Why the tech press reports smartphone good news like it's bad news

Smartphone shipments for this year will total 2.2 billion phones, which is a decline of 3.8% year over year, according to Gartner, which called it the “worst decline ever” for smartphone sales.

Worst decline? How about best decline?

Smartphone shipments are in decline, Apple revenue is in decline and Apple is discouraging third-party battery replacements.

This is all great news! Here's why.

Watch this epic TWiT (with Leo, Ant, Mikah and me!)

I got to be on This Week in Tech, hosted by Leo Laporte and guested by me, Mikah Sargent and Ant Pruitt (both of whom have been recently hired as on-air personalities on the TWiT network).

Leo wasted expensive brandy on us as we yammered away about Apple earnings, iPhone matters, R&D, the Apple credit card, face recognition for alcoholics, Chinese smile-to-pay, Elon Musk's Vegas hole, AI customer service hell, Amazon's police racket, Turkey's net crackdown, Facebook’s bad branding move, life-streaming funerals, Spotify, anti-social media addiction laws and more!

Watch the show and subscribe (wait, you're not subscribed?) right here!

Why face recognition's bad reputation shouldn't stop you from using it


Face recognition seems to be getting a lot of bad press lately. Advocacy groups are emerging to oppose the technology, and activists in many countries are pushing for bans.

Read my column.

There’s also some question about the hackability or spoofability of facial recognition, and stories are emerging that show how facial recognition authentication can theoretically be defeated. Another controversy has emerged over the sources of facial data for training algorithms; some researchers and organizations have been criticized because the faces used for the development of algorithms were pictures of people who did not give their explicit permission.

All of these concerns are valid. But they shouldn’t stop companies from moving forward on using face recognition for authentication and authorization for both physical and digital security.

Nobody doesn't love the Stone Crusher

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Donkey & Goat's amazing Stone Crusher is easily California's best "orange wine" (white wine fermented with the skins).

Made with Roussanne grapes (from the Rhone region of France) grown in El Dorado County at the foothills of the Sierras and aged 10 months in neutral French oak, Stone Crusher is refreshing like a white, substantial like a red and yet pairs with all kinds of hard-to-pair-with foods. (Full disclosure: I'm a minor investor in the winery.)

Orange wines are trendy now, but the 2017 vintage is the 8th year Donkey and Goat has been making Stone Crusher.

For God's sake do yourself a favor and join the Donkey & Goat wine club!

The internet is already the "splinternet." Yeah, I said it!

Everybody talks about the "splinternet" -- the idea of separate, national internets instead of one single global internet -- like it's a risk for the future.

It's time to wake up. The "splinternet" is here, and getting ever more splintered all the time. The web was never going to be worldwide. And pretending it is or will be is naive and dangerous.

Here's why the "splinternet" is actually a good thing.

My office today: Starbucks again

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I'm working on two columns at a Starbucks in Santa Barbara, California. As you can see, I've recently been using my Apple keyboard (which I prefer) with my Pixelbook (which I also prefer). With the pixelbook in this mode (the keyboard facing down and the screen propped up) I can place the screen in a better place (namely on top of my backpack) for ergonomics.

Would you sleep in the Wienermobile?


I would. With relish!

In a wiener-based publicity stunt, and for a limited time, you can rent Oscar Mayer's Wienermobile for the night on AirBnB. The wurst part is that you can rent it for just one night, for any of three nights: August 1, 2 or 3, (coinciding with Chicago’s Lollapalooza musical festival). So if you want to rent it, you’d better get your buns in gear. Frankly.

Why the main argument against space exploration is bullshit


You've heard the old refrain: Why should we spend money on a space program when people are starving here on Earth?

Superficially, the argument makes sense. It's easy to imagine taking all that money spent on rockets and astronaut training, buying food and handing it the people around the world who do not have enough to eat.

But once you look at the argument with any kind of depth and rationality, it's one of the dumbest things people constantly repeat.

First of all, and in the larger scheme, space exploration is cheap. NASA's budget for fiscal year 2019 is only $21.5 billion.

That's less than one-tenth what the US spends just on interest on the debt the government owes. We could pay for the space program by borrowing slightly less.

That's less than half what Americans spend on movies each year. We could pay for the space program by watching half the movies.

That's a rounding error compared with the amount Americans pay each year for pharmaceutical drugs ($1.05 trillion last year). We could pay for the space program with some minor tweaks to the pricing of drugs, or the over-prescription of drugs.

In other words, why is it falsely assumed that NASA's budget comes at the expense of food for the poor? There is a thousand ways to pay for NASA's budget just from the ridiculous waste and consumption elsewhere.

Also: Why don't people say we can't afford deficit spending because people are starving, we can't afford movies because people are starving, we can't afford predatory drug prices and over-prescription of drugs because people are starving?

More to the point, however, is that spending on space exploration actually feeds people and saves millions of lives. So called "spinoff technologies" are so valuable and great in number that they have their own Wikipedia page.

In other words, while we're trying to explore space, we have needed to invent medicines and health technologies, artificial limbs, transportation safety systems and literally thousands of other technologies with enormous human benefits.

Yes, of course, we should tackle poverty and hunger. The approach to do that is to get the money through boosting efficiency in government borrowing and spending, to boost the efficiency and impose rules on drug pricing and prescription and -- gasp! -- spend less on passive entertainment.

The other big way to tackle poverty and hunger is to accelerate invention and the development of life-saving technologies. And the best way we've ever found to do that is an aggressive space program.

Let's stop being dumb and stop using dumb arguments. Let's be smart and increase the space exploration budget by at least tenfold. We need robotic exploration, telescopes, moon bases and an ongoing mission to Mars.

Can you buy a holster for this new anti-drone pistol?


A new anti-drone device called the DroneGun MkIII is a lightweight drone-killing pistol, basically.

By aiming this pistol (with one hand) at a drone, the drone will either land straight down, or — say, if the drone contains a bomb — you can opt to have the drone return to its point of launching. Either way, video to the controller is immediately shut down.

Drone guns have existed for years. But this is smaller and lighter (4.3 pounds) and designed to be used like a pistol. It’s got a 500-meter range.

I want one. But I doubt it could get past airport security. (Especially if I’m wearing it in a holster!)

This new suitcase rolls like a Segway


The SuperCase is being billed as a “Weightless Suitcase.” The reason is that, like a Segway, it self-balances using a gyroscopic system. When you nudge the handle in one direction, the suitcase rolls that way under electric power. It’s wheels are in the center of the bag, instead of one side or both sides like regular wheeled luggage.

The SuperCase is still in early development. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, here come the videos!