Trump “Approved the Deal in Concept” Between TikTok and Oracle



One day after the U.S. Department of Treasury stated that WeChat and TikTok would be prohibited in the United States, President Donald Trump has “approved the deal in concept”. The more I read about This situation, the murkier it gets.

The U.S. Department of Treasury posted a new statement:

The President has reviewed a deal among Oracle, Walmart, and TikTok Global to address the national security threat posed by TikTok’s operations. Oracle will be responsible for key technology and security responsibilities to protect all U.S. user data. Approval of the transaction is subject to a closing with Oracle and Walmart and necessary documentation and conditions to be approved by CFIUS.

Bloomberg has reported the following: “I approved the deal in concept,” Trump told reporters Saturday as he left the White House for a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. “If they get it done, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s OK too.” I have no idea what President Trump means by that.

According to Bloomberg, the new company will be called TikTok Global. It has agreed to funnel $5 billion new tax dollars to the U.S. and set up an education fund, which Trump said would satisfy his demand that the U.S. government receive a payment from the deal.

However, Reuters has reported that ByteDance was not aware that this deal involved a $5 billion education fund. On a social media post, ByteDance said it was the first time it had heard that news.

It gets even stranger. The Wall Street Journal reported that ByteDance would retain roughly 80% ownership of TikTok Global “according to people familiar with the situation”. Because ByteDance is about 40% owned by U.S. investors, the new company can be described has having majority American ownership. To me, it sounds like TikTok Global might remain connected to ByteDance despite this deal.

Bloomberg also reported that TikTok promised to hire an additional 15,000 jobs, more than the 10,000 positions the company already pledged to fill earlier this year. It appears that TikTok Global will be an independent company. And that TikTok Global “will likely” be headquartered in Texas.

TikTok stated that the proposal between TikTok, Oracle, and Walmart “will resolve the security concerns of the US Administration and settle questions around TikTok’s future in the US”.

How is Walmart connected to this deal? CNBC reported that Walmart said it has tentatively agreed to purchase a 7.5% stake, and CEO Doug McMillon would serve as one fo the five board members of the newly created TikTok Global company.

In a press release, Oracle announced that it was chosen to become TikTok’s secure cloud technology provider. Oracle said this decision by TikTok was heavily influenced by Zoom’s recent success in moving a large portion of its video conferencing capacity to the Oracle Public Cloud.


U.S. Department of Commerce Prohibits WeChat and TikTok



The United States Department of Commerce announced a prohibition on transactions relating to mobile apps WeChat and TikTok. This is being done in response to President Trump’s Executive Orders that were signed on August 6, 2020. The action by the Department of Commerce describes the decision as one made “to safeguard the national security of the United States.”

Here is a small portion of the Department of Commerce’s announcement:

…While the threats posed by WeChat and TikTok are not identical, they are similar. Each collects vast swaths of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories. Each is an active participant in China’s civil-military fusion and is subject to mandatory cooperation with the intelligence services of the CCP. This combination results in the use of WeChat and TikTok creating unacceptable risks to our national security.

Has the U.S. government ever banned an app before? If so, I don’t remember that happening. The thing that bothers me is that there are several social media platforms that collect the same kinds of data from American users, (but are not involved with China). My concern is that the prohibition on WeChat and TikTok could be used as precedent for the Trump Administration to ban Twitter and/or Facebook.

As of September 20, 2020, the following transactions are prohibited:

  • Any provision of service to distribute or maintain the WeChat or TikTok mobile applications, constituent code, or application updates through an online mobile application store in the U.S.;
  • Any provision of services through the WeChat mobile application for the purpose of transferring funds or processing payments within the U.S.

As of September 20, 2020, WeChat, and as of November 12, 2020, for TikTok, the following transactions are prohibited:

  • Any provision of internet hosting services enabling the functioning or optimization of the mobile application in the U.S.;
  • Any provision of content delivery network services enabling the functioning or optimization of the mobile application in the U.S.
  • Any provision directly contracted or arranged internet transit or peering services enabling the function or optimization of the mobile application in the U.S.;
  • Any utilization of the mobile application’s constituent code, functions, or services in the functioning of software or services developed and/or accessible within the U.S.;

CNBC reported that WeChat is owned by the Chinese company Tencent. TikTok’s parent company is Beijing-based Byte Dance. CNBC points out that the prohibition means Apple and Google will have to pull those apps from their libraries.


DOOGEE Adds S58 Pro To Rugged Line-Up



Hardly a day goes by at the moment without a new smartphone being announced and here we have DOOGEE, adding the S58 Pro to their rugged line-up. Unlike the average smartphone, the S58 would be entirely at home in a futuristic sci-fi thriller with its radical design, but closer to earth the S58 Pro is perfect for the great outdoors with advanced shock protection and IP68 water resistance.

For those unfamiliar with DOOGEE, the company is a Spanish-Chinese enterprise founded in 2013. The company claims to be the “world leading rugged phone brand” and their flagship tough phone carries IP68, IP69K and MIL-STD-810G certification. Sitting towards the lower end of the DOOGEE range, the new S58 Pro continues the tough tradition with IP68 certification and shock protection.

Let’s take a look at some of the specs. The S58 Pro is powered by a MediaTek Helio P22 octacore CPU with 6 GB RAM and 64 GB storage. For additional space, the Pro will take a microSD card up to 256 GB. The screen is a 5.71″ display with 1520 x 720 pixels giving 295 ppi. There’s a small pinhole in the top centre for the selfie camera.

Powering the S58 Pro is a 5180mAh high-capacity battery which supports 12V/2A fast charging, giving over 2 days of average use. In more detail, the phone will play video for 16 hours, games for 12 hours and music for 42 hours. That’s fairly impressive.

Returning the cameras, the S58 Pro a triple camera array on the rear, with a 16 MP main shooter using the Sony IMX298 sensor, a 2 MP ultrawide and a 2 MP macro camera. The selfie cam on the front uses a 16 MP Samsung unit. There’s nothing to write home about here, but it’s all perfectly acceptable for the price point. Also round the back is the S58’s fingerprint sensor which is easy to use while staying secure.

With the technical specs out the way, let’s look at what makes the S58 Pro a little bit special. On the outside, the S58 looks rugged right from the start. It’s protected by a high strength rubber more usually found in off-road tyres which helps provide 1.5 m drop-protection. The phone is certified to IP68 which means it can be used underwater or in humid environments and can be submerged up to 1m deep underwater for up to 24 hours or 1.5m depth for 2 hours. For the adventurous traveller, the phone copes with extremes of temperatures from 70°C to -55°C. That’s quite chilly. The S58 is available in Army Green, Fire Orange and Mineral Black.

Interestingly, the S58 Pro has an extra button on the side which can be customised to access seven shortcuts for apps. This can be changed by the user and includes turning on the torch, opening an SOS app, starting game mode, recording a voice memo, taking screenshots and turning on the underwater camera. I haven’t actually seen this feature in action but it sounds like it could be very useful if you’re trying to use the phone while wearing gloves or if you need to get at an app quickly.

In terms of pricing, the DOOGEE S58 Pro sneaks in under the US$200 and GB£200 mark, making it good value for an outdoor-oriented phone. The S58 Pro is available now from Gearbest and AliExpress for US$199.99 and from Amazon UK for GB£189.99.


Facebook Introduced Oculus Quest 2



Facebook introduced Oculus Quest 2, the next generation of all-in-one VR. Facebook says Oculus Quest 2 has a new all-in-one form factor, new Touch controllers and their highest-resolution display ever.

Quest 2 starts at $299 USD – $100 USD less than the original Quest. Pre-orders are open now, and Quest 2 ships on October 13.

With Quest 2, we’re taking things even further, starting with a multi-generational leap in processing power with the state-of-the-art Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Platform offering higher AI capability, and 6GB of RAM. The new display features 1832 x 1920 pixels per eye – our highest resolution display yet. With 50% more pixels than the original Quest, everything from multiplayer games and productivity apps to 360° videos look better than ever.

Quest 2 comes with new Touch controllers built to offer better ergonomics – inspired by their original Touch design – with the same intuitive controls that translate gestures directly into VR for unparalleled hand presence in virtual environments. They also optimized tracking to make it more efficient, delivering battery life that’s up to four times longer than Quest’s Touch controllers.

The Oculus website posted more information about some of the games that will be available on Quest 2. Here are a few of them:

Star Wars: Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge will allow players to explore the wilds of Batuu and the outskirts of Black Spire Outpost, the famed setting of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (at Disneyland and Disney World). This game will launch “this holiday season” on the Quest Platform.

Medal of Honor: Above And Beyond will have players storm the beaches of Normandy, aid the French Resistance, and liberate Europe. This game will be released on December 11, 2020, on both the Rift Platform and on Quest via Occulus Link (comparable PC also required). It also will be released on Steam.

MYST (from 1993) will be coming to the Quest Platform “later this year”. Built from the ground up for VR, this reimagined version of the classic puzzle game features updated art and interactions – and even an optional puzzle randomizer, for those who long ago memorized the island’s secrets and are looking for a fresh take on their Myst experience from 1993.

Overall, it sounds like people who love to play video games will have plenty of options this holiday season. It remains to be seen what gets the most sales – Quest 2, PlayStation PS5, or Microsoft’s Xbox Series S. I suspect that most people will not have the money to buy all of them at once.


PlayStation Announced PS5 will Launch in November



Sony announced that PlayStation 5 will launch in November. The price starts at $399 for the PS5 Digital Edition and $499 for PS5 with Ultra HD Blu-Ray Disc Drive. This puts PlayStation 5 at a slightly higher price than Microsoft’s Xbox Series S, which is priced at $299.

Starting on November 12, PS5 will be available in seven key markets: the U.S., Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea. The global rollout will continue on November 19 with launches throughout the rest of the world, including Europe, Middle East, South America, Asia and South Africa.

Preorders will be available starting today at select retailers. Sony recommends you check with your local retailer.

Sony is offering two types of consoles so players can choose if they want a digital-only experience, or a disc-based version. Both offer the same breathtaking next-gen gaming experiences.

Both models come with the same custom processor, with integrated CPU and GPU for high-fidelity visuals, including 4K graphics and ray-tracing support, as well as the same ultra-high-speed SSD with integrated I/O for lighting fast loading. PS5’s 3D audio and the DualSense Wireless Controller will also provide the same heightened sense of immersion on all PS5s.

Kotaku reported that Sony clarified that the trailer claiming that Demon Souls would be coming to PC and “other consoles” was a mistake. It will only be available on PS5. Other PS5 exclusive games include Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Moralas, and Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War.

As always, there will be a group of players who only play video games on PC who will be angry that they need to buy a PS5 for some games – or miss out on them. Those who enjoy playing video games on PC, consoles, and phones/tablets, are likely to be more receptive to Sony’s decision to make some games exclusive to PS5.


Apple Watch Series 6 Can Measure Blood Oxygen Levels



Apple announced Apple Watch Series 6. It features a Blood Oxygen Sensor and app. That addition was an excellent decision on Apple’s part considering that it appears that a low blood oxygen level might have something to do with COVID-19.

“Apple Watch Series 6 completely redefines what a watch can do,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “With powerful new features, including a Blood Oxygen sensor and app, Apple Watch becomes even more indispensable by providing further insight into overall well-being.”

The Blood Oxygen sensor compensates for natural variations in the skin and improves accuracy by employing four clusters of green, red, and infrared LEDs, along with four photodiodes on the back of the Apple Watch, to measure light reflected back from blood.

Apple Watch then uses an advanced custom algorithm built into the Blood Oxygen app, which is designed to measure blood oxygen between 70 percent and 100 percent. On-demand measurements can be taken while the users is still, and periodic background measurements occur when they are inactive, including during sleep. All data will be visible in the Health app, and the user will be able to track trends over time to see how their blood oxygen level changes.

A person’s blood oxygen level has important information not just related to COVID-19, but also to other health issues. Apple will be collaborating with the University of California, Irvine, and Anthem to examine how longitudinal measurements of blood oxygen and other physiological signals can help manage and control asthma.

In addition, Apple will work with the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research and the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at the University Health Network to better understand how blood oxygen measurements and other Apple Watch metrics can help with management of heart failure.

Investigators with the Seattle Flu Study at the Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine and faculty from the University of Washington School of Medicine will seek to learn how signals from apps on Apple Watch, such as Heart Rate and Blood Oxygen, could serve as early signs of respiratory conditions like influenza and COVID-19.

Apple Watch Series 6 (GPS) starts at $399 and Apple Watch Series 6 (GPS + Cellular) starts at $499.


Oracle Confirms Deal with ByteDance



Yesterday, Microsoft announced that its bid to buy TikTok from ByteDance had been rejected. It had been reported that ByteDance selected Oracle to be its technology partner for U.S. operations, but it was hard to confirm. Today, Oracle provided a statement:

Oracle confirms Secretary Mnuchin’s statement that it is part of the proposal submitted by ByteDance to the Treasury Department over the weekend in which Oracle will serve as the trusted technology provider. Oracle has a 40-year track record providing secure, highly performant, technology solutions.

CNBC reported that this deal still needs U.S. government approval.

The executive order that President Trump signed on August 14, 2020, required ByteDance to divest itself from Musical.ly (now known as TikTok). It must do so within 90 days of the signing of the executive order. Any data obtained or derived from the TikTok application or Musicial.ly application derived from users in the United States must be destroyed.

Later, CNBC reported that, according to people familiar with the matter, the proposal between ByteDance and Oracle would keep TikTok together under ByteDance’s operational control. Oracle will be a trusted technology partner who will store and secure the data within U.S. premises. TikTok said it is planning to disclose its algorithm to third parties.

ByteDance has submitted a proposal that avoids selling the U.S. assets or all of TikTok, CNBC reported. This doesn’t match the requirements in the executive order. That could mean that TikTok will soon have to close down within the United States. The longer this goes on, the messier it gets.