Weekend Roundup: Skype, Samsung, a Shutdown, Shiny Things, and… Shingy?!

The weekend is here (or almost here), so let’s catch up on the things you may have missed in tech this week, including Skype’s mishaps, Samsung’s new phone, Apple’s credit card, 8Chan, and our old pal Shingy.

8Chan Gets 86’d

Via Twitter, 8Chan administrator Ron Watkins writes that 8Chan is “the first platform to be de-platformed,” which is an interesting concept. In the wake of two mass shootings over the weekend, 8Chan host Cloudflare decided it was done hosting the site platform, which contributes to a lot of the discourse we see today.

Watkins says the downtime is being used to “scale 8Chan’s servers, networking, and software” to be “stronger” for when it comes back online.

Like many, I’m not sad to see 8Chan gone (however long that may be). Still, Watkins makes a good point about a platform that relies on another entity ultimately being beholden to that provider’s take on whether your content is appropriate. It’s a cautionary tale, much like the article we wrote a while back about social logins being easy to use but ultimately insecure and wrong for the end-user.

Apple Card

Shiny New Apple Card is (Almost) Here

As expected, the Apple Card is arriving soon. It’s currently in some sort of preview period for a limited number of people, who largely seem to be reviewers (and maybe some end-user dogfooding).

The card itself is, apparently, really nice. So if you’re the type to get all uppity about which card the server at your favorite restaurant swipes, it may be for you. And when you do drop the card, make sure to glance at the far corner of the dining room to see Sir Jony Ive giving you a knowing nod of approval.

Still, Apple Card is a digital-first offering, and has a bunch of metrics you can track in Wallet, such as how and where you spend. Currently, it doesn’t export to financial services such as Mint, which is either beta-period-that-feature-is-not-available-yet stuff, or a hint Apple may be considering a competing service and Apple Card is a front for trialing it.

Samsung’s Clumsy Note 10 Arrives

The Note 10 is now two phones: the Note 10, and the bigger Note 10 Plus. Because we all need a bigger phone.

Note 10 also leans really heavily into DeX, Samsung’s desktop interface powered by a phone. When you plug a monitor into your Note 10, it becomes a unique desktop experience. It’s a bit like a Chromebook, except it’s also a phone that (maybe) fits in your pocket. DeX is launch-able via an app, and allows you to plug into a Windows or Mac machine to drag-and-drop files and use phone apps on the desktop. It also supports the Windows ‘Your Phone’ feature to make the Note 10 an extension of your Windows desktop for things such as SMS and wirelessly transferring files.

Samsung’s Note phones are always powerhouses, but we get the feeling they’ve hit a ceiling. The stylus (sorry, S-Pen) can handle air gestures (like a wand). For example, if you’ve docked the phone and want it to take a picture of something, but you’re too lazy to actually touch the screen? The S-Pen has you covered.

Still, the phone-as-a-desktop paradigm is weird, and Samsung is getting away from its digital assistant, Bixby, with this phone. There’s also no headphone jack. Remember when Samsung made fun of the iPhone for lacking a headphone jack? Well, it’s hoping you forget that part.

Galaxy Note 10
Galaxy Note 10 Credit: The Verge

Skype Calls Sniped

Would it really be 2019 if we didn’t tell you yet another form of digital communication was compromised?!

Motherboard has revealed Microsoft is listening to Skype calls in an effort to improve its translation service. From the report:

The Skype audio obtained by Motherboard includes conversations from people talking intimately to loved ones, some chatting about personal issues such as their weight loss, and others seemingly discussing relationship problems. Other files obtained by Motherboard show that Microsoft contractors are also listening to voice commands that users speak to Cortana, the company’s voice assistant.

Motherboard said it reviewed snippets ranging from 5-10 seconds, though a source told them longer audio files have been reviewed.

Naturally, Microsoft played the ‘very legal and very cool’ card, saying it aimed to be transparent and users were always in control of how their data was used. But really, it’s another big tech company using contractors to review voice data to improve a service. Anonymized or not, it’s still creepy.

Shingy Lives!

Hey, remember Shingy?! He did… things… about a decade ago. And had weird hair. And dressed oddly. And is still alive and working at Verizon because Verizon bought AOL.

He had been with AOL/Verizon for 12 years doing… things… but says it’s now time to “explore a new path.” That’s Shingy-speak for “the two Bobs sat me down and asked what I did.”

While most of the – let’s say ‘critical’ – comments have been scrubbed from his LinkedIn announcement, one person responded: “I am still amazed how you convinced AOL/Verizon that being a Digital Prophet was a real thing.” I mean… same, my dude. Same.

Have a great weekend!