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.
A short Friday edition today — highlighted by an insanely dumb startup trying to get positive coverage in the worst way possible.
Here’s this week’s episode of The Vergecast! It got... weird at the end. Also, Link is an elf.
- I really like this piece by Lux Alptraum on how “free speech” trolls on Reddit and 4chan have somehow found themselves in alliance with the Trump administration, which wants to... crack down on obscene speech. Nothing about how Americans think about free speech and the internet is easy or simple, and Lux does a great job of lining up all the weirdness that ensues when too many people assume the ends justify the means.
- Our First Click essay this morning was about Amar Toor turning to audio recordings of his son instead of taking photos and videos because the kid isn’t in love with the camera. I read it as sweet, as did a bunch of other parents I know, but there’s an interesting debate in the comments over whether this is creepy or not.
- JetSmarter PR offered us a ride on their planes for a piece, then sent us a contract demanding a credit card so they could charge us $2,000 if we didn’t publish a positive piece. I don’t usually give companies PR advice, but... don’t do this. Morons.
- Recode’s Jason Del Ray landed the scoop that Amazon is working on new Alexa devices that can make voice calls and work as intercoms. This stuff needs a name as it goes beyond voice assistants — I’ve been toying with “ambient technology.” Thoughts?
- Google’s Rick Osterloh confirmed that yes, there will be another Pixel phone this year. Surprise! But, um, can you ship me my first one before obsoleting it please?
- Google Photos added auto white balance. This is super minor, but better white balance is one of those “ohhhh” moments in learning to take good photos. We used to tease each other about it mercilessly in the early days of hands-on photos. And now the robots can do it for us. You kids today have it so goddamn easy.
- Here is a feature phone that is also a battery pack to charge your smartphone. I... love this. I don’t know. I just do.
- Speaking of charging, Meizu says its new Super mCharge (sigh) tech can fully charge a phone in 20 minutes. Walt and I did an entire episode of Ctrl-Walt-Delete a while ago on how battery tech needs to change, and super-fast charging is definitely one thing that could radically change our experience with mobile devices.
AJIT PAI NEVER SLEEPS
- The FCC’s Lifeline program has long subsidized traditional landline phone access for the poor. Under Wheeler, the agency moved to allow those subsidies pay for broadband as well. Then Ajit Pai, yadda yadda, the FCC is now asking if that’s such a good idea after all.
- It’s a good idea. Come on, people.
- Pai’s furious pace is really something to behold, but at some point you have to figure changing this much policy so fast is going to have at least some unintended consequences. Which again, does not seem very conservative.
- Any time Pai wants to talk to us about this, he’s welcome to.
- Finally, here’s Loren Grush on SpaceX’s plan to fling two people around the Moon — there was quite a debate about crewed vs. uncrewed spaceflight among science nerds (and in our science Slack channel!) today.