VW ready to takeover from Tesla

❝ Volkswagen AG is about to find out whether consumers will back its 30 billion-euro ($34 billion) strategy to topple Tesla Inc. as the electric-car leader.

❝ The German auto giant is now taking 1,000-euro deposits to secure one of the first in a new range of battery-powered models. The new ID.3 hatchback — which VW hopes will be the electric-car successor to the iconic Beetle — will start at less than 30,000 euros, roughly the same level as the diesel variant of its best-selling Golf hatchback.

We are not playing,” VW sales chief Juergen Stackmann said at an event in Berlin launching the reservation program. “This is the car to beat for the future, for all our competitors…”

❝ In a sign of its growing marketing rivalry, Tesla sent an email to prospective German customers on Wednesday, trumpeting its Model S and Model X as having the best range of electric cars in series production. Volkswagen is slated to start mass assembly of the ID.3 late this year, with the first deliveries in mid-2020…

VW opened up orders for their 1st production all-electric car going into the weekend. They received orders for over 10,000 cars in the first 24 hours.

Watch independent testing of the sidearm just adopted by the US Army

This is from a couple years ago and Sigg and the Army didn’t perform this test back then – and I don’t believe they do, nowadays. I’d be pleased to be corrected.

Though I embrace pretty much every progressive legal requirement for gun ownership, I’ve been a gun owner my whole adult life. I come from an extended family that had beaucoup years working for gun manufacturers all the way up to prototype gunsmiths. I still own guns. I still shoot pretty damn good for an old geezer.

I think if a firearm is passed for military use it should be able to pass more rigorous testing than what is apparently considered sufficient. If the folks who produced this video still have it right.

‘Nuff said.

“Game of Thrones” — Starbucks joins the legendary tale

❝ From all of the bizarre things we’ve seen on Game of Thrones—from an undead dragon to the warlocks of Qarth—a disposable coffee cup probably takes the cake.

❝ In last night’s episode, fans spotted the cup on the table of the great hall of Winterfell as the surviving army celebrated their victory against the battle against the undead. While the cast ate from wooden bowls and swigged from goblets (except for Tormund, who chugged his drink from a horn), the coffee cup was definitely out of place.

HARPER’S BAZAAR has one of the better collections of fan comments about the screw-up. And the updated version of their article reveals that the scene has now been edited and the paper coffee cup has now vanished.

McDonald’s trying out AI-powered menu boards

❝ Savory bacon, sweet Donut Sticks and a $5 value meal contributed to better-than-expected U.S. results for McDonald’s Corp. despite negative guest counts in the first quarter…

Going forward this year, McDonald’s said it is pivoting its focus to overall restaurant operations, especially at the drive-thru. McDonald’s said it has deployed menu boards with automated suggestive selling at 700 restaurants through Dynamic Yield. In late March, the Chicago-based chain purchased the decision logic technology company, which uses artificial intelligence to automate the upselling of menu items based on time of day, trending items and weather…

❝ When asked by an analyst where McDonald’s stands on adding a plant-based dish, CEO Steve Easterbrook said his culinary teams are “paying close attention to it.”

“The key for us is to identify the sustaining consumer trends,” he said.

I zeroed in on the plant-based consideration because of the dynamic IPO this past week for BEYOND MEAT. Their CEO emphasized that the simplest advantage they will offer consumers – beside a healthier planet and healthier consumers – is lower prices than meat. I haven’t any confidence in McDonald’s using lower wholesale commodity prices to reduce the tab for consumers. But, I look forward to taking advantage of the difference in the cut-throat world of supermarkets.

And – I wonder at the intelligence of fast food retailers who utilize the tastebud brain-switch of salty or sweet to bump their profits and don’t consider saving money for consumers to be equally compelling.

Om says the iPhone is killing the standalone camera

❝ The latest data released by Camera & Imaging Products Association only reinforces my thesis from a few years ago. Just look at this chart:

❝ I am not alone. Most of us take photos and share them digitally, and we expect them to be experienced on digital devices — typically smartphones — via Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. Sometimes, we might share them on dedicated digital displays (I love my Aura frame), but even those don’t need the spectacular quality provided by standalone cameras.

❝ Apple, Google, Huawei, and Samsung are competing aggressively on the strength of their camera — apart from the Internet, it is the most used feature on a smartphone. They are spending thousands of millions of dollars on software and hardware to improve the photography on their devices. Meanwhile, Nikon and Canon are racking up losses upon losses as camera sales stall. The camera industry is doing its best to paper over its looming doomsday scenario by releasing high-end interchangeable lens cameras that cost as much as a second-hand car. But you can see where this is going.

❝ If you think the situation for standalone cameras is bleak now, just wait until we get to the future! It is pretty obvious the smartphone cameras will improve at a much faster rate than standalone cameras, which are still locked into an older model of product development. Soon, it won’t be surprising to have everyday (not just high-end) phones with three to five lens modules that do everything from wide-angle photography to longer aperture telephotos from a single device. With software improvements coming in thick and fast, I expect this will be the new reality within 24 months.

This is excerpted from one of six articles in the latest of Om’s email newsletters on Tech and More. You can subscribe to it over here.

I’ve been heading down this road for several years. One of my oldest film cameras – 45+ years old – the favorite is becoming a collectible. A pocket-size Rollei 35B that’s been with me hiking and hill-walking from the Adirondacks to Ben Nevis. Haven’t used it in years. I have a lovely pocket-size digital Panasonic DMC-ZS8 that was in my pants pocket everywhere I walked since I retired – until my wife gave me my first iPhone. Now, it lives in my rolltop desk next to the two film cameras. Any photo of mine you see on my website or Instagram page was taken by an iPhone.

Elon Musk said what?

❝ In many ways, Tesla — Elon Musk’s lightning rod of a car company — is the perfect allegory for modern Silicon Valley. The ongoing psychodrama of personalities drowns out the amazing technical achievements that are happening all around us…

As usual, this has been a real “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” kind of week for Tesla. It had a disastrous earnings report card, and Elon keeps creating all the wrong sorts of headlines. But in the middle of this maelstrom, the company announced a new chip that is going to eventually become the brain for their electric car. This chip is not just any chip — it will be able to make sense of a growing number of sensors that allow the car to become better and better at assisted (if not fully automated) driving…

❝ Tesla’s module is based on two AI chips — each one made of a CPU, a GPU, and deep learning accelerators. The module can deliver 144-trillion operations per second, making it capable of processing data from numerous sensors and other sources and running deep neural network algorithms. Ian Riches, an analyst with Strategy Analytics, told EE Times that this is “effectively the most powerful computer yet fitted to a production vehicle.” And Tesla is going to make a next-generation module that will be more powerful and will consume a lot less power.

As usual, Om Malik provides more depth, analysis and understanding than most of his peers. Please, RTFA, gather in another chunk of insight into Elon Musk’s apparently endless journey to reinvent the automobile along with any other software and hardware he bumps into in his young life.

5G – as it’s being rolled out – won’t transform much of anything

A blog post by Neville Ray, CTO of T-Mobile USA

❝ 5G is at the height of the hype curve right now…and there’s also a lot of misinformation. I’m not going to add to either…And when it’s ready for our customers…in a way that allows us to bring the benefits of 5G to the whole country…We are going to get it right.

I wish I could say the same for the rest of the industry. But with the 5G path the other guys are on – what I’m calling the status quo – we will not see the transformational power this technology has to completely change EVERY industry. And that’s not good enough…

Verizon’s mmWave-only 5G plan is only for the few. And it will never reach rural America. Meanwhile, AT&T has rolled out a “5GE” icon to customers phones to dupe them into thinking their same-old 4G LTE service is something new and different (spoiler alert: it’s not)…

❝ Some of this is physics – millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum has great potential in terms of speed and capacity, but it doesn’t travel far from the cell site and doesn’t penetrate materials at all. It will never materially scale beyond small pockets of 5G hotspots in dense urban environments.

Yes, we’re all being hyped by the buzzwords. Something like “Make America Great Again” for cellphones. RTFA to get a grasp of the questions that haven’t been answered well enough to bring this faster technology to everyone.

And there’s more…

❝ 5G is the “fifth generation” of wireless networks. It will cover a wide range of devices, including both mobile and fixed network infrastructure, i.e. both mobile smartphones, wearables and settled machines will be wireless. So does that mean in future we will need no fiber cables running around?

❝ Beneath the surface of the world’s wireless infrastructure lies a big net interwoven by the fiber optic cables. And at present 90% of all internet traffic travels over wireline fiber, even if it finally terminates in a wireless device. 5G is targeted at a connection speed of 1-10 Gbps, which is ten to hundred times higher than 4G. The overwhelming traffic to data centers will demand a transport media that is capable of high bandwidth and long distance, and fiber is the best future-proof choice among all mediums…

We won’t receiving 5G anything under most circumstances if it wasn’t delivered by fibre-optic cables to be broadcast in the first place.

Personally, my best hope is that cable providers bringing most of us existing broadband access capable of 4K movies and the 5K and 8K to follow…will have the smarts to compete and offer matching speeds at affordable prices. Technically, they can already step up to that standard across a lot of the map. They simply aren’t being pressed by sufficient competition to care to do that. Capitalism 101, 2nd semester.

VW credits Tesla for “proving electric cars are here to stay”


VW ID Crozz at Shanghai Auto Show

❝ Volkswagen is arguably the legacy automaker most committed to electric vehicles and this week, it gave a rare nod to a competitor, Tesla, for “‘proving electric cars are here to stay.”

Scott Keogh, the CEO of Volkswagen in the US, made the comment at the National Automobile Dealers Association…

❝ Two years ago, when he was the head of Audi in America, he told dealerships to get behind electric vehicles because they will dominate the market within 10 years…

Now the head of Volkswagen in America, he told the same audience this week that they are going electric…“Even if it’s 10 percent of the market, we want to pursue it,”

❝ He also acknowledged the success of the Tesla Model 3 and said:

“We have not seen in the history of the auto business, a company going from zero to fourth place in luxury in a matter of a few years.”

Yes, yes, I know there are birdbrains who still think this will never happen. Probably the same crowd that think our fake president is “draining the swamp” when all he’s doing is siphoning money and putting some of the worst fascist-minded reactionaries in history into lifetime judge’s robes.

Mush, Spot, Mush!

❝ an ominous video titled “Mush, Spot Mush!” posted on YouTube Tuesday, robot maker Boston Dynamics showed off the sheer strength of its SpotMini quadripedal robot dog. The clip shows 10 specialized Spotmini derivatives called Spotpower hauling a box truck across a parking lot — and at a one degree incline.

❝ The robot maker announced in 2018 that it will start selling SpotMini robot dogs to the public this year. The 66 pound robot can climb stairs, cross a wide variety of different terrain and carry 31 pounds…

What exactly those applications will look like and how much a Spotpower will go for is still unclear. But it’s an incredible feat of strength and agility that sets the bar for future commercial robots.

Actually, we buy our dog’s favorite dog food at Tractor Supply. Is that supposed to be an omen of Things To Come?

World’s largest plane 1st take-off!

❝ On Saturday morning, April 13th, exactly 45 minutes after the sun began to rise over the Mojave Desert, the largest airplane ever created—and its record-breaking 385-foot wingspan—took off for the very first time. The aircraft, from the company Stratolaunch, has been eight years in the making. By 2022, the company hopes to use the twin-fuselage, six-engined, catamaran-style aircraft to launch satellite-bearing rockets into space…

<blockquote❝ "All of you have been very patient and very tolerant over the years waiting for us to get this big bird off the ground, and we finally did it," Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd told reporters on a press call. The company reported the airplane hit speeds of 189mph and heights of 17,000 feet during its 150-minute test flight, before landing safely at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

"The systems on the airplane ran like a watch,” test pilot Evan Thomas told reporters.

Thank the dreams of the late Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. Founder – also – of Stratolaunch.