Tesla is prohibiting commercial drivers from using its Supercharger stations

If you use your Tesla for your job, you won’t be able to use the company’s Supercharger stations anymore. The company recently released a new policy called Supercharger Fair Use, which prohibits commercial drivers from using the red-and-white charging ports.

Tesla has been working to expand its network of charging stations, announcing in April that it hoped to have more than 10,000 Supercharger stations by the end of 2017. The expansion is needed to alleviate heavy traffic at the stations, which have become a congestion point for drivers. Last year, the company announced fees for charging, and said that it will begin charging drivers an additional fee if they leave their cars at the stations after they’ve finished charging.

Tesla says that the stations are intended for drivers who don’t have ready options for charging at home or at work, and that when they’re not used for this purpose, “it negatively impacts the availability of Supercharging services for others.” Thus, the new policy says that drivers who are using their vehicles as a taxi, for ridesharing, commercial delivery or transportation, governmental purposes, or other commercial ventures aren’t permitted to use the free stations.

The company tracks usage and driver behavior, and if they find that someone isn’t complying with the policy, they might be asked to stop, and simply limit or block one’s vehicle from the stations in certain instances. The policy went into effect on Friday, December 15th, 2017.

A Tesla spokesperson said that the company does “encourage the use of Teslas for commercial purposes,” and that they will work with drivers to find other places to charge their vehicles. The policy carve out an exception, saying that some stations might be excluded, depending on local circumstances.

Let’s talk about Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s most divisive part: porgs

Porgs. When fans spotted the diminutive creatures of Star Wars: The Last Jedi in the first behind-the-scenes reel, they were immediately divided. Some fell utterly in love with them, creating fan art, buttons, and shirts right off the bat, while others dismissed them as a cheap marketing gimmick for the inevitable batch of toys that would hit stores.

The creatures’ next appearance in the film’s second trailer showed off one squawking alongside Chewbacca on the Millennium Falcon, which only further entrenched both sides of the love-them-or-hate-them argument. LucasFilm seems to have realized the marketing potential that the little guys had: they released a bunch of toys for Force Friday II in September, Target raffled off giant plush versions to lucky customers who showed up at the store at midnight, and they appeared in a bunch of other TV spots in the leadup to the film

But now that we’ve watched The Last Jedi, we’ve finally seen just what role they play in the film. We sat down to figure out the film’s most essential question: are they worth the hype? (Some spoilers for The Last Jedi ahead)

Thuy: Can I say that the porgs were super cute and my favorite new characters? I already have a stuffed one at home.

Tasha: Sure, as long as I get to say I hated them. They have no purpose in the story but to sell porg merch. They’re basically an ad for Star Wars toys. They’re what the merchandising industry calls “toyetic” — something made to be a mass-consumable product first, and a character later. At least they aren’t a dominant part of the film, but I don’t get the affection people have for them at all. A colleague of mine even said they’re meant to replace Han Solo in this filmthey’re comic relief and they highlight Chewbacca, who’d otherwise barely be in the film — and that just seems like blasphemy. How can you see a hamster-eyed penguin as a replacement for Han Solo?

Andrew: One of the interesting things I learned about their inclusion in the film is that they were there to correct an annoying problem: puffins that live on the island of Skellig Michael. They were apparently everywhere on the island during filming, and the production team didn’t want to digitally remove them from the film, so they came up with a real-world stand in.

I think that helps to explain a couple of things about their presence: they’re fixing a practical problem, but presented a useful opportunity for something cute and toy-driven. Star Wars has always had some component that feels designed exclusively for toy sales, whether it’s the endless variants of Clone Troopers, droids, or ships that change from film to film. I see porgs as part of that. They don’t really do much for the story, but they add a bit of local … flavor… to the world as a large.

Tasha: Remember when George Lucas went back and digitally added womp rats hopping (or maybe womping) around Mos Eisley in Star Wars: A New Hope? People hated that, even though it was something else that just added a bit of local flavor to the world, and even though it was a relatively minor change. Here, it feels to me like the womp rats have taken over.

Andrew: Yeah, but these guys are cuter than rats, womp or otherwise.

Chaim: Sounds like you’d be interested in joining Chewie for some roast porg there, Tasha. I will agree that they’re in the film more for hype than to actually serve a purpose, but they’re pretty darn cute.

I would probably eat one anyway, though.

Thuy: But they’re sweet and fluffy!

Tasha: You know what else is sweet and fluffy? Waffles. And no one complains about people wanting to eat them.

Bryan: I’m hoping to start a string of Kentucky Fried Porg restaurants — who’s with me?

Tasha: I’m not only with you, I’m designing the restaurants like seafood restaurants, so there’s a tank of live porgs at the front of the house. They can give patrons puppy-eyes as they file in and take their seats. Everybody gets to select their own porg to eat out of the tank. Chewbacca will be avenged.

Andrew: This reminds me a bit of the Popplers from Futurama.

Bryan: Hmmm… maybe it should be a Kentucky Fried Porg N’ Waffles restaurant.

Andrew: I wouldn’t go to this restaurant. I found them utterly delightful in the film — they are really adorable, and even though they didn’t really serve a useful function in the story, I didn’t mind their presence. I might be predisposed to this: my son was extremely delighted with the porg in the film’s trailer and the short cartoons Lucasfilm released, and I ended up picking up a stuffed one for him earlier this fall. It’s become one of his favorite toys.

Bryan: That actually gets to my overall feelings with porgs, though. I think there’s a large number of people that love porgs not because the movie made them fall in love with the little critters, but because the marketing ahead of the movie made them fall in love with them. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself. I’m all for toys, tie-ins, and spending all kinds of money on Star Wars-related merch. (Don’t get me started on my lightsaber collection.) But liking a character based on the movie alone is a different matter. The crystal foxes are almost equally superfluous, but they serve an important story function in that they let the Resistance figure out how to escape from the base at the end of the film. Porgs are cute, but they’re ultimately just ornamentation.

Andrew: I agree, but in this case, if you’ve seen the trailers, you’ve pretty much seen the extent of their presence in the film — with one notable exception — and I’m guessing that even if they hadn’t been featured in the marketing, I suspect that people would still fall in love with them along similar lines. They’ll be compared to Return of the Jedi’s Ewoks, but they certainly had less function in the film than Endor’s natives.

Tasha: I don’t want to be too much of a curmudgeon about something that’s been inserted into the film for kids, and something kids actively enjoy. There’s just too much porg in the movie for me, for something with no story function. If they were like R2-D2 and BB-8 — cute and toy-friendly and kid-attracting, but fundamental to the narrative — I’d be fine with them. If they were like Salacious B. Crumb — weird and off-putting, but more a bit of oddball side business than the center of attention — I’d be fine with that, too. I just object to stopping the story flat for porg comedy business.

Andrew: One thing that I noticed in the film was that they were practical effects, but I found their movements a bit stiff and unreal, which was jarring. It threw me a bit. I felt like it would have been a bit better done like the crystal foxes, which were practically designed an animated, but scanned and rendered for the film.

Andru: I really loved that they were puppets and not computer graphics! It made it feel more like Star Wars. I don’t care if it looked less realistic. Maybe creatures just look more like Etsy crafts in a galaxy far far away.

Tasha: I’m also fine with them being physical, tangible objects. I’m always a fan of Star Wars getting back to its roots with practical effects. But it feels like the central debate here is one that’s plagued nerd culture for decades: the question of how much this kind of adventure story belongs to adults, and how much it belongs to kids. It’s at the heart of every debate over whether Batman should be grim and gritty and willing to kill people, or colorful and campy and willing to dance. It’s at the heart of the endless fight between fans who hate the prequel movies, and fans who grew up on them and embrace them. The porg face-off is fundamentally about whether comic relief and cuteness belong in Star Wars, or whether the series should belong more exclusively to the serious, straight-faced likes of Darth Vader.

Bryan: I’d break with you there slightly, Tasha. I’d paint this as a matter of tone. Star Wars has always had humor, starting with the (unintentionally?) hilarious whining of Luke wanting to go to Tosche Station to pick up power converters, or Leia’s sarcastic banter on the Death Star. But as you said, porgs — like Ewoks and Jar-Jar before them — often feel like they’re aiming for younger audiences, which can undercut the intended gravitas of other moments. The line’s not between funny and serious; it’s between silly and sarcastic. My personal favorite Star Wars gag is in The Empire Strikes Back, when Vader is talking to holograms of three of his lieutenants. An asteroid hits one of the ships, and the man disappears with an exaggerated wave of his hands. See, the Dark Side can be funny!

Tasha: I always felt the same way about Darth Vader prodding at Obi-Wan’s empty robe with his foot in A New Hope, after killing him. His helmet isn’t capable of expression, but I always felt a clear “Buh?!?” coming off him in that moment that seemed darkly comedic, yet entirely in keeping with the film. And in my review, I brought up how Star Wars has its outright funny moments, like Han Solo’s “We’re fine, how are you?” bit on the intercom. I’m on board with you about the difference between silliness (largely for kids) and sarcasm (mostly for older audiences). For me, at least, porgs are just silly.

But what if porgs aren’t as cute and goofy as we believe? What if we’ve been misreading them all along? The porgs’ biggest scene in The Last Jedi comes when Chewbacca is just about to chomp down on a roast porg, and a crowd of them gather around to stare at him with big sad goony-eyes. It’s natural to interpret that as them being forlorn and a little judgey about his dietary choices. But they seem to just be animals, and animals are traditionally more food-motivated than sympathy-motivated.

What if all those cute little porgs are giving Chewbacca puppy-eyes the same way a dog will sit beseechingly next to someone eating a big, sloppy, delicious-looking sandwich?

What if they’re just begging for scraps?

Bryan:

I, um…. Hrm.

So, one of the things that did stand out to me during the movie was why the porgs were totally cool hanging with Chewie in the Falcon after he’d cooked up a couple of their brothers. That doesn’t really track. But what does track is an off-screen scene in which Chewie shares the roast porg, bonds with the rest of the gang, and they all head out together for more culinary adventures.

Search your feelings, you know it to be true.

The 12 best apps of 2017

Just when you thought apps had gotten boring and derivative, developers have leveraged new technologies to breathe new life into mobile experiences. From games we couldn’t put down to powerful camera apps to augmented reality finally taking off, those little squares with the rounded corners on our home screens continued to surprise and delight us.

Whether it was record-breaking downloads or those hidden gems that just made our lives easier, these are the apps we loved most in 2017.

1. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Nintendo delighted fans this year with another heavy dose of nostalgia in the form of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. The long-awaited mobile installment in the Animal Crossing series, the game proved once again Nintendo can still capture our imaginations with old favorites.

iOS

2. Astro 

An email app with a chabot built-in. Astro takes a new approach to helping you stay on top of your inbox. The app has all the organizational features you’d expect from an email client: multiple inboxes, gesture-based controls, message scheduling, and the ability to “snooze” emails for later. What makes Astro stand out, though, is the built-in assistant that learns your habits and can help remind you to stay on top of your messages. Send it a few commands and it can unsubscribe you from annoying newsletters, remind you to get back to people, and manage your VIP list.

iOS, Android

3. Ballz

One of those frustratingly addicting games that you just can’t quite seem to put down, Ballz went viral even beyond Ketchapp’s usually reliable hit-making abilities. The game is simple — use your balls to hit the bricks — and yet it requires just enough strategy that it’s near impossible to put down. No wonder it spent weeks and weeks at the top of the App Store and Google Play, earning a near-perfect 4.5-star rating. 

iOS, Android

4. Clips

Something of a mix between iMovie and Snapchat, Clips is a new kind of video app for Apple. The app, which lets you create movies out of short clips, has a bit of everything: augmented reality effects, stylized filters, AI-powered automated captions, and, yes, lots of emoji. 

iOS

5. Datally

Worrying about how much mobile date you’re using seems like one of those problems we should be able to easily avoid by now, but too often that’s just not the case. And, depending on where you live, cellular data can quickly add up to a costly investment. That’s why Google’s data-saving app Datally is so dang useful. The app not only breaks down exactly how you’re using your data; it helps you prevent apps from accessing it when you don’t want them to. Meaning: No more surprise overages.

Android

6. Google Assistant

Yes, it was still a bit rough around the edges when it first launched, but the standalone Google Assistant app is damn useful, especially if you don’t already have a Pixel phone. Not only can the app help with standard queries you’d typically turn to Google searches for, it can tell you about what’s on your calendar, send messages, and control your music. 

iOS, Android

7. Halide

Most camera apps aren’t worth using simply because it’s just so much easier to stick with iOS’s default camera. Halide is an exception worth making, though. The app gives you full manual control over exposure, focus, ISO, white balance, and shutter speed with easy gesture-based controls that are meant to emulate old-school film cameras. 

iOS

8. HQ

Leave it to the founders of Vine (RIP) to come up with a trivia app that’s so much more than just another quiz game. Combining live video, cash prizes, and a charismatic host, HQ has taken the App Store by storm — inspiring hundreds of thousands of players to tune in and answer trivia questions at the same time each day. Yes, it still has some fail whale-like technical issues, and yes, some onlookers insist it’s all just a fad. But it’s also just incredibly fun — and remains one of the breakout games of the year.

iOS

9. Ikea Place

Augmented reality had a moment in 2017. Apple, Google, Facebook, and Snapchat all launched new platforms showcasing the tech. But even still, so much of AR is just plain gimmicky (looking at you, dancing hotdog). So it was even more surprising that one of the breakout AR apps of the year came not from a tech giant but from Ikea. The furniture company’s AR app, which lets you preview how certain pieces of furniture will look in your home, isn’t just clever — it’s actually useful. 

iOS

10. Super Mario Run

Okay, technically it launched at the end of 2016. But, considering the app helped propel Apple to its single biggest day of App Store sales at the start of the year, and later went on to be one of the most popular apps of the year, it’s safe to say 2017 was the year of Super Mario Run. Not only that, but coming on the heels of Pokémon Go, it further cemented Nintendo’s status as a (finally!) serious player in the mobile space.

iOS, Android

11. tbh

No matter how many people try and ultimately fail, it seems there will always be an appetite for services that gives us an unfiltered window into what our friends really think about us. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that tbh, an anonymous quiz app for teens, was almost instantly successful. But thanks to an innovative approach that focused on positivity, its developers proved that anonymity can be used as a force for good. It was so successful, in fact, Facebook snapped it up as part of its ongoing bid to win over younger teens.

iOS

12. Yarn

Part of a new breed of reading apps that are reinventing how young people read, Yarn quickly became one of the most popular apps in an emerging category known as “chat fiction.” The apps, which present stories as if they were SMS exchanges, have proved not only to be incredibly sticky, but extremely profitable. Yarn stands out because it mixes photos and videos into its interactive stories, making them all the more compelling.

iOS, Android

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Mark Hamill destroys the guy who killed Net Neutrality with an epic ‘Star Wars’ tweet

Net Neutrality is dead thanks to the Federal Communication Commission’s idiot chairman Ajit Pai, and Mark Hamill is pissed.

The Last Jedi star took some time out of the movie’s huge opening weekend to rip Pai a new one on Twitter, and man was it an epic diss of galactic proportions.

You may recall that Pai released a comically stupid video called “7 Things You Can Still Do on the Internet After Net Neutrality” the day before the FCC voted to kill Net Neutrality. 

In the asinine video, the Pai dresses up Santa, fidget spins, and wields a lightsaber while telling viewers that they’ll still be able to stream their favorite movies and be part of their favorite fan communities. Which is partially true, but also fundamentally dishonest: Dismantling Net Neutrality will hurt consumers the most. (Because who wouldn’t want to pay more to your Internet Service Provider for less, because they’ll control which content gets in the fast lane?)

Like so many Americans, Hamill has a message for Pai and his cronies, and it couldn’t have been delivered in a more perfect 254-character tweet, complete with vomit emoji and Yoda-isms:

Hamill mocks Pai’s dumb video and slams him as unworthy of handling a lightsaber because he’s a selfish person who doesn’t protect the interests of the people.

He then questions whether or not Pai had permission from John Williams to use a snippet of an iconic Star Wars in his video before ending the sweet burn with a Yoda-style hashtag: #AJediYouAreNot. If there was ever anyone who could decide who is and isn’t worthy of being a Jedi, it’s Luke Skywalker himself.

Hamill worded things nicely, but we have our own message for you: Go rot in hell Pai, you greedy SOB.

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Apple Maps can now find your gate (or the closest bathroom) at the airport

If there’s anything harder than navigating a foreign city, it’s navigating a new airport. Seemingly bigger than many small towns, the interior of one of these bustling structures often seems to be something of a city within itself. And while Apple Maps has long been in the business of helping us navigate unknown streets and avenues, it hasn’t always been the most helpful when it comes to helping us navigate terminals and gates. But that’s all beginning to change.

You can now check out the layouts of 30 airports around the world thanks to Maps. As it stands, most of the covered airports are in the United States, with the majority of major city hubs included in the new rollout. That said, a number of busy international airports have also been mapped, like Hong Kong International, as well as airports in Amsterdam, Geneva, two in London and Berlin, as well as a number of Canadian structures.

Completing an interior map is no small task — after all, you can’t just drive a vehicle an airport and take photos. Instead, both airlines and airports have to cooperate and collaborate with Apple Maps, and a number of in-person surveys were also conducted in order to provide accurate information. In fact, much of the data was collected by individuals roaming the terminals (a much safer alternative to cars).

In order to check out an airport, you’ll have to look for the “Look Inside” option within Maps. If that feature is available, tapping on it will give you an overview of a terminal’s layout. Everything is done in bird’s eye view — after all, most airports look pretty similar, so having the equivalent to Street View wouldn’t be all that helpful.

That said, you can see each gate highlighted in yellow, as well as key areas like check-in kiosks, baggage claims, and airport lounges. You can also look into restaurants (Maps also provides its location, floor number, phone number, hours, and reviews), as well as the location of the all-important bathrooms.

In order to accurately locate where its users are, thereby providing the most accurate information about their surroundings, Apple uses Wi-Fi points, which can triangulate your positioning. Apparently, this is accurate regardless of whether or not you’re actually connected to the airport Wi-Fi, which is pretty nifty.

You can check out all currently supported airports on Apple’s website

Editors’ Recommendations

Read an excerpt from Eliot Peper’s new science fiction thriller, Bandwidth

A couple of years ago, I read Cumulus, a self-published book by Eliot Peper. The novel follows three characters in a near-future San Francisco, which is divided into a super-wealthy tech elite and the downtrodden customers who use their services. It’s an engaging satire of Silicon Valley, and it put Peper on my radar.

In May, Peper will publish his second book, called Bandwidth. It’s about a near-future Mexico City lawyer named Dag Calhoun, who begins to question the world he’s making by representing high-powered tech and energy executives. When he’s almost killed in a drive-by shooting, he discovers that a group of activists have been hijacking digital feeds to manipulate public opinion and global markets, and revealing their existence could destroy the system he’s helped create.

Here’s an excerpt from the book, which hits stores on May 1st, 2018.

Dag Calhoun sipped his third macchiato and considered that fickle bitch, power. The creamy sweetness of the steamed milk cut the earthy acidity of the espresso. A solo bassist plucked jazzy scales in the café behind him. A balmy spring breeze ruffled Dag’s thick brown hair, the gust an unexpected blessing in this country ravaged by the twin specters of drought and violence.

From his seat at one of the sidewalk tables, Dag gazed at the professional dog walkers escorting the pampered pets of Mexico City’s elite. The park across the street was one of the verdant oases that made the wealthy La Condesa neighborhood feel completely isolated from the rest of the hustling megalopolis. Dapper professionals strode back from lunch meetings as preschoolers in color-coded smocks clustered around teachers in the dappled green shade.

History was badly plotted and written by committee. It lacked the narrative structure, moral fiber, and cathartic transformation that even the crassest feed serials took for granted. Visiting Distrito Federal never failed to remind him of the delicate, capricious cascade of events that had shaped the geopolitical fortunes of the Americas. That was why he was here after all, to rest a finger on the scale, to give history a nudge in the right direction. Or in his client’s direction anyway.

Sighing, Dag took another sip. Sometimes there was nothing for it but to revel in the ephemeral bliss of a perfect cup. This balanced roast teased his palate with notes of blackberry, tamarind, and maple sugar. His feed displayed the supply chain all the way through from the estate of origin in Aceh to the local microroaster. He made a mental note to tip the barista again on the way out.

His gaze slipped back to the elderly couple seated a few tables down. The woman had lustrous skin and elegant features that hinted at Mayan heritage. Her lanky partner’s high forehead, short-cropped beard, and dated-but-classy attire made Dag think he might hail from Ethiopia. But what really caught Dag’s attention was their dynamic. There was too much ambient noise for him to eavesdrop, but they exuded an intimate authenticity. His earnest enthusiasm. Her lopsided smile. The attentiveness with which he stirred two spoonfuls of sugar into her coffee.

Dag selected a toothpick from the small dispenser on his table. Then he spread out a napkin and dipped the end of the toothpick into the dregs of his macchiato. With utmost care, he lowered a single drop of milky espresso to the napkin. As soon as it touched, the fibers sucked up the droplet like a sponge. With a series of quick strokes, he used the tip of the toothpick to push, pull, and tease the liquid as it was absorbed. Then he dipped into his cup for another drop.

Trust emanated from the couple like scent off a rose. The generous, warm, unselfconscious trust that bound together people who gave more than they took. Dag tamped down a budding ache of jealousy. In his business, the vulnerability that trust required was anathema. It was a target painted on your back, a point of leverage others wouldn’t hesitate to exploit. He knew, because he exploited people for a living. Ambition did not tolerate exposure.

Chewing on the toothpick, Dag admired his handiwork. The lines were blurred, edges ragged where the liquid darkened the coarse weave of paper fibers. It was as distorted as a long-forgotten black-and-white photograph, warped by age and water damage. Nevertheless, something about the couple shone through the rough medium. Though it lacked mimetic detail, the sketch captured something essential about their rapport. The corner of Dag’s mouth quirked around the toothpick as he imagined the piece framed on the wall of some cosmopolitan gallery, effete hipsters hoping to impress each other by lavishing praise or ridicule on it as prevailing social conditions demanded.

Connection, coffee stain on napkin.

A shout from down the block caught Dag’s attention. A golden retriever was charging up the sidewalk, big pink tongue lolling out of its mouth, leash slapping freely against the pavement with every bound. Sliding out of his seat, Dag stamped down on the end of the leash as it whipped past, whistling to the dog so that it turned toward him in time to save itself from a violent jerk to the collar. As Dag knelt to retrieve the leash, the irrepressible retriever licked his face with instant affection.

A young boy sprinted up, put his hands on his knees, and gasped for air.

“¡Muchas gracias, señor!” he managed after a minute.

Dag handed over the leash and wiped the slobber from his face. “No se preocupe,” he said. “¿Escapar es vivir, no? Es un perro muy lindo.”

After scratching the beast’s head once more, Dag returned to his seat. It was past time. He crumpled up the napkin, tossed the toothpick, and scanned his fellow patrons. In addition to the loving elderly couple, there were a group of scruffy students working on some academic project, a pair of sleek housewives complaining about their respective au pairs, and his two bodyguards with their slick hair, tight-fitting suits, and hard eyes. They had swept this place before his arrival. And, as a matter of professional pride, Dag had arrived forty-five minutes prior to the designated meeting time. Hence the jittery thrill of overcaffeination. But the café now felt like home turf, and that slight psychological edge sometimes made all the difference in a negotiation.

There. A black SUV rounded the corner and pulled to a smooth stop in front of the café. A new duo of bodyguards emerged, heads swinging left and right, eyes hidden behind reflective sunglasses, weapons barely concealed beneath their chic blazers. Dag gave them a jaunty wave, which they ignored with professional stoicism as they cased the joint. Satisfied, one took up a position on the street corner while the other opened the back passenger door to let their employer out into the afternoon sunshine.

Federico Alvarez emerged, blinking away the glare as his eyes adjusted to the world outside the tinted cocoon of his vehicle. Once a professional soccer player, he’d let his body go to seed as his political star rose. Now not even his Italian tailor could hide his paunch. But he still moved with an athlete’s confidence, and his open face concealed his cunning.

Dag rose and smoothed his tie.

“Federico,” he said, grinning. “I was starting to think you had been sucked into the black hole of your beautiful city’s infamous traffic.”

They shook hands and embraced.

“Oh, Dag,” said Federico with a sad shake of his head. “One day I hope you’re able to set aside your obsession with punctuality. I swear that every time I visit those United States of yours, I fear that the entire population is living on the brink of cardiac arrest thanks to their uncompromising calendars. Cálmate, amigo. Estás en México. Relájate.”

They ordered a round of coffees, Dag starting to regret the volume of his previous espresso intake, and settled into the comfortable meandering banter that preceded any weighty discussion in this particular capital. Federico’s daughter had inherited his love for the beautiful game, and he described her recent victories in lavish detail. There were rumors she was in the running for a midfielder slot on the national team. His son was completing a degree in philosophy at Oxford and upon graduation would surely enjoy a fast track into the bureaucratic elite. They commiserated over the widespread destruction the latest hurricane had left along the Yucatán peninsula and traded self-deprecating anecdotes about romantic conquests long past.

Two café au laits and a croissant later, Dag made his move.

“You know why I’m here,” he said with an apologetic shrug. “The goddess of Silicon Valley is getting anxious. She wants to see progress.”

Federico’s forehead wrinkled. “Patience, my friend. Haste does not equal efficacy.”

“As you said before, we Americans have an unhealthy preoccupation with promptness.” Dag leaned forward. “And we cannot afford to lose momentum on this initiative. It’ll transform the country, empower your constituents. Think how much better prepared residents in the Yucatán could have been, and how much faster the disaster response time could have been, if the program was in place.”

Federico was a favorite on the field and in the feed. His storied career as a striker gave his personal brand as a politician an optimistic-populist sheen. Dag liked him. Federico was gregarious and well-intentioned. But what made him key to Apex Group’s strategy was the larger narrative that Federico’s legacy fit within: the story of a new tomorrow for Mexico, working toward a brighter future rather than returning to a mythical past. That paired well with Commonwealth’s campaign to expand its full-stack service offering here. Federico was moderate enough to be taken seriously and bold enough to set things in motion.

Dag’s employer, Apex, was the premier Washington lobbying firm serving major blue-chip clients like Commonwealth. Dag had spent more than a year cultivating Federico, advising him on political strategy, shaping the finer technical points in his proposed legislation—all on Commonwealth’s dime. The return on that investment would be extending its fiber-optic tendrils into one of the few countries that maintained independent and outdated telecommunications infrastructure.

“You know I want it as much as you do.” Federico’s tone was quiet, sincere. Bass notes dribbled out of the café as thick as molasses. Dag’s heart tap-danced a caffeinated syncopation. “But you know what’s at stake here,” Federico continued. “Getting this through despite . . . them—it takes time. And money.”

Dag arched an eyebrow. “We’ve provided plenty. Even you have to admit that.”

“Sí, sí,” said Federico, drumming his fingers on the table. “Of course. I don’t mean to come across as ungrateful. But a coalition is a delicate thing, and we have to go about it slowly and carefully, lest we invite retribution. I wish it were otherwise, but—”

“I’m here to deliver an ultimatum,” interrupted Dag, impaling Federico with the glacial intensity of his pale-blue stare. “We need to find traction. This is happening, one way or the other.” He held a sympathetic smile and understanding murmurs in reserve. Land the blow, then salve the wound.

A pained expression flashed across Federico’s face before he could replace it with the politician’s mask of professional neutrality. “Okay,” he said, “I’ll do—”

But Dag was no longer paying attention.

Behind Federico, the bodyguard posted on the corner dropped into a crouch as three ancient motorbikes accelerated out of the traffic surrounding the park and onto the café’s side street, tires squealing on blacktop. Belatedly, Dag saw that each motorbike had two riders and all wore ski masks. Even as the bodyguard’s hand darted toward his holster, a staccato burst of submachine-gun fire turned him into a bloody marionette.

“Get down!” yelled Dag as the world exploded into chaos.

Bandwidth will be released on May 1st, 2018.

Ford stages a homecoming — and brings the future to Detroit

Ford is going home, and taking the future with it. This week, the automaker announced plans to move its self-driving and electric vehicle units to its hometown of Detroit. The business and strategy teams for both divisions of the company will be relocated to the Michigan metropolis.

A large swath of Ford employees, including those associated with electric vehicle strategy group Team Edison, will soon be housed in a 45,000 square foot former factory; fitting, given the teams’ collective missions. Indeed, Ford noted in a release, the move “brings together Ford teams that are creating new business models in a resurgent, diverse neighborhood with industrial roots.” Located in Corktown, the new Ford location is slated to begin operations early in 2018, and will allow folks working on autonomous and EV technology to test their new developments in an urban environment.

“We’re excited to choose this inspirational location in one of Detroit’s resurgent neighborhoods to accelerate our work on electric and autonomous vehicles,” said Ford president and CEO Jim Hackett. “This move and our exciting Dearborn campus transformation are important steps as we move toward our aspiration to become the world’s most trusted mobility company – designing smart vehicles for a smart world.”

Ford is casting the decision to move two of its most innovative teams as a highly strategic one. Given that both units are focused on addressing mobility challenges including congestion, pollution, accidents, and other transportation headaches, it’s crucial that they be located in an area where these challenges exist (but can be solved). More than 220 employees will be relocated to the new Corktown office.

The new location will likely be the birthplace of Ford’s first autonomous vehicle, slated to make its debut in 2021. Not only will the car drive itself, but it’ll also be of the hybrid-electric variety, which makes the decision to bring the autonomous and electric vehicle teams together all the wiser.

“Having these teams together in a dedicated facility in the heart of Detroit is truly a full-circle moment for Ford,” said Jim Farley, Ford executive vice president and president, global markets. “It’s such a conducive environment for sharing ideas, for collaboration, and for accelerating our electric vehicle efforts. We have such a great team, and we’ll be hearing more from them in the coming months.”

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The composer behind the original Mega Man just released an incredible solo album

Manami Matsumae is most closely associated with a tiny blue robot. The Tokyo-based composer is best known for her work on the Mega Man series, having crafted the sound of the Blue Bomber’s original outing, and later contributing tracks to games like Mega Man 10 and the ill-fated spiritual successor Mighty No. 9. Now, after a career that has spanned three decades and dozens of games, she’s finally releasing her first solo album called Three Movements. And while it may not be associated with any specific game, the album is structured like a tour through the history of video game music.

Three Movements starts out with the kinds of tracks you’d expect from Matsumae. The opening is a trio of bubbly chiptune songs that sound like they’re ripped from some long-lost classic NES game. They even have names like “Select Your Hero” and “The Final Showdown” to drive home the video game vibe. But from there, the sound expands. “Aerial Clash” feels like a more modern electronic track, with a rapid-fire drum line moving the sound forward, and what sounds like police chatter overlaid on the music. But the addition of a retro-style synthesizer almost makes it feel like a track from a PlayStation-era racer.

It’s a slow and gradual shift over the album’s 12 tracks; one hinted at in the title Three Movements. The album opens with classic chiptunes, then shifts to more modern electronic music before moving on to the kind of epic orchestral sounds you’d hear in a Japanese role-playing game. There’s a big, powerful battle theme, and the kind of sweeping song you’d expect to hear during a particularly somber moment in a game. The three sections are divided by a brief, gorgeous two-part piano ballad called “Intermezzo.”

The individual songs on the album are uniformly great, but it’s this structure that really makes it special. It’s like you’re exploring Matsumae’s entire career while somehow listening to brand new music. The structure was, of course, intentional. “I want everyone to listen to the different styles I’ve experienced throughout the years, which is why I ended up creating my album in this fashion,” Matsumae explained earlier this month. It takes a very different approach, but Three Movements is reminiscent of the recent debut solo album of long-time Nintendo sound designer Hirokazu Tanaka, who blended classic chiptune sounds with a wide range of genres like reggae and electro.

For Matsumae, it’s been a long time coming for her debut solo work, but Three Movements is the kind of album that could only have been created by someone with her wide-ranging career. It takes decades of musical history and influences, and condenses them down into an eclectic, but cohesive aural experience. You can check it out now on Bandcamp.

Porsche’s Panamera hybrids are so popular that battery makers are struggling to keep up

Porsche has told Reuters that battery suppliers are struggling to meet the increased demand for the company’s Panamera hybrid sedan.

The Panamera hybrid combines a traditional engine with electrical propulsion, and has seen rapid growth. The company’s output of Panamera hybrids has doubled over the past 12 months. All in all, Porsche expects to produce about 8,000 of the hybrid sedans this year.

Gerd Rupp is head of the Porsche plant in Leipzig, Germany, where the Panameras are produced, and he said the company may face supply issues in the future. Porsche is keeping up with consumer demand, but there are limitations, due to the inability of battery manufacturers to make enough batteries. Rupp did acknowledge that the increased demand took Porsche off-guard as well.

“As a buyer we had originally projected different volumes (of battery systems needed),” Rupp told Reuters. “The effects can be seen in longer delivery times of currently 3-4 months for Panamera hybrid models.”

Since 2015, Porche’s parent company, Volkswagen, has been investing heavily in new automotive technologies, including self-driving cars and electric vehicles. Development of hybrid and electric vehicles in particular have become especially important as the EU is set to impose fines on auto manufacturers that do not improve their emission standards. By way of example, Audi recently announced that it might be facing one billion Euros worth of fines if it fails to meet EU’s emission standards.

Porche, one of Volkswagen’s most profitable brands, is investing about 1 billion euros in electric vehicles, including the Mission-E, its first purely electric car. The company is also considering a battery-only version of its popular Macan SUV.

Despite this increased investment, the one thing may delay the production of the Mission-E and other electric cars are the lack of skilled engineers needed to build them. Both traditional automakers and tech giants such as Google are working to create self-driving cars. In order to address the lack of skilled labor, Rupp says that Porsche has opened a new training center in Leipzig, where it will train current staff members to meet the changing demands of the auto industry.

“It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to find the right experts,” Rupp said. “We cannot completely rely on the open job market.”

Editors’ Recommendations

Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Tiny phones, trippy LED masks, and more

At any given moment, there are approximately a zillion different crowdfunding campaigns happening on the web. Take a stroll through Kickstarter or Indiegogo and you’ll find no shortage of weird, useless, and downright stupid projects out there — alongside some real gems. We’ve cut through the fidget spinners and janky iPhone cases to round up the most unusual, ambitious, and exciting new crowdfunding projects out there this week. That said, keep in mind that any crowdfunding project — even the best intentioned — can fail, so do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.

Radius — wide field mosquito repeller

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that mosquitos suck — in more ways than one. They spread disease, leave you with itchy bumps on your skin, and always show up uninvited to every outdoor gathering you attend. To make matters worse, there’s not much recourse.

You can light all the citronella candles and geraniol tiki torches you want, but those needle-nosed bloodsuckers will still find a way to bite you — usually in a place that’s hard to reach. The only real way to get them to buzz off is to douse yourself in DEET, and pray that you remember to wash your hands before you eat any hors d’oeuvres.

But what if there was a better way to keep mosquitos at bay? That’s exactly what Thermacell aims to do with it’s newest gizmo, Radius. It’s touted as the “world’s first rechargeable, EPA-approved, zone mosquito repellent.”

According to the creators, “Radius works differently than sticky sprays and lotions. Radius uses heat to activate a clean, scent-free repellent. Once activated, the repellent spreads out to create an invisible zone of protection. So instead of treating your skin and clothing with chemical repellents, Radius targets the mosquitoes themselves with a tiny amount of airborne repellent. You simply turn it on, and within minutes, the mosquitoes are gone.”

OneManBand — realtime digital backup band

Do you play guitar, but wish you had a backup band to accompany you? In the past, you only had two ways to solve this problem: either find other musicians to play with, or invest in a loop pedal setup and play your own backup. But now, there’s a third option: the OneManBand. It’s essentially a high-tech upgrade kit for your guitar.

Once installed, the system can read what you’re playing, adapt to it, and generate accompanying backup in real time. In other words, you just start playing, and OneManBand’s magical AI will start jamming with you.

So how does it work? According to the device’s creators: “OMB’s patented guitar uses unique hardware and software to enable guitar players of all styles and levels to skyrocket their playing experience with real-time backup music, instrument-swap mode, and a mindblowing guitar-to-MIDI mode. The unique technology utilizes capacitive and inductive tech to detect signals from the strings and convert them to digital data without any latency. By knowing what you’re playing, the app can convert that to MIDI in real-time and enrich your sound in a bunch of different ways. The guitar feels and plays just like normal; start playing and you’ll be amazed.”

Zanco Tiny T1 — world’s smallest cellphone

Remember the first Zoolander movie — aka the one that didn’t suck? In the film (which was released in 2001, a time when cell phones were shrinking rapidly), one of the running gags were the tiny cellphones that Derrick Zoolander and Hansel used to answered calls. They were outrageously small, and acted as a sort of trendy status symbol. The smaller the phone, the cooler the owner.

Anywho – if you saw those phones and thought to yourself “Damn, I really want a ridiculously tiny cell phone,” then we have good news for you. 16 years after Zoolander, somebody has finally created a phone that’s just as small as Derrick’s — and you can get it on Kickstarter.

The Zanco Tiny T1, as its called, is allegedly the world’s smallest mobile phone. According to the Kickstarter page, it’s “smaller than your thumb, lighter than a coin, and is ridiculously cute.” We can hardly argue with that last point.

As for specs, the company doesn’t list too much, but it does state that the Tiny T1 “will work with any mobile phone network. You can change the nano-SIM at any time if you want to change your network too. The tiny phone operates on the 2G network. The battery has 3 days standby and 180 minutes talk time.”

Morphcooker — electric camp stove

We covered this gizmo earlier in the week, so I’ll just let DT’s outdoor reporter Kraig Becker give you the rundown:

“Camping stoves come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from compact and lightweight, to large enough to feed an army of hungry backpackers. But few can offer the level of versatility of the Morphcooker, a new backcountry stove that recently launched on Kickstarter and promises to be a revolution in the way we prepare our meals in the outdoors.

The idea behind the Morphcooker came three years ago, when designer Lawrence Bass went in search of a safer way to cook at the campsite. His quest began after his father was injured in a fire that started when a faulty gas stove caught his tent on fire. It took 19 different prototypes for Bass to finally hit on a design that met his requirements of not only providing a safe way for backpackers to prepare their meals, but was also environmentally friendly and extremely adaptable too.

His final design comes in two different versions — the Morphcooker Solo and Morphcooker Family. At the heart of both models is an 8-inch silicone plate that serves as the hot plate, frying pan, and heating element for the pot and stove. The silicone is riding and firm, contains the heating element, and is powered by a rechargeable lithium battery. It also comes with a magnetic handle that can be swapped out with any of the various components.”

Sound Reactive LED Mask — light-up face mask

This one is pretty straightforward. It’s just a thin, flexible LED mask that has a number of nifty features, the most significant of which is its ability to “hear” incoming noises (presumably, loud electronic music) and automatically adjust the color, brightness, and strobe pattern of the LEDs to match.

Better yet, these masks are available in a variety of different styles, including a human face, a big cat (like a panther), a fox, and an ape. There’s really not much else to say, so we’ll let the creators from Outline Montreal tell you more.

“9000 years ago, the first mask was created,” the creators proclaim on Kickstarter. “Used to either disguise or reveal a personality trait, masks are present in every culture throughout History. The Sound Reactive LED Mask takes a step forward. It integrates art and technology into a very versatile device that mesmerizes anyone who sees it. The LED Mask transcribes any sort of music and any type of rhythm into amazing Illuminations. Our masks are easily wearable, foldable and adjustable. As a costume or music accessory for any occasion, they are the perfect companion.”

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