Why Waymo and Jaguar Are a Perfect Self-Driving Car Match

As Uber pulls back on public autonomous car testing following a recent fatal accident in one of its self-driving vehicles, Waymo is moving full steam ahead with on-the-road assessments of the technology.

On the eve of the New York Auto Show, for example, Waymo announced that it would buy, outfit, and deploy 20,000 Jaguar I-Pace fully electric SUVs for autonomous ride-sharing purposes by the end of 2018.

“Not 2019, not 2020, but by the end of this year,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik announced at a press conference in New York. Krafcik also said Waymo plans to eventually provide 1 million robo-taxi rides per day.

The self-driving Jaguar I-Paces will join the fleet of fully autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans Waymo has been testing in the Phoenix area with passengers onboard since last April, as part of its “early rider program.” While the program started out with safety drivers behind the wheel of the minivans, Waymo shifted in Novebmer to not having humans at the helm.

“When people use Waymo’s [ride-sharing] service, they’ll have access to a broad selection of vehicles tailored for their trip,” Krafcik added last week. “They can choose a minivan if they’re traveling to soccer practice with their family. If two people are running a quick errand, why not take a self-driving Jaguar?”

I-Pace a Perfect Match for Waymo

Waymo probably had its pick of automakers to work with, and any car company would, of course, welcome selling 20,000 vehicles in one fell swoop. But the partnership came about because Waymo was looking for a specific type of vehicle and Jaguar was able to deliver it before competitors.

“The way this partnership came about is we contacted Waymo to learn about their technology,” Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) North America president and CEO Joe Eberhardt told me in an interview at the New York Auto Show last week. “They contacted us almost in parallel because they were looking for a certain type of car for their fleet and had specifications that we just happen to meet almost perfectly with the I-Pace.”

“We surveyed the world and found that the I-Pace was the best next vehicle for Waymo,” Krafcik said. “Its size makes it perfect for city driving. Its modern electrical architecture means it’s well suited to our technologies. And it’s big, fast-charging battery means it can drive all day, which is perfect for our self-driving service.”

“We fulfilled all of that and we were ready to go to market,” Eberhardt added. “If you look at battery electric vehicles, the I-Pace is the very first SUV from an established player. Yes, Tesla was there before us, but amongst the others we’re the first. And for Waymo it was really a perfect match.”

While Waymo gets a luxury battery electric vehicle with the specs and range it needs, JLR gets to partner with one of the premier self-driving players. “With this partnership, Waymo will help us gain access to technology and learn from it and allow us to get to the forefront,” Eberhardt said.

This is significant since, as a niche automaker compared to larger luxury competitors, the partnership with Waymo gives JLR an edge on self-driving innovation, without the massive RD expenditure others in the space are making. “Now we’re right there with the best,” Eberhardt said.

JLR will also continue its own self-driving RD and testing in the UK “with all the universities and scientific institutions and research centers we’re working with,” Eberhardt added. “But this will also be influenced and informed by whatever we learn from the partnership and vice-versa. And I think it can only get stronger as a result.”

JLR will also get plenty of exposure for the new I-Pace, which goes on sale in the US later this year. Eberhardt pointed out that the 20,000 vehicles will be purchased over the six years of the partnership but added that “the sales will probably happen towards the front end” of the period.

“Just to get the exposure for the brand and the product is phenomenal,” Eberhardt said. “That was a big aspect for us to do the deal. That’s marketing you can’t buy.”

And I’m guessing that, given the option, more people will probably want to ride in a self-driving Jaguar I-Pace rather than a Chrysler Pacifica. “The vehicle itself is graceful in the long tradition of Jaguar,” Waymo’s Krafcik said. “Combined with our self-driving technology, it will provide a safe, delightful experience for our passengers.”

The Future Computed, book review: AI and society, through a Microsoft lens

The Future Computed: Artificial Intelligence and its role in society • By Microsoft with a foreword by Brad Smith and Harry Shum • Microsoft Corporation • 146 pages • ISBN 978-0-9997508-1-0 • free to download (PDF)

It’s time to wake up and smell the AI coffee, say Microsoft head lawyer Brad Smith and the leader of Microsoft’s AI research division Harry Shum, in their introduction to this book on the role of artificial intelligence in society.

They kick off with a look at how much daily life around the world has changed in the last 20 years, and speculating on how much it could change in the next two decades as we get proactive intelligent agents ready to smooth our path through the world.

This could involve buying presents on our behalf and booking dinner reservations for special occasions based on what our agents know about us and our nearest and dearest, or answering emails and creating task lists automatically by listening in on our meetings.

Smith and Shum envision a future that’s more convenient, but still very recognisable: gadgets may monitor your vital signs and suggest a checkup when they show something disturbing, but you’ll still have an appointment with a real doctor to talk about those measurements. However, it’ll be a virtual appointment, your medicine will arrive by drone and your agent will remind you when you should take it. And why will co-workers still be emailing to ask for updates that your intelligent agent can give them by checking the project timeline, when their agent could just look that up for them? Probably because people don’t change their habits that quickly.

If this seems like a less ambitious future than some, it might be because, for all the changes technology has made in our lives, much of it had already started to arrive 20 years ago. Email and the web were around in 1998 — they just weren’t ubiquitous. It’s also because Microsoft is firmly of the belief that AI is there to support, augment and amplify human abilities, rather than replace them. The examples of what AI is already doing — marking up CT and MRI scans as a tool to save oncologists time, analysing farm animal activity to spot an anthrax infection in time to contain the outbreak, AI tools in Windows and Office — are all different kinds of assistants to, rather than replacements for, people.

History lesson

The Future Computed puts AI in its historical context, starting with Turing and the 1956 Dartmouth College symposium, and pointing out that route planning and search engines, and post office systems that read hand-written addresses, have been using what we now call AI techniques for several years. It also gives non-experts a clear, if somewhat Microsoft-centric, explanation of how AI works and how well it already compares to humans.

The assessment of AI ability sometimes errs on the side of technological optimism: the “work [that] remains to be done to make these innovations applicable to everyday use” isn’t just dealing with noisy environment and accents, it’s understanding what words mean and what decisions to make based on those words. Or as the authors put it: “Today’s AI cannot yet begin to compete with a child’s ability to understand and interact with the world using senses such as touch, sight and smell. And AI systems have only the most rudimentary ability to understand human expression, tone, emotion and the subtleties of human interaction.”

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The coverage of bias in AI is short but salutary: algorithms are designed by humans and use data from the real world, so they can both perpetuate and amplify bias. There’s also an issue with putting too much trust in the precise-sounding numbers that AI predictions include: just because 70 percent of people in a group with a 70 percent chance of defaulting on a loan will probably default doesn’t make everyone in that group a bad credit risk. The call for testing vision systems in low-light conditions seems uncannily prescient after the self-driving Uber accident in Arizona too.

It’s also refreshing to see a title about AI point out that technology has been changing jobs since the 1740s, that automation has been making significant changes to jobs, and that doesn’t pretend AI and automation are the same thing — just that they push us in the same direction. (Incidentally, if you’ve been wondering why people talk about Industry 4.0, there’s a nice explanation of how that’s counting the industrial revolution everyone knows about as the first, the rise of industrial processes at the end of the 19th century as the second, and putting computers into homes and businesses as the third.)

You’ll learn as much about how previous technology developments changed society as you will about AI — the way the rise of the motor car helped to cause the depression of the 1920s and 30s, for example, and also the modern consumer credit boom (because taking out financing to pay for a car became common and respectable).

Similarly, AI systems are going to have unexpected results on society that will be both positive and negative, and if we’re going to make them “fair, reliable and safe, private and secure, inclusive, transparent and accountable” the way Microsoft calls for, then that means thinking about privacy, regulation, jobs, education and the economy. Will several companies independently using the same algorithms to set prices look like price fixing, even when it isn’t?

Unusually radical

This broad viewpoint makes the chapter on the impact of AI and automation on jobs, businesses and workers unusually radical for an American software company, diving as it does into politically sensitive areas. Microsoft accompanies ideas about globally distributed workforces with reminders that “countries [may] face nationalist pressures and businesses face more restrictive immigration laws”. It also calls for governments and businesses to invest in “modernising the social safety net” to cope with changes to traditional working styles and the rise of on-demand workers in the gig economy. The emphasis is as much on how education and training need to change as it is on the impact on jobs.

You can’t really blame Microsoft for lacing the book with details of the tools and products it sells, the philanthropic programs it runs, and the educational experiments with which it’s involved. Sometimes these Microsoft-specific examples makes sense, but sometimes they simply remind you that this is a corporate pitch as well as a thought-provoking philosophical essay on how AI will affect society.

Don’t pick up The Future Computed if you’re looking for a comprehensive survey of what AI can and will achieve. But do read it to remind yourself how much preparation is required for the impact of AI.

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Apple Needs to Get Serious in the Battle Against Netflix, Amazon

One of the most important growth businesses for Apple has been its services division. It brings in about $7.5 billion a quarter now, and it could be a Fortune 100 business if it was ever spun off on its own.

In thinking about Apple’s services business over the last few weeks, two conversations I had with Sony co-founder Akio Morita and Steve Jobs many years ago came to mind.

Not long after Sony purchased a movie studio, I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Morita on one of my trips to Japan. At the time, Sony was known primarily as a hardware company that made TVs, portable music players, and stereo equipment. So why a movie studio? Mr. Morita told me that he saw movies as just “digital bits,” which represented important content that could be shown or used on his devices.

Keep in mind this was over a decade before the idea of content tied to devices was really in focus and showed the incredible foresight Mr. Morita had as Sony’s CEO. Unfortunately, once he retired, Sony lost its portable music lead to Apple and the iPod, not to mention laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Today, Sony faces competition from smart TVs and PC gaming and challenges due to constant restructuring, cost cutting, and a senior leadership that does not seem to see future consumer trends.

Steve Jobs was a real fan of Mr. Morita and had a similar view of digital content, especially music. When I spoke with Jobs, he made it very clear that Apple is a software-first company. Its goal is to use software, hardware, and services to tie people to its overall ecosystem.

So it’s been surprising how far behind Apple is when it comes to investing in content beyond music. The chart below shows Apple investing about $1 billion on non-sports video programming in 2017 compared to Netflix, which spent $6.3 billion, and Amazon at $4.5 billion. This year, Netflix could spend up to $8 billion.

That said, perhaps Apple has its eye on some bigger prize in the content space. Yes, it could create more original content and go after existing shows, but it might make sense for Apple to take a page from Sony’s playbook and buy a major movie studio, or at the very least, acquire some dedicated production companies that already have proven content and the ability to create more shows quickly.

As Apple SVP Eddy Cue said at SXSW recently, “we know how to create apps, we know how to do distribution, we know how to market. But we don’t really know how to create shows.”

While that may be true, it could it could use its hefty bank account to acquire that kind of knowledge and capability. Buying a movie studio may not make sense, but purchasing a proven TV production company could help it compete with Netflix, Amazon, and beyond.

Huawei MateBook X Pro review: Minimal bezels, touchscreen, and excellent sound with secure camera placement

It’s like a MacBook, but with a 91 percent screen-to-body ratio, more ports, better sound, and a touchscreen display.

Huawei is known for its stunning designs in smartphones and laptops. At MWC in February, Huawei announced the Matebook X Pro and I’ve been using one for the past couple of weeks.

This year’s Matebook X Pro builds upon last year’s elegant Matebook X with a new processor, larger display, new camera design, and quad speakers.

Specifications

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-8550U (or i5-8250U) 8th generation with fanless design
  • Display: 13.9 inch 3000 x 2000 pixels resolution (3K) Gorilla Glass IPS touchscreen with 4.4mm bezels
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Pro
  • RAM: 8GB or 16GB
  • Storage: 256GB or 512GB SSD
  • Battery: 57.4 Wh provides up to 12 hours of video or typical 14 hour workday usage
  • Ports: Two USB-C (one supports Thunderbolt 3), one USB-A, and a 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Speakers: Four speakers with Dolby Atmos technology make this a movie machine
  • Wireless connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1
  • Dimensions: 304 x 217 x 14.6 mm and 1.33 kg (2.93 pounds)

The Huawei MateBook X Pro will be available in space grey and mystic silver.

Hardware

Huawei builds gorgeous smartphone hardware with beveled edges, brushed aluminum shells, minimal bezels, super fast fingerprint scanners, and clear displays. The MateBook X Pro has all of these design elements in a laptop form factor.

The MateBook X Pro is only 14.6mm thick with a lovely aluminum body that gives it an expensive look and feel. There are four large rubber circles on each corner on the bottom to keep it from sliding around on a desk or table.

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The model I tested has an 8th generation Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM with a 512GB SSD. You will also be able to purchase the MateBook X Pro with an i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and 256GB or 512GB SSD.

The 13.9 inch display has side bezels that are only 4.4 mm wide on the top and both sides so there is nothing to distract you from your content. The 3:2 display is great for working on documents and spreadsheets and I am a fan of this for work while 16:9 displays are nice for media-focused machines.

The 3K display is crisp, clear, and bright. I am so used to my Surface Pro 4 and Google Pixelbook having touch screen displays that I naturally reached up to use the MateBook X Pro and was pleased to see that it is also has a touch screen. Mac users have been looking for this for years and Apple continues to avoid providing such a display.
















The keyboard extends from one side to the other with only a couple mm on each side to the edge of the computer. These sides house the four Dolby sound system speakers and they sound amazing. I usually plug in headphones when using devices, but these speakers are so good that movies rocked better just through the integrated quad speakers.

The keyboard is inset into the bottom piece so that it is flush with the rest of the unibody aluminum bottom. There is automatic backlighting and six rows of keys. The keys have decent travel, but there was a bit of “play” in the keys as you rested your fingers on them and my other devices provide a better typing experience. I was still able to write quickly and used the computer to draft this review.

One interesting security feature that is implemented on the MateBook X Pro is the embedded camera that is found under a key positioned between the F6 and F7 key. You press down on the key and the camera pops up. At first, it served as a nostril camera, but if you move back just a bit then the view is fine. If you want to look more directly at people as you video conference you do have to make an effort to look down. The security aspect may trump the nostril view though for enterprise users.

Many Huawei smartphones have now implemented water resistance and like last year’s MateBook X keyboard the one on the MateBook X Pro is splash resistant. Spilling a drink on the keyboard should not kill the computer, but you should still try to keep liquids away while working.

The trackpad is large and supports multi-finger actions such as pinch-to-zoom, scrolling, task switcher access, and more. It also has good response as a button when you press down on the trackpad.

The power button is positioned above the keyboard on the upper right. It is modeled after the typical rear fingerprint scanners on Huawei smartphones and responds just as fast to unlocking your laptop. Windows Hello support makes using this button even faster than the facial recognition on my Surface Pro 4.

One of the rather unique features of the MateBook X Pro is the support for Dolby Atmos Sound System. This isn’t just a simple software enhancement either, Huawei worked with Dolby to make sure that custom quad speaker system provides an enhanced sound experience for MateBook X Pro customers.

There are two USB Type C ports on the left side with one supporting Thunderbolt and both usable for charging the computer. There is also a standard 3.5mm headset jack on the left. A USB Type A port is found on the right side, which is useful to have since there are still plenty of devices that use this port for connectivity.

There is no port for connecting an externa display, but you can use an optional MateDock 2 connected to a USB-C port to have HDMI, VGA display, USB-A, and USB Type C port support.

The battery is advertised as providing up to 12 hours of 1080p video and 14 hours of typical office use. I was easily able to go for a couple of day use since I don’t sit and use my computer for eight hours straight, but bounce in and out of use throughout the day.

Software

The Huawei MateBook X Pro runs Windows 10 Pro and performed as expected over the past couple of weeks. I enjoyed video content, wrote articles, viewed and edited spreadsheets, worked with email and Microsoft Teams, and went about my daily business with the MateBook X Pro.

The MateBook X Pro comes loaded with typical Windows 10 software, such as Mail, Photos, Groove Music, Cortana, OneNote, and more. You will also find plenty of pre-loaded games or samples, including Candy Crush Soda Saga, Disney Kingdoms, March of Empires, and other things you are likely to remove.

Specific to the MateBook X Pro, we see the Dolby Atmos Sound System app that lets you tweak the equalizer settings and view help files for different modes.

The Huawei PC Manager is installed on the device and requires a Huawei ID to login and use the utility. The Huawei PC Manager is designed to facilitate a connection between the MateBook X Pro and a Huawei smartphone. Once you get it setup, the utility provides a seamless connection online when WiFi is not available. You can transfer files between the MateBook and Huawei phones (at speeds up to 20 Mbps) and even connect other Huawei phones to share files from the MateBook X Pro.

Pricing and competition

The MateBook X Pro is planned to eventually come to the US, but at this time we only have European pricing information. Prices start at EUR1499 ($1846) for the i5/8GB/256GB model with the i5/8GB/512GB at EUR1699 ($2092) and i7/16GB/512GB model at EUR1899 ($2339).

In comparison, the new Microsoft Surface Pro i5/8GB/256GB model is priced at $1,299. The new Apple MacBook Pro i5/8GB/256GB model is priced at $1,499.

Daily usage experiences and conclusions

Huawei’s MateBook X Pro is a solid piece of hardware that appeals to those who want the biggest touchscreen display possible in the smallest form factor while also enjoying an amazing speaker experience. It is quite expensive compared to competing products and realizes its full potential when paired with a Huawei smartphone.

It performed very well for me over the past couple of weeks and I would love to see all laptops minimize the bezels like Huawei.

How Tech Empowers Citizen Science

Several years ago, I met inventor James Paar at a tech event in New York City. Paar was demoing his Open Space Agency Ultrascope, an open-source, 3D-printed telescope (powered by a smartphone!) that’s intended to make astronomy feasible for interested amateurs across the globe.

Paar’s concept is that a widespread community of these citizen scientists will be able to watch the sky for approaching asteroids potentially on a collision course with Earth. They’ll then report their sightings to NASA, exponentially expanding the agency’s ability to monitor asteroid activity and maybe, well, save the planet.

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No part of this project would even be conceivable without today’s technology—cloud computing, high-speed networks, low-cost, high-performance computer chips, and of course, 3D printing. Michelle Z. Donahue’s cover story in this month’s issue of the PC Magazine Digital Edition—”Citizen Science: Do Try This at Home”—showcases a dazzling amount of like-minded projects, from global efforts similar to Paar’s to very local ones.

The Smell Pittsburgh app, for example, lets residents of my hometown tag nasty odors on a virtual map that shows other smell reports from that day; the results are also reported to the local health department.

If you’ve always had a yearning to discover more about the world around you, there’s an excellent chance you can find a tech-empowered citizen science endeavor to match your interests. Search online for “citizen science projects” and, say, “oceanography” or “microbiology,” and you could be on your way to lab-coat country. You can simultaneously add to humanity’s collective knowledge and scratch your itch to learn.

At a time when some branches of science are not given the credence and support they deserve and need, it’s heartening to see that technology can democratize scientific study, making it available and affordable to everyday folks with a thirst for knowledge and a desire to contribute.

The April issue of the curated, ad-free PC Magazine is available now.

Apple iPads in Every Classroom? Chromebooks Are More Realistic

If you’re going to charge more, you have to offer more. Apple wants to promote a vision of engaged, creative education in American schools. Our schools just aren’t ready for it.

Apple doesn’t want to compete with Google’s Chromebooks on price. Its $299 iPads are really at least $450 when you include a keyboard case and stylus. To reverse Google’s takeover of the education market, Apple will have to sell America’s struggling, underfunded schools on its vision of a more creative education.

We saw that vision on stage at Lane Technical High School in Chicago yesterday and at demos afterwards, where we shot videos to create poems about math and put together GarageBand soundtracks about history. Chromebooks are very good at filling out forms, searching the web, and running quizzes. Apple’s iPads are much better for media creation.

A Self-Serving Vision, But a Good One

Apple’s vision for education is pretty self-serving. The company wants to sell iPads and its proprietary classroom management and education software, and lock schools into a single-vendor lifestyle where they’re so married to Apple products that they can’t entertain alternatives.

That said, Apple’s hands-on, mobile, creative plans could also work pretty well with a suite of Windows tablets, if Microsoft had the same turnkey curriculum ideas.

Apple’s kind of creative learning keeps kids compelled, and teaches a much broader range of thinking than writing reports and filling out web forms. Because it isn’t always teaching to a test, it doesn’t always result in higher scores on the specific, bubble-form standardized tests we use to measure progress. Rather, it encourages problem-solving, adaptation, and flexible learning skills.

These skills will be critically important in the 21st century job market, where people may have several careers over a lifetime and be asked to pick things up continuously—or be shunted down into an eternal mire of low-wage, low-skilled service work with little hope of advancement. At the elite college I went to, a dean once said, “we haven’t taught you do to anything in particular, but we taught you to do it very, very well.” He meant that he taught us to learn and to enjoy learning. Kids need that, and that’s what Apple is selling.

This doesn’t just require iPads. It requires well-educated, well-resourced teachers who aren’t just handed a curriculum, but who are given the time and practice to develop it. The teachers need to learn the iPads first, after all. These teachers will need to be able to focus on exciting new lessons, not on questions like whether their classroom has enough markers, whether all the kids have had breakfast, and their next assessment.

iPads Are More Than What We Deserve

Unfortunately, the American school system is about delivering the best possible standardized test scores for the lowest possible budget. Yes, there are creative and bravely entrepreneurial schools out there, mostly expensive private schools or schools in well-off suburbs. In those places, teachers have freedom and schools have budgets. Many of them probably already have iPads.

But that’s not the case for many of America’s cash-strapped, struggling schools. Kansas school budgets have been cut so badly that the state supreme court has declared the low level of funding illegal. In Oklahoma, budgets were trimmed so far that they can’t even offer a five-day school week. Baltimore’s schools are physically crumbling. Here in New York, I watched as my daughter’s supposedly progressive charter school fell back more and more on drilling English and math basics over a five-year period to pump up their all-important state test scores.

Blame whoever you want. Throw down into the culture war which will inevitably erupt here, with right-wingers blaming supposedly lazy, corrupt teachers and left-wingers blaming a culture and government that doesn’t support public education. The cause isn’t the issue here: the reality is.

Chromebooks are cheap and rugged and manageable. Sure, most of them can’t film videos, make soundtracks, or augment reality. Neither can our schools. Chromebooks enable collaboration on basic tasks, letting teachers monitor progress and opening a decent range of options for kids—basically, anything on the web, including web-based coding tutorials.

Chromebooks are a great example of the “good enough” philosophy that sells Amazon tablets, prepaid Android phones, and most basic Windows laptops. They’re good enough for what we need. Maybe they aren’t good enough for what we aspire to; maybe that requires an iPad with all the trimmings. But maybe that’s not who we are—not yet, at least.

Microsoft Needs to Bring This Project Back From the Dead

Over the years, there have been numerous ideas about how to improve Microsoft’s Windows OS, particularly the desktop.

Windows 95’s so-called “Active Desktop” was probably one of the most ambitious ideas. It allowed users to incorporate active items onto their desktop: changing images, cam streams, or anything that was an HTML page. I used this to display an overhead satellite image of weather patterns and numerous webcam feeds.

The feature continued into Windows XP but it was so buggy that I ultimately gave up on it, although I recall thinking it was cool at the time.

Windows 95 also incorporated taskbar scaling in response to the one found on the Macintosh. Microsoft couldn’t really math Apple here, but you could make the taskbar three times larger in height than what we have today.

Once Microsoft decided to optimize for smaller screens with Windows 8, we got an OS more suited to a tablet or a phone. (What phone?)

Microsoft should rethink the desktop OS which, if you haven’t noticed, is kind of moribund.

That is true despite the PC’s decline. Microsoft should go back to the pre-Vista era and take seriously one of its most controversial projects: WinFS, which was to become the most modern of all file systems.

The idea was to develop a file system with a relational database mechanism. Are you looking within all your documents for the words “relational database mechanism?” You’d be lucky to find anything. Type it in the WinFS search box and its location(s) come up instantly

If you read the history of this product, you must wonder why the basics were not used on Windows in some useful way. It was either impractical, too hard to implement, involved some sketchy licensing, or was over Microsoft’s head All I know is WinFS was another great idea kicked to the curb.

I could go on with other tossed away programs from a incredible photo-editing tool that did marvelous warping, the free Microsoft games like Pinball that are missing in action, Microsoft Money, the programs within the realm of the defunct Microsoft Home, Outlook Journal, and other goodies. All gone.

Why did we bother learning any of these programs in the first place? Why can’t Microsoft—or any company—either keep the legacy code online or at least release it as public domain so the community can support it as an open-source project. Who does that? Nobody does. Why is that? Nobody knows.

Welcome to the world of high tech.

You Trusted Facebook: Own Up to It

The violent reaction to what’s going on with Facebook makes me think about, of all things, PETA.

Yes, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—the vegan, borderline eco-terrorists who have spent decades screaming at us about how cruel our hamburgers are. They’re right, you know. Factory farming is cruel and heartless, our food system is a mess, and switching to eating mostly leaves would be better for all of us. I am about to go eat some chicken soup, and I am going to have some willful blindness about the conditions in which my chicken soup was created, because I have to live in this world and I can’t let it bother me too much.

So I survive, eating my chicken soup, vaguely knowing that I agreed to a complex system of oppression by doing it. And the same goes for Facebook, where everyone is shocked—absolutely shocked!—that data collection was going on here.

The current Facebook scandal started because a consultancy linked to political campaigns, Cambridge Analytica, used an academic’s personality quiz to suck down the personal details of millions of people who didn’t agree to take the quiz, and used that information to target them for political messages. Everyone agrees the loophole Cambridge used was bad, and it was closed in 2015.

The story has snowballed, though, into people realizing just how much data Facebook itself holds about them, and getting really uncomfortable with it. If you’re on an Android phone and clicked “yes” when Facebook asked to read your contacts and send text messages, for instance, it started collecting the times, dates, and destinations (but not the contents) of all the calls you made and texts you sent.

Beyond that, Facebook uses our every scroll, click and “like” to assemble a full picture of our every proclivity, which it then pimps out in slightly veiled form to advertisers. Cambridge’s real sin was stealing Facebook’s trick without Facebook’s permission, but Cambridge just did what Facebook does all day. Those of us in the tech world have known for years that Facebook does this. It’s just what Facebook does.

As the old saw goes, “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”

You Agreed to This

You are not a pure victim here. You agreed to this. Maybe you didn’t know what you were agreeing to, but you clicked “yes” when the happy robot asked to suck down your contact book and insinuate itself into your phone. And yes, for most of you, it asked. If you clicked “skip” instead, good for you! Your black bean soup is just as tasty as my chicken, and much healthier.

You didn’t do the research, or you ignored the signs, not because you trusted or didn’t trust Facebook, but because you pretty much didn’t care. Unlike security researchers who are hyper-conscious of their personal data, you considered yourself to be someone who basically doesn’t matter: you have nothing to hide, so there’s no need to hide it.

And now you’ve been led on a tour of the pig farm, shown the sows in their tiny little boxes squealing in pain, taken on a romantic walk by the giant lake of hog waste, and you’re reconsidering your bacon. I also still eat bacon.

There’s nothing morally wrong, in my view, with reconsidering life choices when forced to face the things in which we’re complicit. The trouble comes when we paint ourselves as pure victims, only dupes, and don’t face up to the willful blindnesses and bad choices which let us be duped.

The Role of Regulation

A lot of us are doing a lot of unhealthy things, and we probably aren’t about to stop, even though we know they’re unhealthy. I could go home tonight and post a picture of a big bacon cheeseburger to Facebook and I’d be hurting myself at least three different ways.

Society has decided that there’s an acceptable level of hurt that we, and the companies that supply us, are willing to accept. I can assume, for instance, that my bacon hasn’t been poisoned at the factory. I didn’t have to read through a EULA to know that.

If I want, I could read some labels, pick the healthiest bacon, or try to convince my family to switch to Ello, but society promises me there will be a minimum level of safety in my supermarket bacon. On the other hand, once I commit to the bacon, I can legally eat it until I kill myself.

It’s time to move from shock to action. Let’s acknowledge that we want to socially network, and it’ll lead us to make some choices that aren’t healthy. Let’s acknowledge that we all make those choices; they aren’t forced upon us. Now let’s discuss where we want the guardrails, and when we should be allowed to give ourselves heart attacks.

Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro review: A decent Android tablet, but it’s no iPad

For the last few years, the tablet market has really been the iPad market and just this week we just heard about Apple’s new 9.7 inch iPad targeted towards the educational market.

It turns out, there are still some interesting Android tablets and the new Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro may be one of the best for the business who doesn’t want to use an iPad. We typically see Android tablets running older versions of Android on hardware that is a bit dated, but that is not the case with this new Huawei tablet.

The MediaPad M5 Pro has all the key Huawei design elements we’ve seen on its phones, such as the 2.5D curved glass display, aluminum body, massive battery, high-end processor, latest version of Android 8 Oreo, and more. It’s a tablet focused on using it in landscape orientation, along with a stylus to add more functionality.

Specifications

  • Processor: Huawei Kirin 960 octa-core
  • Display: 10.8 inches 2560×1600 pixels resolution(280 ppi)
  • Operating system: Android 8.0 Oreo with EMUI 8.0
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 64GB/128GB internal with microSD expansion card slot.
  • Connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, LTE (available on the model tested)
  • Audio: Huawei Histen stereo system with quad speakers tuned by Harman Kardon
  • Cameras: Rear 13 megapixel and front 8 megapixel
  • Battery: 7,500 mAh with Huawei QuickCharge technology
  • Dimensions: 258.7 x 171.8 x 7.3 mm and 498 grams

The Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro will be available in space gray and champagne gold. I tested the space gray model. There is also a M5 model with an 8.4 inch display and a M5 10.8 model without a pen.

Hardware

There is no argument that Huawei builds gorgeous hardware with brushed aluminum shells, 2.5D front glass, responsive fingerprint scanners, and clear displays. While 2.5D glass displays are popular on phones, this is the first time that such a design element has been used on a tablet device. The MediaPad M5 Pro continues the tradition of design excellence and the fit and finish is stunning.

The Kirin 960 chipset was last year’s flagship smartphone processor and continues to be a powerful choice for this tablet. I was able to perform all of my work on this tablet, enjoy video, and play a couple of games without any issues in performance.

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The larger Huawei Mate phones have large batteries that power you through a day or two and this same strategy has been used here with the massive 7,500 mAh battery. I’ve gone a few days between charges, especially since I use a tablet differently than I do a phone. That said, more and more people are using tablets as computing devices away from the desk or around the house. The tablet is rated to deliver up to 12 hours of 1080p video playback and charge back up in 2.9 hours.

The front is dominated by the high resolution display, with minimal bezels, and it looks great. Huawei’s proprietary ClariVu 5.0 display technology uses algorithms to enhance images for a great experience. Eye comfort mode is also available so that you can read books and magazines on the tablet without straining your eyes. The bezel around the display is larger than we see on Huawei phones and I was a bit surprised by the 1/2 inch black border all around the viewable display. It helps you hold onto the tablet when not in the keyboard cover, but still a bit different than what we have seen from Huawei in the past.

The Huawei name is found at the bottom, in landscape orientation, and it is clear this is the primary rotation for the tablet.The front fingerprint scanner is located on the right side when the tablet is oriented in the default landscape direction. The front facing camera is embedded in the bezel at the top of the display.

A USB-C port, SIM card/microSD card slot, power button, and volume button are found on the right side. There is nothing on the left side, top, or bottom of the tablet.
































The rear camera is positioned on the upper rear right corner and it protrudes out of the back a measurable distance. Four speakers are found along the top and bottom with the openings in the curved part of the back. The Pogo pins are found between the bottom speakers and are used to connect to the optional keyboard cover that I was also sent to evaluate.

The M-Pen is included with the MediaPad M5 Pro and charges up conveniently with USB-C that is hidden under the pen’s top clip. The M-Pen is rated to last up to 50 days with two hours of usage a day and only take 100 minutes to charge up.

The M-Pen has 4096 level pressure sensitivity. Two buttons are provided on the pen for taking screenshots, deleting images, and launching apps.

A keyboard arrived with my eval unit and came in an official Huawei white box. It has Amork embedded into a corner of the outside case with Fine Triumph Technology shown on an interior label. There is no information on Huawei sites for this keyboard.

It has a gray soft touch matte finish with an opening for the rear camera. The MediaPad M5 Pro slides down from the top through two side guides and secures into the bottom piece where the three Pogo pins line up with the back of the MediaPad M5.

The hinge mechanism is interesting as a metal full width piano hinge is used to rotate the top half of the back down to your preferred viewing angle. There is an installation tips sticker on this piece that guides you through the keyboard use.

The keys all have good spacing and good tactile feedback with an acceptable trackpad that is ebout 4 inches long and 2 inches wide. There is no backlight on the keyboard. The top row of control keys includes keys for back, home, task switching, Google Assistant, volume down and up, media controls, brightness controls, a single press screen shot button, and the Delete key. These all work well and are different than we have seen on other tablet keyboards in the past.

Software

The MediaPad M5 Pro runs Android 8.0 with Huawei’s EMUI 8.0 installed. I find EMUI to be fairly stock with most of the customizations taking place in the way of settings. There are a large number of settings options in EMUI 8.0 and you will find those here as well. These include options such as making the fingerprint scanner the only navigation button and enabling HiVoice voice control on the tablet.

There is a number of bloatware apps loaded by default on the MediaPad M5 Pro, but a few are useful too. The MyScript Calculator app lets you use the M-Pen to write out common equations and have them solved by the tablet. WPS Office is a solid document and spreadsheet application.

When you slide the MediaPad M5 down into the keyboard dock a pop-up appears asking if you want to enable “Desktop View”. I hit the affirmative button and then was transported back to 2001 when the Windows XP Bliss wallpaper took over the display. I like the Bliss wallpaper, but thought it was funny to see this appear on a tablet in 2018.

While in desktop mode you have access to a limited number of apps. The only Google app that you have access to is the Chrome browser, but there is no Google Play Movies, Google Music, or even the Google Play Store. It’s interesting to see such limitations when in this mode, but it appears this mode is focused on productivity and Huawei apps.

You can use the calendar, email (not Gmail though), WPS Office, Messenger, Notepad, Gallery, and others. Even if you enter the name of an app you know you have installed on the tablet in the search box nothing will appear and the experience looks to functions in a separate partition or something. However, files saved in tablet mode do still appear in desktop mode and for those apps that appear in both the settings, status, and more all still work just fine.

Pricing and competition

The only pricing released so far is for the Europe. This model I tested, with 64GB of internal storage, has a European price of €549 (about $675). The 128GB one is €599. It’s not clear if this includes LTE or if it is a WiFi-only model price. No availability information has been released either.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 9.7 inch is priced at $450 and also includes the S Pen. A keyboard option is available for this tablet as well. The Tab S3 uses an older Snapdragon 820 processor, has just 32GB of storage and a 6,000 mAh battery.

The new iPad 9.7 is priced at $329.99 and also includes support for the Apple Pencil, but that is priced at an additional $99.

Daily usage experiences and conclusions

It’s very hard to recommend an Android tablet to anyone looking for a tablet computer and my opinion isn’t changed by the Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro. It’s a solid Android tablet with integrated LTE and phone calling capability, but it’s the same old story of wonky Android software performance that kills my enthusiasm.

The MediaPad M5 Pro is optimized for landscape use with the Huawei branding in this orientation and the speakers setup for this use. However, the fingerprint scanner is oddly positioned on the right side, launching Google Assistant every time flips the display into portrait orientation, and Google Play Movies is a complete mess on it (on-screen controls disappear, the display dims constantly, and orientation flips between portrait and landscape). Android on a tablet has never been a real focus for Google and it still isn’t. Samsung tablets are decent because it puts so much of its own special sauce into the mix, but even then the experience is nothing like what you can get on an Apple iPad.

Huawei makes great hardware and tries to bring a good Android tablet to the enterprise. If you must use an Android tablet for work then the MediaPad M5 Pro is a decent option. However, if you are just looking for the best tablet overall, then look at an Apple iPad.