“Relief for the Rich Act”

In his op-ed piece, Understanding Republican Cruelty, Paul Krugman explains the redistribution of wealth going on with Republican health legislation:

More than 40 percent of the Senate bill’s tax cuts would go to people with annual incomes over $1 million — but even these lucky few would see their after-tax income rise only by a barely noticeable 2 percent.

So it’s vast suffering — including, according to the best estimates, around 200,000 preventable deaths — imposed on many of our fellow citizens in order to give a handful of wealthy people what amounts to some extra pocket change. And the public hates the idea: Polling shows overwhelming popular opposition, even though many voters don’t realize just how cruel the bill really is. For example, only a minority of voters are aware of the plan to make savage cuts to Medicaid.

In fact, my guess is that the bill has low approval even among those who would get a significant tax cut. Warren Buffett has denounced the Senate bill as the “Relief for the Rich Act,” and he’s surely not the only billionaire who feels that way.

It’s fucked up to see an administration so hostile towards the people they represent.

The Elusive Laptop Replacement

iOS 11 on an iPad Pro still won’t replace your laptop:

The complex gestures we see in iOS 11 will only get more tricky in the future as Apple continues to build them out instead of supporting a mouse. If Apple does want the iPad Pro to be considered as laptop contender, then it will need to refine its keyboard hardware and its software gestures and features. Apple still needs to prove that the touchscreen can truly replace a keyboard and mouse for professional productivity, so get used to remembering lots of gestures and swiping around on an iPad display instead of simply pointing and clicking for the foreseeable future.

In other news, your motorcycle still won’t replace your car.

John Gruber explains it well:

Again, Apple is not trying to convince everyone to replace a traditional Mac or PC with an iPad. Apple executives say that the Mac has a bright and long future because they really do think the Mac has a bright and long future. Any review of the iPad and iOS 11 from the perspective of whether it can replace a MacBook for everyone is going to completely miss what is better about the iPad and why.

While the nerd community is busy listing all the ways they can’t do their nerdy work on an iPad, millions of everyday people are being productive on iPhones and iPads without ever having touched macOS or Windows.

“the next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a toy”

Apple’s AR is closer to reality than Google’s:

Looking at this distance-measuring app, it seems so simple and obvious. Of course your super-powered, multi-core phone should be smart enough to measure out basic distances, and there have indeed been many wonky apps trying to do that in the past. But measuring with AR, as already shown off by Google Tango phones, allows you a much more intuitive method for doing it. Having the phone actually aware of the three-dimensional space in its view allows for precise measurements, which can be represented with a neat hologram of a measuring tape. Apple’s advantage in the contest for doing this best is simple: while Google Tango demands special hardware, ARKit requires only that you have a recent iOS device. At WWDC earlier this month, Craig Federighi described ARKit as “the largest AR platform in the world,” and he was right.

This isn’t just about raw engineering brilliance. Google and Microsoft can easily go toe-to-toe with Apple in that realm. This is about design, and making a sophisticated technology approachable to everyday people. It seems Apple still understands this better than their competitors.

In 2016, Microsoft introduced its approach to augmented reality with their big, fat headset, the HoloLens. They demonstrated how you could play Minecraft in your living room, stacking virtual blocks in real space. This demo reminded me that despite the departure of Steve Ballmer and their new-found love of hardware in their Surface devices, this is the same company that came to multi-touch market with a $10,000 table. Some things never change.

The ARKit demo apps in the story quoted above might look cute or trivial, but as Clay Christiansen said, the next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a toy.

Sure, a phone screen isn’t as immersive as an AR headset, but this is just the first step and one with a much lower barrier to entry than a big headset.

Training Your Replacement

These Truckers Work Alongside the Coders Trying to Eliminate Their Jobs:

Economically speaking—that is, in the most brutal terms—truckers are disposable. Almost anyone can become a professional driver with a month or so of training, and most don’t stick around for long; median pay is about $40,000 per year, and the work is often unhealthy, painful, and lonely. Software engineers, on the other hand, are some of the best-paid, hardest-to-hire employees in the modern economy. The variety that Seltz-Axmacher employs—specialists in AI and machine learning—are even better paid and even harder to hire. Google has been known to pay its self-driving car engineers millions or even tens of millions. Starsky’s coders don’t make that much, but the point remains: In its cabs, side by side, are representatives of some of the most and least promising careers in America.

Self-driving tractor trailers are replacing truck drivers, but truck driving is an under-paid, unappealing job. In this respect, it’s a perfect place for AI, but it doesn’t address the 3.5 million Americans who drive trucks for a living and need income.

I’d love to see Mayweather get his bell run by McGregor’s left.

Over at the Bleacher Report, Jeremy Botter on the likelihood of Conor McGregor returning to the UFC after his boxing match on August 26th against Floyd Mayweather:

On Wednesday, the impossible dream, the flight of fancy, the ridiculous notion became reality: Floyd Mayweather, owner of all sporting pay-per-view records of note, will exit a two-year retirement for the August 26 boxing match against Conor McGregor, the brightest star mixed martial arts has ever seen.

McGregor is the highest-paid Ultimate Fighting Championship athlete ever, but the leap he is about to make is an extraordinary one. He says he’ll go from his comparatively low estimated paydays to over $100 million in one night.

And then, according to UFC President Dana White, he’ll come back to the UFC for a lightweight title defense in December, where he will presumably go back to making $3 million guaranteed for his fights. From $100 million to $3 million, for the same amount of work.

Sure he will.

One hundred million dollars. McGregor is already a winner, even in the event Mayweather defensive-boxes his way to a win.

I’m not sure if McGregor has anything left to prove. The disproportionally large number of naysayers grows exponentially before every one of his fights. He beat Chad Mendez. He beat Jose Aldo. He beat Nate Diaz in UFC 202 (after initially losing to Diaz in UFC 196). He beat Eddie Alvarez.

I’d love to see Mayweather get his bell run by McGregor’s left.

“Compared directly against Google Assistant, Bixby Voice is in for some embarrassing showdowns.”

Samsung has released a preview of their AI assistant ‘Bixby’ to beta testers:

First things first. If you registered to be a beta tester, make sure you’re running the current version of Bixby by going to its “about” screen. Download any updates that appear there. I also had to clear the data and cache for Bixby apps in my S8+’s settings screen before Bixby Voice appeared. Once it does, you’ll get a tutorial that involves teaching you how to trigger the voice feature and then teaching it to recognize your voice.

This already sounds like a great user experience. Clearing cache, tutorials. Bixby sounds even more beta than Siri was went Apple launched it.

Even the essential task of text messaging someone is surprisingly hard to pull off. For one, you’ve got to use Samsung’s Messages app as your default SMS app. And if you don’t word things exactly right, it won’t happen. “Text mom and ask ‘how are you’” sent me to a Google search. “Send a text to mom and ask ‘how are you’” worked — but still necessitated a few taps to fire off the message. What’s the point of voice, then? Google Assistant nailed it with a single attempt.

One more nugget:

Compared directly against Google Assistant, Bixby Voice is in for some embarrassing showdowns. Until things get better, a lot of people will be asking “What’s the point?” I’m not really sure Bixby Voice saves you much in the way of time since it often runs through the same menus and screens you would with your finger when performing tasks.

Haha. Good luck with this, Samsung.

What I love most about this is that Samsung phones run on Android and Google already has Google Assistant which is way more advanced than Bixby, but Samsung wants to differentiate themselves from the sea of other Android phone manufacturers.

I suppose in that respect they’ve accomplished their mission.

Uber’s Chief Douchebag is Out

Uber Founder Travis Kalanick Resigns as C.E.O.

Travis Kalanick stepped down Tuesday as chief executive of Uber, the ride-hailing service that he helped found in 2009 and built into a transportation colossus, after a shareholder revolt made it untenable for him to stay on at the company.

Mr. Kalanick’s exit came under pressure after hours of drama involving Uber’s investors, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, who asked to remain anonymous because the details were confidential.

Shareholder revolt. Sheesh. So dramatic.

Now that the Chief Douchebag is out, I’m curious if they’ll be replacing him with a less douchey one.

The Rough Life of a Tech Editor

NYTimes: New iPad Pro Inches Toward Replacing PC, but Falls Short

Brian X. Chen isn’t sold:

Here’s the problem: The Smart Keyboard is thin and the keys do not click well or feel as satisfying to type on as the keyboards on a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air; after a long period of typing, the Smart Keyboard felt flimsy. The keyboard for the 10.5-inch model is still small and cramped compared with a MacBook keyboard.

So a tablet isn’t a laptop. Shocking.

There’s more:

The other issue is ergonomics. Using the touch screen in combination with the Apple keyboard can be a pain on the wrist.

Say, for example, you are using the keyboard to scroll through an email or website: If you want to open a link, you have to lift your hand away from the keyboard and tap the link. Or say you want to adjust the screen brightness or hit pause on a music track while typing: Both actions require reaching up and touching the screen. These keyboard-to-touch-screen reps get tiring.

My goodness. You have to actually lift your frail, nerdy hand off the keyboard. That has to be exhausting.

This is where we’re at in the modern world. This is what it looks like when your only problem in life is deciding what mobile devices you want to spend $800 of your dollars on.

I acknowledge I am part of this group too (shit, I’m a guy complaining about a guy complaining about a piece of tech) and if you’re reading this post, so are you, but let’s just not forget Mr. Chen was the same dude who erroneously claimed the Japanese hated the iPhone in a 2009 story his editor had to write a lengthy apology and explanation on.

I don’t trust Chen any further than I can throw him.

Uber, Context Is Everything

David Bonderman Resigns From Uber Board After Sexist Remark:

David Bonderman, an Uber board member and partner at private equity firm TPG, resigned from the board of the ride-hailing company after he made a disparaging remark about women at an Uber meeting on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day at an Uber staff meeting to discuss the company’s culture, Arianna Huffington, another board member, talked about how one woman on a board often leads to more women joining a board.

“Actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking,” Mr. Bonderman responded.

The bullshit coming out of Uber doesn’t stop.

That being said, what Bonderman said wasn’t that bad. I’ve been out at a bar with other guy friends and said way worse, and all in good humor. On the other side, I’ve heard women say equally sexist — and equally funny — comments when they’re out having a good time.

The main point to take from this is context matters. The context is everything.

I’ve listened to Howard Stern play ‘Anal Ring Toss’ on his satellite radio show one day, and the next day see him talk to little kids on America’s Got Talent.

There’s a time and a place for everything. Uber executives don’t seem to understand this.

Or care.

From the Top, Down

As if there weren’t enough scandals at Uber already, here are just a few headlines from the past week:

A Top Uber Executive Departs, Fraying the Company’s ‘A-Team’

Uber’s CEO Searches for Enlightenment in Company Lactation Room

Uber Weighs Leave of Absence for Chief Executive

Uber’s Travis Kalanick offered sex rules for 2013 party

Regardless of where something bad is happening in a company or who is involved, you have to look at the leadership for clues on what the fuck is going on. Company culture is established at the top and cascades down to the rest of the company. It’s never the other way around.

These are a few bullet points from an email Uber CEO Travis Kalanick sent out to his staff on rules for a company party:

  • Do not throw large kegs off of tall buildings. Please talk to Ryan McKillen and Amos Barreto for specific insights on this topic.

  • Do not have sex with another employee UNLESS a) you have asked that person for that privilege and they have responded with an emphatic “YES! I will have sex with you” AND b) the two (or more) of you do not work in the same chain of command. Yes, that means that Travis will be celibate on this trip. #CEOLife #FML

What a classy guy, that Travis Kalanick.

If you see your CEO conducting himself or herself in a particular way, you’re more inclined to pick up on their behavior in the things you do inside (and many times outside) the company. This idea applies to anyone in a position of power, be it a CEO, a parent, or the President of the United States: they set the tone for how things are conducted, how people are expected to interact with each other, and what is valued.

When Donald Trump calls well-respected news organizations “fake news”, whines on Twitter in the wee hours of the morning like a spoiled 13-year-old girl, and is constantly caught contradicting himself, it gives people permission (incentive?) to act the same way.

That old superhero saying, “with great power comes great responsibility” might feel tired, but it’s true.

The important thing to understand is the values, or lack of values, in the leadership of your country or company might not reflect your own values.

As citizens of a country like the U.S. you have the power to vote for who you think has values that align with your own (this ain’t always easy). When you work for company you potentially have the option to take actions to have a leader removed, or find employment with another company.