The Tesla “Cyberwhistle” is proof that Elon Musk will practically sell you anything except actual cars…

[This is an Editorial. The views, opinions, and positions expressed in this article are my own.]

In the past two years, Elon’s become the world’s richest man, sent people to space, demonstrated the Boring tunnel in action, announced a sentient Tesla Robot, given his son a name that’s more secure than my Gmail password, shifted Tesla’s headquarters to Texas, bought a dog to manipulate cryptocurrency values, and spent most of his time awake being a Twitter troll. He’s also sold Tesla-branded tequila, and more recently, a Cybertruck-shaped whistle that’s unsurprisingly called the “Cyberwhistle”. In short, he’s done everything except actually sell new cars.

In my article back in May this year, I mentioned how Tesla’s not released a single new car (although they’ve announced a bunch) in the past two years. Elon even stated in 2015 that there would be fully self-driving cars (with level 4 autonomy) on the road by 2018, so the Cyberwhistle at this point really feels like everything’s a big joke. There’s absolutely no doubt Elon’s a visionary. However, a visionary who keeps making promises and claims that may sometimes take decades to deliver (if at all) is nothing more than a bullshitter… or in this case, as Benedict Evans so eruditely puts it, “A bullshitter who delivers”. Dare I say that if Theranos had 10-20 years to deliver on a technology they prematurely promised, there wouldn’t be any difference between Elon and Elizabeth Holmes. Elon announcing a Tesla Robot arguably 20 years too soon borders on the same sort of charlatanism.

The reason why Elon’s announcement of the Cyberwhistle really grinds my gears (no pun intended) is that it portrays him as a disingenuous CEO who isn’t even remotely apologetic for the truck’s major delays. In fact, it’s as if Elon is taunting the people who pre-ordered the Cybertruck in 2019, expecting it in late 2020, only to find that it’s almost 2022 and the truck’s nowhere in sight. Designed and marketed as yet another one of Elon’s many trolls (this time poking fun at Apple’s $20 cloth), the whistle’s shaped like the truck, comes made from stainless steel, with the same brushed finish as seen on the original truck. Once Elon tweeted about it, the whistle was sold out in minutes, reinforcing Elon’s cult of personality and that his Twitter account should really be regulated before he crosses a line like the time he called a deep-sea rescue diver a ‘pedo’, but more importantly, proving that Elon’s an absolute pro at selling practically anything from whistles to dreams… anything except actual cars.

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A floating cabin with a winding boardwalk is the magical winter retreat to help connect with nature!

Tired and fed up with their hectic city life in Miami, interior designer Stephen Peck and his husband John Messer decided to make a move. A move straight into the heart of the dense forests of Maine! Countless walks in their luscious green ten-acre plot in Maine inspired the final placement and architecture of their dream home – a quaint cabin that hovers along the edge of a serene pond! The home rests on piers that are supported by the forest floor, and it almost merges with its surrounding environment…except for a winding boardwalk that also floats!

The boardwalk is the star of this exquisite property, and it completely stands out! It connects the home and the parking area, and zigs and zags through the property, providing beautiful views of the pond, the forest, and the majestic granite boulders and ledges that are sprawled around the house. It’s like taking a peaceful walk in the forest, without the gnawing fear of losing your way! At the end of the boardwalk, the floating home is revealed. If you’re impressed by the mesmerizing walk to the house, then be prepared to have your breath taken away by the actual home!

Situated in a quiet and private location, this little cabin in the woods of Maine is as peaceful as it gets. The pond is quite secluded, hence it is free of noisy motorboats and pesky tourists. The height of the floating home provides unparalleled views of the pond and forest and also helps in capturing the breeze. Floor-to-ceiling windows and doors adorn the entire home, hence creating a beautifully open space, that perfectly captures the sunlight in the morning and late afternoon! Peck wanted to create “an experience within a space—keeping us connected to nature and the feelings of this site.” The floor-to-ceiling elements create a modern aesthetic but at the same time are durable enough to withstand Maine’s extreme weather conditions. They’re the perfect combination of functionality and aesthetics!

Peck also employed the help of principal architect Matt Elliott and project architect Isaac Robbins of Elliot + Elliot Architecture in the construction of his dream home. They helped him build a home from a mix of corrugated aluminum, black cladding, and large-scale cedar shake shingles. These materials and the floor-to-ceiling windows create the effect that the further you get away from the house, whether towards the pond or the parking area, the less you see of it (the house), or feel it around you. The house is divided into two buildings, which are connected by a screened-in porch. The building on the top functions as the main house, whereas the lower section functions as a guest house. It also includes Messer’s home office.

The interiors are refined and modern, while also managing to be relaxed and easy. A concrete fireplace hearth lights up the living room. It also subtlely extends to form a seating area for you to perch on, while views of the surrounding dense forest make you feel completely at ease and at peace. The bedroom is a warm and cozy place, where the couple loves watching the twinkling stars on a clear night!

This modern cabin in the rustic woods of Maine is the ultimate escape from the hectic city life! It’s exactly where I would want to be. It’s a place where one can truly be in solitude, without feeling lonely. “The draw of this place was being on our own,” Peck says. “Coming from a dense urban environment, we felt vulnerable to nature when we first arrived. And even though we’ve built a home that protects us from the outside, there is also a sense of not wanting to get too far away from it. When the sun comes up after a snowstorm, it’s really magical to be here, surrounded by the woods, with glimpses of the boulders and pond out the windows.”

Designer: Stephen Peck x Matt Elliot and Isaac Robbins of Elliot + Elliot Architecture

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Qualcomm is making 5nm ARM chipsets for Windows laptops

Qualcomm is expanding its lineup of ARM-based chips for Windows and Chromebook with Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 and 7c+ Gen 3 platforms. In addition, the company aims to power handheld gaming devices using Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 chipsets.

Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, which builds on last year's Gen 2, is the first 5nm PC platform, according to Qualcomm, which designed it with ultra-slim and fanless laptops in mind. It says that moving to a 5nm process node and other optimizations allowed for improved Kryo CPU performance while sustaining similar power consumption levels as Gen 2 chipsets. The company claims the chipsets will deliver up to 85 percent improved performance compared with the previous generation and up to 60 percent better per-watt performance than x86 chips.

Along with 5G and WiFi 6/6E connectivity, the platform is said to offer multi-day battery life, upgraded camera and audio functions and chip-to-cloud security. Systems with 8cx Gen 3 chipsets will be able to take advantage of "29+ TOPS of AI acceleration," which Qualcomm claims is three times the performance of "the leading competitive platform." The AI acceleration could speed up tasks like face detection and background blur on calls. In addition, Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 supports up to 4K HDR camera quality, and as many as four cameras.

Qualcomm also says 8cx Gen 3 will offer up to 60 percent improved performance over previous-generation chips during GPU-intensive tasks thanks to the Adreno GPU. You'll be able to play games in Full HD at up to 120 fps, and Qualcomm claims the platform is optimized to let folks play up to 50 percent longer "than certain competing platforms."

Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3 chipset.
Qualcomm

As for Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3, that platform's designed for entry-level PCs and Chromebooks, and it emerged only six months after the previous generation. It too supports 5G, both sub-6 and mmWave, thanks to the inclusion of the Snapdragon X53 5G Modem-RF system. You can also expect Wi-Fi 6 and 6E support. Qualcomm says the 6nm 7c Gen 3 platform will deliver up to 40 percent improved CPU performance and as much as 35 percent improved graphics performance over the previous-gen chipsets.

ARM-based Windows machines haven't exactly set the world alight, and it remains to be seen whether Qualcomm can help the Windows on Snapdragon platform turn the corner with its latest, more powerful options. Devices with Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 and 7c+ Gen 3 chipsets are expected to debut in the first half of 2022.

Qualcomm Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 chipset on top of a handheld gaming device.
Qualcomm

Elsewhere, Qualcomm is making moves in a new chipset category: gaming handhelds. It says the Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 Gaming Platform will support game streaming from consoles and PC, cloud gaming services and Android games and apps. The Adreno GPU can run games at 144 fps and at 10-bit HDR, according to the company, while the FastConnect 6900 system offers 5G mmWave and sub-6 and WiFi 6/6E connectivity.

To show off the platform, Razer collaborated with Qualcomm on a handheld gaming dev kit that's available to developers starting today via Razer's website. The device features a 120hz, 6.65-inch OLED display with 10-bit HDR support, four-way speakers and a built-in controller. The device can even be used for live streams that include audio and video feeds from players, since it has a 1080p 60 fps camera and dual mics.

Should Snapdragon-powered handhelds come to market, they'll be vying against the likes of the Nintendo Switch, Steam Deck, smartphones and tablets. It's a competitive sector, but one that's growing rapidly, so there might be room for devices with Qualcomm chipsets to carve out a niche.

A person sits on rocks by the beach, playing a game on a handheld gaming device created by Razer.
Qualcomm

Square is rebranding itself as ‘Block’

Payments firm Square plans to change its name to Block as cryptocurrencies and other blockchain technologies become a bigger part of its business. On Wednesday, the company announced it will move forward with the rebranding on December 10th.

“The name has many associated meanings for the company — building blocks, neighborhood blocks and their local businesses, communities coming together at block parties full of music, a blockchain, a section of code, and obstacles to overcome,” the company said in a blog post.

When Jack Dorsey co-founded Square in 2009 shortly after his first stint as CEO of Twitter, the company’s only product was its namesake card reader, which allowed merchants to process credit card payments with their phones. Since then, its business has expanded to include stock and crypto trading, money lending and more. This year, Square even bought a majority stake in Tidal. And it’s that expansion from that the rebranding is designed to encapsulate.

“We built the Square brand for our Seller business, which is where it belongs,” Dorsey said. “Block is a new name, but our purpose of economic empowerment remains the same. No matter how we grow or change, we will continue to build tools to help increase access to the economy.”

The move comes in the same week that Dorsey stepped down as the CEO of Twitter. Since 2015, he had led both Twitter and Square, a position that eventually led to pressure from activist investment firm Elliott Management. In a lot of ways, the rebranding is also reflective of Dorsey’s well-known enthusiasm for cryptocurrency. After all, this is the man who wanted the world to know he has a Bitcoin clock in his kitchen. He recently announced Square would build a Bitcoin hardware wallet, and “consider” a mining system.

The Nikon Coolpix 100 just got reimagined as a modern teleconferencing device and it’s honestly quite impressive

Nobody uses point-and-shoot cameras anymore… but everyone needs better webcams.

It took Apple till the year 2021 to realize that laptops need better webcams (a sudden push towards WFH culture definitely helped), and even though we’ve all got pretty great video cameras in our pockets, our smartphones are capable of so much more that it seems quite reductionist to use them as just ‘webcams’ during video calls… that’s where this Nikon concept steps in.

Smartphones practically killed the point-and-shoot camera industry, although there now seems to be a perfect niche for them to thrive – teleconferencing. The Nikon Coolpix 100 remake by Soyeon Lee and PDF Haus turns the consumer-grade camera into a nifty little webcam that’s perfect for video-calls. Originally designed to be a webcam specifically for home-fitness (virtual exercising, yoga, training), the idea of having point-and-shoots transition into webcams seems perfect for a whole bunch of reasons.

The Nikon Coolpix 100 remake is the perfect portable camera for a highly specific purpose. Laptop webcams are pathetic, smartphone cameras are for selfies, tablets are hard to prop up or maneuver, Polaroids are for hipsters, DSLRs are for professionals, and smart home cameras are mainly for surveillance… but the Coolpix 100 is perfect for just video conferencing. It comes with a pretty large lens and sensor that’s perfect for crisp, clear imaging, along with a swivel screen that’s ideal for alternating between landscape and portrait modes (plus it has a distinct Nokia N-Series vibe).

Designed to be just a really good camera, the Nikon Coolpix 100 remake is the perfect size and shape for its job. It’s slim enough for you to be able to carry it around with you, yet thick enough that it can be propped up on its edge and made to stand. The camera comes with laser autofocus as well as a flash for good measure, and is thick enough to house a battery that doesn’t constantly need to be charged every few hours. However, to charge it, the Coolpix 100 comes with its own docking station that connects to the camera via a USB-C port, located both on the bottom as well as the side of the camera, so you can prop it up any way you want.

The docking station, however, does more than just charge the camera. It even comes outfitted with a rotating turntable, allowing the camera to effectively track objects and follow them (just like the new webcams on the MacBook and iPad, but by physically panning the camera). The rear end of the docking station also holds space for remote triggers, really showing how the popular point-and-shoot camera can be easily optimized for a modern scenario, fulfilling the role of a dedicated webcam for easily teleconferencing from home. View the design project in its entirety on Behance here.

Designers: Soyeon Lee & PDF Haus

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Microsoft is testing a few ways to improve Windows 11’s Start menu

Microsoft isn't ready to backtrack on Windows 11's major design changes yet, but at least it's testing out a few new ways to customize the OS. With the latest Windows 11 Insider build (22509), you can have the revamped Start menu show more pinned apps, or more recommended apps and files, in addition to the default mode which balances the two. That's not a return to the Windows 10 Start menu that some diehard users have been clamoring for, and really, it's unlikely Microsoft will ever relent. Windows 11 prioritizes minimalism, and a busy Start menu filled with all of your apps doesn't really fit that mould.

Windows 11 Start menu options
Microsoft

Among other changes, the Insider build will also bring the date and clock back to the taskbar on additional monitor screens, something that was inexplicably removed in Windows 11. Microsoft notes that tweak isn't going to appear for every Insider user, oddly enough. It's a shame Microsoft isn't exploring more ways to customize the taskbar—losing Window labels has made my desktop cleaner, but harder to navigate compared to Windows 10. 

 The new Windows 11 Insider build will also it easier to use the Edge web browser while using Narrator, Microsoft's built-in screen reader. You can also expect to see more options moving over from the aging Control Panel, and into the cleaner Settings app. That includes Advanced Sharing settings, like Network Discovery and File/Printer Sharing. You'll also see more details about your printers and scanners within the Settings app.  

Mars Rover Curiosity Keyboard Wrist Rest Is Out of This World

Space: according to Star Trek, is the final frontier. And I learned everything I know from watching Star Trek, most importantly of which is always keep someone in a red shirt between you and an enemy’s phaser. But how can we pay homage to our current space exploration? Enter this Curiosity Rover wrist rest available from Vietnam-based Moon Key. Wait – where are all the aliens?

Available for $99, the wrist rest comes in five different widths to accommodate any keyboard and features a hand-painted Curiosity Rover cruising along the rocky surface of the red planet. I’m tempted to buy one, knowing full well it’s going to be hard to get any work done while constantly getting lost daydreaming about space exploration and making rocket ship noises at my desk.

As far as preventing wrist strain, there’s no question it beats my current wrist rest, which is none at all. Unfortunately, the strain causes my hands to cramp and requires me to take regular breaks from typing. Plus, my keyboard is missing keys, and I have to copy and paste certain characters from a notepad document I keep open on my desktop. Honestly, I should probably buy a book on productivity. You know, something to rest my coffee on.

Meta allows more cryptocurrency ads

Meta is backing away from its longstanding (if not absolute) ban on cryptocurrency ads. As CNBCreports, Meta has greatly loosened its ban by expanding the number of regulatory licenses it accepts from three to 27. The crypto landscape has "matured and stabilized" enough to justify the change of heart, the company said, including an increased amount of government regulation that sets "clearer responsibilities and expectations."

Advertisers still need written permission to run ads for cryptocurrency exchanges, lending and borrowing, crypto mining tools and wallets that let you buy, sell, stake or swap tokens. This does, however, open the door to cryptocurrency businesses that previously couldn't run any ads, not to mention would-be investors who might not be familiar with the market.

It's not clear if any additional factors played a role in the reversal, but the timing is notable. The shift comes just a day after Meta's crypto overseer, David Marcus, said he was leaving the company. He spent roughly two years trying to launch Meta's cryptowallet Novi, so far succeeding only with a small test run. The company's in-house cryptocurrency, Diem, has had an even rougher time —it has yet to launch following regulatory objections and scaled-back ambitions.

Meta isn't necessarily conceding defeat on Diem. That project is independently run, after all. This may simply reflect changing times. While cryptocurrency may still be full of volatility and regulatory uncertainty, the risks are now low enough that Meta isn't worried about problematic sales pitches.

Six state treasurers want Activision Blizzard to address its toxic workplace culture

Following scrutiny from state and federal regulators, Activision Blizzard and its CEO Bobby Kotick now face pressure from an unexpected source. Per Axios, state treasurers from California, Massachusetts, Illinois, Oregon, Delaware and Nevada recently contacted the company’s board of directors to discuss its “response to the challenges and investment risk exposures that face Activision.” In a letter dated to November 23rd, the group tells the board it would “weigh” a “call to vote against the re-election of incumbent directors.”

That call was made on November 17th by a collection of activist shareholders known as Strategic Organizing Center Investment Group. SOC, which holds about 0.6 percent of Activision stock, has demanded Kotick resign and that two of the board’s longest-serving directors, Brian Kelly and Robert Morgado, retire by December 31st.

“We think there needs to be sweeping changes made in the company,” Illinois state treasurer Michael Frerichs told Axios. “We're concerned that the current CEO and board directors don't have the skillset, nor the conviction to institute these sweeping changes needed to transform their culture, to restore trust with employees and shareholders and their partners.”

Between the six treasurers, they manage about a trillion dollars in assets. But as Axios points out, it’s unclear how much they have invested in Activision, and it’s not something they disclosed to the outlet. However, Frerichs did confirm Illinois has been impacted by the company’s falling stock price.

To that point, the day before The Wall Street Journal published its bombshell report on Activision and CEO Bobby Kotick, the company's stock closed at $70.43. The day California’s fair employment agency sued the company its stock was worth $91.88. As of the writing of this article, it’s trading at about $58.44.

The group has asked to meet with Activision’s board by December 20th. We’ve reached out to Activision for comment.

Congress quizzes Facebook whistleblower on potential Section 230 reforms

Frances Haugen, the former Facebook employee turned whistleblower, testified in Congress for the second time in less than two months. Speaking to the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, Haugen once again urged Congress to act to rein in Facebook.

Unlike Haugen’s last Congressional hearing, during which she briefed senators on Facebook’s internal research, Wednesday’s hearing was meant to be focused on potential reforms of social media platforms. Specifically, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the 1996 law that shields online platforms from liability for their users' actions.

“This committee's attention and this Congress' action are critical,” she said during her opening statement. But she also told Congress they should be careful with changing the law as it could have unintended consequences.

“As you consider reform to section 230, I encourage you to move forward with your eyes open to the consequences of reform,” Haugen said. “Congress has instituted carve outs to Section 230 in recent years. I encourage you to talk to human rights advocates who can help provide context on how the last reform of 230 had dramatic impacts on the safety of some of the most vulnerable people in our society, but has been rarely used for its original purpose.”

Pennsylvania Rep. Michael Doyle began the hearing by acknowledging the importance of Section 230, but said the courts’ interpretation of the rule should change. “To be clear, Section 230 is critically important to promoting a vibrant and free internet,” he said. “But I agree with those who suggest the courts have allowed it to stray too far.”

But throughout the hearing, there was little discussion of specific changes or potential legislation that would change 230. Many members of Congress repeated the need for bipartisan action, but there seemed to be little agreement on what actions they should take. Doyle noted in his opening statement that members of the committee have proposed four bills that would make changes to Section 230, including one that would limit protections for companies that deployed “malicious” algorithms.

But those four bills were barely discussed during the four-hour hearing, which once again, veered into other issues. Many Republican members on the committee opted to focus on “censorship,” and their belief that platforms like Facebook are biased against them. Haugen countered that Facebook could implement changes that would make the platform safer regardless of a user’s political beliefs.

“We spent a lot of time today talking about censorship ... what we need to do is make the platform safer through product choices,” Haugen said, describing how adding “friction” to resharing content could reduce the spread of misinformation. “We need solutions like friction to make the platform safe for everyone even if you don’t speak English.”

At one point, Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, appeared to grow frustrated. “I would like to say to this committee, you've talked about this for years, but you haven't done anything,” he said. “Show me a piece of legislation that you passed. 230 reform is going to be very important for protecting kids and teens on platforms like Instagram and holding them accountable and liable. But you also as a committee have to do privacy, antitrust and design reform.”