Saudi Aramco Expected to Beat Apple as ‘Most Valuable Company’

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Oil giant Saudi Aramco recently had the world’s biggest IPO of US$25.6 billion. At that level it has a market valuation of US$1.7 trillion, beating Apple to become the world’s most valuable company.

Aramco did not say when shares would start trading on the Saudi stock market but two sources said it was scheduled for Dec. 11.

Saudi Arabia relied on domestic and regional investors to sell a 1.5% stake after lukewarm interest from abroad, even at the reduced valuation of $1.7 trillion.

Robocalls and Scams are Killing Phone Calls

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Sarah Hagi writes how the phone call is dying thanks to the rise of robocalling. Now, many people don’t answer unknown callers and instead send them to voicemail.

Speaking to so many people, it struck me how resigned everyone was to this fact: that this is seemingly just the way things are now, with no hope of it getting better, only worse. And while many believe millennials killed talking on the phone because we fear real connection, maybe it’s because we are too scared of getting scammed.

It’s appropriate to come across this article today because I’ve gotten an increase in robocalls in the past couple of days. Aside from using a robocall-blocking app, I go to Settings > Phone > Silence Unknown Callers.

Track Your Cards and Cash in One Place with this Digital Finance and Budgeting Tool: $34

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We have a deal on the Toshl Medici plan, a financial tracking service that unlocks all the features available in Toshl Finance. That includes all graphs and the option to automatically import data from your bank, credit card or other financial services. You can get a 3-year subscription through us for $39.99, but coupon code BFSAVE15 brings the price down to $34 at checkout. There’s a 1-year option available in the deal listing, too, and the coupon code works on it, too.

The iPhone SE 2 Might Be Called... iPhone 9?!

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Rumors emanating from Japan suggested that the much-discussed iPhone SE 2 may actually be called the iPhone 9. AppleInsider took a look at this somewhat unlikely claim.

Japanese site Macotakara is reporting confirmation from its sources within manufacturers in the supply chain, that Apple is readying a cheaper, smaller ‘iPhone SE 2’ to replace the iPhone SE. It may be released in spring 2020, but Macotakara also claims that it may be called the iPhone 9. “Since the consecutive design has been used from iPhone 6 to iPhone 8,” says the site in its own English-language translation, “it is difficult to be thought that the name of iPhone SE would be succeeded.” The word “design” there is most likely to be a mistranslation of what the site probably meant was the iPhone naming convention.

The Privacy Problems Around Facebook's Libra Currency

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Libra, Facebook’s attempt to get into cryptocurrency, has suffered a number of setbacks. On Wired, European Data Protection Supervisor Wojciech Wiewiórowski highlighted the privacy issues with the project.

In the European Union, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the ePrivacy Directive guarantee privacy and personal data protection as fundamental rights for every individual. There can be no doubt that Libra would be subject to these laws. It is clear that payment and transaction data convey a lot of information about the user, facilitating profiling. The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) mainly examines potential data-sharing that may be triggered by Libra facilities on a previously unseen scale. Even if sharing would be conditional on user consent, the long-term implications may be the further loss of control over data.

Bernie Sanders Unveils ‘High-Speed Internet for All”

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Today Bernie Sanders revealed a plan to expand broadband access across America called ‘High-Speed Internet for All’.

High-speed internet service must be treated as the new electricity — a public utility that everyone deserves as a basic human right. And getting online at home, at school, or at work shouldn’t involve long waits, frustrating phone calls, and complex contracts and fees meant to trap and trick consumers. It should just work.

It’s time to take this critical 21st century utility out of the hands of monopolies and conglomerates and bring it to the people while creating good-paying, union jobs at the same time.

Shure MV88 Digital Stereo Condenser Microphone for Apple Devices: $149

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We have a deal on the Shure MV88 Digital Stereo Condenser Microphone, a high-quality condenser mic for iOS and iPadOS devices. It’s MFi-certified, features 5 DSP preset modes (Speech, Singing, Flat, Acoustic Instrument, Loud), matched cardioid and bi-directional 0.4″ (1cm) cartridges, and other high-end features. It’s $149 through our deal.

Homeland Security Cancels Facial Recognition Plan for Americans

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Homeland Security had a plan to expand its use of airport facial recognition to include U.S. citizens. After much outcry the agency will drop that plan, although foreign nationals and visitors will still face mandatory scanning.

A spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection, which filed the proposal, said the agency has “no current plans to require U.S. citizens to provide photographs upon entry and exit from the United States,” and that it “intends to have the planned regulatory action regarding U.S. citizens removed from the unified agenda next time it is published.”

Behind the Scenes of VSCO With CEO Joel Flory

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VSCO is my favorite photo editor and TechCrunch’s Kate Clark sat down with CEO Joel Flory to talk about his company.

Without selling ads or customer data, VSCO has developed a sustainable subscription-based business and written a new playbook for social media businesses in a world where Facebook’s advertising-based model is king. For those fed up with platforms that have facilitated bullying and failed to prioritize privacy, VSCO may be a protective corner of the internet.

I have a couple more VSCO articles planned for the future, like a review of the editing tools.

A History of Apple’s Technology Transitions

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Martin Pilkington wrote a long blog post detailing Apple’s technology transitions over the years. These are the big, fundamental changes, like going from Motorola 68k to PowerPC in 1994. In fact, the transitions are put into two categories: CPUs and APIs. It’s a great read about Apple’s history.

A lot of the controversy comes down to people not understanding the how or the why of these transitions, and why Apple ultimately drops the old technology. So I thought it would be useful to explore Apple’s history of transitions and try to explain some of the reasons for this latest one in a way everyone can understand.

T-Mobile 5G Currently Two-to-Four Times Faster Than 4G/LTE

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T-Mobile turned on the U.S.’s first-ever nationwide 5G Network this week. Venturebeat gave it a test-drive.

Thankfully, my initial testing of T-Mobile’s low-band 5G network revealed a more complex reality than the company’s conservative figure. The good news is that low-band 5G downloads peaked at 227Mbps, 2-4 times faster than T-Mobile’s LTE service at the same locations, and far higher than the aforementioned 20% estimate. But the bad news is that you won’t always achieve the peak speeds, and — surprise — early T-Mobile 5G phone adopters can’t actually use 5G for tethering, only smartphone service.

AirPower, And Other Products And Firms That Died This Decade

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Apple AirPower wireless charging mat

There are plenty of firms and products that were with us a the start of the decade that are no longer around. CNET compiled a list of some of those that have disappeared or never even existed. This includes Apple’s much-hyped AirPower charging mat, that never got shipped.

Sometimes they just feel dead because a company doesn’t update or even mention them for a while. The Apple iPad MiniMac MiniMacBook AirMac Pro and iPod were on our endangered list for years before Apple surprised us with upgrades to all. On the other hand, the company’s AirPort router line and Time Capsule backup drive also were on a long death watch until they finally landed on Apple’s vintage and obsolete product list this year. You just never know… Apple, with its much-hyped-but-never-shipped AirPower wireless charging pad is my Could’ve Been King of the decade. Google’s Project Ara modular phone and Theranos’ unproven blood-testing tech are other rivals for the position, but while highly newsworthy, neither felt as eagerly anticipated by the tech world as the AirPower.


Amazon to Face Cloud Business Antitrust Probe

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Amazon Web Services

Investigators in the U.S. are set to expand their antitrust probe to Amazon’s cloud business – AWS, Bloomberg News reported. The Federal Trade Commission was already investigating the firm’s retail business.

Investigators at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission have been asking software companies recently about practices around Amazon’s cloud unit, known as Amazon Web Services, said the people, who declined to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. The outreach by the FTC signals that the agency, which is already looking at Amazon’s conduct in its vast online retail business, is taking a broader look at the company to determine whether it could be violating antitrust laws and harming competition. The FTC and Amazon declined to comment. The agency’s scrutiny won’t necessarily result in an enforcement action against the company. AWS dominates the market for foundational cloud-computing technology that provides the storage and computing power needed to run applications. It is several times bigger than its next largest rival, Microsoft Corp.’s Azure, according to analyst estimates. Gartner Inc. puts AWS’s share at 48% and Microsoft’s at 16%.


US Among Top 5 Worst Countries for Biometrics Privacy

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The United States is one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the privacy of citizens’ biometrics data.

While there is a handful of state laws that protect state residents’ biometrics (as can be seen in our state privacy study), this does leave many US citizens’ biometrics exposed as there is no federal law in place.

ZapReader Speed-Reading 1-Year Subscription: $8.50

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We have a deal on ZapReader, a speed-reading trainer. ZapReader includes advice from experts, and offers scientifically designed exercises to remove bad reading habits automatically. One year of ZapReader is $9.99 through our deal, but coupon code BFSAVE15 brings the price down to $8.50 at checkout. There’s a three-year option available in the deal listing, and the coupon code works on it, too.

Why You Should Turn Off Your Sleep Tracker

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Sleep trackers, including apps on the Apple Watch, have become increasingly popular. However, an article for Wired suggests they may not be doing us all that much good.

Sleep has become one more thing to feel guilty about, even when the data we’re consulting is often flawed or incomplete. It’s one more number we didn’t hit, one more goal we didn’t achieve. Pangs of guilt follow every new study reminding us of this magical panacea, if we would just turn off Netflix, forget our social lives, emails, and all the dishes in the sink, and just climb into bed. Sleep may be a biological necessity, but our stress over it is a choice. So let’s put the issue to bed. Hit the snooze button on this one!

Traffic Cameras Could Soon Tell if you Text and Drive

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Australia will soon install a camera system powered by machine learning that is designed to spot mobile phones in cars.

To let drivers adjust, warning letters will be sent to those spotted using phones by the cameras for the first three months. Australia uses a points system for drivers — unrestricted driver’s licenses have 13 points. After the first three months, drivers caught using their phones illegally will lose five points and be issued a $344 fine. During other periods, the penalty could increase to 10 points. If a driver loses all of their points, they could lose their license.

Distracted driving is absolutely a serious problem, but I don’t think more surveillance infrastructure is the answer.

Who is Sundar Pichai, And What Happens Now That he is CEO of Alphabet?

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On Tuesday, Google’s parent company Alphabet announced that Larry Page and Sergey Brin were stepping aside and that Sundar Pichai was the new CEO.  On The Verge, Dieter Bohn looked at what this means for the future of the company.

I see the founding of Alphabet in 2015 as an explicit attempt to start Google’s third era. But what it really was was a midlife crisis. Splitting off experimental divisions into separate companies inside an umbrella corporation might have made sense in theory, but in practice everybody knew the truth: it was all Google and so-called “other bets” on the side. It didn’t really start the new era, is what I’m saying. But now that Pichai is running Alphabet officially alongside (above? contiguous with?) Google, he can do the same product cleanup work for the Alphabet companies. That is, if Page and Brin will let him. They did promise to “continue talking with Sundar regularly, especially on topics we’re passionate about.” It’s something to watch out for in the future, but it’s also not the most important job Pichai has right now.

RemoBell Wireless Wi-Fi Video Doorbell: $76.50

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We have a deal on RemoBell, a wireless Wi-Fi video doorbell. It uses AA batteries, communicates with an iOS or Android app, and support Alexa and Google Home. It also uses infrared for night-vision, and it’s US$89.99 through our deal, but coupon code BFSAVE15 brings it down to $76.50 at checkout.

T-Mobile Switches on its 600MHz 5G Network

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T-Mobile turned its 600MHz 5G network on, but no one can use it until 5G-capable smartphones are released, like two this Friday.

The “nationwide” 5G deployment relies on a slower form of 5G, using T-Mobile’s 600MHz spectrum. This “low-band” 5G essentially takes airwaves like the ones used for LTE and bundles them together with some new technology to deliver faster speeds.

T-Mobile doesn’t offer specifics on what kind of speeds you’ll see on the new network, and the actual improvements will vary a lot by location. “In some places, 600 MHz 5G will be a lot faster than LTE. In others, customers won’t see as much difference.”