Amazon Prime Day Announced Oct. 13th to Oct. 14th

Amidst weeks of silence from Amazon and frenzied speculation among supplicants Amazon has officially announced that their Prime Day will take place from October 13th-14th.

The shopping event exclusive to Amazon normally takes place in July but was postponed due to the pandemic. During the event Amazon has promised 1 million deals across the globe all from top brands.

In a statement Jeff Wilke, Amazon CEO Worldwide Consumer, said “In the midst of an unprecedented year, we’re committed to making this the most successful Prime Day ever for our small businesses and excited for Prime members worldwide to discover new ways to support local entrepreneurs and save big on everything they need and love,”

He continued “This year’s Prime Day is the perfect opportunity for Prime members to get their holiday shopping done early from the comfort of their homes – and to have more time to spend with their families and friends throughout the season.”

As always, many Amazon branded products will be on sale include a bunch of their newest devices. Some of the highly anticipated deals are:

  • Two Echo Dot devices for $39.98
  • Fire TV Recast for $129.99
  • Four months of Amazon Music for $0.99
  • Toshiba 32-inch Smart HD Fire TV Edition TV for $119.99
  • Insignia 43-inch Smart 4K UHD Fire TV Edition TV for $199.99

The company is also offering customers a $10 coupon to spend with select small businesses who sell through Amazon. This is intended to support small businesses affected by the pandemic.

 

Paramedics Navigate Trick Terrain Using Jet Packs

In the UK paramedics are testing a jet suit for use in the popular, but difficult and hilly landscape of the Lake District.

The 1050 horsepower jet suit allowed one paramedic to make a flight that took just 90 seconds. The hike would have been 25 minutes due to the terrain.

The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) is testing the suit along side its maker Gravity Industries.

The area is popular with hikers, but the ground is treacherous and filled with dangers terrain features. GNAAS believes they could get to injured hikers much more quickly with the jet pack. It would not only help lessen the suffering of some patients but be the difference between life and death.

The heritage area is protected by UNSESCO and contains some of the UKs highest peaks. The data shows there are dozens of patients a month, but the terrain makes them difficult to reach quickly.

While neither GNAAS or Gravity Industries was sure the jet pack would be an appropriate solution the test flights have left both parties certain the jet packed paramedics are the wave of the future in difficult terrain.

New Reality Show Promises Trip Into Space as Grand Prize

An in-the-works reality show says it will gift the winner of its competition what they are calling the best prize on Earth: a 10-day stay on the International Space Station.

The show is called “Space Hero” and its winning competitor could hit the ISS as soon as 2023, this according to the production company behind the series.

The production company, also named Space Hero, claimed in a press release that anyone from any background can win the chance to become the first “globally-elected space explorer.”

The production company says they are currently searching for global brand and primary distribution partners. They say the application process for contestants will start in the first half of the new year and broadcasting should begin in 2022.

Space Hero says their price is worth approximately $65 million.

 

Google Quietly Adds Features to Popular “Maps” App

Google has added new functionality to its Maps app, it now displays an icon when there is a traffic light at an intersection. This is available only for some US cities.

Without fanfare Google Maps added a highly requested feature last month; users can now see intersections that have traffic lights. Though the feature is only available for some US cities.

According to Google the change was mode “to help people stay better informed on the road.” The icons appear at intersections inside the app on some US cities. The feature is present on both iOS and Android platforms.

This came along with a color mapping algorithm that helps users see different terrain types like beaches and forest. The updated also included better coloration of sidewalks and pedestrian islands.

Google stated that the traffic light/intersection view had been available in Japan for years and was a top requested feature in the United States for some time.

Google started testing the feature earlier this year in a few US cities.

 

 

Apple vs. Epic Games in Epic Battle Over App Store Agreement

 

In a statement Apple has said it terminated the account of app developer Epic Games, the account which they use to publish and update App Store games.

This means the Epic games like, such as its Battle Breakers mobile RPG, won’t be available for download or updates any longer at the iOS App Store. These games sharing the same result Fortnite has faced for some weeks now. Like with defunct titles such as Infinity Blade the games cannot be redownloaded nor can users make sure of previously available in-app purchases.

Updates to Epic’s iOS apps has also ended. This means iOS Fortnite players cannot access the recent Marvel Comics themed content that Epic recently added to Fornite. Players of Fornite also cannot access crossplay, a feature that allowed them to play across phone platforms.

In there statement Apple again cited their complaint that Epic Games attempted to bisect the standard iOS payment platform in Fortnite and this is why they have terminated their account.

Apple’s decision to end Epic Game’s App Store account theoretically shouldn’t affect the development of their Unreal Engine for iOS. It is under development by Epic International and is separate account governed by a separate agreement. The account was also protected by a federal judge’s restraining order in anticipation of Apple’s “retaliation” against Epic Games.

 

Apple’s New Singapore Location “Floats”

Apple is planning to open a new Singapore store that appears to float on the water.

Located in a giant orb that looks like it is from the future (it lights up at night), the new store will be located on the waterfront of the city-state. The new store will be called Apple Marina Bay Sands—its name sake coming from the hotel complex it will be included in.

Apple hasn’t provided any official information except a brief marketing copy on its website. No opening date, no groundbreaking, no square footage info. Apple has two stores in Singapore already. One in Changi Airport another on Orchard Road.

Apple totes hundreds of stores worldwide where devotees buy and trouble shoot the companies wildly popular products: iPhone; iPad; Apple Watches; Mac computers and others.

Recently Apple became the first company from the United States to reach a $2 trillion valuation. Despite the pandemic their most recent quarterly report boasts an 11% increase.

 

BlackBerry Will Be Back in 2021

When we thought fully-touch screen phones had killed the popular BlackBerry it turned around and surprised us all as it is coming back.

BlackBerry, after ending its collaboration with TCL, has said they are parting with OnwardMobililty and FIH Mobile Limited to create a new smartphone with a physical keypad like the classic BlackBerry had.

In the first of 2021 we should start to see these new BlackBerry phones. Specific names and dates were not confirmed by anyone. OnwardMobility stated that along with the physical keypad the new BlackBerry smartphones will be 5G ready. They will also continue to run on Android.

They will come first to the North American and European markets. No word on whether the company will bring them to the ever-growing Indian tech market, however, all previous models have eventually made their way to India.

The upcoming BlackBerry smartphones are supposed to be “secure” and provide productivity without disabling the user experience they are known for.

38 Year Old “Microsoft Flight Simulator” Gets New Update

After almost a decade and a half Microsoft is releasing a new version of its video game title “Flight Simulator. It includes new features like traffic, live weather and a incredible world map.

The game lets players become a pilot and fly anywhere in the world, checking out cool sights during the journey.

For those who don’t know the game is very much a real-life simulation—players start by selecting a flight route, taking off, flying and landing all while balancing speed and momentum as a real pilot would have to. While players can skip or fast forward parts of the game, the journey and sight seeing is part of the purpose.

“Microsoft Flight Simulator—or “Flight Sim” as die hard fans call it—is 38 years old and predates both Windows and Word. Over the years it has found a very loyal fan base.

The update starts $59.99 but players can purchase new planes and new airports. It will be available for Xbox and Windows. The update also includes live weather which spices up the journey as pilots have to navigate different kinds of weather. And when Microsoft says live, they mean “LIVE.” A recent storm that passed by the US’s East Coast was visible in the game.

 

 

 

Possible Solar Flares and Their Effects on Our Technology

The sunspot labeled AR2770 could be cause for some concern as it is expected to grow in size according to spaceweather.com. Some minor solar flares have been emitted by this sunspot already. Though this has caused no reason for alarm.

However, if this sunspot, which can be up to 50k kilometers in diameter, may release a huge amount of energy in the form of solar flares. The phenomenon called Coronal Mass Ejection can cause solar storms and flares whose energy can reach all the way to earth and have a major effect on radio communication, GPS, satellites and even power girds.

NOAA stated that CMEs can cause changes in electrical currents in space which varies the Earth’s magnetic field. CMEs can also cause auroras.

A sunspot is a dark part of the sun that appears cooler than the other parts and contains electrically charged gases which in turn can generate great magnetic forces. Solar flares are the result of changes in the magnetic fields in the sunspots which cause huge explosions—the flares’ radition can disrupt many different types of technology on earth. One solar flare can be as powerful as one “Little Boy” atomic bomb like the ones dropped on Japan in 1945 by the United States.

 

Sanitizing Your Cellphone With UV Light?

Demand for high-tech solutions to sanitizing our devices completely and in a way that is safe for our devices has increased greatly. One company, PhoneSoap, has developed a device intended to completely sanitize your cellphone along with other person items like keys and credit cards.

The PhoneSoap 3 device allows one to disinfect your phone and other small personal items with ultra-violet light. The PhoneSoap 3 cost $80.

It also employs reflective technology on the inside of the device to make sure all surfaces of the cellphone and other items are being sanitized on all sides.

While this might sound like science fiction to some, UV rays are being used not just for techy people’s smart phones. Hospitals are now using UV light to sanitize facemasks worn by nurses and doctors to help extend the useful lifespan of masks that may be in short supply.

UV light attacks viruses and bacteria at their core—their DNA—and kills them. This allows medical staff to get three uses out of a mask which are typically single use. It also now allows you to safely sterilize your hand held personal items w/o gunking them up with disinfectants or having to remember to carry alcohol swabs with you.

EBay Sells eBay Classifieds for $9.2 Billion

EBay’s classified ads business, one of the oldest businesses on the internet, just sold to Adevinta (Norway) for $9.2 billion in order for them to create the largest online classifieds company.

Today classifieds online aren’t a huge business. Only about 3% of the $125 billion online advertising market (2019 according to Interactive Advertising Bureau).

However, in their day Craigslist and what became eBay Classifieds were some of the largest on the web.

EBay Classifieds Group was started 25 years ago as the AuctionWeb. EBay’s classifieds business was once known as DBA which was a popular, Danish all-classifieds newspaper that started publishing in the 1970s far before the idea that everyone would have a network connected computer in their home was commonplace. It decided to give the web a go in 1995.

EBay bought DBA along with lots of other similar businesses in 2008 to form the eBay Classifieds Group. However, classifieds weren’t ever at the center of eBay’s profit ambitions and in the first quarter of 2020 accounted for just 10% of the company’s total revenue.

Now, among a growing group of other non-central businesses like Skype, PayPal and StubHub, eBay decided to dump another branch of its business as it struggles to keep up with its primary and much larger rival Amazon.

 

Apple News, News+ Adding Audio and More

Apple has announced that will being to create its own daily news overview podcats, Apple News Today. Former WNYC hosts Durate Geraldino and Shumita Basu have been hired been hired as co-hosts. Apple News Today will run Mondays-Fridays in the morning and will be filed in Apple’s News and Podcast apps. The 10-minute podcast will attempt to brief listeners on the day’s news.

The company is also going to be creating audio versions of print stories. These will be available in Apple News+, Apple’s subscription service that gives users access to top magazines and newspapers.

Apple’s writers and editors will create about 20 audio stories a week, according to Apple. These will be narrated by professional voice actors, though there is no word on them hiring “names you would know.” This service will only be available through the Apple News+ subscription.

Apple will also add an Audio tab to its News app. This is where users will find the Apple News Today podcast and the new audio stories. Apple’s new audio features will also be available on their CarPlay system.

Apple also announced that users will have more access to local news through both Apple News and News+. The areas will include Houston, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

News+ subscribers will also have access to seven local papers: The Idaho Statesman, The Kansas City Star, The Charlotte Observer, the Miami Herald, The News & Observer, the State and The Sacramento Bee.

New Research Finds Potential Security Risk in Internet Based Home Monitoring Cameras

A new study found that some popular home security cameras could alert a tech savvy burglar whether you are home or not. The researchers claim they could tell not only if someone was home but perhaps even what they are doing by looking just at the data uploaded by the camera and not even the actual footage.

The study was conducted by Queen Mary University of London and the Chinese Academy of Science. They used data provided by a large Chinese manufacturer of IP security cameras. Consumers use the cameras to remotely monitor their homes via a video feed over the internet.

The study found that the unencrypted data upload increased when a camera was recording movement. And that they could even tell by the data—and not the video feed itself—if someone was sitting or running for example.

While researchers were quick to note it would take a fairly technically savvy criminal to passively monitor this data it isn’t out of the question that someone could create and sell a software program that takes away the need for technical know-how.

The researchers also noted that they found no evidence that this was happening regularly or at all but it is a potential loop-hole in internet based home monitoring cameras. Someone could potentially collect and compare data to decide when someone is least likely to be home. Researchers suggested companies might want to inject random data into the stream to make it more difficult to make the data useful to criminals.

As of know these cameras aren’t very “smart” (to keep costs down) and record everything. In the future cameras might be able to decide when to record or when not to. For example, pet owners would probably want to set their cameras to ignore their pets’ movements.

Pop Cultural Icon, the Segway PT, to Stop Production 15 July 2020

While the Segway PT will forever have a place in 21st century pop culture the vehicle never saw the widespread use required for its inventor’s society-changing hopes. And this summer the Segway PT will be put to rest.

Chinese company Ninebot, who bought Segway in 2015, will stop production on the Person Transport on July 15th this year. They will also say goodbye to twenty staff involved in the project at their Bedford, New Hampshire plant.

The Segway PT made waves when it was first revealed on Good Morning America in early December of 2001.

Dean Kamen, the Segway inventor, had said that cars would become obsolete and the personal transport revolution would begin. Kamen thought it absurd that 2-ton vehicles are used for short trips—and perhaps he is still right about that. But consumers spoke out and the Segway PT only accounted for 1.5% of Ninebot’s revenue. Costing between $6k-$10k only tour companies and police departments could afford it.

Even police departments have switched over to Ninebot’s less expensive electric scooters.

With many more options of electronic or electronic-assisted personal transport out there the Segway, perhaps sadly, will become a museum piece this July.

Will Apple Finally Use its Own Processors in All Products? If So, What Does That Mean?

Apple may soon announce what has long been rumor—switching from Intel processors in their Mac computers, iMacs and Macbooks, to their own Apple chip sets, which are already used in iPhones and iPads. This could happen as soon as 2021. Analysists say despite a transition period the end result would be beneficial not only to the company but its product users.

Some analysists believe that single product lines will switch over at a time instead of their entire stable of computers all at once.

Whatever devices end up with Apple’s own CPU chips users can expect better battery life and thinner, less heavy devices. This is made possible because the chips were specifically designed to be used in smartphones which already required good battery life and sleeker designs. Additionally, this might even mean the end of fans in a Mac computer.

Another huge benefit would be an even more standardized experience between tablets, phones and computers from the Apple lineup—a huge selling feature already built into their products. This then would allow app developers to create a more standard user experience across devices.

And even though Apple has made no mention of it, this could open up the possibility that Mac computers be equipped with cellular connectivity.
Apple may also be able to offer lower prices or promise performance upgrades with each generation of device since it wouldn’t be reliant on Intel to improve performance.

KFC “Trolls” Playstation and Xbox New Console Announcements

As Sony Playstation and Microsoft Xbox announced their newest consoles fast food chain KFC announced the launch of their own gaming console. Unfortunately, (?) it was just a gag.

The day after Sony revealed its PlayStation 5 console whose design was met with mixed initial reviews KFC posted a video of its new “KFConsole” on social media.
The KFConsole looks like a legitimate gaming console complete with power button, disc drive, lights etc.

The video also claimed that the KFConsole would have cross-platform compatibility. There was, however, one feature that gives away the KFC game system as a joke. The KFConsole has a built in BBQ grill called a “chicken chamber” to be employed when the gamer has a hankerin’ to grill up some chicken.

The KFConsole video claimed the system would be released on November 12th. Many are hoping they have a follow up planed for that date.

While this may seem an act of total absurdity on KFC’s part to some, they do have a standing relationship with the gaming community. Their KFC Gaming Twitter has 123.6k followers and their KFC Gaming Instrgram has 66.6k followers. They’ve also released an actual video game on Steam called “I Love Your Colonel Sanders Dating Simulator Game. The fast food company has also encouraged games to create KFC themed Minecraft builds and share them.

Additionally, they are no stranger to unusual marketing including items like KFC nail polish, KFC chicken scented sun screen or KFC Crocs.

Medical Supplies Delivered Autonomously From the Sky

Near Charlotte, NC drones—large ones with 11-foot wingspan—fly over neighborhoods, an interstate highway and a reservoir as fast as 63 mph arriving at Huntersville Medical Center.

When the drone arrives its compartment door opens and a parachute equipped package drops gently to the pavement below. This happens about 10 times a day. And after dropping its package the drone returns to the hospital distribution center.

Novant Health operates 15 hospitals in the area. This includes Huntersville Medical Center. Novant has any number of delivery choices but decided to test drones as they believe it will prove useful in future heath crises.

As delivering medical supplies will be more challenging following natural disasters or political unrest the drones may offer solutions for delivering supplies to places conventional vehicles cannot reach.

The FAA gave Novant Health a temporary waiver so they and Zipline, the startup operating the drones, could fly drones over people and beyond the visual range of the person responsible for the drone. Zipline’s drones are autonomous but are monitored by a human being.

U.S. business have been slow adopters of drone delivery as needed regulation has yet to be set. The U.S. has more crowded and complex air space than places where drone delivery is legal.

Zipline has been around 2016 and began their journey in Ghana. As of now they say they have delivered more than 110,000 medical items.

The Little Light Technology Getting Loud About Sterilization

LEDs, the now ubiquitous “Light Emitting Diode,” can be found everywhere—all over your house, your car, in the flashlights your family takes camping or uses for safety and visibility while riding bikes. The are tough, tiny, bright and energy efficient making them the perfect technology for additional research and applications.

A Mr. Zollner and his colleagues have been studying LEDs that emit ultraviolet light, particularly UV-C light, which is deadly to bacteria and viruses, including the coronavirus.

The goal of the project is to create LEDs that are more powerful, tougher and cheaper. They want to make them ten to twenty times more powerful.
His goal is to make those LEDs more powerful, robust and cheaper. Zollner believes the technology could be widely adopted and used to clean surfaces and other things in the event of another pandemic or even just during our typical flu season.

Currently the technology is strong enough to clean a close cabinet. But to clean a room the lights need to be about twenty times more powerful.

These lights are so powerful that they are dangerous to human eyes and skin.
However one firm has already found a use for them by creating the world’s first self-cleaning water bottle. To protect the human user the LEDs, seated in the lid, only function when the lid is securely sealed. Users must push down on the lid to turn on the lights. The creating LARQ claims their bottle will be clear of most bacteria and viruses in just 60 seconds.

Coronavirus Contact Tracing

So now we are in the middle of this pandemic. In the face of this, Google and Apple has joined forces to supply contact tracing. They will be releasing software to automatically and autonomously log all the people you have been in contact with. It uses Bluetooth to collect (encrypted) codes but it doesn’t know the identity of the person. The codes stay on your phone while you remain anonymous.

Apps can be built on the API they make that can do what needs to be done with the codes but you will have to give permissions. Contact tracing is used to try to keep coronavirus at bay. This will help find those who are positive stay quarantined during their contagious period and find those they have contacted before they were symptomatic.

Having Apple and Google on this, will ensure their respective OS systems can be ready for this. They have only built a way to collect and make alerts. It is up to healthcare/governments to build the app to handle the information.

Google Lens

Google Lens seems to be a item to have. It is available through other Google apps, such as Google Assistant, Google Photos, some camera apps, Android devices, in Google Photos on iOS and in the Google app on iOS. The apps it is on will show it as four rounded corners with a dot in the middle. So let’s see exactly what it does.

Say you are out taking a walk and see a plant you and you dont know what it is. If you take a picture of it, it will find it and bring up web results so you can see it. Same with animals. On iOS, if I open the Google app, click on the lens icon in the search bar, I can see it has accessed my camera (I had given previous permissions) and some dots appear. If I click on one of the dots, it will find the item I have clicked on.

If you hover over text that is in another language, you can touch the Google Translate button and it will translate to English for you.

https://lens.google.com/https://lens.google.com/

May the Force (4th) Be With You!

Today is May 4th and many promos may say “May the 4th be with you” as play on words of a popular line from Star Wars. So where did this punny way of saying it come from?

An early use comes from an ad in the London Evening News on May 4th in 1979 when Margaret Thatcher was first elected as British Prime Minister. The ad read “May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations.”

It was used a second time in 1994 when Harry Cohen of the parliament made a joke in the House of Commons. In 2008, groups celebrated “Luke Skywalker Day” with the same phrase. It has been more popular since 2011 when the Star Wars Day event at the Toronto Underground Cinema.

May 4th is considered “Star Wars Day”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars_Day

Stuck at Home With Some Bored Kids?

Here is something they can try for free. Microsoft is offering free tutorials and also streaming live tutorials daily on their MakeCode site. There are several to choose from for learning computing.

Current offerings:
micro:bit
Circuit Playground Express
Minecraft
LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3
Cue
Arcate
Chibi Chip

For Windows 10 computer owners, they also have apps for micro:bit, Adafruit, and Cue by Wonder Workshop.

For some of the courses you may need some peripheral products. The micro:bit computer can run about $20. The circuit for Adafruit Circuit Playground Express runs about $25.

Find out more: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/makecode
Adafruit Circuit: https://www.adafruit.com/product/3333
micro:bit computer: https://store.birdbraintechnologies.com/collections/featured-items/products/micro-bit

Why Are People Still Using Zoom?

Since the last time we mentioned Zoom, it seems there have been alerts put out there asking people to stop using it. There are numerous problems with it. Sure, it is probably the easiest meeting software for non-technical people to use but the security is what has people up in arms.

So what is the problem? There are a few. Even last summer they found there was software used to bypass security to be able to launch it in a few clicks. This also makes it easy for hackers to start webcams and watch users without them knowing. The other bad thing is this bug remained even after the user uninstalls Zoom. Apple has removed this component by issuing a force-deployed update to every Mac in the world.

There are other things. Zoom can use your private video calls and sell ads. What if you are using Zoom to speak with your therapist? What kind of ads will they be marketing?

Another thing that was “fixed” was the fact that Zoom was sending user info to Facebook. That has since been fixed in an update.

To see more about this:
OneZero.medium.com
Tidbits.com

Here is a light-hearted parody of the Zoom security issues:

Some New Changes from Microsoft We Came Across

Technology is all about change. Thinkgs are in constant state of flux as you have to get used to changes as they come around.

One change we have recently found was that Microsoft will start flagging double spaces after periods. The new norm is one space after sentences. Back in the day of typewriters, we were always taught to make 2 spaces after a sentence. In the world of web development, when you try to put in two spaces, it will ignore one of them in most cases unless you use an editor, then it might force the second space in with code.

If you run a search about using one or two spaces, you will see there is a lot of controversy about this subject. Most of the ones against 2 spaces say only old people (over 40) use 2 spaces. Then people cite older versions of APA guides that say to use 2.

Another change we came across was kind of weird. We had recently updated a PC’s software and then every time we do a restart, it opens up MS Publisher. I looked in the startup programs and it wasn’t there. It must be I had MS Publisher open when I started the update. It turns out that a new setting can cause this. To fix this, go to Settings >> Accounts >> Sign-in options >> Privacy – toggle off “Use my sign-in info to automatically finish setting up my device and reopen my apps after an update or restart.”

Some Ways Covid-19 has Changed the World

There are too many ways to count how this pandemic has changed the world. Here in America, it is like life has come to a stand-still. Many establishments are closed including schools, churches, libraries, dine-in restaurants, to name a few. Sometimes while we wallow in our own self-pity, we forget how it is affecting others, especially children, teenagers, and college students who are missing once in a lifetime milestones. We want to talk about how tech can be used to help.

First, the high school seniors are missing out on prom. Some have taken the initiative to try to have a virtual prom on Instagram or TikTok.

One college in Japan is holding their graduation via robots. The robots, dressed in cap and gown, have the students faces via Zoom showing their faces where the robot faces would be.

Our church has been able to bring services weekly during this crisis by keeping band members at least 6 feet apart. We were streaming every week anyway so we had everything in place for this to begin with. Our small groups have all moved to using online virtual meetings using software such as Webex or Zoom.

There are also new cautions about using Zoom. You need to make sure your settings are set up correctly as it could be hacked. Meetings are being “Zoombombed” and intruders putting in awful posts and images.