‘This really scares me’: Prominent digital journalist explains in 13-minute video why he’s ‘terrified’ for future of media

Prominent digital journalist Tim Pool published a video Wednesday in which he explained why the recent crackdown on fake news and banning of alt-right Twitter accounts has him worried for the future of media.

“I am terrified of a future where people will not share their opinions because people are being banned or ostracized,” Pool said.

Pool explained at the outset of the 13-minute video that prior to the golden age of the internet, the media “was basically just this big top-down approach.”

“You had the broadcast tower and it determined what the story was going to be for the masses,” he said.

“When the internet started, we slowly saw that tower start splitting and it started becoming more of a pyramid with different tiers,” Pool said. “Now we are at this really interesting point where there is no top of the pyramid anymore.”

The journalist noted that the current landscape has given way to new opinion outlets. More importantly, however, the landscape has allowed websites that propagate fake news, or stories that only contain a sliver of truth, to flourish.

Members of the media have suggested fake news was partially responsible for the unforeseen election of President-elect Donald Trump. As a result, there have been calls for Facebook and Google to crackdown on outlets that publish such stories. But Pool said in his video that it wasn’t perhaps a good idea.

“This really scares me, because are we going to have Google decide what news is real and what isn’t? Are we going to have Facebook?” he asked. “Why are these tech companies going to be the ones who determine the news you put out is legitimate?”

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Pool said this week’s banning of alt-right Twitter accounts, which the social-media company said was done because the effected users had violated its terms-of-service agreement, was equally concerning. He called it “shocking” and said while he doesn’t like their opinions, it “scares” him to think the social-media company would ban someone for their political viewpoints.

“It gets kind of scary because now we are going to have tech companies deciding who is allowed to speak, what news is real and what news isn’t, and we are reverting back to a state where only those in power determine what we are allowed to say,” he said.

The journalist added: “We are reverting back to the state of the controlled narrative.”

Pool said he’s heard many individuals have switched their accounts to private or chosen not to express their views out of fear of “being banned or ostracized.”

“And I think that may be another contributing factor to why we couldn’t predict this election. How many people did not want to say they were voting for Trump, but were planning on doing so?” he asked. “I’m sure it was a lot. And it is scary now because a lot of people who supported him are banned from Twitter.”

Pool gained fame for his on-the-ground coverage of the protests in Ferguson and the larger civil unrest across the country. In August, he landed in national headlines for pulling out of Milwaukee, where he was covering Black Lives Matter demonstrations, saying it was “just not safe” to be in the field for individuals who were “perceivably white.”

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Larry Ellison: Oracle will be ‘more profitable than we’ve ever been before’

Larry Ellison

REDWOOD SHORES, California — Oracle executive chairman Larry Ellison told his shareholders that cloud computing will cause Oracle “to be a much larger company, growing double-digits and more profitably than we were before.”

Ellison made the remarks Wednesday during Oracle’s annual shareholder’s meeting at the company’s headquarters in Redwood Shores, California.

Specifically, Ellison said (emphasis ours): 

As more and more people are choosing to rent, rather than buy, overall, after several years, we actually get more money but in the very beginning of the transition from selling to renting, it looks like our business is slowing down or getting smaller. It’s not the case.

So it looks like our hardware business is slowing down, when in fact, it’s really not. We’re just going from selling hardware to renting hardware, and getting more money rateably over a long period of time. The business of selling hardware, that should stay flat-ish or get smaller as people move to the cloud. Software, that should stay flat-ish or get smaller as people move to the cloud. But our overall business, especially once we get through this transition, our overall business will grow very rapidly. And we’re going to be a much larger company, growing double-digits and more profitably than we were before. 

That is certainly what Oracle hopes will happen, and the vision it has for its shareholders. The truth is, such growth is far from a given, particularly for the hardware business.

Oracle is doing well selling cloud versions of its software. It’s particularly proud of selling cloud enterprise resource management software (ERP) competing with Workday.

A whole different animal

But its competition with Amazon for the hardware business is a whole different animal. While it’s true that Oracle has a massive number of database customers and that these customers will likely evaluate Oracle’s cloud, Amazon is far and away the bigger player, in every way. It already has more cloud revenue and more features in its cloud than any other player.

cloud computingAnd as Amazon’s scale grows, it’s able to continually cut prices. Just this week, Amazon cut prices again (its 53rd price reduction.) Every time it cuts prices, it forces all the other players to follow suit, regardless if they have the scale to absorb the price cuts or not.

Every time that Amazon wins an enterprise customer to its cloud, it’s got a chance to knock Oracle out of that customer’s life. Amazon offers its own database, and a tool that lets a company move from an Oracle database to an Amazon database.

Ellison is quick to point out that Amazon’s databases aren’t as fast and as powerful as Oracle’s. That’s probably true. But one company Business Insider recently talked to told us that what Amazon is offering is often good enough.

“It’s not impossible to move to a different database. We are doing it, using AWS for some of that, instead of Oracle,” a CIO of a large midwestern tech company told us. While this company isn’t ditching Oracle for Amazon completely yet, it postponed upgrading some of its software specifically to test out Amazon’s database as an alternative.

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Elon Musk: Tesla Model S ‘Easter egg’ will make it go even faster (TSLA)

tesla p100d

The new Model S with the 100 kWh battery option is about to get a little faster.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted an Easter egg released via an upcoming software update in December will allow the Model S P100D to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 2.4 seconds. 

It’s not exactly a huge news drop, considering Musk said that Ludicrous mode on the Model S P100D would get the car to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds when the battery upgrade was announced in August. That acceleration time would make it the world’s third-fastest production car, placing it behind the the LaFerrari and the Porsche 918 Spyder.

Looks like the Model S P100D Easter egg will allow it to do 0 to 60 mph in 2.4 sec and a 10.6 sec 1/4 mile via software update next month

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 16, 2016

Musk added in the tweet that the Easter egg will allow the Model S P100D to drive a quarter of a mile in just 10.6 seconds.

He also said software update will improve the Model X acceleration time by .1 second. When Musk first announced the Model X acceleration time, he said it could get to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds, making it the world’s quickest SUV.

Model X numbers should also improve by 0.1 sec on 0 to 60 and 1/4 mile

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 16, 2016

Musk said during the company’s third-quarter earnings call that demand was high for the P100D option for the Model S and Model X, but did not elaborate on the exact demand Tesla has seen.

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The best laptop displays you’ll ever see are available today — but may never go mainstream

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Laptop 2

OLED is better. We’ve learned this with phones, we’re seeing it with TVs, and after spending several weeks with Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Yoga, I’m convinced it’s the case with laptops too.

Wait, what is OLED?

Let’s take a step back. OLED, short for “organic light-emitting diode,” is a type of display technology. It differs from the more widely used LCD (liquid crystal display) tech by creating light within every individual pixel that makes up its picture, instead of requiring a separate backlighting system.

This means it can produce perfectly dark blacks — rather than trying to cover up a backlight behind the scenes, and inevitably letting some light through, it simply shuts the appropriate pixels off. The result is an infinite contrast ratio — i.e., the difference between a display’s darkest blacks and brightest whites.

And that, in turn, means an OLED panel can produce more a vivid, realistic picture. If you’ve ever put a Galaxy S7 and an iPhone 7 side-by-side, you’ve seen the difference: Apple’s LCD displays are excellent for what they are, but Samsung’s just pops more. It’s more engrossing. It’s thinner, too.

Now, I’m simplifying. Improved backlighting tech, wider color gamuts, and HDR have helped the best LCD displays catch up a bit. But stuff like that isn’t exclusive to LCD. Judged straight up, the contrast difference is great enough to make OLED superior. View it on a bigger screen, and it’s hard to go back.

It’s just gorgeous

Which brings us back to the ThinkPad X1 Yoga. I reviewed the non-OLED version over the summer, so if you’re interested in how the whole package works, go there.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Laptop 1To sum: It’s got a terrific keyboard, a conservative but comfortable design, and perfectly solid performance. Its battery life is fine, and it doesn’t have any USB-C ports, but it’s thin and light enough, and I love its fully rotatable screen. It is a dependable Windows laptop that successfully walks the line between business- and travel-friendly.

You could say that about a few notebooks, though. What puts the ThinkPad X1 Yoga in the VIP section is that OLED display. Right now, it’s one of three laptops to adopt the tech, along with the Alienware 13 and HP Spectre x360t.

And man, is it gorgeous. It produces a huge array of array of colors, and those colors are consistently deep, clear, and full. They can also get very bright. And again, black tones are pitch dark.

It’s hard to convey just how pleasing this is without having you see it yourself. Everything, from the pitch in a game of FIFA to the icons in Windows 10’s start menu, looks more alive. Any time I’d start a movie, I felt compelled to make it full-screen, if only to soak in the added vividity. Oftentimes, I found myself choosing to stream video on the 14-inch Yoga instead of my TV. This is a genuine step forward for laptops as a category.

The technical challenges of OLED

Despite that, OLED isn’t perfect. Take viewing angles, for instance: OLED screens are generally better at staying legible when you aren’t looking at them dead-on, and that’s the case here. But the Yoga’s display is prone to color shifting — you’ll still see everything, but it’ll take on a more bluish, washed out tone, neutering the advantage.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Laptop 6Beyond that, while the Yoga’s screen can get very bright with colors, it’s dimmer when white tones dominate the screen. In general, whites are just a bit dirtier than I’d prefer by default. And while the colors here are gorgeous, they’re a bit oversaturated out of the box. This is a truly excellent display for media and entertainment, but that’s definitely the point here — those with more professional needs will have to mess around a bit.

The other issue with OLED is burn-in. If you leave a certain image on an OLED screen for too long — say, the icons in Windows 10’s task bar — you run the risk of that image being retained on, or “burned into,” the screen over time. This isn’t a problem unique to OLED, but it’s a threat to its longevity. This forces companies like Lenovo and Alienware to take extra software measures to prevent it, and add further provisions to their warranty programs.

To wit: Lenovo pre-loads a bunch of different color modes and screen dimming settings onto the Yoga to help. They’re fairly comprehensive. You can dig into nerdy things like blue point and gamma to fine-tune colors, and you can make it so the task bar or inactive windows automatically dim to save energy and stave off burn-in.

But they don’t tidy up everything. I had numerous instances where colors would shift as I was using certain apps. In the Opera browser, for example, the entire white balance would momentarily get darker whenever Lenovo’s all-black caps lock icon appeared onscreen.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Laptop 3

There are other examples, but between this and the fact that Microsoft doesn’t have its own set of color correction settings, there’s a nagging sense that Windows isn’t totally built for OLED today.

The structural challenges of OLED laptops

There are reasons for that, though. While OLED is becoming standard on high-end smartphones, the state of OLED on laptops appears to be in flux.

Lenovo, Alienware, and HP each announced their forays into OLED computing last January at CES 2016. There are just under two months until CES 2017. Not one OLED laptop has launched in between.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Laptop 5The three that do exist have experienced or continue to experience intermittent supply shortages. As of this writing, Lenovo lists the OLED Yoga as sold out. HP recently refresh its laptop lineup for the fall, but left its OLED Spectre out of the design and specs updates. Alienware did update its OLED model earlier in November, but it hasn’t been immune to issues either.

But if OLED is such a lovely improvement — and I am far from the only reviewer to think that — why has the buzz died so quickly?

According to Linn Huang, research director at analyst firm IDC, it mostly comes down to the cost of manufacturing, which is especially important at a time when PC sales remain on a prolonged, steady decline. The panels just aren’t there.

“The short answer is that it’s going to take quite some time to ramp up OLED production and supply,” Huang says. “Currently, market economics aren’t in favor of large-sized OLED screens because of the short supply. I’d estimate that OLED panels roughly add 20-30% to the shopper-facing price today for notebooks, and this is all occurring against the backdrop of a PC market that continues to drive towards the low end.”

Indeed, all three of today’s OLED laptops cost roughly $250 more than an LCD model with comparable specs. Despite its relatively common Core i5 processor, the OLED Yoga I reviewed starts at nearly $1,700. The new OLED Alienware 13 starts at $1,749, while the already-dated OLED Spectre goes for $1,349. This is not cheap.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Laptop 4Alienware boss Frank Azor says demand for the OLED Alienware 13 has been high despite those costs, but admits that its supplier — Samsung, which also supplied Lenovo — hasn’t found a comfortable return rate on its OLED laptop display production just yet.

“This thing has been really popular, and unfortunately, it’s not yielding, I would say, as high as everyone had hoped,” Azor says.

Nevertheless, Azor says it’s still early days, and that the OLED supply line is “improving.”

A hangup to a better laptop future

Does that mean OLED laptops will one day become the norm? “Not any time soon,” Huang says. “The incumbent, LCD, has a few advantages, not the least of which is massive manufacturing scale. The premium between OLED and LCD should remain high over the next several years, and LCDs should continue to occupy the lion’s share of the notebook market.”

“I see OLED notebooks gradually gaining modest traction in the next several years but still on the outskirts of the mainstream segment,” he says. “Instead, OLED could be a spec that serves as the line of demarcation between the mainstream and the premium end of the notebook market. That will likely be its norm in my mind.”

Still, whether the PC industry decides OLED isn’t worth the technical and manufacturing headaches, or if it just becomes a hallmark for the high-end, there’s little doubt that it’s a gorgeous, and genuinely different, selling point for laptops like the Yoga today.

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