in your milk or pick their nose before putting your apples in the fridge.

Oh, SnapTM
Snapchat’s 3D Bitmoji World Lenses lets you put a 3D cartoon version of yourself into real world scenes. “Wait, you haven’t been doing that all along?” asked all of my “friends.”

Forget The Cost, I’m Not Altering My Whole Nose-Wiping Routine
Levi’s Project Jacquard smart jacket went on sale for $350. It has capacitive threads woven into the sleeve, making it touch sensitive and able to communicate via bluetooth with your phone.

This allows you, for example, to control your music by swiping right or left on the sleeve. Sure, $350 may sound pricey for a denim jacket, but just think how much easier it will be during your long daily commute, standing in the aisle of a crowded bus, being constantly jostled by your fellow passengers, to hear the first three seconds of every song on your device.

Kool-Aid Stock Jumps 200%
Anthony Levandowski, a former Google engineer who is currently unemployed after being accused of stealing self-driving-car trade secrets from the company, is using his down time to establish Way of the Future, a nonprofit religious corporation with the mission “to develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on artificial intelligence and through understanding and worship of the Godhead contribute to the betterment of society.”

Like me, I’m sure one question immediately comes to mind: are tickets on sale yet for the Way of the Future vs Scientology softball game next summer? Because I am going to FILL my celebrity autograph book!

Good Point
There was a rumor that Discover Card’s website revealed the names of the iPhone 8, 8+, and X before Apple officially unveiled them at their event. Said a Discover spokesman, “Well, we aren’t called Don’t Find Anything Out Card.”

 

That’s it for September. Welcome to October (and maybe pay for your pumpkins and cider with some breach-proof cash).

Mike Range

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

Monthly Tech Views – August 2017

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

Like every month, August had its share of big tech stories. The world of technology makes amazing advances on an almost daily basis. Which makes it all the more surprising that we have not yet figured out a way to completely vanquish Eclipse, the sky monster that repeatedly tries to obliterate civilization by eating the sun and leaving us to perish in freezing, utter darkness.

But there we were two weeks ago, holding our breath as darkness did, in fact, cover swaths of the land, technology sitting impotently by while we bravely resorted to banging pots and pans together in a desperate attempt to scare away the voracious demon. And I’ll tell you, you really have to bang the hell out of those things when nobody else in the neighborhood will join in (although whatever it is they were screaming at me probably did help).

And scare him off we did, avoiding, at least temporarily, humanity’s purge from the face of the Earth, and allowing us to get back to the important work of making fun of BitCoin.

 

With A Name Like BitCoin Cash, It Has To Be Good

For those of us having trouble wrapping our heads around the concept of Bitcoin being real money, new entrant in the market BitCoin Cash arrives to put our minds at ease, because having two money-related terms in its name makes it, obviously, twice as real.

And lets face it–even if you accept it as currency, “BitCoin” doesn’t sound like much. “BitCoin? It’s just a coin?” Best case, it sounds like something your computer savvy grandpa digs out of his pocket so he can dazzle you with the old “what’s this in your ear?” trick.

But BitCoin Cash? Now you’re talking cash. Foldin’ money. No, you can’t actually fold it, because it’s still on a computer somewhere and still isn’t real money, but it sounds like you could, and perception is everything when it comes to marketing.

But even BitCoin Cash’s relevance is doomed to be short lived, inevitably eclipsed by BitCoin Cash Fat Stacks.

Bonus: Ten Million Cores Nearly Handles The Highest Settings On Witcher 3

Chinese researchers set a record for building the largest virtual universe. Utilizing a ten-million-CPU-core supercomputer, they simulated the birth and tens of millions of years of the universe.

Granted, this overshadows my creation of a virtual town with its first six months simulated on a dual-core Pentium PC, though the researchers provide no indication whether they too had one of their Sims stuck in a bathroom the whole time.

StarFox 2 Better Be The Best Damned Game Ever

Nintendo announced that the SNES Classic would be available for preorder in late August and available in stores on September 29. When the preorders were, in fact, possible on August 22, customers who’d had earlier preorders revoked—due to a Walmart glitch offering them prematurely–showed there were no hard feelings by jokingly pointing at their screens, smirking, and saying, “Oh yeah? How do I know it’s real this t—“ at which point they were sold out.

When You Need To Repeatedly Hear “Sold Out” Faster Than Ever

Hyperloop One had a test pod reach 310 kilometers per hour on a 500-meter test track in Nevada. The first test of a pod with human occupants is expected to take place September 29 on tracks linking Target, Walmart, and Best Buy Nintendo departments.

He’s Also Worried People Might Confuse Them With His Virile Putin Network

Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a law banning VPNs, the aim being to deny access to “unlawful content,” particularly “that damned Photoshop of me and Trump making out on horseback.”

Check Local Listings For Name That iTunes

Apple is expected to spend $1 billion on original video content next year. The good news is this provides viewers with ever expanding viewing options. The bad news is that there is a better than even chance Apple follows up this year’s competition show Planet of the Apps with the sitcom Appy Days and reality dating show I’d App That.

Must Pre-See TV

Two weeks after a hack made scripts and episodes of Game of Thrones available online before their air date, an HBO affiliate in Spain accidentally posted another episode of the hit show prematurely.

“It’s not ideal, of course,” said an HBO spokesperson, “but it could have been a lot worse had they gotten access to the DVD bonus features and spoiled the Stevie Nicks/Tom Petty tribute video Stop Dragon My Heart Around.

I Bet They Find A Tesla Charging Station Up There

Google Lunar X Prize competitors, attempting to send the first privately funded spacecraft to the moon, are no longer required to launch by December 31 of this year. X Prize now only stipulates that the mission be completed by March 31, 2018. This applies only to the current five finalists, of course. Otherwise, like the smartest kid in English class writing a term paper the night before it’s due and still wrecking the grading curve, Elon Musk would probably just take a day off Hyperloop-building, launch a rocket on St. Patrick’s Day, and win the $20 million.

When Nobody’s Looking, He Actually Nails Demi Lovato’s Cool For The Summer

Hackers at DefCon were able to hack into voting machines in less than two hours, some doing so remotely.

The hackers apologized for a bug in the earlier version of their software, explaining that Donald Trump was only supposed to win The Voice.

Those Expectant Mothers Can Probably Use Some More Exercise

The two men who devised a way to remotely hack a Jeep have been named heads of security at Cruise, GM’s self-driving division, where, no matter how late they arrive, they always end up with the best parking spaces.

We Have The Tickernology

Some pacemakers have been recalled by the FDA due to software vulnerabilities that could allow an attacker to change its settings. The required firmware patch requires a doctor’s visit.

“I’m really getting tired of this. Maybe you could have spent $7 million,” said Steve Austin.

“Are You Ready For Some New Phones?!”

The New York City Police Department is throwing away 36,000 Windows Phones after Microsoft ended support for them.

Meanwhile, at a football stadium not very far away, the New York Jets excitedly asked, “Do you literally mean they were throwing them? Did they come close to hitting the garbage can, like, fifty percent of the time?”

You Don’t Suppose The Thermal Updrafts Could Help With The Other Thing?

Amazon tested an autonomous glider that stays aloft by using predictive math to anticipate thermal updrafts. While the test fell short of breaking the flight-time record of five hours, it was a promising outing that proved Amazon can use predictive math for something other than eerily knowing when I can no longer kid myself about the viability of the elastic and it’s really time to order more underwear.

 

Mike Range
@MovieLeagueMike

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

Your Private Driver: Surging the System

This is a weekly column that offers news, insights, analysis, and user tips for transportation network company (TNC) platforms like Uber and Lyft. Well, usually weekly, but the author has been somewhat preoccupied with a new job, new intensive schedule, and an upcoming move. He apologizes for the lack of content updates.

A new study has been making headlines this month claiming the Uber drivers have been finding ways to game the system to force riders to pay inflated Surge fares. Completed jointly by Warwick Business School and New York University, it claims to have found evidence that drivers are using tactics like logging off en-masse to artificially reduce the supply of available vehicles relative to demand, triggering Uber’s Surge algorithm to go into effect. Continue reading Your Private Driver: Surging the System