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October 5, 2021
☕ What a crazy 24 hours... where to begin!
Android 12
android 12 beta 1 hands on quick settings one swipe down notification panel dark theme 2

Google released the new design-focused Android 12 with more of a whimper than a bang yesterday: 

  • That’s not because the now stable Android 12 release is terrible or anything; it’s just that it didn’t really launch at all.
  • Google’s own Pixels remain on an Android 12 beta whereas they normally get the stable release on the same day. 
  • The delay is very likely tied in with the Pixel 6 series launch which is coming with Android 12, likely on October 19, so maybe timing is everything.
  • And to cover this completely, a Google spokesperson told The Verge that it’s “putting the finishing touches on a special release with Pixel-exclusive and Pixel-first experiences on Android 12.”
  • What we did get is Google’s Android developer team announcing it had pushed the source to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), opening it up to anyone to use.
  • And Android 12 will be discussed in more detail at the 2021 Android Dev Summit, on October 27-28.
  • On the downside, early Android 12 betas for manufacturer-specific software skins such as OxygenOS 12 from OnePlus, and ColorOS 12 from Oppo are, to quote my colleagues, “ridiculously buggy.” People on Reddit are complaining too, which isn’t uncommon to be fair, but hard crashes and system bugs seem… problematic.
  • No word on when Samsung devices will get Android 12.
  • Regardless, reviews are here: The Verge gave Android 12 a 7/10 with props on the design changes (which are great), but points out there’s not a massive reason to upgrade, which is becoming the norm across both iOS and Android platforms: lots of little improvements, nothing mind-blowing.
Windows 11
Windows 11 Hero

Meanwhile, over at Microsoft: Windows 11 is now officially out.

Getting to 11:

  • Microsoft has opened the doors for Windows users to upgrade to Windows 11.
  • You may have to wait, you may not: There are tools available to check if you can upgrade or not, depending on your version of Windows 10 or older, your license details, and the TPM 2.0 problem for older processors.
  • Wired has a pretty solid overview for how to figure it all out, though the short version is you can run a Windows 11 Installation Assistant to help guide you if you’re not one to grab an ISO. (If you are, The Verge has a how-to for how to jump the queue.)

There are long reviews and insights out already:

  • ArsTechnica: Attractive new design, shame about the biggest jump in Windows’ system requirements in 15 years.
  • The Verge: Microsoft’s new OS is a work in progress (8/10).
  • Anandtech suggests you might well be better off waiting as Windows 11 progresses as it has frustrations in new ways, like setting a default browser that isn’t Edge. No Android app support yet!
  • For me, and my three-year-old Dell XPS, I’ll wait awhile.

⛔ Yep, Facebook and its various products like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram were offline yesterday, with the problem down to an “incorrect configuration change.” What a fun six or so hours we had.

🚪 My favorite story which seems like it was at least a wild exaggeration and at worst a lie is that Facebook’s system engineers and admins couldn’t physically access its server rooms, because of the same problem, and so used an angle grinder. That story was retracted mind you, with Facebook saying that didn’t happen, but there’s a whiff of truth that doors were stuck and loosened somehow!

👉 Anyway, other stories were shared about how other people had to bust doors down due to similar IoT problems, including this good one: “Similar story at HP once upon a time – had to pull a door off with a car in order to get into the building without power, where the door computer had locked everyone out.” (Twitter). No idea if true…

😬 Less fun is this explanation of just how much of the world runs on WhatsApp, even if it isn’t quite as big Stateside (WashPo, $).

📸 Pixel 6 Pro photo and video samples leak, and here are five things we learned about the Pixel 6 Pro cameras from the detail (Android Authority)

💊 You can now get a 500GB Google One plan, with a big caveat that it’s with T-Mobile only for some reason (Android Authority)

🍎 Good news for Apple: Its new A15 chip is faster than the company’s own claims, with Andrei Frumusanu doing incredible work (again) (MacRumors/AnandTech).

🍏 Bad news for Apple: Siri turned 10. After a decade as Apple’s assistant, it still hasn’t figured out the job. Really good rundown. (The Verge).

🎮 Google will give you free Stadia hardware if you buy a game (The Verge).

📉 This is what happens when a drone light show fails (no injuries reported) (Vice).

🔥 House Of The Dragon has a first official teaser, with the Game of Thrones spin-off/prequel coming to HBO Max in 2022 (YouTube).

🤐 Revealed: The secret notes of Blue Origin leaders trying to catch SpaceX (Ars Technica).

🚀 Also: Blue Origin is officially sending William Shatner (Captain Kirk!!) to space in a week (Space).

Chart Tuesday

The big new tax haven leak called Pandora Papers is so big that I’m grateful for this BBC infographic showing exactly the scale of what’s going on:

pandora papers
  • The Pandora Papers reveal offshore deals and assets of more than 100 billionaires, 30 world leaders, and 300 public officials.
  • The focus is on trusts in tax havens such as Panama, Dubai, Monaco, Switzerland, and the Cayman Islands – and bizarrely, South Dakota.
  • Journalists have spent 18 months analyzing the papers. 
  • It’s all very disheartening: The ultra-rich get ultra-complex setups to seemingly hide asset ownership so that they can avoid paying tax, more or less. (The one group of people for whom paying tax wouldn’t matter!)
  • Here’s one world leader reported by The Guardian:
  • “…the ruler of Jordan, King Abdullah II, who, leaked documents reveal, has amassed a secret $100m property empire spanning Malibu, Washington, and London. The king declined to answer specific questions but said there would be nothing improper about him owning properties via offshore companies. Jordan appeared to have blocked the [International Consortium of Investigative Journalists] website on Sunday, hours before the Pandora papers launched.”
  • Or: “The prime minister of the Czech Republic, Andrej Babiš, who is up for election this week, is facing questions over why he used an offshore investment company to acquire a $22m chateau in the south of France. He too declined to comment.”
  • Given how little seemed to come from the Panama Papers released last year, I suspect half the reason people will read these documents is to find out how to hide their own properties.


Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor

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