The A-Few-Billion-Dollars Edition Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Tech Giants Pledge Billions For Housing, But Will It Matter?, by Conor Dougherty, New York Times

Beyond public relations, the moves amount to a statement from some of the tech industry’s largest employers that they are starting to take a more active role in addressing the chronic regional housing shortage that makes their expansion difficult — not just for their employees, but for the public at large.

But don’t expect the money to make much of a difference. A few billion dollars doesn’t buy a lot in California’s punitively expensive housing market. Even if it did, the companies’ announcements were accompanied by crucial yet mostly unanswered questions like where, how and when this money will be spent. And as the Vallco struggle illustrates, the biggest question is the one California has long wrestled with: how to get much-needed housing built when local governments and homeowners do everything they can to prevent it.

What’s Missing From Apple’s $2.5 Billion Housing Plan, by Laura Bliss, Sarah Holder, CityLab

Apple’s state-wide affordable housing investments are meant to jumpstart shovel-ready projects on surplus land; the company wouldn’t comment on whether it would nudge zoning rules or pressure lawmakers to expand that surplus.

That challenge is clear in San Jose, where Apple has pledged to commit about $300 million worth of land it already owns to new affordable housing construction. But the North San Jose property is currently zoned for commercial projects, and when the company first bought the space, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo says he expected Apple would fill it with research and development offices. Changing the land use regulations and getting approval to build will be an involved process, Liccardo said.

Bernie Sanders Blames Apple For Silicon Valley's Government-Created Housing Crisis, by Chirstian Britschgi, Reason

There's also reason to doubt Sanders' commitment to abolish the necessary zoning regulations that would allow for a public housing construction blitz too. Mother Jones has deftly reported on Sanders' long history of demonizing developers and supporting local anti-development candidates, including some in San Francisco.

Sanders' criticism of Apple's housing initiative is not just misplaced, it's also hypocritical. Rather than a regime of price controls, tax increases, and government spending, fixing America's housing affordability problems requires letting free markets actually function.


Three Couples Test-run Millennial Relationship Apps, by Mary Huhn, New York Post

It makes sense that people who fell in love on Tinder and Bumble would turn to their smartphones for relationship counseling. But what about the rest of us? Are these apps actually useful to Gen Xers and baby boomers?

Because we weren’t ready to trust the young ones on this, The Post asked three non-millennial couples to test-drive three popular relationship apps for at least a week and rate them on a scale of one to four hearts. Here, our love-app guinea pigs detail their experiences — the good, the bad and the very, very corny.

ProtonVPN (For macOS), by Max Eddy, PC Magazine

You could be forgiven for assuming that a VPN from a bunch of CERN scientists who previously built a business around secure email wouldn't produce the most exciting VPN client for macOS. ProtonVPN surpasses expectations, however, delivering many privacy features in a smart, flexible app, that can be experienced for free or at several affordable pricing tiers.

OWC Debuts Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock W/ 10Gb Ethernet, eSATA, by Michael Potuck, 9to5Mac

While there are many Thunderbolt 3 docks on the market already, OWC has designed its latest release for professional creators and producers. It includes 10Gb Ethernet, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, CFast 2.0 and SD 4.0 card readers, an eSATA port, and more.

Apple Arcade: 'Sayonara Wild Hearts' Review - Pure Brilliance, by Mikhail Madnani, Touch Arcade

Simogo’s genre blending musical experience was a launch game for Apple Arcade and it remains my favourite game in the service and one of my favourite games of 2019.


Apple Caving On Hong Kong Shows The Limits Of Security As A Sales Tool, by Max Eddy, PC Magazine

I won't call Apple's decision to remove the the company's first, or even its greatest, moral failing. There have been others before this, and there will likely be more to come. It's also not the only company to have similarly failed. Google was criticized for removing a game where you played as a Hong Kong protestor, and various social media platforms are embroiled in roiling controversy over how they present information to users, and for what lengths they are willing to go to appease the Chinese government in exchange for access to its markets. Perhaps we shouldn't be looking to any for-profit corporations to fight our moral battles for us—but I digress.

What this sad drama does highlight is the tenuousness of privacy and security. A company can earn a sterling record of protecting its users and fostering exactly the kind of environment that makes people safer and allows them the freedom to speak their minds without fear of reprisal. Our connected devices, we're told by companies, aren't just products; they're supposed to make the world better. But even when a company, or an individual, uses all the right code and follows all the best practices, none of that matters if there aren't unwavering morals to back that up. It's deciding what is right and using the code to enforce those decisions that makes it all work.

Apple, TikTok Draw Congressional Rebuke For Sitting Out Of Hearing On China, by Tony Romm and Drew Harwell , Washington Post

Hawley also took aim at Apple, stressing its ties to China are “risking compromise with authoritarianism.” He raised iCloud, the iPhone maker’s cloud-storage service, which he said houses Chinese citizens’ data locally. Government rules require Apple to offer iCloud in this way, but Hawley charged the setup could undermine users’ security, echoing concerns raised by some human-rights and privacy advocates. Apple previously has said it advocated against the law but was unsuccessful.

“We’re accustomed in hearings like this one to hearing about Apple as a good corporate citizen,” the senator said, citing the company’s privacy practices. “But Apple’s business model and business practices are increasingly entangled with China, a fact they would rather we think not too much about.”

How Will Apple, Disney, AT&T And Netflix Retain Streaming Subscribers?, by Helen Coster, Reuters

Streamers are also being strategic about the number and timing of new releases.

“There has to be a cadence to the release slate so there’s something you want to watch coming out throughout the year,” said Fitch analyst Patrice Cucinello.

Bottom of the Page

I caved.

After reading and listening to all the reviews, I now own a pair of AirPods Pro. The excuse I gave myself: with noise cancelling, I will not need to crank up the volume during my subway + bus commutes, which means I may still have sufficiently good hearing for a few more years in the future.


Thanks for reading.