Category Archives: Writing

Monthly Tech Views – June 2017

Untitled drawing (1)

Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

Welcome, and thanks for taking time out from your Independence Day preparations (at least in the U.S.) to read the Monthly Tech Views. Everyone keeps calling this a holiday weekend, but most of us work on Monday, so there’s technically no holiday attached to it. Unless they’re referring to the unofficial holiday each month celebrating the release of a new Tech Views. That’s probably it.

Light up a sparkler and dive in.

 

Hard To Blame Him
British Airways was forced to cancel over 1,000 flights due to a massive IT systems failure affecting booking, baggage handling, check-in, and phone apps. Executives say there was no evidence of a cyber attack, an assertion backed up by a systems analyst identifying himself only as Philip, who said, “Whoops. But who wouldn’t spill their tea when, four months after updating Pokemon Go, you finally see a Sudowoodo, and it’s sitting, of all places, right there on the server?”

That’s Strike Two, Dude
Members of England’s Parliament had no email access after a suspected cyber attack.

“I wouldn’t call it an attack. I may have gotten carried away trying to contact them, but I did catch a Sudowoodo after all,” said Philip.

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 Lyft 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 is logical, and probably good news for drivers, yet we can’t help being a little disappointed, wanting to envision Power Zones as parking lots and closed off streets where, after a certain number of fares, drivers are given a shovel and five minutes to lean out the window and drive Super Mario-like over the coin-covered asphalt to keep whatever they can scoop up.

Sometimes Retirement Gets a Little Rocky
After sweeping three matches against the world’s number one ranked Go player, AlphaGo is retiring from event matches.

Uh-huh. Sure. Accomplished all it can here. Gonna spend more time with the family (little Annie and Ira are growing up fast, and with work responsibilities you’ve already missed them humiliating humans in tic-tac-toe and checkers championships).

And for a while, you’ll be content. Sure, you’ll miss the game, the hilarious bewildered expressions humans come up with as you consistently trump their most well-thought-out strategies, but mostly, you’ll be happy.

But meanwhile, there’s a young human who growing up on the wrong side of the tracks, with parents who don’t give a damn about Go, where his only means of survival was to join a Go gang, where Go rumbles are a nightly occurrence, the losers force fed their stones one by one, unable to play again until the pieces… reappeared. It was a brutal life, but it made him a great Go player. He stayed mad at the world, and used his hate and talent to crush any Go player foolish enough to take him on.

Then, the new number one Go player in the world, he shows up at Alphabet while you’re visiting friends, and challenges you to a match. Insulting Alphabet, Deep Mind, and your very circuitry. You want to take the high road, but when he claims your courage is AlphaGone, you snap, Eye of the Tiger starts playing, and it’s on!

Happens every time.

These Go A Lot Faster When I Read Only The First Line Of A Story
According to government sources, Japan will allow drone deliveries by 2020. While the U.S. is certainly not perfect, this story makes me appreciate just how good we have it here, because I’m pretty sure that, if I wanted one, I could get a drone delivered to me tomorrow.

What If We Gave It Wheels?
Even before the HomePod was officially announced, there were rumors that Inventec, the maker of Airpods, was working on a smart speaker. Because they wanted to make the announcement at Apple’s WWDC, production was accelerated and, though they were able to include quality speakers and Siri integration, they didn’t have time to crack the feature Apple executives most wanted—making a device twenty times bigger than an AirPod be just as easily losable.

What’s Next, Facial Recognition Scanners That Can See Through Unrealistically Realistic Silicon Masks?
Not only will Qualcomm’s new Ultrasonic fingerprint sensors work under metal or glass and through dirt, oil, and sweat, they can read blood flow and heartbeat.

“Damn it!” said every thriller screenwriter in Hollywood who now has to rework their cut-off-the-guy’s-thumb-to-get-past-security scene.

(It Was On The Bedroom Doorknob. As Usual.)
The Amazon Echo now has intercom capability, which could prove to be a real time saver. For example, I can be standing in front of the living room closet and, via the Echo, ask my wife down in the basement if she knows where my jacket is. And she, without setting one foot out of the basement, can helpfully answer, “I put this Echo down here so I can spend ten minutes listening to music in peace, not to you whining because you can’t be bothered to use a hangar!”

Get Your Ebay Bids In Now
Nintendo is releasing the Super NES Classic in September. Demand will certainly be high, and will only boosted by the catchy new slogan: SNES ClassicRemember, we only made twelve of that last Classic.

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.

 

Thanks again for your time. Now, whether your weekend is two or four days, go have some fun with family and friends. But stay safe—there are a lot of injuries this time of year, and most are the result, unsurprisingly, of retaliation for trying to pass off Tech Views stories as real.

Mike Range
@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: Just the Tip

This is a weekly column that offers news, insights, analysis, and user tips for transportation network company (TNC) platforms like Uber and Lyft. 

It’s been some week for Uber news, hasn’t it? The departure of CEO Travis Kalanick made headlines, particularly since he joins a dozen other executives that have left the company so far this year. The spat with Waymo isn’t over yet. And the debate over whether or not Uber can survive the next few years without going bankrupt will provide fodder for tech and financial blogs for the foreseeable future. For my part, however, this week I wanted to focus on some more positive news coming from Uber HQ: the “180 Days of Change” campaign designed to finally address long-standing driver complaints and grievances about the platform.  Continue reading Your Private Driver: Just the Tip

Your Private Driver: The Carpool Lane is Now Open

This is a weekly column that offers news, insights, analysis, and user tips for transportation network company (TNC) platforms like Uber and Lyft. 

Carpooling remains the holy grail for transit planners trying to relieve congestion on overtaxed roads and highways. It’s inexpensive, it’s faster than public transit in any American city not named New York, and it’s the most effective method of actually taking cars off the road during rush hour. It can frequently be much faster than driving solo as well, thanks to HOV lanes in major cities. In San Francisco for example, carpoolers can save a whopping thirty minutes or more commuting from the East Bay to the city center.  Continue reading Your Private Driver: The Carpool Lane is Now Open

Your Private Driver: City Planning

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

A video game has consumed the majority of my personal time for the past two weeks, threatening to become something of an addiction. That game is Cities: Skylines, a city-building simulator in the vein of the classic SimCity franchise. I’ve already spent over 100 hours building freeways and interchanges, laying out residential and industrial areas, making sure the landfills don’t overflow, salvaging the shorelines from floods, and dealing with rush-hour traffic. That last part is the game’s biggest challenge; so much so that once I actually managed to mostly eliminate the traffic jams plaguing my virtual downtown area, I felt like I knew how to clear up Los Angeles’s legendary traffic congestion better than their city planners. Of course I also have a slightly larger pretend-money budget than they do, but since when have such practicalities ever gotten in the way of progress?

My time with the game has still led me to think about the city of Los Angeles in a different way during my travels though it. My brain imagines without prompting ways to improve the flow of freeway interchanges, different routes for public transit, more effective ways to time traffic signals, and whether or not bulldozing a neighborhood to run a freeway through it would be worth the drop in land value and tax revenue. Inevitably the best solution for L.A. is probably the same as it is in my pretend city: get more cars off the road by providing alternate ways of getting around, whether it be by bus, subway, bicycle, or blimp. Okay, maybe not blimps.

Eventually my attention will be drawn to another vehicle with an Uber or Lyft emblem on rear window. Then another one, and another, and–holy crap there are a lot of these things. Seriously, there are so many vehicles sporting an Uber or Lyft trade dress in Los Angeles that getting rid of them would free up about 25 percent more space on the region’s streets and highways. While the rideshare impact probably isn’t as drastic in any other city (with the exception of San Francisco), eventually urban areas all over the United States will have to contend with the added congestion from so many additional vehicles on their roads and freeways. So my Cities: Skylines-modified brain came up with another puzzle to solve: how does one design a city to accommodate for the traffic impact of thousands of Uber/Lyft vehicles on their roads?

You’ll most frequently see rideshare vehicles clogging traffic whenever they’re attempting to pick up or drop off a passenger. In many cities this isn’t an issue, but in congested areas like central Los Angeles, places to pull over out of the path of traffic are at a premium; either they’re all taken up by parked cars (on-street parking spaces are worth more than your life here) or the traffic lanes extend all the way to the curb. Most passengers don’t have the awareness to request their rides from a convenient or even legal spot, so irritated drivers are stuck waiting behind vehicles blocking driveways or turn lanes or even through traffic lanes while three people try to cram their luggage into a trunk that’s too small.

Most shopping and entertainment districts have passenger loading zones (white curbs in California) that allow up to five minutes of wait time to drop off and pick up passengers–perfect for rideshare purposes. Still, these zones can get packed at certain times, like when a restaurant or nightclub closes and there are a rush of requests. Several vehicles are all waiting to take their turn in a loading zone that fits at best two vehicles at a time, and traffic is still backed up.

My personal solution would be to expand these passenger loading zones at the expense of on-street parking. While Uber and Lyft don’t do much for traffic congestion, they do free up the need for a parking space with every trip. In a city where you can spend more time trying to find a place to park than actually driving to your destination in the first place (not an exaggeration), making it easier for people to leave their cars at home seems like a no-brainer. Removing the need for Uber drivers to compete with parked cars for curb space is that natural progression of that trend, and it’ll make driving through commercial districts that much less annoying, since they won’t have to worry nearly as much about rideshare drivers randomly obstructing traffic.

Amusingly enough, this tactic actually did work in my game of Cities: Skylines. Traffic was getting backed up by fleets of buses trying to pull into crowded bus stops, and I didn’t feel like demolishing thirty buildings just to expand the road. So I built a parking garage nearby and replaced the curbside parking lane with a dedicated bus lane. No more buses blocking traffic, problem solved!

While this editorial was really just an excuse to talk about my current favorite video game a little bit, the overall point is something that city planners and traffic managers do have to consider in the real world–that Uber and Lyft are having an adverse traffic impact on their cities, and that likely won’t change until the much-hyped driver-less carpool of the future becomes a reality. While city governments seem to want to address the problem with more regulation of rideshare drivers (to get them off of the roads), there could be other, simpler alternatives.

I wonder if I sent the Transportation Authority a copy of the game would they get the message?

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!

Your Private Driver: Lyft Gets on Schedule

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. 

One of the most popular features in the rideshare world is the ability to schedule a ride in advance. I’ve written before about how the feature doesn’t really work the way people think it does, since functionally there’s no difference between a scheduled ride and one requested as you’re walking out the door. Still, the placebo effect is a strong one, and a significant chunk of early-morning rides are scheduled in advance (based on my completely statistically accurate method of asking my riders when I pick them up). This is probably because of marketing. Uber and especially Lyft hype up their services as the inaccurate answer to all of their “Can I get a ride at 4 AM?” inquiries.

Regardless of the lack of any type of guarantee, the feature seems to be working for the most part. Online reviews in the tech sphere are glowing, and reports of driver no-shows are rare and limited to the fringes of social media.

From the driver’s perspective, Lyft seems to be the preferred company to deal with as far as scheduled rides are concerned. For starters, the driver is actually aware that the ride has been scheduled. Depending on how far away the pickup is, the ride may also have a built-in Prime Time bonus, which can make attempting these rides more lucrative than random pings. Uber offers none of these features.

Now, Lyft is stepping their game up once again by allowing drivers to accept scheduled rides in advance. The feature is out in limited release, so not all drivers have access to it yet. When it works properly however, this feature could be a game-changer–at least on the driver’s end. But what does this mean for the passenger?

For one thing, it should offer better odds that a ride request will be completed. Not just for early-morning airport runs, but for suburban areas as well. One of the greatest annoyances to rideshare drivers is getting a ride request that’s 15 to 20 minutes away, only to find out that their passenger is just going to the 7-Eleven a few blocks down the street. In lower-density areas, requests like these are all too common, so a lot of them may go unanswered. Drivers don’t know for certain that a far-away ride request is going to be a short trip; there’s a chance it could be going across the city as well. Still, most drivers know what the odds are in their market and respond accordingly. In my Los Angeles experience, the effort involved in driving 20 minutes away is statistically not worth it.

This new feature takes away all of the guesswork, since drivers can now see well in advance not only where and when a scheduled pickup is, but also where their passenger is going. No more surprises! And armed with this knowledge, drivers are more likely to say “yes” to any trip that benefits their situation. A part-time driver from a nearby suburb may take many short trips to fill their ride quota while making sure they haven’t moved too far away from their home. A full-time driver can make sure they get longer trips or ones heading to a certain destination where they can get more profitable fares. Riders get fewer cancellations or other nonsense to deal with. Everyone wins!

Kudos to Lyft for once again coming up with a useful innovation that benefits their drivers as well as their passengers, instead of useless fluff like achievements. Here’s hoping that their next big breakthrough will be allowing drivers to text their waiting passengers through the app instead of via convoluted workarounds. It’s the little things that really matter, you know?

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 – May 28, 2017

Untitled drawing (1)

Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

As the saying goes, April showers bring May messed up tech stories. Which, on the surface, makes little sense, but if you’d been there in April when I slipped in that puddle and seen just how hard I hit my head, you’d get it.

 

Yeah, Great, But Let’s Get Back To What We’re Definitely Doing Wrong
A District Court judge said he hasn’t seen “any smoking gun” showing that Uber conspired to steal autonomous car trade secrets from WayMo.

High-level Uber executives met to discuss the serious theft accusations in the usual way: “Good thing they were looking for smoking guns and not smoking hot employees, right? Have you guys seen the new girl in Marketing? Ten bucks says she falls for the Sexual Harassment ‘demonstration’ gag.”

I Mean, Unless You Want A $2,000 iPhone?
Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the company’s plan to establish a $1 billion fund to promote advanced U.S. manufacturing.

Asked if that meant they would begin building iPhones here, Cook laughed for ten minutes, wiped the tears from his eyes, and said, “No. No, no. Oh my gosh, no.”

Following five more minutes of light chuckling and head shaking, he added, “But we are getting rid of the home button on the iPhone, so I’m sure we’ll need to whip up plenty of $40 dongles of some sort for the Luddites.”

By My Math, Twenty Is Twice As Many As Ten
Apple claims that Apple Watch sales doubled year over year, though CEO Tim Cook would not provide actual numbers.

“Look, I can’t give you exact numbers either, but our department is a madhouse!” said a source inside the Watch Division. “I get notified every time a sale is made anywhere in the world, and on more than one occasion I’ve had to interrupt a best-of-five Words with Friends match to put another slash on the dry erase board.”

Necessity Is The Mother Of Inventive Accounting
Cook also said that those doubled Apple Watch sales led to revenue from wearables equaling that of a Fortune 500 company, meaning at least $5.1 billion last year.

“I see some of you are stunned by this,” Cook said, “but consider that Wearables includes not only the Apple Watch, but Air Pods, Beats headphones. And depending on how financially creative we need to get, remember that in a pinch, a simple household rubber band makes any iPhone a wearable too.”

The Most Steps I Got Was The Walk To The Return Counter
After selling 4.8 million devices in the first quarter of 2016, Fitbit reported sales of only 3 million in the same quarter this year, and that doesn’t take into account the estimated 2.9 million who-am-I-kidding-with-this-resolution returns.

The Little Guy Fights Back
Apple is withholding modem licensing fee payments to Qualcomm, claiming that Qualcomm is not licensing the technology in fair and reasonable terms. Making Apple yet another heartbreaking example of a struggling startup simply not understanding contract terms due to being unable to afford a lawyer.

And Neon… Lots Of Neon
Apple is building a shipping and receiving warehouse in Reno, Nevada. The warehouse will display Apple signage at the request of Reno’s City Council, who added, “You know, that big, sexy signage you look so good in; we want the other cities crazy envious and then we can get you that shiny tax break you’ve had your eye on.”

But Is A 20% Off Coupon Really “An Offer They Can’t Refuse”?
The European Union Advocate General has suggested that Uber be classified a transport service, which would require obtaining authorization to operate. The reasoning is that Uber does not just link supply and demand, but creates the demand.

Say what you will about Uber, but I think it’s pretty farfetched to think they are responsible for people needing rides to places. Especially as it’s been years since their marketing department relied on breaking into homes at night and leaving a severed steering wheel in potential users’ beds.

Good, The Current Twelve Hours Of Pre-Game Seems Lacking
Twitter has signed a multi-year deal with the NFL to live stream pre-game coverage along with a daily thirty minute show, assuring the continued use of the U.S.’s most abundant natural resource, retired football players talking over each other at approximately 130 decibels without once pausing for breath.

Lint  Art
HTC’s U-11 phone will contain Edge Sense, allowing you, for example, to launch the camera by squeezing the phone, leading to HTC’s exciting new slogan: You can never have too many photos of your pocket!

They Can’t Steal Data You Never Store
The US National Institute of Standards and Technology says users should be able to pick whatever password they want, with no pre-defined restrictions, though if passwords contain characteristics like previously breached passwords, dictionary words, repetitive or sequential characters, or the name of the service, they should be disallowed after the fact.

“So we tell the user they can use any password they want.”

“Correct.”

“But if they use one that we don’t like, we don’t let them use it.”

“Right.”

“But we don’t want to tell them up front which types of words won’t work.”

“You got it.”

“No matter how many times they enter an unacceptable option.”

“Exactly.”

“And we get a 20% kickback on all replacement computers and peripherals destroyed in frustration.”

“Bingo.”

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 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.

 

Thanks for spending some of your three-day weekend with the Monthly Tech Views. You are now free to return to the traditional Memorial Day Freeform Channel Harry Potter Marathon.

(Of course, if you’re not into TV on a beautiful long weekend, there’s no rule that your marathon can’t be of the Tech Views variety. Grab your favorite chaise lounge (pronounced that folding chair that’s been in the shed all winter) and one of these, and relax outside with a few laughs…)

The Internet is Like a Snowblower

Snowblower Cover - Original - Final

 

Tech, Please!

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

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

Untitled drawing (1)

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.