Mozilla readies launch of news subscription service

Way back in February, Mozilla announced an upcoming collaboration with Scroll aimed at finding a way to help fund news outlets. The organization appears ready to finally launch to the service, sending users a survey, along with invites to an upcoming beta launch of what it calls “Firefox Ad-free Internet.”

The service is one of countless third-party platforms aimed at helping ailing publications find a way to better monetize in an an era of defunding, when journalistic voices are more important than ever. The Apple News offering is probably the most notable in the category, but Mozilla’s offering provides an interesting alternative to a standalone app.

The Firefox version essentially provides a way to bring users ad-free access to their favorite publications by paying an upfront fee of $5 a month. Per Mozilla:

The service enables web users to pay for an ad-free experience on their favorite sites, across their devices. By enabling more direct funding of publishers, Scroll’s model may offer a compelling alternative in the ecosystem. We will be collaborating with Scroll to better understand consumer attitudes and interest towards an ad-free experience on the web as part of an alternative funding model.

BuzzFeed, Gizmodo Media, Slate, The Atlantic and USA Today all seem to be on board with the offering ahead of launch.

Sony’s new wireless earbuds pack great noise-canceling and battery life

I’ve got a 16-hour flight coming up in about a week, so I’m hoping our review units come through before then. For now, my time with the WF-1000XM3 has been limited to a few minutes in a conference room, but so far I like what I’ve heard. The sound on Sony’s new fully wireless earbuds is quite sharp and noise canceling is impressive given the form factor.

Honestly, these things seem custom-built for long flights. With the carrying case factored in, they promise 24 hours of life on a charge with noise canceling on and 36 with it off. That’s almost enough to forgive the downright massive carrying case here.

What they’re not designed for, however, are workouts. For that reason, these are more AirPods than PowerBeats competitors. There’s no waterproof rating for sweat, and the buds don’t have any built-in mechanism for staying in place when going for a run. The headphone industry seems pretty content on keeping travel and exercise headphones in two distinct baskets.

Sony’s targeting frequent travelers here — the target audience that’s traditionally gone in for products like Bose’s QC or its own over-ear headphones. At $230, they’re pricier than AirPods, but there are a fair number of amenities on board, including things like the Quick Attention feature, which lowers the volume and lets more ambient noise in with a tap.

All in all (and in spite of Sony’s traditionally clunky naming conventions), the WF-1000XM3 look to be a pretty solid high-end addition to the increasingly crowded world of Bluetooth earbuds. They’re up for pre-order now and will be shipping next month.

The cassette player finally goes Bluetooth

This month marks the 40th anniversary of Sony’s first Walkman, the portable music player that would forever change the way we consume music. And while the audio cassette long ago fell out of favor for the CD and later digital music, the format’s certainly not forgotten. It may not have the same audiophile cache as the vinyl LP, but a a small and passionate contingent of music listeners are keeping the fire burning.

NINM Lab’s latest project occupies that same sort of fuzzy technological limbo as past products like the I’m Fine single use camera. It’s also got a name to match: It’s OK. In this age of political unrest and global disasters, maybe that’s exactly the message we need right now. As for a bluetooth cassette player, it’s probably true that nobody needs such a thing, hyper specific products are one of the nice byproducts of late capitalism.

The product bridges the seemingly insurmountable gap between state of the art 80s tech and AirPods with Bluetooth 5.0 functionality, with a fittingly retro design that’s a nod to the era’s Walkmen. There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack on board, giving it a leg up on the latest generation of smartphones.

The device hits Kickstarter today, with pre-orders starting at $63, making it pricey for a cassette player, but cheap compared to other Bluetooth enabled devices. As is the nature of Kickstarter projects, prices only go up from there. Cassette tapes, on the other hand, can be found in bountiful quantities at your neighborhood Goodwill.

Appeals court rules Amazon can be held liable for third-party products

In a blow to Amazon, a U.S. appeals court ruled that the mega-retailer can be held accountable for fault third-party sales. The ruling arrived this week via the 3rd U.S. City Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, running counter to past lower court ruling that had come out in Amazon’s favor.

If upheld, the ruling could have a big impact on the way company does business. Nearly a half of items sold through the site are handled by third-party sellers. That accounted for around $11 billion in Amazon’s revenue for the previous quarter.

The ruling is in-line with Pennsylvania law — liability for products often varies from state to state. Resident Heather Oberdorf sued the company in Federal court back in 2016 over a retractable dog leash that snapped, breaking her glasses and causing permanent loss of vision In her left eye.

“It’s gratifying that the 3rd Circuit agreed with our argument and recognized that the existing interpretation of product liability law in Pennsylvania was not addressing the reality, the dominance that Amazon has in the marketplace,” said Oberdorf’s lawyer told Reuters.

Amazon has yet to comment on the case, but it seems likely the company will ultimately appeal the ruling. A lower court will rule on whether the leash that caused Oberdorf’s injury was, indeed, defective.

Samsung’s Galaxy Fold problems are reportedly fixed — so now what?

In a recent interview, Samsung CEO DJ Koh noted that the company was hard at work on Galaxy Fold fixes (he also said people won’t be using smartphones in five years, so who knows?). And now, a report from Bloomberg confirms that the company has put the finishing touches on those fixes two months after the handset was originally set to debut.

So now what? We still don’t have a date. We’ve been seeing promises that a firmer timeline for release would arrive in “coming weeks” for what seems like months now. But those “people familiar with the matter” who told the site that the phone is finally read for prime time aren’t offering any additional info on timeframe.

Instead, it looks like the company’s plans are to — at very least — have its first foldable available in time for the holidays. At just under $2,000, that’s a pretty hefty ask for a stocking stuffer. Given that Samsung has now officially confirmed its Note 10 event for August 7, it might well just wait for that big show to confirm the release date — especially if we’re not expecting the see it hit retail until Q4.

Samsung’s been through worse, of course. The Note 7 debacle was a bigger black eye both in terms of timing and scope. But the initial spate of problems with the handset felt like as much of an indictment of the category as Samsung’s methods. Even Huawei used it as an opportunity to put its Mate X through more rigorous testing. Whatever the case, the revolution is going to take even longer to unfold than expected.

Newly unsealed court documents reveal additional allegations against Andy Rubin

Newly unsealed documents have revealed a spate of bombshell allegations against Android founder, Andy Rubin. BuzzFeed’s Ryan Mac has made the documents available as a PDF, and there’s a lot to unpack.

The nearly 40 pages detail a pre-martial agreement made with Rubin’s now-ex-wife, Rie Hirabaru Rubin, three days before their wedding. The documents refer to the agreement as “unconscionable, capping spousal support and stripping Plaintiff of her community property rights under California law without informed consent.”

The Essential Phone and Playground Global founder has largely operated in the background since The New York Times published an explosive story in late-2018 detailing sexual misconduct and massive severance package from his former employer, Google.

The documents go on to allege that her attorney, Stephen Peters, had previously represented Rubin in a prior divorce without her knowledge. This lawsuit seeks to make that prenuptial agreement invalid.

“Plaintiff was not aware of this pre-existing attorney-client relationship or the extent of Peters’ detailed knowledge regarding Rubin’s property and assets which were not fully disclosed at the time,” according to the document, “his detailed knowledge of Rubin’s extravagant payments to women or sex or that Peters was in reality working for the benefit of Rubin, and to the Plaintiff’s detriment.

Allegations of Rubin’s improprieties echo many of the claims reported in the 2018 Times piece, including, “ownership relationships […] whereby Rubin would pay for their expenses in exchange for offering them to other men.”

Over the last several months, Rubin and his ex-wife have been battling in court regarding whether or not the complaint would remain sealed. In April, a California state judge tentatively concluded that small portions of the complaint could be sealed. In May, the plaintiff argued that much of the material in the complaint had already been reported and that there was a notable public interest in the case. For example, Rubin’s alleged payments to women for sex — in the sum of hundreds of thousands of dollars — has already been reported and is relevant to the plaintiff’s case, she argued.

“Rubin hid these payments from Plaintiff during‘their marriage by using his individual bank account and routing payments through his wholly owned company Cosmofion LLC,” the plaintiff states in a court filing. “These allegations show, and the evidence at trial will prove, that Rubin was highly motivated to coerce and defraud Plaintiff to enter into an unconscionable Premarital Agreement so that ‘he would be able to conceal and continue to engage in these illicit sexual activities and continue to make payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars to these women without being detected by Plaintiff.”

Regarding the parts of the document that remain under seal, the judge ruled they either involve post-marital allegations and/or information that is covered by a stipulated protective order.

We’ve reached out to Rubin’s lawyers for comment.

Another major theater chain is reportedly working on a MoviePass competitor

Movie ticket subscription services have had a tough time of it. The two largest names in the business — MoviePass and Sinemia — have been waging what looks to have been a mostly losing battle in the war to reinvigorate box office sales. The category has been plagued by mind-boggling cash burn rates and disastrous customer service.

AMC’s A-List service, on the other hand, appears to be moving along swimming. In May, it hit 785,000 subscribers, effectively tripling MoviePass’ most recent numbers, according to a report. Of course, AMC has one key thing the competition doesn’t: it’s own theaters. That means, among other things, that the company operates with far few middlemen.

According to a new report from Deadline, Regal is also set to get into the subscription business. As of last year, the Tennessee-based chain is number two in the U.S., with 558 theaters to AMC’s 659, which means it has similar infrastructural for support in place. The plan would be tiered, giving premium subscribers access to all theaters in the change, with another plan cutting that down to about half of its locations (which would cut out access to locations in big cities like LA and NYC).

Like AMC’s offering, the deal would also offer discounts on some concessions — deals on $20 buckets of popcorn are another advantage theater chains have over third parties like MoviePass and Sinemia. The plans are reportedly set to launch at the end of the month, as soon as Regal’s parent company has worked out the finer details with studios.

Trump taps conservative pundits for ‘social media summit’

Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk and PragerU are among the conservative voices that have been tapped to attend next week’s White House “social media summit.” That news is courtesy of The Washington Post, which highlights some of the plans for the July 11 event, set to focus on “opportunities and challenges of today’s online environment.”

The move event won’t come as a surprise to anyone whose followed the news cycle since Trump arrived in office. While social media sites have been the subject of plenty of criticism from both the left and the right, conservatives in particular have had companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter in their sights over claimed “liberal biases.”

Just yesterday, Trump told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson that the sites have been “fighting” him. “I know for a fact a lot of people try and follow me and it’s very hard,” the President said. “I have so many people coming up that they say, ‘Sir, it’s so hard. They make it hard to follow.’ What they’re doing is wrong and possibly illegal. And a lot of things are being looked at right now.”

While Trump offered no specific evidence around his claims, the move follows a pattern of accusing different platforms of “shadow banning” Trump and other conservative voices. Last week, Twitter announced that it would be issuing warnings for “abusive behavior” from prominent news figures. While not a block or a ban, the move is an attempt to walk the line between curbing abuse and maintaining “newsworthy” content. Many saw the move as specifically targeting Trump.

A Cloudflare outage is impacting sites everywhere

If you’ve been experiencing “502 Bad Gateway” notices all morning, for better or worse, you’re not alone. Cloudflare has been experiencing some major outages this morning, leaving many sites reeling in its wake. In fact, the company’s System Status page, which collects global incidents, reads like a laundry list of every major city across the globe.

Cloudflare has acknowledged what looks to be an extremely widespread issue, and appears to be working to address the issue. “Cloudflare has implemented a fix for this issue and is currently monitoring the results,” the company writes. “We will update the status once the issue is resolved.” We’ve reached out to the company for more information and will do the same.

For now, maybe go take a walk around the block. It’s nice outside.

Update: Cloudflare co-founder and CEO Matthew Prince offers up some insight into what’s going on here. “Massive spike in CPU usage caused primary and backup systems to fall over. Impacted all services. No evidence yet attack related. Shut down service responsible for CPU spike and traffic back to normal levels. Digging in to root cause.”

Prince adds that the fix has addressed the outage. Normal service should be restored to the impacted sites.

Samsung will announce the next Galaxy Note on August 7

It’s official. Samsung just sent out invites for the next Unpacked event. The big show kicks off at 4PM ET August 7, right here in New York. The timing lines up with rumors that have been floating around for few weeks — not to mention last year’s big event.

And in case there was any mystery around what precisely the company is going to unveil, Samsung has happily spoiled the surprise with the inclusion of a prominent S Pen on the invite. The August event will almost certainly see the debut of the Galaxy Note 10.

The art appears to hint at an updated camera, as well. Based on recent leaks, the invite looks to be a closeup of the nearly all-screen front of the new phablet, with the single hole punch front facing camera up top. 

The new handset is said to include a vertical three array camera with depth sensing and a 5G option. Samsung is also reportedly dropping the headphone jack this time out, after years pointing to it as a standout feature from the rest of the industry.

Last year’s event also saw a number of additional devices, including the (still unreleased) Galaxy Home smart speaker. And very least maybe we’ll finally be getting a date on that product, along with more information about the long delayed Galaxy Fold.