How Google plans to reinvent the user interface

Major user interface change is in the air.

When the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone 12 years ago, he also introduced to many the concept of the multitouch user interface. He emphasized the benefit of using “the pointing device we were all born with”: our fingers.

But there’s one thing even more natural than physically poking something with our fingers: in-the-air hand gestures. All humans use hand gestures to communicate to other people.

Now Google wants you to use them to communicate with all your electronics.

Google is working on something it calls Project Soli, which uses radar to control electronics with in-the-air hand gestures.

Soli is quite amazing, actually. Here’s everything you need to know about the future of using all your electronics.

My burrata and truffle pizza!

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OK, so we do a Provence Experience that includes the better part of a day hunting for, learning about and eating fresh truffles. Our truffle guy has an adopt-a-tree program, where you sponsor a truffle oak tree, and in return get shipments of fresh truffles.

We just got our shipment, so yesterday we had truffle cheese toast and truffle pasta. Tonight, I made a pizza with naturally leavened dough , burrata cheese and fresh truffles.

Amazing!

Why I don't trust OnePlus

Every once in awhile I let slip in conversation that I think OnePlus is an unethical company. My interlocutors are often surprised by this, and I'm often surprised by their surprise.

I thought I'd create this post to list what I believe are the best examples of OnePlus’ unethical approach to just about everything.

Here's my case against OnePlus:

1. They lied about their founding.

The company was founded by former OPPO vice president, Pete Lau, and former OPPO marketing chief, Carl Pei. They claimed to have left OPPO to strike out on their own, and they made a big deal about this "origin story."

When Lau announced the founding of OnePlus, he said: "Today is my last day at OPPO."

In fact, they never left OPPO.

OnePlus is a "private company." But 100% of the stock in the company is owned by Oppo Electronics. (OPPO itself is a brand of the Chinese electronics giant BBK Electronics, which sells products mainly in Russia, but also in the United States. In America, BBK products are sold under the Memorex and Philco brands.)

The whole purpose of this arrangement appears to be to create the illusion of a startup, when in fact it's owned by a giant corporation. So, rather than being an innovative, scrappy startup owned by its rebel founders, OnePlus is actually owned by a giant electronics manufacturer and the "founders" are mere employees.

(I don't mind the giant corporation. I mind the lie.)

2. They engaged in sexist marketing.

OnePlus has often experimented with aggressive marketing tactics. One of the worst was their "Ladies First" contest, whereby OnePlus called on women to draw the OnePlus logo somewhere on their body or on a sheet of paper and post the picture on social media. The company said that the 50 "most well-liked" photos (ranked by mostly male forum members) would earn a free T-shirt and permission to buy a OnePlus One phone at full price.

3. They engaged in wasteful marketing.

OnePlus initiated a "Smash the Past" contest. The company called on the public to capture video of themselves smashing their existing smartphone for the chance to win one of 100 OnePlus phones for a $1 each.

OnePlus convinced more than 140,000 people destroy perfectly good phones, unleashing toxic chemicals into the environment and wrecking phones that could have been sold or put into the hands of someone who needed a phone.

4. They shipped phones with hidden backdoors.

A security researcher discovered apps installed on OxygenOS-powered OnePlus phones called EngineerMode and OnePlusLogKit that could give hackers access to WiFi, NFC and GPS logs and enable them to root a OnePlus phone without unlocking the bootloader.

5. They lied to customers about sales.

OnePlus consistently uses fake "success theater" tactics to create the impression of wild success. The original sin of the company is to require invitations and artificial scarcity to make OnePlus phones hard to get.

But they also did this by outright lying about sales, telling customers in India: "Thanks for making OnePlus 5 the highest-grossing phone ever."

After getting caught, they claimed that the character limitations of SMS forced them to say "ever" instead of "in the launch week."

6. They were caught spying on users.

OnePlus was caught harvesting data on users, including phone locks and unlocks, reboots, IMEI numbers, phone numbers, MAC addresses and other wireless network data, along with the phone’s serial number.

7. They’re careless with customers’ personal data.

The company admitted in January of 2018 that a hack attack compromised the credit card data of up to 40,000 customers.

8. They were caught cheating at benchmarks.

And more than once.

XDA detailed how the OnePlus 5 review units OnePlus sent to reviewers was altered to cheat on benchmark tests.

9. They deleted negative reviews on their website.

OnePlus apparently and routinely deletes negative reviews on their websites, creating the false impression that all customers are happy with their products.

10. They lied about bezel size.

OnePlus marketed their OnePlus 6T smartphone on Instagram using doctored images that showed the bezel size as being smaller than it really is.

11. They achieved the fastest face unlock by shipping an insecure system.

OnePlus got a reputation for having the fastest-unlocking phone on the market for face unlock. But they achieved this by shipping a system that can be unlocked with a printed photo of the user’s face.

Face unlock is supposed to enhance security, not decrease it.

It all adds up

For some of these lapses, other companies have been similarly accused. For example, Samsung has been accused of cheating on benchmarks. LG has been accused of lying about bezel size, etc. But. to the best of my knowledge, OnePlus is the only company accused of all these things.

When accused of all these transgressions, OnePlus always has a story or reason or justification for why they're not really lying, cheating or being assholes.

They're like Facebook in that regard -- aggressively moving fast and breaking things, then apologizing or justifying when caught.

I think that it makes sense to avoid companies that lie, cheat and abuse.

Facebook pays phone makers to make the Facebook app un-deletable

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Can’t delete the Facebook app on your Android smartphone? That’s because Facebook paid the maker of that smartphone extra money to prevent the app from being deletable.

According to this very good article by Sarah Frier on Bloomberg, “Facebook declined to provide a list of the partners with which it has deals for permanent apps, saying that those agreements vary by region and type. There is no complete list available online, and consumers may not know if Facebook is pre-loaded unless they specifically ask a customer service representative when they purchase a phone.”

For non-deletable installations, Facebook says the app can be “disabled,” which means it doesn’t collect data, etc., but cannot be deleted.

I was on TWiT!

I got to be on the world’s best technology podcast, This Week in Tech!

The show featured host Leo Laporte and guests Iain Thomson, Alex Wilhelm and me!

We talk about Apples big iPhone problem.

We talk about Facebook and my Nicebook idea.

And we talk about Apple vs. Qualcomm, the big money in video games, China and security, AI and quantum computing, Amazon and Microsoft and more!!

And most importantly, we talk about a toothbrush that brushes all your teeth at the same time (under the category of “why CES sucks).

I saw Roma last night... In Roma

Roma is a neighborhood in Mexico City, and it’s where I saw the movie Roma. Mexico City is a character in this movie the way New York City is a character in Woody Allen Movies. They capture the vibe of the city exactly.

This is the best movie I’ve seen in a long time — easily the best movie of the year.

I love spoiling movies, but I’m not going to spoil this one other than to say that it’s incredibly true to life, beautifully shot and written and the acting is perfect.

I will warn you, though: It’s a tearjerker. That is all.

On the ethics of using Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger

Nobody wants to hear this, but by using Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger you are enabling, supporting and participating in:

Everyone complains about all this. But every Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger user is enabling, supporting and participating in the spread of these things.

Maybe it’s time to stop using Facebook services.

Merry Christmas from Mexico City

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Where they really know how to deck the halls.

How to optimize notifications for Google Photos

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I’m deleting Facebook. I’m replacing it with the “Sharing” tab on Google Photos. I think you should, too.

And if you do try this, here’s what you need to know about Google Photos notifications.

When you create a shared folder, you invite people to Join that folder. You can also get a URL so that anyone — including those who don’t Join, and also those who aren’t even logged into Google.

Other people may invite you to Join their albums, or they may send you a link to their albums.

The act of Joining an album simply means that you’ll be connected to that album in potentially three ways:

  1. Mobile phone notifications

  2. Email notifications

  3. You’ll see any album you’ve joined in the “Sharing” tab of Google Photos listed in order of most recent activity first.

If you’re annoyed by mobile phone notifications, you don’t have to “un-Join” albums. You can simply turn them off. Likewise for email notifications.

If you turn off both mobile phone and email notifications, you’ll see activity on the shared albums you’ve joined in your “Sharing” tab of Google Photos whenever you happen to open it. For many, this is the preferred approach.

Anytime you’re in Google Photos, you’ll see what’s called a “hamburger menu icon” in the upper left corner. This looks like three horizontal lines. Click on the “hamburger menu icon,” then click on the “Settings” option.

In a desktop or laptop browser, you’ll see the option for “Browser notifications” with a switch for turning those on or off.

In the Android Google Photos app, you’ll see under “Settings” “Notifications.” Tap on “Notifications.” Now tap on “Notification settings on this device.” At the top you’ll see “On” with a switch for turning on or off all Google Photos notifications. If this is on, you’ll see at the bottom a “Sharing” switch for turning “Sharing” notifications on or off.

In the iPhone Google Photos, you’ll see under “Settings” “Notifications.” Tap on “Notifications.,” then on “System notification settings.” Tap on “Notifications.” Now you can toggle the switch for “Allow notifications” on or off for Google Photos.

(Personally I keep mobile phone notifications off, but keep email notifications on.)

How to replace Facebook with "Nicebook"

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Many people would like to leave Facebook, but fear that leaving Facebook means losing connection with family and friends.

But that’s not true. You CAN leave Facebook and still stay in touch with your loved ones.

I call my replacement a “Nicebook” because if gives you all the nice things about Facebook (photo sharing, connection, liking, comments, etc.) without all the not-so-nice things about Facebook.

It’s just a shared album on Google Photos.

A shared album on Google Photos not only gives you the good things about Facebook without the bad things, it gives you other things Facebook cannot give you:

  • Photos are full quality, not made low-resolution like Facebook makes them

  • Share and connect with all the people in your life who are not on Facebook

  • Photos go to everyone, not just the 7% or so of the people Facebook decides should get them

  • No ads

  • No contributing to the massive harm that Facebook does to the world

The idea is: I create my “Nicebook,” and you create yours. By “joining” each others’ shared albums, we are connected exactly as we would be connected as “friends” on Facebook.

Here’s my Nicebook. Click on the link to join.

Here’s how to set up YOUR Nicebook:

  1. Go to the “Albums” tab of Google Photos, then click on the “Create Album” box.

  2. Give your album a name (I recommend your name, or something like “My Nicebook.”

  3. Click “Select Photos,” click once on one photo (just to get it started), then click on the “Done” button.

  4. Click on the “Share” button in the upper right corner, then invite your family and friends to join. (you can also click on the Facebook button to invite everyone from Facebook)

  5. In the future, you can just use the “Share” button on any photo in Google Photos. Click on “Shared Album,” then choose your specific folder.

  6. Add a caption by clicking on the “i” button on a photo, then typing in your caption under “Add a description.”

From now on, just use your shared “Nicebook” album like you used to use Facebook — share photos and comments, interact with people’s comments, and keep inviting people to join. Also: Encourage others to do the same.

Let’s get off Facebook, everyone, and share our photos in a space we control, without ads, filtering, fake news or other abuses.

​How I replaced Facebook with "Nicebook"

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I’ve used social since the late Pleistocene, and for a variety of purposes. I use social networks to:

1. Promote my work

2. Crowdsource ideas

3. Interact with readers about my work

4. Lifelog

5. Start and engage in interesting conversations

6. Share photography

7. Keep in touch with family and friends

I use my blog ( https://elgan.com ) and my Twitter account ( https://twitter.com/MikeElgan ) for purposes 1 through 6.

For purpose 7 — keeping in touch with family and friends — I’ve been using Facebook.

Because Facebook is such a toxic blight on humanity, I’ve decided that for me — based on everything I know about Facebook — that it’s unethical to support them with my participation. So on July 4, 2019, I’m deleting Facebook forever, along with the Facebook-owned properties Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.  

This keeping in touch business on Facebook is really just sharing pictures, with a little commentary and an occasional link or two. Then looking at my “News Feed” to see the posts my family and friends have posted.

It’s a trivial chore, but one Facebook has convinced us that can only take place on Facebook.

That exact same function can take place via Google Photos, and easier and with higher quality. 

Just like Facebook, you can set or not set notifications to alert you. And instead of a “News Feed,” you just check Google Photos’ “Sharing” tab.

I’m replacing Facebook with a single shared folder in Google Photos I’m calling “Nicebook” — it’s all the nice features of Facebook, without the exploitative, racist, disinformation, censoring, advertising and other not-so-nice features of Facebook.

Here’s my Nicebook: https://photos.app.goo.gl/UhHg6Qs5Jj4dGp958

The photos are much bigger and higher quality. And it’s far, far easier to post. I just share any photo in Google Photos to my Nicebook album, and everybody can see it in their “Sharing” folder. I can comment. My family and friends can comment. 

To be clear: Your Sharing folder in Google Photos replaces Facebook. It’s there where you can see who joined your Nicebook, who commented, and also to see the Nicebooks of other people you have signed up to see.

You don’t have to even have a Google account to see posts. They’re available to anyone you share them with. Google Photos gives you a link, which anyone can see.

You can choose to allow other people to post to your Nicebook, or not. If people are rude, you can delete their comments and/or block them.

Everybody’s on Facebook because Facebook has more than 2 billion users — a number that’s likely to include almost everyone you know.

My Nicebook can be shared with 7.53 billion.

Everyone who is on Facebook is on Nicebook, and literally everyone online who is not on Facebook is also on Nicebook.

If you switch from Facebook to Nicebook, you, too can be on a vastly larger social network, and without contributing to the damage the Facebook does to individuals, societies, nations and the world.

Let’s try this!