Facebook Launched Paid Online Events for Small Businesses

Facebook has launched a way for small businesses, creators, educators, and media publishers to earn money from the online events they host on Facebook. Page owners can create an online event, set a price, promote the event, and host the event, all in one place.

According to Facebook, combining marketing, payment and live video, paid online events meet the end-to-end needs of businesses. Pages can host events on Facebook Live to reach broad audiences, and Facebook is testing paid events with Messenger Rooms for more personal and interactive gatherings.

To me, the description Facebook gives this new feature sounds like it was influenced by COVID-19, and the limitations that small businesses are facing as a result. I also think Facebook had another reason for launching this now. Part of their post about it on Facebook Newsroom takes a swipe at Apple, and the company’s 30% App Store Tax.

Facebook makes it clear that they will not collect any fees from paid online events for at least the next year. For transactions on the web, and on Android in countries where Facebook has rolled out Facebook Pay, small businesses will keep 100% of the revenue they generate from paid online events.

We asked Apple to reduce its 30% App Store tax to allow us to offer Facebook Pay so we could absorb all costs for businesses struggling during COVID-19. Unfortunately, they dismissed both our requests and SMBs will only be paid 70% of their hard-earned revenue.

That’s definitely a “dig” at Apple – who is currently facing a lawsuit filed by Epic Games after Apple removed the iOS version of Fortnite from the App Store. The removal came after Epic Games added its own payment processing system into the iOS version of Fortnite. Apple appears to feel that in doing so, Epic Games violated Apple’s App Store guidelines.

It is good that Facebook is waiving the fees on the paid online events that businesses and creators host on Facebook. I find it interesting that Facebook promises to waive those fees for an entire year. It is unclear exactly what happens regarding those fees after that deadline ends.

Interestingly, Facebook appears to be taking this opportunity to try and paint itself as the “good guys” who just want to help out small businesses and creators. They look better than Apple does at the moment. The cynical part of me wonders if Facebook is attempting to use this situation as an opportunity to get out of the 30% App Store tax that Apple requires in order to allow Facebook Pay on the App Store.

Community Guidelines Stifling Free Speech #1467

Some very raw commentary on today’s show, the past 24 hours has been an interesting emotional ride creating anxiety in me that has never happened before. You have been forwarned. Of course our new conspiracy theory segment is alive and well.

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Meross WiFi Smart Plug with HomeKit Support Review

The fabled smart home as a building that responds your needs as they arise is still somewhat legendary and will likely remain so until the technology can be built into the fabric of the structure. Regardless there are many practical ways where the new technology can be used on a practical basis. For example, my living room uses a combination of overhead, wall and table lighting and in the past, I would have need to turn on lights at four different places in the room every evening. With smart technology, one of the lights comes on as dusk falls and the others will come on as someone enters the room.

For simple automation like this, one solution might involve smart bulbs such as those from Philips Hue or LIFX, but for floor standing or table lights, a good alternative is to add a smart plug which will do the on-off switching for you. It’s a pass through type device, so no re-wiring is need. Plug the smart plug into the wall socket and then the lamp plug into the smart plug.

And for the purposes of demonstration, here we have the Meross WiFi smart plug with Apple HomeKit support. This is a new iteration of Meross’ smart plug which now supports Apple HomeKit in addition working to working on Android phones via an app – look for HK on the end of the model name (MSS210HK) to be assured of HomeKit support. There’s integration with voice assistants including Amazon Alex and Google Home and the smart plug will work with Samsung SmartThings, which is great if you want to get into more complex automation later on.

As indicated by the name, this is a WiFi smart plug and connects up to any g/n 2.4 GHz WiFi network, which is what the vast majority of people have at home. No Z-Wave, ZigBee or hubs required here. The Meross plug comes in a fairly plain cardboard box and there’s just the smart plug itself plus two small leaflets…and I mean small. A magnifying glass might be required for those with less than ideal eyesight.

As the photographs show, this is the UK variant but it’s available to suit the wiring standards of many countries, including USA. The smart plug is white and plainly styled with just three notable features. One, it’s quite a big plug, so you may struggle to get another plug in to a neighbouring socket: best to check your socket positions. Two, there’s an on-off button with indicator light on the top, which is very handy if you need to switch the plug manually. Three, there’s a HomeKit QR logo and code stuck to the side of the socket, which brings us neatly onto Apple’s Home app.

Apple have made it extremely easy to add devices into the smart home solution. Using the Apple Home app, it’s simply a case of hitting “+” to add a device and then using the iPhone or iPad’s camera to scan the QR code. After a bit of chuntering between the iPad and the Meross, say, 30 seconds, the smart plug is setup within the Home app. Tapping the plug icon in the app turns the smart plug on and off in the real world. Job done and you can easily incorporate the plug into any of routines, scenes etc of the Home app.

Android users aren’t left out from using the Meross smart plug, though the process is a little less straightforward. The first steps are to download the app from the Google Play store and then sign-up with a username and password.  Adding a device through the Meross app starts with picking the type of device and there’s an initial negotiation between the smartphone and the smart plug which broadly concludes with you having to pick the WiFi network and supply the passcode. It’s not as slick as the Home setup but gets the job done. The Meross app offers direct control of the smart plug; scenes, which allow for setting multiple devices at once; and routines for turning devices on and off according to a schedule.

I was also able to easily setup the smart plug with both Alexa and Samsung’s Smart Things. For Alexa, open Amazon’s app and search for the Meross skill. Enable the skill and enter the username and password for the Meross system. Alexa will then search for new devices, which I find is a bit hit or miss, but eventually you’ll see the Meross smart plug in the list of devices. For me Alexa couldn’t find the smart plug initially, but it was magically there after restarting the app. I was then able to say, “Alexa, turn on living room lamp” and sure enough, the smart plug switched.

Integration with SmartThings was very similar but worked flawlessly in terms of adding and seeing the device straightaway.

Pricewise, the Meross smart plug with HomeKit comes in at GB£16.99 on Amazon.co.uk, which is competitively priced on its own, but note that if you don’t need HomeKit, you can get two Meross smart plugs for the same price. For a bit of extra discount, use the code O3ML85W5 at Amazon.co.uk which should be valid up to the end of August on both single and double packs.

The main takeaway for the Meross WiFi smart plug with HomeKit support is how easy it is to get setup on Apple, Android, Alexa and SmartThings. I was able to do all of these in less than ten minutes – if you don’t believe me check out the video below. The only downside I can find is the plug itself is fairly chunky.

Thanks to Meross for supplying the WiFi Smart Plug for review. The discount code provided above is not a referral code.

Xbox Series X Launches This November

Microsoft announced that Xbox Series X will launch in November of this year. No specific date was given, but its more information than we had before. In December of 2019, all we knew was it would available “holiday 2020”. That’s the good news.

The bad news, for Halo fans, is that the release of Halo Infinite has been shifted to 2021. Studio Head of Halo Infinite, Chris Lee, posted information on the Halo website.

The decision to shift our release is the result of multiple factors that have contributed to development challenges, including the ongoing COVID-related impacts affecting us all this year. I want to acknowledge the hard work from our team at 343 Industries, who have remained committed to making a great game and finding solutions to development challenges. However, it is not sustainable for the well-being of our team or the overall success of the game to ship it this holiday.

Microsoft points out that when Xbox Series X launches in November, it will have thousands of games to play, spanning four generations. It will also have 100 optimized for Xbox Series X titles. On day one, it will have:

  • More than 50 games planned for this year across generations and optimized for Xbox Series X, including Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Dirt 5, Gears Tactics, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
  • New games developed for Xbox Series X and launching with Xbox Game Pass, including The Medium, Scorn, Tetris Effect: Connected, and more.
  • More than 40 popular games newly optimized to take full advantage of Xbox Series X, such as Destiny 2, Forza Horizon 4, Gears 5, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Madden NFL 21, and more.
  • A shared library of great games through Xbox Games Pass.

It is reasonable that those who were really looking forward to the release of Halo Infinite will be disappointed that it is being delayed. They might be able to find something fun to play while they wait. If nothing else, the delay gives them something to look forward to in a world where COVID-19 has made things very stressful.

You Can Now Limit Who Can Respond To Your Tweets

Twitter has now made it possible for you to decide who can respond to your tweets. Twitter states that these new settings help some people feel safer and could lead to more meaningful conversations. It appears that the new settings reduce harassment on the platform.

Here’s how it works. Before you Tweet, choose who can reply with three options: 1) everyone (standard Twitter, and the default setting), 2) only people you follow, 3) only people you mention. Tweets with the latter two settings will be labeled and the reply icon will be grayed out for people who can’t reply. People who can’t reply will still be able to view, Retweet, Retweet with Comment, share, and like these Tweets.

Twitter started testing these options in May. Here is some of what they learned:

  •  These settings help some some people feel safer
  •  People told Twitter they felt more comfortable Tweeting and more protected from spam and abuse.
  •  Problematic repliers aren’t finding another way – these settings prevented an average of three potentially abusive replies while only adding one potentially abusive Retweet with Comment, And, Twitter didn’t see any uptick in unwanted Direct Messages.
  •  People who face abuse find these settings helpful – those who have submitted abuse reports are 3x more likely to use these settings.
  •  It’s a new method to block out noise – 60% of people who used this during the test didn’t use Mute or Block.

Twitter also found that these options enable more meaningful conversations. People who use these settings share more of their thoughts about topics such as Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, politics, and social issues. Make your tweet followers only – and no “reply guys” can interact with your tweet and derail the conversation.

Personally, I think these features are a nice addition to Twitter. It will reduce harassment in part because people won’t have the satisfaction of directly being mean to someone else. Based on Twitter’s research while they were testing these new options, it appears that those who want to be mean don’t seem to want to use the Retweet with Comment options to do it.

QAnon to be targeted by Facebook #1466

QAnon to be targeted by Facebook they are going to be going after the groups with yet to be undetermined actions. I suspect they will be removing groups and banning users for what they perceive to be false information and crazy conspiracies. With plans to treat them as they do today to anti-vaccinators.

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Qualcomm Wants Permission to Sell Chips to Huawei

The Wall Street Journal reported that Qualcomm Inc. is lobbying the Trump Administration to roll back restrictions on the sale of advanced components to Huawei Technologies. Qualcomm wants to sell chips for Huawei 5G phones.

Qualcomm is telling U.S. policy makers their export ban won’t stop Huawei from obtaining necessary components and just risks handing billions of dollars of Huawei sales to the firm’s overseas competitors, according to a presentation reviewed by The Wall Street Journal that the San Diego-based company has been circulating around Washington.

In May of 2020, the U.S. Department of Commerce unveiled a rule that expands U.S. authority to require licenses for sales to Huawei Technologies of semiconductors made abroad with U.S. technology. The rule greatly expanded the ability of the United States to halt exports to Huawei.

The result of the rule is that Huawei is running out of smartphone chips. The company no longer has the access to the manufacturing it needs to continue making the Mate 40s Krin 9000 processor. As such, supplies of the Mate 40 smartphone will be limited.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Qualcomm is arguing that granting it a license to sell chips to Huawei would generate billions of dollars in sales for Qualcomm and help it fund development of new technologies.

Qualcomm’s lobbying effort comes after a resolution of a patent-rights dispute with Huawei. Qualcomm will receive a $1.8 billion lump-sum payment from Huawei to cover previously unpaid licensing fees. The settlement includes a multiyear agreement to license Qualcomm’s patented technologies for Huawei use.

Based on this, it seems to me that Qualcomm will have a problem if it fails to convince the U.S. government to grant it the license it is seeking. I don’t see how the company could make use of the multiyear agreement with Huawei without having that license.