Category Archives: Writing

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.

——————————————-

Regular readers of The Monthly Tech Views learned long ago to believe very little of what you find here. You do know that, right? (Could you imagine coming here for information?)

And jokes are fine, but I want to be clear that what follows is 100% true. There should be no misunderstanding here. It is vital that you take me seriously about this: THERE IS NOW A TECH VIEWS PATREON!

Yes, if you enjoy the Monthly Tech Views* and would like to help it continue along its merry, fact-contorting way–perhaps even once again becoming a weekly fount of misinformation–you can follow this conveniently placed link to patreon.com/techviews.

Will you be helping to stifle some of the “waste of time!” chants from my “friends”? Sure. But you’ll also receive the year-end ebook collection of the Tech Views, and when the first goal is reached, you assume the awesome power to make me cover the story you find most uncoverable and even require the use of specific (obscure? bizarre?) words in the column.

Thanks to all who do support this endeavor,** whether through Patreon or spreading the word or just reading the darned thing each month without publicly denouncing it.

 

*   I know it’s not the kind of thing a person likes to admit to friends and family, but remember that you aren’t alone; there are others–possibly dozens–who feel the same. And if it gets out, so what? Were you really planning to run for public office anyway?

** That’s right, I’m treating myself to “endeavor” to describe this nonsense.

 

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: 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

Your Private Driver: More Days of Change

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 preparing to move in a couple of weeks. He apologizes for the lack of content updates.

Uber has launched into its second month of the 180 Days of Change campaign focused on improving the company’s strained relationship with its driver-partners. The first wave of changes was focused on earnings, and included the introduction of in-app tipping, among other improvements. This month, the theme is support, and I want to go over some of the major changes and how they could affect the rider experience. Continue reading Your Private Driver: More Days of Change

Monthly Tech Views – July 2017

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

 

If you thought the celebratory fireworks ended earlier this month, think again. This July also marks two years of the Tech Views on dailytechnewsshow.com! (Boom. Crackle.)

And as you are certainly aware, the two-year anniversary of a blog has been known—dating as far back as half an hour ago–as the Create-A-Patreon anniversary.

Not one to spit in the face of cherished traditions, I’ve done just that. If you’d like to be a vital part of helping this nonsense reach a third anniversary and beyond (and maybe even return it to weekly nonsense) please check out the newly minted patreon.com/techviews.

Not only will you be supporting the most blatantly misguided technology analysis available on today’s internet, but there are reward levels providing you the end-of-year book of collected columns, the ability throughout the year to demand coverage of your favorite story (or of a really boring earnings report, if it would be more fun to challenge me), and even choosing a word or phrase that I will have to use in the next Tech Views (parsley? panic room? Parasigmatism?*).

Exciting, right? Patreon.com/techviews is like the Disneyland of blog support!

Okay, on to the shaky analysis…

 

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.”

A Netflix Original: 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, of course, that it is too late for their claymation likenesses to pummel the hell out of each other on MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch.

I’ll Install It As Soon As I Bring This Order Of Chips Up The Lift To My Flat
Microsoft Windows’ Fall Creators Update will be known as the Autumn Creators Update in the UK, as they don’t tend to refer to the season as “fall.”

“If that doesn’t annoy the Americans enough, see if we can work “zed” in there; that makes them crazy,” chuckled UK citizens.

Sorry, Not Sorry
500 Startups co-founder/CEO resigned, apologizing in a blog post for numerous acts of sexual harassment. Naturally, many were quick to claim that he had “pulled an Uber.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, that’s not fair,” said an Uber spokesperson. “When was the last time you saw us apologize?”

A Milestone Is A Milestone
Lyft recently hit one million daily riders,** a mark Uber reached in 2014.

“Haha,” said the Uber spokesperson, “I bet they haven’t even reached 100 sexual harassment claims yet.”

What Do You Mean The Security Code Is On The Other Side?
The UK government is going to start requiring porn sites to obtain proof that users are at least eighteen years old, possibly via a verifiable credit card, causing parents across the country to marvel at their sixteen-year-old son’s sudden intense desire to “Ummm… Snapchat the cool checkered tablecloth” when dad calls for the check at the pizza place and slaps down his Visa.

ApPal
Apple is allowing the use of PayPal for purchases in the App Store and iTunes.

That’s all. Nothing really funny about it. Just thought the headline was kind of mildly clever.

IPO, Here I Come
Google has formed Gradient Ventures to invest $1-8 million in each of 10-15 early AI startups.

Hey Google, have I mentioned my startup, which uses a sophisticated AI algorithm that creates headlines for tech stories by mashing together two company names in a kind of mildly clever way?

The Other Team Won’t Stand Still Long Enough
Logitech spent $85 million to acquire Astro Gaming, maker of headsets for professional gamers on consoles. It’s probably money well spent—I’m told that hearing your teammates with crystal clear fidelity is actually an enjoyable experience when not every comment is “I’m on your team, idiot! Stop shooting me!”

We Are Easily Amused
The second-generation Pixel XL is expected to have a curved rear surface and a squeezable frame.

“Same way I like my women,” said approximately 3.5 billion snickering men.

Of Course, They’d Just Put Cute Filters Over The Scars
Apple is expected to add 3D lasers to the iPhone’s rear-facing camera. Don’t get too excited though; they aren’t that kind of laser, as we learned when they announced adding them to the front–facing camera and it turned out they were to aid in selfie taking rather than as the hoped-for deterrent to the hordes obstructing every photo worthy tourist attraction for ten minutes each while beaming more and bigger smiles at their camera than they have provided for any member of their family over the past ten years.

Stupid wrong lasers.

Play To Your Strength
Verizon had six million customer accounts compromised, shocking the industry with just how quickly recent acquisition Yahoo made its presence felt.

Ask Not For Whom The Tone Tolls
Ticketmaster has partnered with Lisnr, a provider of data-over-audio technology, to use “smart tones” to help assess the validity of electronic tickets. Aside from adopting tech with the DOA acronym, this seems like a fine idea, because the tones would fall in a kilohertz range that 90% of humans can’t hear, and if it turns out the tones are insistent and discordant enough to drive the other 10% mad to the point of clamping their hands over their ears as they run screaming from the venue, then some pretty choice seats will open up.

For My Next Hack, I Will Break Into This Safe Using Nothing More Than The Combination
It turns out anyone could recover the password to MySpace accounts if they knew the username and birthday.

MySpace executives were stunned to learn this, and acted quickly to remedy the unnecessarily convoluted process. Now you just have to click on a statement saying you will access the damned account once a year and it’s yours.

Video Game? You Lost Me,” Said Bill Belichick
ActivisionBlizzard has announced the first seven teams in its Overwatch league, including a Boston franchise owned by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

“Yes, we’ve had a lot of success on the football field,” said Kraft, “but believe me, we have a lot to learn here. Like, as I understand it, these teams don’t practice in big, open fields, which will definitely make spying on them tougher. And there’s a shocking lack of research on the optimal amount of air to release from a controller.”

 

There we go—two years of Tech Views in the books. Remember, if you are one of the discerning individuals who enjoy less “news” in your tech news—patreon.com/techviews.

BONUS: If you are one of the first fifty to support the Tech Views, you get to say you were one of the first fifty to support the Tech Views! Bragging rights! A part of history! Sure, technically, everything is part of history. You eating breakfast this morning is part of history. But still…

 

*   The inability to pronounce the sound ‘s’, apparently. Who knew?

** Not physically. Even Uber doesn’t go that far.

 

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

Monthly Tech Views – June 2017

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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

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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!

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