Amazon Considers Opening Cashierless Stores

Would you like to shop in a store where there aren’t any cashiers? You might have the opportunity to do so in the next few years. Bloomberg reports that Amazon is considering a plan to open as many as 3,000 new AmazonGo cahsierless stores in the next few years.

The Bloomberg article says this information is “according to people familiar with the matter”. To me, the news of Amazon considering adding up to 3,000 new AmazonGo stores seems plausible. There currently are three AmazonGo stores in Seattle, Washington, and one in Chicago, Illinois.

In order to shop at an AmazonGo store, you need to have a smartphone and the free AmazonGo app. Shoppers use the the app to enter the store. Once inside, the person can pick up items off the shelf the same way they would usually shop. Sensors and computer-vision technology detect what shoppers take, and then automatically bills them.

For some, this may be a big convenience. But, this convenience comes at the expense of others. Older people, who don’t use smartphones, can’t shop at an AmazonGo store. Neither can low-income people who can’t afford a smartphone or who struggle to pay for a data plan.

That might not be a big issue while there are only four AmazonGo stores. It’s going to turn into a huge problem if and when the number of AmazonGo stores grows to 3,000. The Bloomberg article indicates that Amazon wants to compete with convenience stores and places where people can get lunch or dinner quickly.

In other words, AmazonGo could, potentially, push out stores like 7-Eleven, and some fast food places. It reminds me of the Bodega that was designed to only be accessible to people who had smartphones.

In my opinion, it is immoral to replace stores where low-income people can shop with stores that designed to exclude them. It is also troubling that the AmazonGo stores, which have no cashiers, won’t be able to offer jobs to local people.

Sony PlayStation Classic Returns!

Sony PlayStation Classic Returns Dec 2018!

Taking a page out of the Nintendo playbook Sony is bringing back it’s original PlayStation Classic almost 25 years as it was introduced. Using modern electronics it will be a mini-me version 45% smaller than the original console. The device is going on pre-sale and will be available for $99.99. Fans can pre-order from Gamestop, Walmart, and Best Buy.

It will come pre-loaded with 20 games that defined the Sony brand from those classic days Final Fantasy VIIJumping FlashRidge Racer Type 4Tekken 3, and Wild Arms.  Sony says Visit for more details on regional availability, and they will announce on the Blog the full lineup of titles coming to PlayStation Classic

The accessory lineup looks great. It will be interesting to see if this is a popular Christmas item. If nothing else it’s a cool item to collect!


Geek News Central Video Presence

The goal of Geek News Central (Podcast) both the Audio and Video version of the show is to get the widest amount of distribution as possible, that ultimately brings the audience of the show back to the website where we have enough content to keep you coming back.

As you may have noticed that I have started actively blogging again. I am back as the main voice of all mediums of the site. For the past several years, I honestly have been too busy running Blubrry to focus on the written content here and that was a mistake.

So I want to talk about some changes I am making. First of all the goal now is to simulcast the live show to as many locations as possible. I will be employing a Wowza server to help with that distribution. So over the next couple of weeks, you will have multiple options to catch the show live and or watch post-show if you enjoy the video version of the podcast.

So let me outlay where you will be able to find the show live and in repeat post-show. Not all of these locations currently has every episode of the show but in short order, we will be on all platforms and possibly more.

Facebook (Personal)
Facebook (GeekNews)

Business Values Our Data. Why Don’t We?

Organisations love information about you. Everywhere you go, it’s sign up here, tell us about this and what do you think about that? Trust me, businesses aren’t interested in you for altruistic reasons: they either want to sell you stuff, or sell your information to other businesses who want to sell you stuff. Your information has value to them and they want it.

An email from a major UK hotel chain arrived in my inbox the other day, offering me an annual birthday gift in exchange for updating my profile with my date of birth. I imagine the gift will be a discount on a hotel stay around the time of my birthday but the email didn’t say. Perhaps not to be sniffed at but birth dates are often used as part of security procedures around bank accounts so it’s worth being cautious.

I think we’ve all become aware over the past few years how easily it is for big names to be hit with a data breach – Equifax, Yahoo, British Airways – and a hotel chain seems like a juicy target too. Wouldn’t be the first either. Lots of lovely customer information with credit card numbers.

Consider too that factual personal information like dates of birth can’t be changed. If a password is stolen as part of a data breach, the solution is to change the password. Credit card number lifted? A new credit card arrives in the post. There’s nothing you can do if your date of birth is taken. It’s on your birth certificate.

It’s not worth it. If the hotel chain wants my age band and month of birth, I’ll happily give it up for a discount, but when it comes to day, month and year, I think I’ll pass. You should too.

Photo by Rene Böhmer on Unsplash.

Study Shows Gender Pay Gap in Startup Founders

A study done by Carta, believed to be the first comprehensive public study of cap table (the capitalization table, which is a list of owners of a company) data by gender, revealed that the equity gap in startups is real.

In the Carta study, they analyzed a subset of Carta’s overall table data, which included nearly 180,000 employees, over 6,000 companies, and over 15,000 founders, with a combined total of nearly $45 billion in equity value. They found:

Employee equity:
Women make up 35% of equity-holding employees, but hold only 20% of employee equity.
Female equity-holding employees own just 47 cents for every dollar male employees own.
Women represent 29% of employees at companies with up to 10 employees. Female representation doesn’t exceed 40% until companies approach 400 employees.

Founder equity:
Women make up 13% of founders, but hold 6% of founder equity.
Female founders own just 39 cents for every dollar of equity male founders own.

Carta said they were only able to associate names to male and female genders, and were unable to account for non-binary people. They also were unable to identify people by ethnicity (because Carta doesn’t currently collect that data). I suspect that if that data were available, we would see that the gender pay gap is even worse for black women and hispanic women.

Overall, what the study found is that women are making less money in startups than are their male peers who have the same type of job. This isn’t done on accident. It shows that women who work in startups are intentionally being discriminated against because of their gender.

Image from Pixabay

Open Governance for AMP

AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages a protocol with some controversy and largely orchestrated by Google is now being essentially given back to the developer community in part by a new open governance that from initial reaction looks like the developer community is going to get behind.

For those of you that do not run websites what AMP does is essential in making ordinary website load much faster through mobile devices. While AMP has always been an Open standard up to this point Google largely dictated what got executed and when.

Google highlighted that 710 contributors, and 10,000 commits of which 78% came from other companies than Google. So these changes announced today look to be significant.  From their blog post:

Instead we want to move to a model that explicitly gives a voice to all constituents of the community, including those who cannot contribute code themselves, such as end-users. The change we are proposing is based on months of research, through which we’ve decided to follow the lead of the Node.js project and move to a consensus-seeking governance model.

The team that worked on the AMP Open governance model had a short list of goals.

  • Encourage a wider variety of voices at all levels of contribution, including code contributions, setting the future direction of AMP and deciding which features and bug fixes should be worked on.  This also means ensuring that the voices of those who do not contribute with code, but are nonetheless impacted by AMP, get heard.
  • Make it more clear how an individual and a company can have a voice in AMP, from approving code changes to setting AMP’s technical and product roadmap.
  • Avoid slowing down day-to-day work on AMP due to the governance model.  The net effect of changes to the way people work on AMP should be neutral to positive in terms of productivity.
  • Learn from what’s worked and what hasn’t worked for other open source projects.  To this end, the AMP team talked to people from projects such as Node.js and Kubernetes, looked at governance philosophies from places like the JS Foundation and reviewed a wide variety of other open source and web standards governance documents.

Overall this is a great move by Google and should hasten the implementation of AMP. See the full details of their announcement.

How to turn off your Kids Cell Phone

Ever asked the question how do I turn off my kid’s cell phone? Well, there is hope as Google has introduced Google Family Link which gives you parents a lot of power in controlling what your kids are doing on their mobile phones. Family link lets you set screen time limits, approve or block apps that can be downloaded from the Google Play store. Or best yet lock and or locate your kids through the device. Nothing better than the ability to exert control over the cell phone usage.

Family link is available starting next week additionally Family link is designed to work with anyone automatic for 13 and below and for those above 13, they have to mutually consent to allow parents monitoring and control of the phone. Teens that think they are slick and decide to opt out after Family Link has been enabled causes the phone to lock for 24 hours.

Parents can use Google Assitant to lock the phone. Have you every yelled you’ve got five minutes to go to bed? Well, Google Assistant will lock the phone five minutes after your initiate the phone lock. Now the kids can be mad at Google as well as you.

Having a third teenager in the home at this time with a cell-phone this added parental control is nice especially when it comes to an unruly kid. I am pretty strict on screen time as it is now and have some basic rules in place on apps and usage. Teenagers will be teenagers though and they will push the boundaries as far as they can like we all did. My dad hung the car keys over my head as an incentive. The modern equivalent is the lock phone command.

Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

Robocalls are Interfering with my Business

Robocalls are at a point where they are now interfering with my business largely because my team is on cell phones. Yesterday I received 14 business calls and 32 Robocalls and the volume is only increasing. My blocked number list has now grown to an ungodly size and due to number spoofing, they just spoof a new number. I can now detect a robocall with seconds of answering my phone. The high majority of these calls originate overseas and they always have some service to sell my business.

I have to watch myself as I answer the phone because when I pick it up I am assuming its a robocall and not a new or existing customer. With the ability of these marketers to spoof a telephone number it is nearly impossible to screen for them. When a call comes in from +100000000000 you know its a robocall, but when the number comes in from a normal number it’s really hard. With people refusing to leave a voicemail these days I have no choice but to answer every call.

It’s really driving me crazy because we have a distributed work-force the high majority of my team are on cellphones. It gets worse the marketers are now even targeting our 800 number which gets a handful of these calls a day. I am not alone, talking with other business owners their frustration has grown as well. Today I looked at the iOS App Store and of course, all the Robo blockers are premium. Makes you wonder if they are not in cahoots.  In a future article, I will discuss whether the app I found and am paying for has helped or not. The only way to fight fire is with fire using the tech at our disposal to try and get the upper hand on these bad characters.

The National do not call list only really works on legitimate companies that are following the rules. The bigger issue is the off-shore folks that have 1000’s of people in phone centers who are trying to get you on the line long enough to do their pitch. I am sure it’s a numbers game to them but it sure drives me insane.

Alexa Controls Optoma UHD51A Data Projector

Amazon might be planning a plethora of Alex-enabled devices over the coming months (according to CNBC and covered by Todd), but Optoma’s voice control into their HD projectors right now. Here’s the Alexa-supported 4K Ultra HD projector, UHD51A.

To get the boring out the way, the UHD51A is a very capable ultra HD DLP (digital light processing) projector with a resolution of 3840×2160, pushing out 2400 lumens, with High Dynamic Range (HDR) compatibility, two HDMI ports and HDCP 2.2 support. A 3000 lumens version is available in the US but not the UK.

The exciting bit is that the UHD51A can be controlled by Alexa with a range voice commands to manage both the projector itself and media playback.Here are some examples.

Alexa, turn on/off <projector name>
Alexa, change volume to 8 on <projector name>
Alexa, change input to HDMI 2 on <projector name>
Alexa, change input to VGA on <projector name>

For the built-in USB media player

Alexa, play on <projector name>
Alexa, pause on <projector name>
Alexa, next on <projector name>
Alexa, rewind on <projector name>

To be clear, the projector doesn’t have Alexa built-in and you do need an Echo or Dot to work alongside the projector, but it’s still pretty cool.

If you want to voice control your video, the Optoma UHD51A will set you back about US$1,699 or GB£1,549 on Amazon at time of writing.

Amazon Reviews Removed by Bribe? #1313

Amazon Reviews apparently can be manipulated by a simple bribe. Goes to show you that Amazon is likely not paying their employees enough if a payment from $80 to $2000 can get sales reports, negative reviews removed and a whole bevy of nefarious things. Tonight I cover that and other top stories and lay out some re-involvement I am going to have in the content of the website. It is time my voice was back on the front page of the website along with my writing team. Lots more to come here as I re-inject myself beyond the show recording.

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