One giant leap for drone kind. "Ingenuity has performed its first flight, the first flight of a powered aircraft on another planet." Those were the words earlier today of chief pilot Havard Grip at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The initial images from the 40-second flight are pretty choppy but you can clearly see the drone hovering above the surface of Mars as its rotor blades spin. "We've been talking so long about our Wright brothers moment on Mars and here it is," Ingenuity project manager MiMi Aung declared.
All we ever hear from you is blah blah blah. The race to recreate talk radio online continues to heat up. Scrappy early leader Clubhouse raised an undisclosed amount of fresh venture capital at a valuation of $4 billion. "Fundraising is only important because it allows us to keep focusing on the product and the community," the company said in a blog post that also makes the implicit point that details of the deal are not that important. Meanwhile Facebook is planning to unveil its audio plans later today, including something along the lines of Clubhouse's stage and audience chat rooms but also podcast listings and voicemail messaging.
Crypto drop a drop on you. Lead digital coinage Bitcoin was closing in on $65,000 a few days ago, but "crashed" over the weekend to around $57,000. Our Bull Sheet newsletter had this pre-world war analogy from UBS Chief Economist Paul Donovan: "If cryptos were currencies, this would constitute a hyperinflation to rival Weimar Germany. The volatility is just a reminder that cryptos are not currencies."
Floc off. Amid quite a bit of Sturm und Drang in the digital ad markets, some players are not taking kindly to Google's attempt to replace tracking cookies with a tech it's calling Federated Learning of Cohorts, or FLoC. WordPress is considering updating its popular blog hosting software to block the FLoC by default. Most browser makers have also said they will not add FLoC capabilities, though Google's Chrome, with its two-thirds market share, obviously will.
Liquid lunch. Those crazy chip heads at the Tom's Hardware web site are benchmarking the very latest silicon from Advanced Micro Devices and Intel. A system with two $8,000 AMD Epyc Milan 7763 CPUs crushed a system with two $8,000 Intel Xeon Platinum 8380 CPUs running the rendering program Cinebench. Perhaps more interestingly, the Intel dual CPU system was also crushed by a single AMD Threadripper 3990X chip, which costs just $4,000, though one that was being cooled with liquid nitrogen. Yes, liquid nitrogen. At -320 degrees Fahrenheit, that even beats Intel's hidden aquarium water cooler trick of a few years ago.
The deadly EVs. By the statistics, about 200 people died in automobile accidents in the United States over the weekend. Most will never be covered by the news. That isn't case for Tesla, where crashes related to its Autopilot driver aid feature make headlines around the world every time. It happened again.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Another big beneficiary of the pandemic lockdown was kid-oriented gaming platform Roblox, which went public the other day. But not all is well in Blox-land. Wall Street Journal reporter Julie Jargon found that young kids get mixed up with some inappropriately adult content. Roblox says it's working on a content rating system.
Some parents I spoke to have seen role-playing that involved rampant talk of sex and avatars bumping up against each other. I’ve seen it myself, and it made me wonder how much exploration is safe for young kids. Is this the 21st-century equivalent of “playing doctor”?
The difference here, online safety experts say, is that kids might not know with whom they’re engaging in such role-playing; it could be another curious 10-year-old or it could be a teen or an adult.
“It’s considered normal curiosity if they’re similar ages. But when the age disparity is more than two years, it’s questionable,” said Kristen Jenson, founder and chief executive officer of Protect Young Minds, a company that seeks to educate parents about the dangers of pornography and child exploitation.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
How one Silicon Valley company addressed its diversity problem—and got results By Alyssa Newcomb
Why Facebook and LinkedIn’s data scraping fiascos are a huge security problem for their users By Jonathan Vanian
Why a million and one startups all seem to do the same thing now By Lucinda Shen
Grab’s SPAC deal ensures founder Anthony Tan can outvote any outside investors By Gregor Stuart Hunter
One year into the pandemic, video game sales aren’t slowing down By Chris Morris
How Western Union went digital during the pandemic By Sheryl Estrada
The pros and cons of working remotely By Bill George
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BEFORE YOU GO
The Oscars are coming up and the Pressman family is woefully behind on seeing the top nominees. This weekend we caught up with Nomadland, the harrowing movie with a tech-adjacent theme about people who wander the country and work odd jobs such as filling in at Amazon warehouses in the busy holiday season. Frances McDormand gives an achingly stunning performance, one of her all-time best, but the stars of movie may be all the people who played parts but actually live that lifestyle in real life. Writer and director Chloe Zhao emphasized the personal aspects over the anti-corporate take of her source material, journalist Jessica Bruder's even more depressing book of the same name. A real must-see.