Weekend Roundup: Bitcoin Busts, Uber ‘Billions’-ized, and Google’s Bad Event

It was a fairly busy week in tech! While you were stuck in a parade of endless meetings (we know… we know), we were mindfully watching the interwebz for things you may have missed. Google had an event, Uber is getting trolled, and bitcoin is in a weird spot.

Let’s dive in!

Google’s Pixel Event

Google has this way of trying to be too cool when it’s not warranted, and its latest Pixel event was no different.

Google offered up a new Pixel phone (which was leaked to death ahead of the event; it’s also a very decent phone). We also had a preview of the upcoming Pixel Buds, which could rival AirPods (and actually look really nice). There’s a new Nest mini speaker, and a Nest WiFi router, and Stadia is officially launching on November 19.

There’s also a Pixelbook Go, the latest mid-range Chromebook, which is a computer cosplaying as a computer, because ChromeOS is a joke.

So were the optics of the event. It took place in what looked like an empty warehouse, with a low stage possibly made from pallets found out back. Google’s hardware is decent, but the lackluster event makes you think the company barely cares about its own stuff… so why should we? Google is settling into life as a midrange hardware manufacturer, but acts like the presentation of its stuff doesn’t matter. That’s probably why these items don’t sell better.

Besides, it’s all just colorful plastic spyware, so proceed with caution.

Uber is Getting Trolled. Hard.

Uber has a sketchy past, and a tenuous future. Founder Travis Kalanick was is the poster-child for wannabe-tech-bro-thought-leader-and-visionary, and was eventually exposed as a narcissistic fraud. And if you thought ‘someone should make a movie about this stuff,’ you’re in luck.

The co-creators and showruners of the wannabe-thought-leaders-and-visionaries show “Billions” are developing the Uber saga into a limited-run television show. It’s adapted from the book “Super Pumped,” and will focus on Kalanick’s meteoric rise to nowhere.

Expect the show to build up to the Jobs-like boardroom drama that saw Kalanick ousted, then fade to… Uber Black.

Bitcoin May Have Been Busted

Here’s the good news: a massive child pornography ring was busted recently, sending hundreds worldwide to prison. Good riddance to them.

The twist? U.S. authorities claim they were able to track and infiltrate the group via Bitcoin. With cooperation from other agencies across the globe, the U.S. insists law enforcement was able to decode and trace Bitcoin transactions to their origin and endpoints, effectively hacking the ledger… something previously thought impossible.

It’s reminiscent of the toppling of Silk Road, the Tor network that authorities were able to reverse-hack in order to track its founder, Ross Ulbricht. If government agencies were actually able to hack this ledger, it’s a proof-of-concept for hacking just about any blockchain tooling. For those who believe in blockchain or Bitcoin, it’s an unwelcome development.

Final Flurries Before Your Weekend Starts

  • Smartphone-based VR is dead. Google killed it.
  • The wearable camera Clips is also dead. Google killed that, too.
  • Google is also taking AMP to the OpenJS Foundation. It should help both technologies become better. It will help AMP become standardized.
  • A “code glitch” was found giving incorrect results for hundreds of academic studies. Check your APIs, everyone!
  • Niantic, maker of “Pokemon Go” and “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite,” was found to be tracking user movement up to 13 times per minute. And if you’re wondering why it would do such a thing, it seems to us Niantic wants to end up the Foursquare of augmented reality: it’ll have all the data and IP, and others will just have to lease it.
  • Yahoo Groups is being shuttered. Late this month, it will stop accepting questions and answers before closing down entirely in December. This should at least improve search results. I don’t know about you, but seeing Yahoo Groups QAs from 2014 pop up in search is distracting and weird.

Have a great weekend!