Before every episode of The Vergecast I sit down, read through a bunch of news, and take a bunch of notes. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of my week, and I started thinking it might be fun to do every day on the site. So, every day this week I’m sitting down and writing some notes on the news as though I’ll be talking about it later. Are you into this? Am I into this? I don’t know. But it’s fun to do! Give me some feedback and we’ll keep mutating this into something good.
So, I’m still figuring out when and how to prep this post on Thursdays, when we record The Vergecast and I have to do... the actual show notes. Would you prefer earlier or later? Let me know in the comments. Anyway, on with the... show... notes.
- Take some time tonight or over the weekend to read Ben Popper’s feature on Koko, a crowd- and AI-driven therapy network that runs through chat. And play with the interactive elements of the story, which were built by our data engineer Frank Bi. We haven’t really talked about the ways technology can actually help people in a while, and adding a little more empathy to the world is a good start.
- Liz Lopatto and Alessandra Potenza wrote about why funding science research is so important: “Investing in research and development — that is, producing and funding scientists and engineers — has been one of the primary forces driving the US economy since World War II.” They point out that companies like Google began with a National Science Foundation grant. Important context as the new administration works to cut back budgets for seemingly everything that isn’t the military.
- I still haven’t seen Get Out, but Jordan Peele’s horror debut is at the top of the box office and getting rave reviews. Bryan Bishop interviewed Peele; dude is just as funny and interesting as you’d expect.
- And Andrew Webster reviewed the new Zelda, which seems to have far surpassed anyone’s expectations
- Google Assistant is coming to “hundreds of millions” of devices running Android Marshmallow and Nougat today. It’s happening through an update to Google Play Services, which is how Google bypasses carrier and manufacturer hurdles to update Android.
- Assistant is interesting, but this got me wondering: shouldn’t Google consistently publicize how many devices are running the latest version of Play Services as well as the latest version of Android? That’s actually the company’s closest parallel to iOS adoption or whatever. Just a thought.
- Google also updated Allo to make it easier to call up Assistant in chats. This is great news for the four Allo users. Wait, the two Allo users who don’t mind opening up their private chats to a giant corporation that can be subpoenaed for that data in the current political climate. Wait, zero Allo users.
TODAY IN RANDOM FCC DRAMA
- Trump pulled Obama’s final FCC nominee, which means the FCC is operating with just three commissioners right now instead of the usual five. (There’s still another Republican nominee outstanding as well.) This wouldn’t normally be a thing, but Chairman Pai needs at least three votes to pass anything, and right now there are two Republicans and one Democrat at the agency.
- The FCC is supposed to only have a maximum of three commissioners from the party in power and two from another party, and the President traditionally defers to the other party’s choice for those positions. (Obama nominated the Republicans’ choice of Pai, for example.) But Trump could do something crazy and pick a Democrat himself, or pick an independent. So this move could really shape the agency’s future decisions.
- What’s particularly... something is that Jessica Rosenworcel, the pulled Democratic nominee, has been an excellent and even-handed commissioner thus far. She broke with former chairman Tom Wheeler on some of his proposals, and if the Republicans were looking for someone from the other party to do a good job filling the seat, it’s not like they can do too much better.
- Chairman Pai also published a Medium post about his upcoming agenda for the FCC’s monthly open meeting today, which he’s pledged to make more open and transparent. Good for him. His highest-priority item on the list? Stopping robocalls. Buried at the bottom? Deregulating mobile carriers a little bit more.
OBLIGATORY SNAP IPO BULLET
- It happened and Evan Spiegel is really rich now. I really could not care less, unless all that new money is going to turn into really interesting new products.
- Amazon AWS went down because of a typo in a routine command. Every moment of every day is a tenuous walk on the edge of a cliff.
- Also in Amazon: the company is working on a home security camera, which leaked out because... images of it are already up on Amazon.com. I currently use a cheap Logi Circle camera, but I’m not paying the monthly cloud video storage fee. If Amazon bundles that into Prime, it’s an instant-switch for me, I think.
- I was pretty excited about the Navdy, a $599 heads-up display that can be added to any car. It interfaces with a phone, does navigation, etc. But Dan Seifert reviewed the Navdy, and it sucks. Like, a lot. Guess we’re still waiting on something good to happen in car tech.
- Is anyone surprised that the Apple whisper mill is pushing back against the rumor the next iPhone will drop Lightning for USB-C? The latest word is that, as expected, the switch to USB-C will be at the other end of the included cable, and Lightning will still be on the phone. Duh.
- There’s a real argument to be made that USB-A has become a de facto worldwide de facto power outlet standard, however. A-to-C and A-to-Lightning cables are going to be a fact of life for a long time to come.
- The new Vizio E-Series starts at $550 for a 55-inch set with local dimming and HDR10 support. I reallllly should have bought one of these instead of that awful curved Samsung Becky hates so much.
- Speaking of Becky, her law office is migrating to Office 365 right now and she... kind of hates it. I’m trying to get her to write about it. Stay tuned.
- Kaitlyn Tiffany and Lizzie Plaugic picked their music video of the week: Lorde’s “Green Light.” I mostly mention this because their tweet was “Emergency: Lorde is back,” and that is perfect.
- And finally, here is Kaitlyn having the only rational response to the new Pirates of the Caribbean trailer.