Randall C. Kennedy

The Swiss 5G debacle is giving me a headache

This is why we can’t have nice things! Just as Switzerland is on the cusp of becoming a leader in 5G adoption, out pop the crazies to rain on the tiny nation’s wireless parade.

The land of Chalets and Saint Bernards has been aggressively pursuing 5G adoption, with major carriers promising coverage for 90 percent of the population by the end of the year. This includes nearly every city and town, as well as remote locations, like ski slopes and mountaintop resorts. Just this past July, operators finished installing or converting over 300 antenna stations for 5G transmission -- no mean feat given the rugged terrain of the Swiss Alps.

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Hey, American patriots: Why all the Tesla hate?

Tesla

People suck. Every time I think of giving my fellow humans a bit of slack, some evolutionary throwback emerges to spoil my mood.

Take the anti-Tesla crowd, for example. As a fan of both the company and the man behind it (Elon Musk), I get a lot of Tesla-related reading suggestions in my Google Now feed. And most of the time, the stories are positive: A stock Tesla sedan blowing away a fancy muscle car at a racetrack; an almost certain traffic accident avoided by the quick-thinking of Tesla’s Autopilot feature.

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Embracing our deepfake future

"Is it live? Or is it Memorex?" Those of us who’ve been around a while will recall those iconic TV commercials where the announcer challenged the audience to tell the difference between a recorded performance and a live one (or as "live" as a pre-recorded TV spot can be). The idea was that the recording medium -- in this case, Memorex brand audio cassette tapes -- reproduced the full fidelity of the original so faithfully that, in one case, a singer’s high note recorded on one of their tapes literally shattered a nearby wine glass.

I like to think of the above as the first, crude precursor to what today we call "deepfake" technology. But whereas faithfully reproducing audio content has been a net positive for humanity (you wouldn’t be enjoying your MP3s or Spotify streams without those pioneering first steps), deepfake -- or the ability to recreate and/or completely simulate (using AI) both the audio and video representations of a live person -- has been universally panned because of its potential for abuse. After all, in a world full of fake news, it’s not hard to imagine some bad actor deciding to put out bogus recordings (or recreations) of high-profile individuals for personal or political gain.

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iPhone 11 Pro: The ugliest iPhone ever!

They say that good things come in threes. Three of a kind. Three’s Company (RIP, John Ritter). Three-eyed ravens. There’s even a literary Rule of Three that spans the breadth of human influence and communication. Basically, we humans are hardwired to like things that come as a "pair-plus-one."

However, there are also plenty of bad things that come in threes. Three-eyed monsters. Three-legged invaders from Mars. The "third wheel" friend on what was supposed to be a hot date. So, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that Apple decided to put THREE separate cameras on the back of the new iPhone 11 Pro. Because, from an aesthetic and first impressions standpoint, this is one "fugly" beast!

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Reaping the whirlwind of our impatience culture

"I want it all! … And I want it now!" With all due respect to the late, great Freddy Mercury, I don’t give a damn what he wants. Nor do I have any patience for the current generation’s obsession with instant gratification. When the average millennial gets frustrated if a web page takes more than 16 seconds to load, you know that the end of the world is nigh.

So, what the hell happened? Why is an entire generation of humanoid bipeds walking around in a funk of hyper-distraction?

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Twitter philanthropy: Noble endeavor or evil conspiracy?

Philanthropy is a funny thing. Do it the "right" way and you’re a saint. Do it the "wrong" way -- as defined by the trolls of Twitter nation -- and you’re an evil, corrupt opportunist capitalizing on the bad fortune of the downtrodden.

It’s a lesson that Bill Pulte, CEO of Pulte Capital & Blight Authority, is finding out the hard way. After championing urban renewal through his campaign of tearing down and clearing abandoned homes in economically depressed areas (i.e. "urban blight"), the grandson of the legendary founder of Pulte Homes is turning his attention to a more targeted form of giving: Specifically, he’s advocating for the direct transfer of cash to needy individuals and families from willing donors, with Twitter as the medium connecting the two sides.

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Metro by T-Mobile: Caveat Emptor!

Those who follow my musings here on BetaNews know that I travel a lot internationally. Whether it’s bouncing around Asia, cooling my heels in Europe, or soaking up rays on my adopted home of Mauritius, I rarely go more than a month or so without a major trip somewhere. And now that my children are both attending university in the U.S., I’m shuttling back and forth to the States more than ever. Which makes the news that the city of New York is suing T-Mobile over shady business practices at its pre-paid wireless "Metro by T-Mobile" stores all the more jarring.

You see, I’m a longtime Metro customer. When I left the U.S. for good in 2006, I said goodbye to my traditional, post-paid cellular plan and waded into the murky waters of pre-paid phone providers. At first, I used a mixture of el-cheapo "feature phones" whenever I was back in the States. Tracfone, et al, no doubt appreciated my patronage during those pre-smartphone years when all I cared about was being able to make a voice call when I needed to.

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Sharknado 2019 as seen through the eyes of a Siri QA screener

We all have them. Those days when we question our life choices. The roads not taken. The career paths followed and later regretted.

For example, why did I choose to become a quality assurance screener for Apple’s Siri-equipped devices? Surely, the idea of listening to hours upon hours of random conversations, punctuated by the occasional moan/grunt or farting noise, was not at top of mind when I graduated university with a BS in CS (or was it a CS in BS)? And, of course, there’s no way I could have anticipated the events that would transpire one fateful day in September 2019 -- events that would shake this seasoned writer to his very core.

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Big brother Elon isn't watching you -- but maybe he should be!

Tesla

In an effort to reassure privacy advocates, Tesla announced that its new automobile insurance product for owners of the company’s popular electric vehicles will not use onboard sensor data from said vehicles in determining policy premiums. The fear was that the company would use the voluminous data collected by every Tesla Model 3, S or X to pre-judge the risk associated with specific drivers and penalize those who've demonstrated a propensity for speeding or other aggressive behavior.

Most news outlets are reporting this as a win for consumers, another bit of pushback against our intrusive, surveillance-state of a world. But my question is: Why? Or, rather, why not?

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Fairphone 3: Now with more HEMP!

Holding Fairphone 3

No, the Fairphone 3 is not really made from marijuana plant fibers -- but it might as well be. This misguided attempt to make a smartphone that "care[s] for people and planet" is nearly as ugly as that hemp "shirt" your Environmental Studies buddy used to wear in college. Clunky, with middling specs and a creepy, peek-a-boo-translucent backside, it's a phone that screams "virtue signal -- incoming!"

I mean, why else would anyone buy this thing? Its aesthetic is reminiscent of every generic, first-generation slab phone ever built -- like someone took an Apple iPhone 4 and a Samsung Galaxy S2, ran them through a blender, and then reassembled the debris with scotch tape and cellophane. The expletive-laden contraction "F'UGLY" doesn’t begin to describe this abomination.

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#GoogleSoWhite

New Play store

Google has a diversity problem. Whereas the company's mobile app offerings were once colorful and full of highlights, more recent iterations -- like the newly released version 16 of the Google Play Store -- have been thoroughly and deliberately "whitewashed." Gone is the inclusive rainbow of headers that delineated each app type. In its place, a monochromatic sea of pure whiteness.

The transition is jarring -- and a bit intimidating. As someone who is married to a "person of color" I find the loss of background hue to be disquieting. The notion that it is better to suppress diversity of content in the name of "consistency" or "visual clarity" strikes me as downright bigoted. By ignoring the unique contributions that categories like "Movies" and "Games" have made to the overall Google landscape, you slight those behind the content that drives them.

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Cyber-stalking from 240 miles in the sky

Astronaut

"In space, no one can hear you…stalk?" That's the phrase that comes to mind as I sift through the sensationalist coverage of astronaut and decorated combat veteran Anne McClain's brief sojourn into the world of cyber-stalking. And while the act of checking up on an estranged spouse's financial activity is relatively common in a world where roughly half of all marriages (at least in Western countries) end up in divorce, the fact that Ms McClain chose to do so while orbiting the Earth at over 17,000 mph adds a degree of novelty to an otherwise mundane story.

Indeed, the purported "scene of the crime" introduces several new wrinkles to the matter, including under which jurisdiction her apparently illegal actions should fall. According to official sources, inhabitants of the International Space Station (ISS) are subject to the laws and regulations of their home countries. So, a Japanese astronaut is subject to Japanese law, a Russian to Russian law, etc.

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Fear and loathing in Hong Kong

Hello from Hong Kong, that "Special Administrative Region" of the People’s Republic of China.

This amazing city is brimming with technology that makes visiting a joy. From fast Wi-Fi in nearly every shop and restaurant to ultra-cheap SIM cards (under $9 for 5 days of unlimited 4G LTE surfing), it’s enough to bring a tear to this jaded tech writer’s eye. Though, in retrospect, that may have just been lingering tear gas from the protests that rocked the city on the night of my arrival. Yes, there really is nothing like the smell of anti-riot munitions in the morning. It smells like…tyranny!

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The hard truth about mass shootings and the internet

"You can’t handle the truth!" That iconic line from the 90’s era Tom Cruise legal thriller, A Few Good Men, is what comes to mind as I mull over the headlines of the past few weeks. From El Paso, Texas to Dayton, Ohio, from Gilroy, California to Christchurch, New Zealand, sick and twisted individuals are committing horrendous acts of violence against innocents. And, as I struggle to understand the seemingly disparate motivations of these despicable individuals, a singular thought keeps popping into my head:

This sort of stuff didn’t happen before the internet.

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Will hackers turn the 787 Dreamliner into a flying nightmare?

Do you like airplanes? I know I do. Get me inside an airport terminal and I become glued to the glass watching them move about on the tarmac. Big ones. Small ones. I love them all.

And not just from the outside. I love traveling in planes, too. In fact, I’ve flown in nearly every type of major short or long-haul jet in service. From humongous A380’s to diminutive MD88’s, I’m a seasoned veteran of the air travel game.

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