TimeMachiner. Tech, culture, nostalgia. By Aaron Crocco
The Stream
December 7, 2021

Streaming TV service Pluto is coming to the Google TV platform. Pluto does something pretty revolutionary: they have liner TV channels that run commercials and doesn't let you rewind, skip, or pause. It's literally the style of live TV but on a streaming app. And I love it.

Catie Keck at The Verge has more:

Beginning today, Google TV will now support Pluto TV within the live TV tab, meaning users can easily access more than 300 free channels from the platform’s primary live TV hub. Pluto TV is the fourth streaming service to grab a spot on Google TV’s tab. 

The Verge

Pluto has been quietly making the rounds in cord cutter circles for a while. It was purchased by Viacom a couple of years ago and not only did the experience get much better, but more channels were added. Viacom owns a LOT of stuff so you get classic Doctor Who, Star Trek, MTV, and on and on. While the 300 channels won't all appeal to all users, Pluto has something for everyone. For people who miss "background TV" or simply putting something on just to mindlessly watch, Pluto is perfect. It thrives because it doesn't try to be anything more than it is: a kick-ass ad-supported streaming service.

NYT Breaks Down the Supply Chain Breakdown
December 7, 2021

Leave it to The NY Times to come up with a simple and informative interactive flowchart as to why there is an insane problem with manufacturing everything right now. The genius in the feature is how it starts simple. The pandemic hit. Companies, seeing a small dip as the tip of the iceberg, decided to go into crisis mode. They slowed production of the goods they manufacture and also laid off tons of their workforce.

These turned out to be critical mistakes. The supply chain is still screwed up from these moves. Instead of conserving their businesses thinking commerce would stop, something different happened. People shifted to online shopping and investing in hobbies. Everyone who got into baking bread, interior design, setting up their ideal home office, or any other pandemic endeavor did some shopping for it. Families who'd saved up for expensive vacations directed those funds towards Amazon and other companies simply to keep themselves and their learning-at-home kids sane during a lockdown. Cash was spent, but differently.

The breakdown of the entire supply chain can be traced back to these first two decisions. Because everything is so interconnected, the dominoes were set into motion. The interactive infographic is short, but fascinating. We can still blame a lack of trucks & trucking, but there is a fundamental shortage of basic goods used to make, well, everything.

Life360: You Are the Product
December 6, 2021

Time and time again companies (admittedly Apple a lot) will beat the drum with a simple mantra. If a service is free, YOU are the product. Reporting from By Jon Keegan and Alfred Ng at The Markup detail how the app Life360, marketed as a "family safety" app, traffics in user data to make all their cash.

A former X-Mode [a data broker] engineer said the raw location data the company received from Life360 was among X-Mode’s most valuable offerings due to the sheer volume and precision of the data. A former Cuebiq employee joked that the company wouldn’t be able to run its marketing campaigns without Life360’s constant flow of location data. 

The Markup

Life360 has over 33 million users. The service positions itself in a "fear" marketing role because you can use it to track family members. Their goal is to use it as a parenting homing device for kids. The company keeps all this data parents are using to keep their kids "safe". Life360 then packages it up on a silver platter for data brokers. Color me surprised.

The bonkers part of this is Life360 is a PAID service that's at least $5 a month. It goes to a mid-tier and then a premium plan at $20 a month. So even with paying them for their services, you are still the product. Because Life360 has found it to be more lucrative to sell your data and simultaneously charge you for the pleasure of doing so. Hell, their CEO is even blunt about it.

“We see data as an important part of our business model that allows us to keep the core Life360 services free for the majority of our users, including features that have improved driver safety and saved numerous lives.”

Life360's CEO Chris Hulls

Where Chris Hulls gets this idea of free services from is beyond me. Their website gives no indication of a free tier available past a trial of the paid plans. Regardless, this app is hot garbage on merit alone. When location-sharing exists as built-in features on iOS and Android, and you have to wonder why people choose this service.

Speaking of iOS, Life360 just completed buying Tile last month. This is the company who makes trackers and complained loudly when Apple released AirTags. More data pouring into Life360's pockets, simply to be resold. I never had a need to get a Tile but after this news, I will absolutely never go near one. Ever.

You don't even need to be privacy-conscious to be appalled by Life360's decisions. I'd like to wish they will course-correct after this article, but that sweet paycheck rolling in from data they are given with zero effort is a hard drug to give up. Forgive me if I won't hold my breath.

I’ve never been out of cream cheese for 30 years
December 6, 2021

“I’ve never been out of cream cheese for 30 years,” said Joseph Yemma, the owner of F&H Dairies in Brooklyn, a dairy product distributor for many of the city’s bagel shops. “There’s no end in sight.”

In interviews with owners and workers at about 20 bagel shops and delis across the city, many said they were frazzled, frustrated and rushing to find cream cheese after learning about the shortage in the past few days.

Absolute Bagels has enough cream cheese to last until Thursday, Mr. Patta said. But employees at his typical supplier told him they could not confirm when the next shipment would come in. Although he planned to check with other suppliers in the Bronx and Queens, he was still alarmed by what he was hearing.

“If we cannot find cream cheese, I worry now, what are we going to do?” Mr. Patta said.

NY Times

We've now reached peak 2021. If you want a crisis in New York, this is it. If you've never had a bagel here in NY, then know this: you get an extraordinary amount of cream cheese on your bagel. To the point where you almost have to scrape some off. Maybe it's time to ration things a bit and save some for everybody.

The Spider-Verse Returns
December 5, 2021

After the immense success of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse in 2018, it was inevitable that Sony would produce a sequel. Now Sony has finally released the first trailer for the film. Even more of a surprise is this will be told in two parts.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One) has the same amazing mixed animation style as the first movie. Even more interesting is they pulled a trick from Back to the Future. This movie start at the same point where the prior one ended. Shameik Moore and Hailee Steinfeld reprise their roles for the movie and it looks to continue its multiverse foundation of storytelling.

I really loved the first "Miles" movie, as I call it. I went into it not knowing what to expect and only excited about seeing a movie animated in a new style. When it ended I was elated by the story it told and the humor & wit that was woven through the script. Even better, it wasn't a reboot or some gimmick to re-tell Spider-Man's story. It felt wholly-original.

Now, the clock is ticking until I can see the next installment of what will now be a trilogy. This next Spider-Verse film released on October 7th, 2022 with Part Two coming in 2023.

What did you think of this issue?

Photo of Aaron Crocco with his Delorean
TimeMachiner is written and produced by Aaron Crocco
In the past, I wrote some books. Now, I’m putting my words down here.

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