According to the CDP Carbon Majors Report released in July of 2017, “investors in fossil fuel companies carry influence over one fifth of industrial greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.” There’s a very good chance your investment portfolio includes the ticker symbols of some of the biggest contributors to climate change, and with the largest greenhouse gas emitter, Saudi Aramco, opening up its initial public offering to foreign investors, it’s time you knew the ramifications of giving these companies your money.
Of the 30.6 gigatons of equivalent carbon dioxide of operational and product greenhouse gas emissions from 224 fossil fuel extraction companies, 41 percent are either public- or private-investor owned. While another 59 percent are state-owned, there’s not much you can do about those emitters unless you live in those countries. But you can withhold funding from publicly-traded companies looking to use that money to further sully the Earth, and 20 percent of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions comes from companies owned by public investors, which will grow significantly with the addition of Saudi Aramco as a publicly-traded entity. Saudi Aramco was responsible for 4.6 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015.
The best way you can curb climate change is to not give or loan your money to these carbon-emitting companies. If you can’t afford an electric vehicle, you still have to fill the tank, but perhaps instead of filling your tank at the nearest or cheapest gas station, you fill it at the gas station owned by the company that emits the least carbon, which is likely Conoco in the United States.
According to the CDP report, ConocoPhillips was responsible for 61 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than ExxonMobil, half the emissions of BP, and emitted 40 percent less carbon dioxide than Chevron in 2015. So buy your fuel at ConocoPhillips’ stations if you can and Chevron if you can’t. If neither are available near you, Shell seems to be working the hardest toward a low-carbon, energy policy globally. Phillips 66 is doing the least.
With enough people boycotting the purchase of shares in corporate carbon emitters, these companies will be forced to change their approaches. So here are the publicly-traded companies to avoid supporting financially.
Saudi Aramco is responsible for almost twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as the next biggest emitter in the CDP report. When it comes to polluting the Earth and warming the planet, no one does it like Saudi Aramco.
But even Saudi Aramco is planning for life after oil, investing $20 billion to construct the largest chemicals facility in the world. The move is in tune with the wishes of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who would like to see the country wean off its “dangerous addiction to oil.” Still, investing your money in what is likely to be the biggest initial public offering in history is an investment in the destruction of Earth.
Gazprom is the largest natural gas company in the world and is tasked with providing most of Russia and some countries of the former Soviet Union with natural gas. It controls one quarter of the world's known natural gas reserves and accounts for eight percent of Russia's gross domestic product. But international sanctions have cut into the success of Russian energy companies since the country’s annexation of Crimea, so Gazprom isn’t exactly a safe investment. It certainly isn’t a safe investment for Earth.
Coal combustion is generally more carbon intensive than burning natural gas or petroleum for electricity, which is why Coal India easily makes this list. Although coal accounted for about 70 percent of CO2 emissions from the electricity sector, it represented only about 34 percent of the electricity generated in the United States in 2015. In India, more than 75 percent of electricity came from coal in 2014 -- up from 67 percent in 2011 and at an all-time high.
India is working its way off coal just as Saudi Arabia is looking to lessen its dependence on oil. Research from The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) suggests that India can cut its CO2 emissions by up to 10 percent or 600 million tons after 2030 if renewable energy and batteries become less costly than coal within 10 years. An investment in Coal India is a sucker bet.
Shenhua Group is a Chinese coal company, where 72.63 percent of electricity came from coal in 2014 -- down from an all-time high of 80.95 percent in 2007. It’s another sucker bet, as China is ahead of schedule when it comes to curbing carbon emissions.
Rosneft is a Russian oil and gas company. Again, sanctions have limited the success of Russian energy companies, so you wouldn’t want your money behind them regardless of their damage done to Earth.
ExxonMobil is selling itself as an innovator in energy solutions and biofuels, but it also spent almost $31 million supporting organizations that spread climate change denial propaganda between 1998 and 2014. ExxonMobil reportedly spends $27 million annually to oppose climate policy as of 2016. It’s the largest carbon emitter amongst the gasoline companies and that should be all you need to know.
Shell was second to ExxonMobil in dollars spent to oppose climate policy with a $22-million annual budget. It even made a film warning of climate change in 1991 but did not heed its own warning so it could reap the benefits of increased profits. Of the energy giants, though, Shell and Total are the only companies to receive a “D” rating from InfluenceMap when it comes to transitioning to a low-carbon, energy policy globally. ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Chevron all received “E-” ratings.
We all know BP for spilling 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and killing 11 people at Deepwater Horizon -- the largest oil spill in history and eight to 31 percent larger than the next largest. In September 2014, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that BP was primarily responsible for the oil spill because of its gross negligence and reckless conduct, and in July 2015, BP agreed to pay $18.7 billion in fines -- the largest corporate settlement in U.S. history.
Peabody is a coal company based in St. Louis, and as less and less American energy is produced by coal, Peabody’s stock price will fall more and more. Just 34.34 percent of America’s energy production came from coal in 2015 -- down more than five percent over the course of a year.
Petrobras is Brazil’s largest oil and natural gas company and is dirty in more than one way. It paid $2.95 billion to settle a U.S. class action corruption lawsuit at the beginning of 2018 -- the largest settlement paid to the United States by a foreign entity. The settlement was six times more than it has received so far under a Brazilian probe into bribery schemes that involved company executives and government officials.
Shares of Chevron have increased nearly 30 percent in the last six months, so there will be no bargain for buyers of CVX now. Worse yet, its $34-billion project in Western Australia could face tougher emissions curbs, which would increase costs and sink shares.
Gross profits of the state-run, Malaysian oil and gas company have decreased over the last three years in all divisions -- gas processing, gas transportation, utilities and regasification. And its Sabah-Sarawak Gas Pipeline transporting liquid natural gas sprung a leak on Jan. 10. A 2015 report found that there’s enough natural gas leakage to outweigh the climate benefits of using natural gas instead of coal.
The Democratic Republic of Congo forced Glencore’s billionaire head of copper into a smaller role after a review raised questions about accounting and management, but Congo’s doubling of taxes on cobalt will hurt Glencore even more.
How much Koch Industries actually pollutes Earth is difficult to determine, as Koch is privately owned and exempt from risk disclosures required of publicly-traded companies. Multiple estimates have Koch Industries at 300 million tons of CO2 emissions annually, but the Kochs do more to obstruct policy addressing climate change than anyone.
InfluenceMap ranked Koch Industries dead last in its readiness for a transition to a low-carbon policy globally. The Koch Brothers also contribute more to climate-change-denying candidates than anyone else. They budgeted for $889 million in campaign contributions to Conservative candidates in 2016 and are planning to spend up to $400 million during the 2018 midterm elections.
You can avoid giving Koch Industries your money by avoiding the companies it owns, like Vistra Energy Corp. (VST), of which it holds nearly five million shares. Vistra is a Texas energy company.
The Australian-English company is the world’s largest mining company.
The French, multinational, “Supermajor” oil and gas company was fined $313,910 for air emissions violations at its Port Arthur refinery in Texas just under a week ago, and this after the Clean Power Plan was mostly repealed.
Arch Coal is an American coal mining and processing company. They burn coal.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, The Tech Night Owl, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, USA Prepares, Building America, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense
As if there weren’t enough political fireworks occurring in Washington, you can bet that Apple will find itself involved, somehow. It all started with what I’ve been calling Throttlegate, the faux scandal that erupted when it was discovered that older iPhones, with failing batteries, were running a lot slower.
It was easy to attach a conspiratorial angle to this development, the theory that Apple deliberately reduced performance on older iPhones to trick you into buying a new one. But it was also discovered that the mere act of replacing the battery fixed the problem.
Apple admitted that it was doing this to regulate power utilization, and thus prevent a possible sudden shut down problem. Supposedly this was done to allow for smoother performance, though it’s obvious that customers should have been alerted as to what was really going on. It’s also curious why iOS doesn’t present an interface to check battery health.
The follow-up message was more detailed, with references to support documents that explained battery technology and its limitations in a consumer-friendly way. Apple dropped the price of replacement batteries from $79 to $29 until the end of 2018, but that evidently wasn’t good enough for some. There are a number of pending class action lawsuits against Apple.
I don’t think that Apple should be giving away free batteries with normal wear and tear. That should only be done for defective product, though I can still see where Apple wanted to be generous with customers to compensate for not fully explaining what it was doing and why.
On the other hand, anyone who replaced the battery in the month or two ahead of the announcement ought to get a rebate. If someone can demonstrate that they went ahead and bought a new iPhone because they wrongly believed the old one was broken, perhaps they should get a refund. But I can’t see how that could be proven. Perhaps just allow people a few extra weeks to return their devices for a refund.
But you know that the powers that be in Washington, D.C. are poised to make political hay of the situation.
So there’s a published report that Senator John Thune of South Dakota, who is chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, wrote a letter to Apple demanding an explanation.
In a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Senator Thune stated, “…even if Apple’s actions were indeed only intended to avoid unexpected shutdowns on older phones, the large volume of consumer criticism leveled against the company in light of its admission suggests that there should have been better transparency with respect to these practices.”
All right, they are being attacked for not properly communicating with customers. Apple isn’t the first tech company to be guilty of not providing adequate support information about a maintenance update. The letter also asks that Apple explain whether models previous to the iPhone 6, or the newest models, will be similarly throttled. And why not give the battery away free?
To me, this is little more than political posturing. Apple has already apologized for failing to provide sufficient information, and has promised to do better. There will reportedly be an iOS update this year that will allow you to check battery health on your iPhone and iPad, so you’ll know when it needs to be replaced.
But I understand where one might try to gain brownie points, or believe they might, by putting Apple on the carpet. All Senator Thune is doing, however, is just repeating what’s already been written on the subject, including Apple’s promises to do better.
Maybe he should be writing to Microsoft and asking why they released a patch for the CPU bug, fixing the Spectre flaw, which bricked some older PCs with AMD chips in them. We’re talking there about computers that were rendered inoperable. Whatever you say about what Apple did, all the affected iPhones continued to work. What about Samsung’s handling of the battery flaws that resulted in overheated and smoking batteries in the now-discontinued Galaxy Note 7? They were recalled twice before the company pulled the plug. Is it because Samsung is a foreign company? Well, its hardware still had to receive FCC certification to be sold in the U.S.
Again, I understand why customers who bought batteries at full price from Apple, or a third-party reseller, should get a partial rebate. But it makes no sense to give them away free unless they are defective and the unit is under warranty, and that’s not what is being claimed. Besides, if there were batches of defective batteries that failed even after the original warranty expired, Apple would no doubt make some accommodation to be certain they were replaced at no charge.
I suppose one can suggest that Apple needs to be punished for allegedly misleading customers, although the real “crime” was failing to explain the workaround to deal with the problem of sudden iPhone shutdowns. But it’s not as if the U.S. Congress expects to force a company to give away free smartphone batteries. Maybe call on the Federal Trade Commission next and squander the public’s money on a probe?
In any case, I suspect that Cook will probably write to the Senator, make appropriate assurances of good behavior, there will be some headlines and that, as they say, will be that.
Whether it's nuclear winter, terrorist hacking of our energy infrastructure, a climate catastrophe, robot war or the zombie apocalypse, there will come a time the internet dies. A terrorist attack on America’s energy infrastructure would be far more damaging than an attack of civilian lives. Losing our energy infrastructure would make just about every tool useless except those running on renewable energy sources or generators, which is why everyone should be hoarding solar panels and solar chargers.
A terrorist attack of America’s energy grid would be devastating to the Internet. It’s not as though it can survive on life support. While server “caretakers” would likely prioritize which servers need to stay running, like those upon which the economy and banks rely, the 191.78 million kilowatt hours required to run Internet servers daily would require more than 53,000 commercial generators rated at 150 kilowatts. That’s just not possible.
Relying on solar energy for support would also be problematic. The 191.78 million kilowatt hours to run the Internet each day would require two square miles of solar panels dedicated solely to Internet servers. With 27.2 gigawatts of solar panels installed in America as of May 2016, the U.S. would need more than six times that in order to run the internet from solar power.
So it’s time we started using a tool that doesn’t require anything more than food and water to run -- a tool that’s kept people alive for centuries: memory. Committing things to memory could save your life in the event of an energy infrastructure failure, so here are four things you should learn before we lose the Internet forever.
Batteries will be a luxury in the post-energy infrastructure world. Those who have them or can build them will live lavishly. With one car battery or its equivalent, you could run a television and a Blu-ray player for the length of a movie, or even video game consoles for a few hours. But let’s focus on our needs before we get to the wants.
The price of bagged ice would skyrocket, as refrigerators and freezers would become traditional iceboxes. Microwave ovens and conventional ovens would give way to open flames for cooking food. Fire would also be the only way to heat our homes unless you had a battery and electric heater, which would save you from carbon monoxide poisoning and lower your risk of burning down your home or shelter.
Learn how to build a battery out of pennies to power small things like LEDs here. Since ice cube trays will be obsolete, you can use them and some sheet metal screws to build a 9-volt battery. You can make a 12-volt battery out of other batteries, too. You can build an inexpensive, lithium-ion battery pack to run your phone as well.
A battery is only as good as your ability to recharge it, so learning some basic electrical infrastructure installation will be most valuable. Not everyone will have the ability or means to build a hydroelectric generator, wind turbine or install a solar array to power lights and heat in their house or shelter. But there are enough junk bicycles out there to power lights and heat throughout America.
As long as food can be found, the bicycle will continue to serve as more than just a form of transportation in a post-energy infrastructure America. At night, bicycles will be brought indoors, where people take turns pedalling to power lights and heat and to charge batteries. Here’s how you can build a bicycle generator, which can typically produce 100 watts. Note: bicycle generators are incredibly inefficient, so exhaust your alternative energy options before resorting to the bicycle generator.
A boat will be an advantage enjoyed by those who survive the death of the Internet and America’s energy infrastructure. Only so much food can be found on land, and those with boats will have access to high-protein meals providing healthy calories that allow them to hunt and gather for longer hours.
You can build a boat with hand tools. There are plenty of designs from which to choose as well. Given the situation, however, you might have limited materials for boat building. Good thing a fishing boat doesn’t require much. This one is made from PVC pipe, and since indoor plumbing will be useless given that water pumps wouldn’t be powered, you can just rip those pipes right out of your walls.
Since you won’t be sending your poop to a wastewater treatment plant, you should be using it to fertilize your garden. The most important commodity in the post-energy infrastructure America will be food, and you’ll want to be able to grow as much as you can with whatever space you have.
A good start is using the scraps of food you don’t eat to make more food. You can transplant the roots of green onions after slicing them up as well as celery. You can even plant the tops of carrots and eat the greens.
You can also use trash to grow food. Large plastic jugs like milk containers, egg cartons, produce bags and aluminum trays are all useful in growing food. Shredded paper, cardboard, shoe boxes and paper bags are also useful in the garden.
Lastly, human waste makes for a fine fertilizer, so poop in a bucket and mix it into your garden soil. You can drink your urine when times get really tough.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Americanuck Radio, American Survival Radio, Building America, The Debbie Nigro Show, Free Talk Live, Freedom Feens, The Gun Owners News Hour, Homeland Security Radio, LockNLoad, The Power Hour, Sons of Liberty, Stone Cold Truth, USA Prepares, American Family Farmer, The Easy Organic Gardener
GCN proudly welcomes Michio Kaku’s long running radio program Science Fantastic to our weekly line up! Professor Kaku probably needs little introduction but introduce him I must. And so, from Wikipedia:
Professor Kaku is a Japanese American theoretical physicist, futurist, and popularizer of science. He is professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York and CUNY Graduate Center. Kaku has written several books about physics and related topics, has made frequent appearances on radio, television, and film, and writes online blogs and articles. He has written three New York Times best sellers, hosted several TV specials for networks around the world and since 2006 has broadcast his radio program Science Fantastic -- previously syndicated by Talk Radio Network and now, beginning at midnight on Saturday December 30th will be nationally syndicated by the Genesis Communication Network - that would be us. =)
The Science Fantastic show page will be up on the GCNlive site ASAP with more program and affiliate information to follow.
We’re very excited to have Professor Kaku join the team and we hope you’ll tune in to -- Science Fantastic!
This week I heard a surprising announcement from a regular guest on The Tech Night Owl LIVE. So we presented tech commentator Rob Pegoraro, who writes for USA Today, Yahoo Finance, Consumer Reports, Wirecutter and other publications. During this episode, Rob put the FCC’s decision to abandon net neutrality into perspective, and I’ll have more to say about that shortly. The main question, of course, is whether ISPs will begin to prioritize net traffic, or will the possibility of negative publicity and potential lawsuits postpone — or prevent — any changes for the near future? Rob also discussed the end of AIM, and how this pioneer instant messaging app influenced an entire industry? And do we really need lots of messaging apps to stay in touch with our contacts? Gene laughingly referred to Rob as a turncoat as he explained why he, a long time Mac user, recently purchased a PC notebook to replace his aging MacBook Air.
So why did Rob switch?
Well, his response was reasonable. He didn’t want to spend more money for a MacBook Pro, and the recent pathetic upgrade to the MacBook Air didn’t appeal to him. He chose, instead, an HP 2-in-1 notebook. And since, for the most part, he could use the same apps and services on both the macOS and Windows, it wasn’t so big a deal, at least so far. But will he feel the same a few months from now? He laughingly suggested turning it into a Hackintosh, by following the online instructions to induce it to run macOS. But that process may not work on an off-the-shelf PC notebook. Usually, it requires picking and choosing parts tested and found to be compatible, and outfitting a custom-built PC with them.
You also heard from tech journalist Jeff Gamet, Managing Editor for The Mac Observer. As the segment began, Jeff complained that his copy of Skype 7 for the Mac was upgraded to Skype 8 without his approval, and he doesn’t like the all-new interface. In an extended discussion of net neutrality, Gene pointed out that more and more cable companies are embedding Netflix into their set-top boxes, perhaps as a move to help reduce cord cutting. As the pair moved into pop culture mode, Gene mentioned the latest reported move by Apple to add original TV content, with a direct-to-series order for a new sci-fi series from producer Ronald D. Moore, whose previous shows include Battlestar Galactica. Jeff explained in great detail why the fabled Star Wars lightsaber would be impossible to use in a real world setting. Gene suggested that the DC Comics super heroes on TV are better than their movie counterparts. And what about having different actors portray such characters as the Flash and Superman?
On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present Alejandro Rojas of OpenMinds.tv for a 2017 retrospective and a preview of the 2018 International UFO Congress and Film Festival. Alejandro is the host for Open Minds UFO Radio show, and emcee for IUFOC. He is also a blogger for the Huffington Post. As a UFO/Paranormal researcher and journalist, Alejandro has spent many hours in the field investigating anomalous phenomena up close and personal. Gene and Chris will also talk shop with a focus on UFOs. There will also be a pop culture-related discussion about what both regard as the sad state of pop music.
GETTING IT WRONG ABOUT NET NEUTRALITY
Part and parcel of our polarized society is the feeling that, if we accept the other side’s approach, it may be the end of the world as we know it. They wish us ill, and are doing foolish and/or evil things to take us all down.
Now I’m not going to dwell on my political viewpoints about the crazy things that are going on in Washington, D.C. except for one thing, and that’s the promise — or threat — that net neutrality is ending soon.
As is often true, the facts are more nuanced, and whatever does happen can be overturned by a future FCC, and we start all over again.
So this past week, the Republican majority of the FCC decided to undo a move by its predecessor that, among the things, prevented ISPs from prioritizing Internet traffic. What this meant is that these companies could not demand that a high-traffic service pay extra to enter a fast lane.
Those who opposed net neutrality, including FCC chairman Ajit Pai, claimed that putting restrictions on ISPs would somehow prevent them from improving and expanding their services. Being forced to allow online traffic to flow freely was somehow an impediment to growth.
I’m not sure I see how, or any evidence that this could happen. But it’s unfortunate that the cable TV talking heads who interviewed Pai — or at least the ones I’ve seen — simply allowed him to repeat his unproven talking points without questioning the logic. There was no request for evidence that what he said was true.
Supporters of net neutrality also maintain that it’s not just about getting miserable performance from Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, with constant buffering even on a fast connection. What about the streaming startup, a company that wanted to someday compete with Netflix? If they had to pay extra to achieve good performance, it’s likely that they wouldn’t be able to attract venture capital to cover their costs.
This, too, may be an overwrought conclusion if we assume things will return to the way they were before the concept of net neutrality ever arose.
A key reason for government regulation is not that regulators just need something to do. It’s often in response to a need, to address abuses by private industry. That explains why there are rigid controls covering the approval of a new drug by the FDA in the U.S. It means that pharmaceutical companies have to subject new drugs to a rigid set of tests to make sure they actually perform as advertised without seriously endangering one’s life in the process. Or at least disclose the dire side effects so you know what you’re in for.
Net neutrality was a response to something the ISPs did, which was to slow down such services as Netflix, largely because they sucked up huge quantities of data.
As of now, Netflix consumes nearly 37% of all Internet traffic, and when you add all the streaming services it’s 70%. That also includes such services as YouTube, iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Dish Network’s Sling TV and DirecTV NOW.
That leaves 30% for the rest of online traffic.
From a business point of view, I suppose it made sense to focus on the worst abusers and see if there’s a way to manage the load without inconveniencing other customers. Back in 2014, there were reports that such ISPs as Comcast and Verizon were putting the brakes on Netflix. In turn, Netflix reportedly paid extra in order to deal with the situation, with reports of mixed success.
During that period, you may have experienced constant buffering from Netflix. Loads of complaints from customers and tech companies helped influence the previous FCC to reclassify an ISP as a Title II communications service, thus preserving net neutrality. Prior attempts were blocked in the courts.
Despite the new regulations, there were recent reports that Verizon, particularly through its high-speed FiOS service, was once again throttling Netflix and even YouTube. So it seems peculiar that the FCC would believe that ending net neutrality was a good idea.
But what’s also happening is even more interesting. It appears that Netflix is taking a “can’t beat them so join them” approach, which is to strike deals with some ISPs, so their app appears as just another premium channel on a cable set-top box, similar to HBO and Showtime. What this means is that the ISP would, in exchange for offering Netflix without speed restrictions, get a piece of the action. By being part of their regular cable service, the load on broadband bandwidth would be sharply reduced.
By including Netflix — and I suppose Hulu and other services can be offered in the same fashion — customers are being offered more attractive cable packages that might help stem the tide of cord cutting.
While an experiment with Netflix and DirecTV appears to have ended, you can get it on at least some cable boxes from Comcast, Cox, Verizon and other services. You’ll have to check with your cable company to see which hardware it’s offered on, and how much it costs.
Now when I checked with the cable company I use, Cox, it appears Netflix is available on their Contour 2 box, but is limited to HD. If you have a 4K TV, you’ll have to still depend on a smart TV or a streamer, such as an Apple TV 4K, and certain models from Roku and other companies. As it stands, the cable and satellite companies are only testing the 4K waters. Higher resolution means there is less space for other channels, so it may be a juggling act until capacity is boosted.
In any event, despite the FCC’s vote, net neutrality isn’t going away tomorrow. There’s a comment period, and the attorneys general of a number of states are planning to file lawsuits. So this matter may not be resolved for months or years, depending on court rulings and potential appeals. I suppose it’s possible that the U.S. Supreme Court will get involved.
After all is said and done, I doubt the ISPs are going to act hastily, knowing the political winds may likely change with the next administration. In the meantime, if more cable and possibly the satellite companies strike deals with Netflix and other services to offer them premium channels, that might sharply reduce the load on their systems.
So they wouldn’t have any motive to throttle anyone’s traffic, and it would also provide an additional revenue stream. Assuming Netflix’s 4K service comes to your cable box, would that influence your decision about cord cutting?
So it’s possible that the ISPs and streaming companies could work out reasonable solutions without harming anyone, assuming the price you pay doesn’t change too much. That said, net neutrality offered more than a few ounces of protection against the worst offenders. The suggestion that it may have stifled innovation is absurd. The move to embed Netflix on cable boxes clearly disproves that claim.
For several years, you’ve been reading about efforts by tech companies and the major automakers to build fleets of cars that can literally drive themselves. Once the technology is perfected, you should be able to, in theory, enter the vehicle, state your destination to the presumed digital assistant, sit back and relax, and you’ll be taken to your destination, even with stops along the way, with comfort and safety.
Nothing to think about; well, except if you have any latent fears that such a system can ever work successfully.
In a published report, GM says it will be ready to put fleets of self-driving vehicles into a number of “dense urban environments” by 2019. Development is being spearheaded by Cruise Automation, a company GM acquired in 2016 to rev up development of autonomous vehicles.
Add to that the self-driving vehicles already being tested by such company’s as Alphabet, parent company of Google, Apple and even the largest ride hailing firm, Uber.
Indeed, I’ve already seen a few of those automated Uber vehicles, consisting of converted Volvo SUVs, on the roads in and around Tempe, Arizona.
Now according to GM, they hope to reduce the cost of running their self-driving vehicles to under $1 per mile by 2025, just eight years from now.
What’s GM’s end game? Well, they are planning on taking on Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hailing systems, with the promise that their self-driving vehicles will cost 40% less per mile than companies who use human drivers.
That’s just GM. It doesn’t take into account the fact that Uber and Lyft and other firms are planning on doing the same thing, only they haven’t quite been as specific about their game plans. But the goals are clear, and that is to put human drivers — and that includes taxi drivers — out of work.
Ultimately, there will also be fleets of self-driving trucks, meaning that you won’t need human drivers spending hours on end on the road, basically giving up real lives to sit in the cabs all day or night. Well, I suppose they might have some people helping to remove cargos, but you get the picture.
That’s then, this is now.
These days, several million people around the world, including your humble editor, are relying on Lyft and Uber to provide at least a part-time income to help pay the bills. Some use it for full-time work. Indeed, at a time when the economies of the world are in questionable shape, this is a productive way to generate some extra cash.
Right now, both Uber and Lyft claim (or pretend) to be trying to make life better for their drivers. Uber has been stung by corporate scandals, with its CEO, Travis Kalanick, being given his walking papers. It’s in the latter stages of implementing its “180 Days of Change” program, designed to improve life on the road.
So in-app support for tipping, something long offered by Lyft, was added several months ago. While drivers aren’t notified where a rider is going until they are picked up, they now notify you if the trip is expected to take more than 45 minutes. This and other new features are designed to potentially help drivers earn more cash.
Over the next few years, it may work out fine. But it’s clear that human drivers are going to be yesterday’s news some day. As with manufacturers who rely more on more on robots than people to assemble products, drivers are an endangered species.
At first, riders will have the option to choose humans over self-driving vehicles. But when they see much lower prices for the latter, only a few skeptics will choose the former.
It may not matter so much to me, as I fully expect to be too old to care when the time comes. But younger drivers have to realize they are engaged in a profession with a hard stop. As I said, that’s just as true with manufacturing. While we fret over the poor working conditions of all those factory workers in Asia who build iPhones and other tech gear, more and more of them are being replaced by machines. Some day, in the not-too-distant future, it may well be that these sprawling factories will be managed by a small number of people managing a huge system of assembly robots.
So hopes to bring back manufacturing to the United States, and thus give workers their jobs back, are probably not going to be fulfilled except in a limited number of cases.
Now other than the concerns about the fate of drivers for ride-hailing services, I do wonder if the predictions about huge fleets of self-driving vehicles might just be a tad optimistic. Tests so far have been in a limited number of cities with relatively predictable driving scenarios. To stretch that capability to cover entire countries may take a lot longer than the current three to five years.
What’s more, just what will it cost for you to buy one of those vehicles if you don’t want to just hail a ride? For its 2018 Cadillac CT6, you have to pay $5,000 extra for its Super Cruise feature, and that’s for a souped up lane and cruise control system that can only function on a small number of specially selected limited-access freeways. Even when the hardware and software are nailed down, questions of liability, the impact on auto insurance and other considerations, will have to be resolved.
So maybe Uber and Lyft drivers won’t be out of work quite as quickly as GM and other companies expect.
You just know that any business wants to reduce its tax burden as much as it can. Without doubt, Apple has a huge number of accountants at its beck and call to find ways to reduce its corporate income tax bills by billions of dollars.
But Apple’s methods of handling its taxes have been the subject of severe criticism, more so with the release of the so-called Paradise Papers, leaked to a German newspaper, which contain documents purportedly revealing how the rich and the famous manage their offshore cash. Apple was included in the list, but it wasn’t the only company whose finances came into question. Other companies reportedly include Facebook, Twitter, Disney, Uber, Nike, Walmart and even McDonalds.
I mean, it’s a huge list. But with Apple in the crosshairs, the company claimed that the data contained in those papers wasn’t accurate or misleading, that it pays more taxes than any company on the planet, and that it “pays every dollar it owes in every country around the world.”
As the U.S. Congress debates revisions to the country’s complex and confusing tax laws, ways might be sought to convince domestic companies with huge offshore cash hoards to repatriate that money. You also expect Apple to deny that it does anything but obey the law, even if it has to be done creatively. But some corporations pay no tax at all, including GE. So the billions Apple remits might indeed be, as they claim, more than the others.
Which brings us to the fact that, a few weekends ago on The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we featured outspoken commentator and podcaster Kirk McElhearn. The main focus was on taxes, and whether Apple is unfairly reducing its corporate tax burden by strategic parking of its huge offshore money hoard. Apple has selected the small island of Jersey in the Channel Islands, which has ties to the UK. Jersey is also the birthplace of actor Henry Cavill, famous for portraying Superman on the big screen.
In a series of statements, Apple claims that it pays billions of dollars in taxes every year, and that it is complying with the law regardless of the skepticism about such practices, but Kirk doesn’t believe it. The discussion shifted from taxes to electric cars, as Kirk explained that he owns a Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Among the models mentioned is the somewhat pricy BMW i3, and the new compact-sized Tesla, the Model 3, which is still confronting problems in ramping up production.
You also heard from prolific author Bob “Dr. Mac” LeVitus, who talked about the ongoing fear-mongering from some members of the media about the iPhone X and its Face ID and other features. Bob explained that, despite the advertised backorder situation, he was able to buy one from his mobile carrier and receive it on the day it was released. But will he keep it? He appeared to be skeptical of its perceived advantages, but will make a decision while he still has time to return it for a refund. He said he is also holding off publishing a review while he considers its value. Bob also discussed the use of iPads in major league baseball, and how it may have helped the Houston Astros win the World Series. He also said that you shouldn’t be in a rush to install a new OS on your Mac, iPhone or iPad, and maybe wait a short while to make sure there aren’t any serious bugs that’ll cause you trouble. You can listen to the entire show here.
That same weekend on our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present MUFON Executive Director Jan C. Harzan. He discussed the state of UFO research, and what the organization has learned in its 48 years of existence; it was founded in 1969 as the Midwest UFO Network. He’ll also discuss concerns about MUFON’s policies and staff shakeups, and about the reasoning behind the controversial 2017 symposium that featured lectures on the alleged U.S. secret space program and some especially outrageous speakers. Harzan is a 37-year veteran at IBM, and holds a B.S. in Nuclear Engineering. He’s been Executive Director of MUFON since 2013. You can listen to the entire show here.
IS APPLE FINALLY GETTING THE LOVE FROM CONSUMER REPORTS?
Consumer Reports magazine claims to be incorruptible because it buys all the products it tests and retail, and won’t allow companies to use its reviews in their advertising. On the surface, it all sounds credible. But I’ve long felt that its test results are often unfairly skewed against Apple. Are corporate politics at play?
Indeed, Apple has had a curious history with CR, and you can decide whether it’s received fair treatment. Consider the iPhone 4, released in 2010. Do you remember AntennaGate? If you held the handset in a certain way, reception quality would nosedive. You could see the signal strength dip precipitously in YouTube videos of the time, and it appeared to be a potential source of trouble.
So Steve Jobs sarcastically remarked that you should hold it differently. That suggestion went over like a lead balloon, so Apple invited the media to a press conference where they actually allowed some of them to tour its multibillion dollar antenna test facility. According to Jobs, other smartphones exhibited similar symptoms when held in certain ways, and Apple posted videos of telling examples, but CR still decided not to recommend the iPhone 4. Other mobile handsets were not similarly downgraded.
Although Jobs claimed the phenomenon was due to the laws of physics, Apple still offered free bumper cases for a time, which certainly eliminated the problem. Next year’s model, the iPhone 4s, in addition to the debut of Siri, sported a redesigned antenna symptom designed to reduce signal loss when you held it the “wrong way.”
The next purported scandal was BendGate. Amid reports that the iPhone 6 Plus might be unduly prone to bending under such conditions as placing it in your back pocket, CR decided to see if Apple did it again. But they didn’t. Tests indicated that its resistance to bending was acceptable and comparable to other mobile gear. But the following year, Apple made moves to strengthen the aluminum case on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus to make it even more difficult to bend one.
That takes us to the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. CR has a peculiar method of testing battery life that involves loading some test sites from a server repeatedly with browser caching off. It’s not that people use browsers that way, except for development purposes.
On the Mac, that involved invoking Safari’s Develop menu, again something few people do in the real world, and deactivating caching. This evidently triggered an obscure macOS Sierra bug that caused repeated loading of web icons. So battery life was inconsistent, and CR said it couldn’t recommend the new MacBook Pros.
In turn, Apple realized it had a problem on its hands and reached out to CR. At the end of the day, a minor OS update fixed the problem, and the MacBook Pro achieved extremely high battery rates as a result even if they were, as I said, entirely unrelated to what normal users would achieve. It was, therefore, now recommended.
In passing, you can no longer disable the cache in Safari for macOS High Serra, although the cache can be emptied.
On the day the iPhone X went on sale, CR placed “secret shoppers” in the lines at Apple Stores to buy a dozen of them. They were quickly added to the test queue.
According to CR: “Based on those early impressions, the new iPhone makes good on Apple’s promise of delivering something bigger and better.”
In a very positive early review, the iPhone X survived drop tests that have caused other gear, including some copies of the Samsung Galaxy S8, to self-destruct. The OLED display was found to deliver superior performance, “with deep blacks and accurate colors.”
Face ID? Evidently CR had few problems with it under normal use. For the most part, it worked as advertised, except for extreme situations where someone pulled a baseball cap down to their eyebrows, caught a look at the iPhone X while it was placed beneath a table, or when glancing at it from the side while driving.
Aside from those edge cases, it did seem that Face ID “rarely stumbled.” CR didn’t mention the twin test, where identical or near-identical twins might fool the device. In other words, it was as close to perfect as one might expect for such a product. After all, Touch ID doesn’t work all the time.
The magazine’s preliminary conclusion? “With its starting price of $999, the iPhone X isn’t a purchase to take lightly. But it’s worth mentioning that the costs of high-end components—such as OLED displays and 4K video cameras—are pushing other phones, such as those made by Apple’s rival Samsung, closer to the $1,000 mark, too.”
It’s refreshing to see a reminder that the iPhone X is not the only expensive smartphone out there. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 costs up to $960, U.S., at some dealers, although there is widespread discounting. On a monthly basis, the price difference between the Note 8 and the iPhone X is may be a dollar or two. Both offer 64GB of storage. True, the iPhone X is much more expensive if you opt for the 256GB model, but Samsung doesn’t offer anything comparable.
But I’m not reading endless blogs that Samsung is gouging its customers by selling gear for only a little less than the iPhone X. Only Apple gets dinged for a pricing decision that probably makes sense to the company’s marketers and bean counters.
Does this mean the iPhone X will be rated above the previous high scorer, Samsung, when the review is complete? In the past, iPhones have scored a tad lower than Samsung’s gear, in part, due to shorter battery life, so I suppose we’ll see.
In the meantime, it’s a promising start, and I’m curious to see where the final rating is set, considering how well it appears to have scored so far. But with CR, there could be a surprise or two that’ll reflect poorly on Apple, or the totals will be weighted questionably to somehow favor Samsung.
Greetings interstellar traveller / hyperbolic asteroid 1I/2017 U1, welcome to our solar system!
Technically you’ve been here for quite a while just passing through, drifting about, minding your own asteroid business but we’ve only just found you! You have no way of knowing this but, you’ve been named -- ‘Oumuamua from the Hawaiian word meaning “scout” and generally translates as “scout from the past.” You have a very lovely name. Also, for clarification, that first character in your name is a Hawaiian ‘okina, not an apostrophe.
Our Earth scientists have long suspected that tens of thousands of space rocks, such as yourself, have visited our fine solar system but until recently we were unable to detect you all.
That all changed, of course, when very smart folks at Haleakala Observatory (in Hawaii) brought the first Pan-STARRS telescope (PS1) online. ‘Oumuamua -- just to be clear, this PS1 is totally different than what you probably believe a traditional PS1 to be (currently upgraded to a PS4). The PS4 stands for “PlayStation” 4 and is a kick ass console blu ray / game player. The PS4 according to wikipedia:
The PS1, the one we used to find you, stands for “Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System” (Pan-STARRS). The PS1 according to wikipedia:
“… consists of astronomical cameras, telescopes and a computing facility that is surveying the sky for moving or variable objects on a continual basis, and also producing accurate astrometry and photometry of already detected objects.”
As you can see, ‘Oumuamua, not quite the same thing.
Anyway. We don’t know exactly where you came from as that would be extremely difficult to figure out, but for now, our best guess is star Vega, about twenty five light years away. That being said, we are certain you are indeed from another solar system as, according to this astrophysical survey your orbit would be virtually impossible to achieve within our solar system. Our solar system that we have cleverly named, “Solar System” -- because that’s how we roll.
You; however, roll quite a bit different. You are red (the color of organic carbon-based molecules), extremely elongated (thirteen hundred feet which is ten times long as you are wide -- you look like a giant space cigar) and you travel at approx.85,000 mph.
For comparison, ‘Oumuamua, I once lived in NYC and dated a woman in Washington DC. It order to visit her on weekends, it would take me about 3.7 hours to drive the distance between us. It would take you .0026 seconds to make the same trip!
Well, it looks like you’re just kind of passing through, so I was just sayin hi. It appears as if you’ll lap Jupiter sometime around May, then pass Saturn in January 2019 and eventually exit stage left en route to the Pegasus constellation sometime after that.
By all accounts it appears as if you’re just a really long mineral rock asteroid and you don’t carry any sort of super cool alien species. You know, cool little guys like that adorable Invader Zim or those E.T. phone home cuties. And I certainly hope you are not rudely carrying those evil little alien pricks from Alien and Aliens and all those not worth mentioning by name subpar sequels.
Actually, with that in mind, ‘Oumuamua, just in case you ever watch James Cameron’s Aliens, when characters refer to the alien species as a “xenomorph” they are not suggesting “xenomorph” is the name of the alien species on LV-426. They are using the word from the Greek construct - xeno, meaning “foreign” or “strange” and morph, meaning “a shape or form” which means in the context of the film the characters are suggesting the aliens in the movie are “strange foreign forms” -- an alien life form.
Again -- xenomorph is a generic term for an alien life form.
Xenomorph is not the name of this species.
Just wanted to clear that up for you, ‘Oumuamua. You know, in case it ever comes up in conversation with your asteroid buddies.
That’s all I got. Nice to meet you.
If you like this story you might like The Paracast which broadcasts live here at GCN.
While 2017 isn’t over, Time magazine has already published the list of its “25 Best Inventions of 2017.” Now you’ve probably read about this already, but a little explanation is in store.
So after the iPhone X was first announced, the critics lambasted Apple for being late to the party with some of its important features. Take OLED displays, which have already appeared on Android smartphones. It’s important to note that Samsung makes the iPhone X’s display. Whatever you think about Samsung’s penchant for stealing ideas from other companies, it certainly has the chops to build the parts tech companies need, such as displays, memory and other components.
Facial recognition is also nothing new, and Face ID was attacked for being insecure and slow even before the critics had a product to evaluate. So even though reviewers, including Consumer Reports, have praised Face ID, there were complaints about privacy and other matters. The difference is that, for the most part, Apple made it work pretty much as advertised. Yes, I know about the problems with twins and some other exceptions.
The TrueDepth camera that allows Face ID to work is something altogether new and different from the rest of the pack. You can expect the competition is working full time to somehow reverse engineer this technology.
Apple also did away with the Home button, and rather than replacing it with a virtual alternative, which would probably have been the simplest scheme, they devised new iOS 11 gestures to allow you to bypass a physical or virtual button and still get things done. I grant it’s a bit of a learning curve, and it might be confusing to switch back to an iOS device with a Home button, such as an iPad. In the end, you expect the Home button to vanish from those products too as they inherit edge-to-edge displays.
When you add all this and other design factors together, it’s no wonder the iPhone X was included among those 25 products.
Yes, the Time magazine piece concedes that “some of these features first arrived on devices from Samsung and LG.” But clearly Apple made them work better, which is why it was rated “A Smarter Smartphone.” This is in keeping with Apple’s penchant to take features that originated elsewhere and improve and simplify them.
Other top-rated inventions include “Stronger, Safer Football Helmets” and “Guilt-Free Ice Cream.” If you’re dieting, the latter, Halo Top ice cream, touts from 240 to 360 calories per pint. This is in the range of a single slice of pizza from Pizza Hut and Little Caesars, but can you imagine getting a whole pie of decent size with so few calories?
Then there’s a sideways elevator! I’m serious, and this is something written about over the years in sci-fi stories. I know I mentioned it in one of my novels.
Along with being declared “smarter,” the story about the iPhone X is accompanied by interviews from Apple hardware chief Dan Riccio, and chief design officer Sir. Jonathan Ive.
While those interviews have been quoted elsewhere, call me jaded enough to regard some of the statements about Apple’s design process as corporate spin. Apple only wants you to know of its successes, and how it understood when to drop old features in a product and embrace something new.
An example is the headphone jack that was removed from iPhones last year to mixed reaction from customers and critics. We don’t talk about it all that much this year, and Android fans don’t have much of an argument to make in light of the fact that Pixel 2 phones from Google also ship without headphone jacks.
This is part of Apple’s DNA, to know when it’s time to remove old features and move on. You can date that practice back to the arrival of the very first iMac in 1998. Apple ditched SCSI, ADB and other peripheral ports, and eliminated the floppy drive. Instead, they embraced USB which, up till then, hadn’t done much on the Windows platform.
It took a few years before we no longer relied on floppies, and, with adapters aplenty, you could still use many of those old peripherals until it was time to move on.
So today it’s headphone jacks, though they may still exist on the iPad and on Macs for a while. The Home button is clearly on the chopping block, if only to keep the iOS interface consistent among all products. Face ID is also destined to replace Touch ID, perhaps as early as next year, so in that respect the new features on the iPhone X serve as a harbinger of things to come.
Indeed, some day there may not even be a Face ID to unlock your device. Maybe Apple will have an embedded EEG and read your brainwaves instead. While there may be hacker tricks to get around Face ID and Touch ID, brainwaves?
No, I have no inside information about Apple’s future plans. Consider my suggestion about brainwaves to be nothing more than a random idea.
But Apple is a company known to seek newer and better ways to do things, and ditching old, obsolete features, or features the company deems obsolete.
The critics may complain that the iPhone X doesn’t do much that’s original, that perhaps it didn’t deserve the accolades it received from Time. The apparent success of the iPhone X, and how it influences future smartphone designs, though, will probably demonstrate again that the critics are dead wrong about Apple and its abilities to innovate.
Let me get to the basics first: Apple’s fourth fiscal quarter financials were a blowout by any reasonable estimate. Up until the announcement, it was believed by many that iPhone 8 sales weren’t so good. Reports that iPhone sales in China were up by a decent margin were taken seriously, however, but regarded as only temporary.
The assumption has been that people held off buying new iPhones until the iPhone X was due to arrive. With reports of various and sundry production delays, it was questionable whether there’d be enough supplies on hand to meet demand. It even seemed to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, what with shipping estimates slipping to five or six weeks minutes after preorders went live; however, there are now reports that units are shipping ahead of estimates, and that shipping delays in some countries, including the U.S., have gone down to three or four weeks. So maybe things are getting better.
But lots of things were better than analysts expected.
Quarterly revenue climbed 12 percent, to $52.6 billion, a record for that quarter. Net income rose to $10.7 billion, or $2.07 a share, compared to $9 billion, or $1.67 a share, last year. Analysts estimated revenue at $50.8 billion. Beat the Street doesn’t begin to tell the story.
Despite skepticism about the success of the iPhone 8, Apple reported sales of 46.7 million units, up 2.6 percent from the year-ago quarter. Analysts expected sales to hit the 46.5 million mark. All this despite the pent-up demand for the iPhone X that couldn’t be filled until this quarter.
But that’s not all.
After many quarters of falling sales, the iPad may be on a roll. Sales hit 10.3 million units, up 11 percent from last year. This is the second straight quarter of rising iPad sales, no doubt influenced by the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, introduced at the June Worldwide Developers Conference. According to the NPD Group, the iPad had a 54% share of the tablet market in the U.S for that quarter.
Does that mean that iPad sales are destined to soar once again? Well, it’s a start, and perhaps the new multitasking features in iOS 11 are giving Apple’s tablet a new lease on life.
I was particularly interested in Mac sales, though, because two industry surveys didn’t come close to estimating the results accurately.
It begins with those published reports of falling sales, or, at best, a slight increase over last year. Gartner claimed that Apple sold 4.61 million Macs for the September quarter, a drop of 5.6%, a little more than the average for PC companies. IDC estimated sales of 4.9 million, an increase of just 0.3%.
The reality was something altogether different.
So Apple reported sales of 5.4 million Macs, representing an increase of 10% from the previous year. In its quarterly conference call with financial analysts, Apple said fiscal 2017 delivered the highest Mac revenue, ever, and September quarter sales were the best ever for Apple’s fourth fiscal quarter. Educational market sales reportedly grew by double digits compared to the year-ago quarter, despite the competition of cheap gear, such as Google Chromebooks.
Clearly Gartner and IDC, both of whom have undercounted Mac sales before, need to evaluate their survey methods, because they failed big time on these estimates. Then again, IDC once suggested that Windows Phone was destined to supplant the iPhone in the smartphone race.
The Apple Watch is also doing well, with unit sales up 50% for the third consecutive quarter. It’s reportedly the best selling smartwatch on Earth, but wouldn’t it be nice if Apple consented to deliver exact sales, as they do with other products? Despite the fact that Apple is required by law to deliver accurate numbers, the skeptics will assume there’s some measure of corporate spin around.
In fact, I see more and more of them on the hands of people who travel with me on my ride sharing gigs. I’m still happy with my $12.88 Walmart watch, though, which is now on its third battery. Maybe some day.
As far as the iPhone X is concerned, the positives come from CEO Tim Cook, who says that demand is “very strong.” He also reported improved production, saying, “we’re really happy that we’re able to increase week by week by what we’re outputting, and we’re going to get as many of them as possible to customers as soon as possible.”
The fact that waiting times are dropping does indicate that production may actually begin to match demand by the end of the year, or shortly thereafter, meaning there will be reasonably plentiful supplies for the holidays. That appears to explain Apple’s optimistic guidance for the quarter, with estimated revenues between $84 billion and $87 billion, and gross margins between 38 and 38.5 percent. Thus it’ll be the company’s best quarter ever.
In other notes culled from the conference call, the highly profitable services business grew 40%, and Apple’s sales have doubled in India. The company’s cash hoard soared to $268 billion, an increase of $7.4 billion over the previous quarter.
Clearly Wall Street is impressed, with Apple’s stock reaching $173.38, an increase of $5.27, in after hours trading.
Gene Steinberg is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. Gene hosts The Tech Night Owl LIVE - broadcast on Saturday from 9:00pm - Midnight (CST), and The Paracast - broadcast on Sunday from 3:00am - 6:00am (CST). Both shows nationally syndicated through GCNlive. Gene’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc. -- Copyright © 1999-2017. Click here to subscribe to Tech Night Owl Newsletter. This article was originally published at Technightowl.com -- reprinted with permission.