Tesla Gigafactory Expected to Start Pumping out Batteries Next Year, Nevada Official Says

A Nevada state official said Tesla’s battery gigafactory will be in operational next year. The opening of the factory means that the company’s Powerwall batteries for home use as well as its anticipated Model 3 electric car, which it plans to market to a wider base of customers by featuring a base price of $35,000 before incentives, are on track to ship.

The factory is expected to reach its full capacity by 2020 and the company expects to produce about 500,000 cars annually. The total number of batteries Tesla will manufacture by 2020 is expected to surpass the worldwide output of batteries in 2013.

Via Forbes. Photo by Niall Kennedy/flickr.

Rumor: BlackBerry Prepping Android Phone for AT&T

While BlackBerry would like you to think everything’s fine and there’s nothing to see, the former smartphone powerhouse is attempting to stay relevant by embracing Google’s little green droid. Amazon’s Android Appstore apps currently run on the Canadian company’s devices, but it intends to take it a step further with the imminent release of an actual Android phone.

The device was hinted at in March during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, but tech leaker Evan Blass (@evleaks), posted high resolution devices of the device. The phone will have curved edges, much like the Samsung Galaxy Edge S5, and keeping to BlackBerry’s DNA, it will feature a slide-out physical keyboard.

The phone is rumored to be an AT&T exclusive, at least in launch. The reports of the BlackBerry’s Android phone comes amid a Reuters article that mentions the company will be going with be switching to the Google mobile operating system.

Via The Verge. Photo by Evan Blass (@evleaks).

Prince Won’t Stream — and this is What it Sounds Like When Doves Cry

With the launch of Apple Music, it’s easy to get heady about the state of streaming media. Holdouts like AC/DC are making their music available on streaming services and Taylor Swift made 1989 available on the fruit company’s service.

So, war is over (which is also available on streaming)?

Not exactly. Prince (remember when he was symbol dude?), is making waves about taking his music unavailable via streaming. The Purple One pulled his music from Spotify and Rdio and is so far a no-show on Apple Music. But his tracks are still available on Google Music All Access and Tidal.

TechCrunch is speculating that Prince is removing his work from services with a free tier.

Prince is no stranger to criticizing the music industry and digital distribution. He’s pulled his music from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. He also called Taylor Swift the new Prince for her stand on streaming music.

However, he’s also made curious statements about the internet in general, calling it “completely over…The internet’s like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you.”

While you consider those words of wisdom, here’s Kevin Smith talking about a project he was supposed to work on with Prince.

Via TechCrunch. Photos by Jessica Watkins/flickr.

Apple Music: What’s in a Name? A Whole Damn Lot

When the iPhone originally launched, it didn’t come with Apple Music. It didn’t even come with a “Music” app. That was years later. Early adopters who can remember that far back will tell you that it came with an iPod app.

Which makes sense. When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007, the anticipation building up to the event was that Apple put a phone into an iPod. When Jobs unveiled the iPhone, he described it as an iPod, a phone and an internet communicator.

The iPod was the 600-pound gorilla in the early 2000s — the iPhone and its music services had to be put into the context of the iPod. At the time, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who wasn’t excited at the prospect of an iPod that happened to make calls and access the internet.

As the iPod’s fortunes fell, the iPod app changed. If you owned the first iPhone or its followup, the 3G, you tapped on an app that looked like the familiar and iconic clickwheel device. By the iPhone 3GS, the writing was on the wall. The iPhone was a monster hit that was a phone and internet communicator that happened to also be an iPod…and the app was renamed Music.

Which brings us to the present day. Apple used to announce its iPod sales with the same fanfare they now do with iPhones, but now iPhones outsell iPods by about nine times. The iPod app begat the Music app which today begat Apple Music. The iPod is a fading memory. It’s not even a product you can access on the Apple home page.

In its time, the iPod represented a radical shift in consuming music. Rather than being limited by how many CDs or tapes you could carry, you were limited by how much storage capacity you had. While hard drives of the first iPods were minuscule compared to the 64GB to 128GB iPhones consumers use today, the fact that weeks of music could be carried in a package about the size of a deck of cards was mind blowing.

Over a decade later, Apple Music represents another radical shift — storage space doesn’t matter. Streaming does. Your mobile broadband connection — wifi, LTE — they’re your gateway to more music than you could ever listen to. Granted, Apple was late to this game and didn’t define the streaming market the way iTunes and the iPod defined the downloadable market. But when you consider that you have access to millions of tracks of music, in addition to your own collection of music that you’ve curated yourself and painstakingly ripped and uploaded, it takes the sting out of realizing that you’re now renting your music and not buying music.

You’re going to read a lot about Apple Music over the next few days. I think the access to almost everything I want to listen to (with the exception of bootlegs, small bands that never made it big but should have and my oddball collection of songs from anime movies and series that I’ve uploaded anyway) is astounding. Though I was skeptical of Beats 1, human curation of music through a knowledgeable DJ is a very good thing.

These guys are not the annoying fuckwads that make crank calls in some hick town’s “morning zoo”. The Beats 1 DJs are like the best kind of clerks at that music store you loved in the ’90s who turned you on to all kinds of music. If you’re too young to remember what a music store is, this is what consuming music was like before Clear Channel bought every radio station in America and enforced their “formats” to capture some market-driven demographic.

What Apple Music represents is the deeper philosophical change going on in Cupertino. Apple Music. Apple Watch. While those names seem like simple branding decisions, they’re really deeper, existential milestones in the history of Apple. When the iPod was introduced in 2001, the bad old days and the lean times of Apple weren’t far behind the company. Apple was sixty days away from bankruptcy when Steve Jobs returned as CEO in 1997. If it wasn’t for Bill Gates floating Apple a loan, it’s very likely there would be no Apple, at least not the company we know today.

Jobs launched the iMac — the device that he hoped consumers would gravitate toward because of its design and colors. The “i” was supposed to stand for internet, but it also stood for I, and in the individual. iMacs were not the uninspiring beige boxes PC clone manufacturers were pumping out. It was Jobs’ first hit during his second coming. Then there was the iPod and finally, the iPhone. All of them products that could only exist because of the internet, but they were also Apple’s statement that they were iconoclasts and independents that made products for individuals.

It was marketing of the highest order to appeal to the need to be unique, because Apple needed every advantage it could get at the time.

The turnaround of Apple is the stuff of legend. When Jobs passed, the company reached unknown heights and because the world’s most valuable company. Its base of users increasingly identified with the company — in contrast to the ’90s, when Apple needed to connect to its customers for its continued survival.

The mark of this newly confident Apples is its new products. Apple Watch. Apple Music. Its name alone carries the weight to carry a product with the most generic of names. It seems like a small thing, but Apple Music is a very big deal as to what Apple is in 2015, compared to iTunes in 2000.

(Also, let’s face it — the iPhone’s days as being named as such are probably numbered. Cook, Ive and the rest of the executive team are probably itching to rename it Apple Phone.)

Much was written about Steve Jobs and his involvement with Zen Buddhism. As such, he would have to embrace change.

Apple Music is representative of that change and things to come. Where does your music and the company’s library of tracks begin and end? Does it matter? Do you need iTunes for your iPhone? Yes. No. Either answer is correct. For now.

Acknowledging the internet is passé. The internet is as pervasive and ubiquitous as the wind. What Apple ultimately wants are phones and computers that communicate to each other wirelessly, accessing videos, music and photo through high speed wireless connections to its data centers. Apple wants to kill the sync cable and is inching us to that inevitable future.

But all the while, the “i” of things will still be there. Though the personal connection to your devices that an Apple Watch provides, through the human curators of Apple Music that introduce you to your next favorite band you’ve never heard before or that connection to other people that negates distances the current and future iPhone does so well.

Screenshot by the author.

French Crack Down on Uber, Company Insists its French/Western European CEOs are in a “Hearing”

You know that dream where you punch out that guy you can’t stand? Well French cab companies are living the dream with their recent protests against Uber and the arrest of its French and Western European CEOs.

Mon Dieu!

The arrests, which an Uber spokesperson described as a “hearing”, capped off days of protests against the ride-sharing company which were sparked by the launch of its UberPop service (think UberX). Traditional taxi companies and taxi license holders were incensed that Uber operated their cars under a VTC license, or a tourism vehicle with a driver license.

The government not only scooped up Thibaut Simphal (Uber’s French honcho) and Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty (the Western European chief), but it also announced it was dissolving the company and it was under criminal investigation. About 200 police are now tracking down Uber drivers.

Gareth Mead, an Uber spokesman, told Arstechinca, “We are always happy to answer questions the authorities have about our service—and look forward to resolving these issues. Those discussions are ongoing. In the meantime, we’re continuing to ensure the safety of our riders and drivers in France given last week’s disturbances.”

Looks like there’s going to be a whole lot of explaining to do.

Via Ars Technica. Photo by Monika Hoinkis/flickr.

OPM Hack Causing Greater Harm than Snowden’s Leaks to Intelligence Agencies

The federal government’s Office of Personnel Management leak went from worse to catastrophic. The number of people affected grows with each new report and it may put millions of people who have a security clearance or who’ve applied for clearance in jeopardy of blackmail or — worse — being turned by foreign governments.

Revealed during congressional hearings into the matter, Donna Seymour, the CIO for OMB, said that “clearance adjudication information” had been compromised. In plain English, this all the potentially dirty laundry has that was brought up during the process of vetting someone for a security clearance is in the wind.

Applying for a security clearance is along and expensive process. Investigators go through the candidate’s personal life, finances and co-workers/supervisors to get a complete picture as to who the person is. They’re not just looking for personal beliefs that would make some susceptible to spying for a foreign government — they’re looking for situations the person may be in that would make them vulnerable to blackmail or financial temptation.

If the person has problems with money or is struggling with a drug or gambling addiction, they’ll be likely to sell secrets for money. If they’re an having affair or engaging compromising behavior, they’re open to blackmail.

All of these potential problems go into what’s called “adjudication”, in which investigators decide if the person’s finances and personal life are a threat and whether they should be granted a security clearance. Greater access means digging deeper with more details. Polygraph tests, in which the person is bluntly ask extremely sensitive and personal information, are also part of the file.

The information gained in the hack is a virtual laundry list of weaknesses and temptations for anyone who has access to sensitive government information.

Via The Daily Beast

T-Mobile Introduces Smartphone Leases with JUMP! On Demand

No matter what kind of fanboy you are (iOS or Android), chances are you’re the type of person who absolutely, positively needs the latest and greatest phone the moment it comes out.

This can be expensive. If you’re still on a subsidy plan, that means you probably won’t be eligible for an upgrade until the end of your two year contract. If you’re on one of the newer installment plans, you may or may not be eligible for an upgrade, and you may or may not need to put something down against the total balance of the device.

If you’re that guy or girl, chances are you’ve thought about the benefits of leasing. You don’t plan on having a phone longer than a year — and let’s fact it, getting the timing right of selling your old device to get the most you can on the second-hand market is a delicate balancing act. Sell it too soon, and you’ll be stuck without a smartphone for a few days to a few weeks. Sell it too late and you won’t get all you could have.

If only someone offered a leasing plan for phones, right?

John Legere, the maverick CEO of T-Mobile, apparently has heard the cries of smartphone nerds like us. JUMP! On Demand, will allow T-Mobile’s customers choose between “superphones” like the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy Note 4 and the LG G4. Qualified buyers will be able to walk out of a T-Mobile store (not Apple Stores and Samsung stores-within-a-stores in Best Buys) with a new phone for nothing down — not even sales tax — and a monthly fee, according to a press release from the company.

Customers on the JUMP! On Demand program (which begins on Sunday, June 28) can upgrade/change phones three times a year. There’s also fees if the device is damaged, so the company “suggests” that users on the program also obtain insurance for the phones.

Via T-MobileTMoNews. Photo by T-Mobile.

Drones Shuts Down Aircraft Firefighting Operations

Forest fires in California are serious business —  between the expected heat coming in the summer, the dry winters and the drought, the state is expected to be in for a long, hot season of smoke and flames.

One of the first large fires of the season is taking place outside of Big Bear in the San Bernardino Mountains, forcing evacuations and threatening thousands of structures. Dubbed the Lake Fire, airborne operations were cancelled because of two planes spotting a drone flying between them. A second was spotted over Lake Arrowhead.

The airspace over forest fires are designated as no-fly zones because of the air operations involving planes and helicopters and the low altitudes the aircraft are operating in.

Mike Eaton, a forest aviation officer for the San Bernardino National Forest, said between the “difficult terrain, difficult weather, winds,” the drones were a hazard and forced ending dropping fire retardant materials on the fire.

“We had to shut down subsequent missions that could have contained — possibly — that south side of the fire,” he added.

Via KTLA. Photo by U.S. Department of Agriculture/flickr.

Streaming Heats Up: Spotify Buys Big Data Firm Seed Scientific

With Apple about to enter its space, Spotify is hunkering down and spending money to shore itself up with the purchase of Seed Scientific.

With a client list that included Audi, Unilever, the UN and Beats (pre-Apple buyout, Seed Scientific is an analytics company that will delve into how bands, listeners and brands interact with Spotify — and only Spotify.

Possible uses for the data include identifying where a band’s fans are, aid in Spotify’s suggestions to its subscribers and improve the advertising reach of companies. “Seed Scientific’s team and technology will now become the foundation of a new Advanced Analytics unit at Spotify that combines cutting-edge math, science, design, and engineering to craft insights, models, and tools with data,” Seed Scientific stated on their website.

Spotify’s acquisition follows the announcement that Apple Music will feature exclusive tracks from Pharrell, as well as Google which unveiled a free, ad-supported tier and music to fit mood and activity on its streaming service.

Via Techcrunch. Photo by Sorosh Tavakoli/flickr.