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Two Middle Eastern airlines are loaning laptops and iPads following electronics ban

Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways have both launched electronics loaner programs for passengers, flying in upper-class cabins on certain routes. The move comes after both the United States and the United Kingdom banned inbound travelers flying from a number of Middle Eastern countries from carrying electronic devices larger than a smartphone into the cabin.

Qatar Airways announced today that it will loan laptops to its business class customers on US-bound flights. Passengers can use USB flash drives to store their work, while banned electronic items will be collected at the gate prior to boarding and loaded on the plane as checked baggage. Upon arrival to the US, the electronics will be returned. Qatar is also offering one hour of free Wi-Fi to all passengers, with a $5 fee for Wi-FI across the length of the flight.

Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, announced earlier this week that its first and business class passengers will be offered iPads for use during flight, as well as free Wi-Fi for their smartphones.

It’s a clever way for the airlines to provide a competitive advantage, even as passengers are seriously inconvenienced because of security measures. A flight from Doha, Qatar to New York City can run more than 13 hours, which is a long time to go without a laptop or iPad, especially for business travelers.

The carry-on ban was put in place after security concerns were raised about electronic devices with explosives packed inside them.

Lyft pranked itself with an April Fools’ wearable thumb gadget

Starting today, you can hail a car on Lyft via a wearable gadget for your thumb. Only you can’t really do that because this is just a dumb prank. But wow, what a prank it is.

Lyft loves its pranks. Every year, the ride-hail company does something outlandish for April Fools’ Day. Last year, Lyft added something called “prank mode” to its app, allowing customers in NYC, LA, and San Francisco to embark on elaborate pranks involving fake radio stations, actors, and of course, Lyft Line. One such prank involved NBA star Festus Ezeli. Hilarious.

This year, Lyft outdid itself, but in doing so it revealed an inherent weakness: it doesn’t understand how pranks work. April Fools’ Day is about tricking a gullible public into believing something that is fundamentally not true. But when you go to extreme lengths to make the prank so believable that it becomes true, than it is you who has been pranked.

Which brings me to Mono, Lyft’s first wearable gadget. Before I explain anything about the Mono, please watch the video above, because it is amazing. Seriously, I could watch this dancer promote fake technology all day.

So as you can see, the Mono is worn on the user’s thumb, sort of like a Nintendo Power Glove but just for one digit. After downloading the Lyft Mono app (yep, there’s an app) and connecting it to your Lyft account, you can stick out your thumb on the street corner and hail a Lyft car. Like a hitchhiker, get it? Except not for free and infinitely less dangerous.

We interrupt this story for some photos of American fashion model Bella Hadid making an incredibly dorky piece of hardware look somehow… fashionable?

Here’s the thing about the Mono: it really hails a Lyft car. The thing works, like for real. Stick out your thumb and the motion-triggered, magenta LED lights come on. The lights blink to indicate a car is on the way, and increase in speed when the driver is en route, and pulse when he or she has arrived. Lyft took a goofy idea about an April Fools’ Day prank and dialed it to 11.

The company is holding a pop-up event in San Francisco today to show off the Mono to the unsuspecting public. Footage of people’s amazement about the existence of this gadget will no doubt be captured and edited in such a way so Lyft’s executives can watch it later and have a good laugh about how clever they are.

No, Lyft. You are the ones who got fooled. You spent good money (or maybe more accurately General Motors’ good money) to build a couple dozen wearable thumb gadgets that you never intend on selling. Remember GM’s Roboglove?

And what’s the ROI for April Fools’ Day pranks? Lyft wants to be the “woke” alternative to Uber, right? The friendlier, cuddlier company that people can use guilt-free because employees aren’t being sexually harassed and drivers aren’t being berated by the CEO and there’s even an in-app tipping option! How nice!

But that’s not enough for Lyft. They also want to be the weird uncle who does magic tricks every Thanksgiving. While other Silicon Valley startups have recently abandoned their whimsical, mischievous pasts in favor of a more buttoned-up facade for institutional investors, Lyft continues to lean into its commitment to totally messing with its customers. Zombies, chicken feathers, Delorean trips for Back to the Future Day. Lyft even as executive-level prankster whose job is to come up with new ways to mess with customers.

These are dark, strange times we’re living, so far be it from me to spend too much timing dismissing Lyft’s obvious devotion to mirth-making. I don’t want to be labeled an April Fools’ grinch. And who knows? Maybe there’s a market for thumb-exoskeletons that summon freelance drivers who will take you to where you need to go. People are cool with wearing cameras on their faces, right?

Those GoFundMe campaigns can’t simply buy Congress’s internet history

It's not like there's a shop where you can just walk up and say, I'd like that dude's internet history.
It’s not like there’s a shop where you can just walk up and say, I’d like that dude’s internet history.

Image: RICHARD DREW/AP/REX/Shutterstock

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. And of course, very often these days, crowdfunding campaigns, too.

You might’ve recently come across a link or eight for two different GoFundMe campaigns bouncing around the social web. Their aim? To crowdfund the purchase of members of Congress’ internet histories. Both campaigns were inspired by Republicans in the Senate and the House, who recently voted in favor of taking away privacy protections on your internet data, which were set up by former President Barack Obama. 

Obama’s privacy measures never sprang to life, though, because of the aforementioned vote by both houses of Congress. Now internet service providers can pimp out your data for the foreseeable future (assuming President Donald Trump signs the legislation, which he’s basically expected to do).

The two GoFundMe campaigns are a sort of populist revenge pipe dream. You think you can buy our data? OK, we’ll buy yours! And then, we’ll make it searchable, so everyone will see all the weird shit you like! And so on.

The first one was launched by Adam McElhaney, who says he’s a privacy activist and engineer. As of this writing, his campaign’s raised more than $160,000 out of an initial $10,000 goal, though the campaign’s corresponding website says the fundraising goal is actually $1 million

The website says he wants to buy the internet histories of “all legislators, congressmen, executives, and their families,” and doesn’t specify where the money will go if he doesn’t get to his goal, or finds the goal unattainable in some other way. We’ve reached out via multiple mediums to ask him a few questions, but he’s yet to respond as of this writing. 

The other campaign was started by Misha Collins, the actor of Supernatural fame who lives in Los Angeles, California. His campaign’s raised around $70,000 as of this writing, out of a stated goal of $500 million. Collins’s goal is to buy the internet histories of those who voted to rescind data privacy measures, and says money will go to the ACLU if he doesn’t reach his goal. 

But some cold water’s been thrown on those campaigns by a guy who wants to do something similar. Max Temkin, a co-founder of Cards Against Humanity, recently tweeted about his plan to buy Congress’s internet data and publish it “if this shit passes.”

Temkin called McElhaney’s plan a “scam” because McElhaney “cannot possibly” make the campaign’s promise come true. And while Temkin only tweeted this and therefore did not elaborate much, that sentiment has been echoed elsewhere. 

Techdirt on Wednesday wrote that a potentially fatal flaw in the multiple GoFundMe plans to buy the internet histories of members of Congress is that nowhere is there some kind of store that sells data on, say, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell in neat little packages labeled with their faces. 

Internet service providers suck up personal data so they can sell it off to whichever advertiser’s willing to pay the most to get their ads on your screen, but those service providers aren’t selling “Colin Daileda” (it me). They’re selling “a male probably in his 20s though he has gray hair so maybe 30s, likes Washington sports teams except he also likes the Dallas Cowboys for some reason, and has a habit of buying more books than can possibly fit in a New York City apartment.” And again, that data isn’t stored in a vial. It’s just sold to advertisers every time you visit a webpage with ads. 

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to figure out the internet history of Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell, it’s just a far more complex process than writing a check to an ISP. Or anything some cheeky GoFundMe campaign is so easily and readily capable of shoving back in Big Internet’s face.

WATCH: The ‘Deep Web’ installation is a ballet of high-precision lasers

The Galaxy S8 could be stupid fast on certain LTE networks

The super-speedy Galaxy S8.
The super-speedy Galaxy S8.

Image: lili sams/mashable

We now have documented proof that the Samsung Galaxy S8 is more than just fast — it’s like, gigabit fast.

T-Mobile dropped a video showing the brand new Samsung flagship being put through its paces on the carrier’s LTE network in its Bellevue, Washington research lab. 

The phone is able to hit some impressive download speeds, flirting with the gigabit barrier. 

OK, there’s a big caveat here: the test was conducted under lab-controlled conditions. You’ll never have a network connection like that out in the real world — but the potential for that level of speed is still tantalizing. 

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A good deal of that speed is thanks to the S8’s Snapdragon 835 chip, which has a X16 Gigabit-class LTE modem built to run at a gigabit pace. That means the S8 could be in the running for the fastest phone on the market. The S8 is also going to be among the first phones to support the LTE-U spectrum, according to Android Authority, which should put the phone in prime position once carriers start rolling out Gigabit LTE networks.

Chinese phone maker ZTE announced a device capable of gigabit speeds back in February called, unoriginally, Gigabit Phone, but we still haven’t seen that in action. 

The speed test wasn’t the only promo T-Mobile posted in the aftermath of the S8’s launch — the Uncarrier also released a ridiculous promo video of the S8 being unboxed in shark-infested waters because, you know, it’s EXTREME like that. 

There’s no word on the exact speed metrics the diver in that video was able to access as he tried to download a web guide on how to distract bloodthirsty sharks, but we’re guessing it wasn’t quite a gigabit.

WATCH: Samsung has unveiled the new Galaxy S8, and it’s beautiful

Samsung totally knew it put the S8’s fingerprint sensor in a terrible spot

The fingerprint sensor's location on the Galaxy S8 is right next to the camera. #facepalm
The fingerprint sensor’s location on the Galaxy S8 is right next to the camera. #facepalm

Image: lili sams/mashable

The single worst thing about the Galaxy S8 is easily its relocated fingerprint sensor. Whoever thought it was a smart idea to put it right next to the back camera should get a slap on the wrist because it’s just terrible.

Not only is the S8’s fingerprint sensor in an incredibly difficult-to-access spot compared to on the S7/S7 Edge, which had the sensor embedded into the home button on the front of the phone, but you’re also likely going to smudge the back camera with your naturally greasy fingerprints every single time you go to use it.

It’s one thing to feel like we’re just being dramatic and nitpicking on a design decision, but it’s another when Samsung’s basically telling people that, yeah, the fingerprint sensor’s off-center location wasn’t a smart idea, and you will indeed likely grease up the phone’s camera lens.

According to Android Authority, after setting up the fingerprint sensor on the S8 and S8+, a special note will appear in the camera app to — get this — remind you to clean your camera lens. 

The pop-up reminder reportedly reads: “A clean lens makes for better shots. Clean your camera lens to keep taking better pictures.”

Really, Samsung? This is just like when Apple told us we were all holding our iPhone 4’s wrong during Antennagate.

While it’s always good practice to clean your phone’s camera lens (or any camera lens, for that matter) to take better, smudge-free photos, reading between the lines of the friendly reminder clearly suggests the fingerprint sensor’s location was a compromise Samsung was forced to make because the technology to embed the fingerprint sensor underneath the glass display wasn’t ready in time.

Android Authority says the pop-up reminder won’t appear every single time you launch the S8’s camera, and it’s unclear how frequent it’ll show up and whether you can disable it to never show up again after the first time. 

We’re not saying Apple wouldn’t commit such a crime, but how can you not shake your head and LOL at the situation? Like, I said in my Galaxy S8 hands-on — you might want to remember to keep a microfiber handy (maybe find one that’s attached to a keychain or something) if you plan on buying the S8 when it comes out on April 21.

WATCH: Samsung has unveiled the new Galaxy S8, and it’s beautiful