India tells Starlink to stop offering satellite internet without a license

SpaceX doesn’t always get a warm reception when it expands Starlink. Reutersreports the Indian government has told Starlink to immediately stop “booking/rendering” satellite internet service in the country until it has a license to operate. The SpaceX division registered as a business in India on November 1st and has started pre-orders, but doesn’t yet have permission to run the service. Authorities have also discouraged would-be customers from signing up at this stage.

We’ve asked SpaceX for comment, although it initially declined Reuters‘ inquiries. The company hasn’t set a firm date for Starlink’s India debut, although it’s aiming for 200,000 connections in the country by the end of 2022. There were over 5,000 pre-orders as of November 1st.

Starlink is currently available in 21 countries in mostly public beta tests. However, SpaceX has a particularly strong incentive to serve India as soon as possible. India has a very large rural population (over 898 million, according to World Bank data). It’s a prime market for satellite broadband, and the Starlink team hopes 80 percent of devices sold in India by late 2022 will serve rural areas. However, it’s now clear India’s government doesn’t share that same enthusiasm.

Hitting the Books: How Amazon laundered the ‘myth of the founder’ into a business empire

We’ve heard the fable of “the self-made billionaire” a thousand times: some unrecognized genius toiling away in a suburban garage stumbles upon The Next Big Thing, thereby single-handedly revolutionizing their industry and becoming insanely rich in the process — all while comfortably ignoring the fact that they’d received $300,000 in seed funding from their already rich, politically-connected parents to do so. 

In The Warehouse: Workers and Robots at Amazon, Alessandro Delfanti, associate professor at the University of Toronto and author of Biohackers: The Politics of Open Science, deftly examines the dichotomy between Amazon’s public personas and its union-busting, worker-surveilling behavior in fulfillment centers around the world — and how it leverages cutting edge technologies to keep its employees’ collective noses to the grindstone, pissing in water bottles. In the excerpt below, Delfanti examines the way in which our current batch of digital robber barons lean on the classic redemption myth to launder their images into that of wonderkids deserving of unabashed praise.

The Warehouse Cover
Pluto Press

This is an excerpt from The Warehouse: Workers and Robots at Amazon by Alessandro Delfanti, available now from Pluto Press.


Besides the jobs, trucks and concrete, what Amazon brought to Piacenza and to the dozens of other suburban areas which host its warehouses is a myth: a promise of modernization, economic development, and even individual emancipation that stems from the “disruptive” nature of a company heavily based on the application of new technology to both consumption and work. It is a promise that assumes that the society in question is willing to entrust such ambitions to the gigantic multinational corporations that design, implement, and possess technology. This myth of digital capitalism is based on a number of elements, including magical origins, heroes, and stories of redemption. Some are by now familiar to everyone: A couple of teenagers tinkering away in a garage can revolutionize or create from scratch an entire industry, generating billions in the process. The garage is an important component of this myth. Here we are not talking about the garages where MXP5 workers park their cars after a ten-hour shift in the warehouse, nor about the garages where Amazon Flex couriers store piles of boxes to be delivered. The innovation garage is the site where individuals unbounded by old habits and funded by venture capital turn simple ideas into marketable digital commodities. Nowhere does this myth run deeper than in California: William Hewlett and David Packard’s Palo Alto backyard shack is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places as “the birthplace of Silicon Valley,” while the garage of Steve Jobs’ parents’ house (where he and Steve Wozniak built the first batch of Apple computers) has been recently designated as a “historical site” by the city of Los Altos. These garages have even been turned into informal museums and receive thousands of visitors a year, some even arriving with organized tour buses. For Californian historian Mario Biagioli, the garage has become an important rhetorical device in contemporary discourses, helping mythify the origins of contemporary innovation. Masculine innovation in particular, since the garage is a strictly male space. Bezos himself started Amazon in a garage, albeit not in California—or so Amazon’s origin myth goes: in 1994 he left his lucrative but dull Wall Street hedge fund job and wrote a business plan while driving cross-country from New York to Seattle, where he used his and his family’s money to start the company.

The myth of the redemption and success of the hero entrepreneur trickles down to the warehouse, insofar as Amazon presents work to its employees through the frame of emancipation. The idea of redemption through work is nothing new. On the contrary, it is a damnation common to modern society. In the early 1960s, militant sociologist Romano Alquati pointed out that the culture of mid-20th century Italian factories included the construction of a “myth” or “cult” of emancipation. In this instance, it was directed at the masses of migrant workers who, following World War II, moved from the rural south to the north of the country to find manufacturing work with the flagship companies of the Italian postwar economic boom, such as FIAT or Olivetti. Redemption from the backwardness of rural life was ensured not only by steady paychecks and the prospect of a pension at the end of the line, but also by participation in technologically advanced production processes—the assembly line of industrial capitalism. Amazon simply repeats and updates such promises. In Italy, for example, Amazon positions itself as an employee-focused company that brings stable employment back to a precarized labor market—a boon to a labor market hit by financial crises, lackluster growth, and lack of opportunities for retraining and upskilling. So Amazon continues a historical trajectory of Italian capitalism, but imports onto the local context novel characteristics borrowed from the American digital corporation model.

Indeed, digital capitalism updates industrial capitalism’s promise of economic and social emancipation with some novel elements of its own. Rather than simply swapping out the assembly line with the robot or the algorithm, the culture of digital capitalism mixes libertarian ideology with entrepreneurial elements. At the core of this myth lies a form of individualism. The combination of new information technologies with free-market dynamics enables emancipatory potential for the entrepreneur. Furthermore, digital capitalist companies state that they exist to change the world, to make people happy, to create value for everyone and not just for investors—technological optimism at its apex. After all, how could you deliver a bad outcome when your first principle is don’t be evil, as Google’s old slogan famously put it.

Amazon extends this old myth to all its workers. Indeed, in corporate documents, the company goes so far as to state that everyone is an “owner” at Amazon. While this is quite literal in the case of engineers and executives who receive shares of the company, it can only be understood at the level of mythology for warehouse workers. A figurative or spiritual commitment to the company’s destiny. Managerial techniques used in the warehouse contribute to building this myth, as associates are asked to have fun at work and help Amazon make history, as one of its corporate slogans goes. The myth brings with it the idea that there is no alternative to digital capitalism. Only co-option, or failure for those who can’t keep up or won’t adapt or submit.

Myths are not just old stories or false beliefs. They are ideas that help us make sense of the world. The myth of digital capitalism itself is not simply fictitious, but instead has very concrete effects. For Big Tech corporations, this myth projects a positive contribution to the world, helping to attract workers and investment, and boost corporate value on financial markets. But it has other concrete effects as well. In different areas of the world, and in different communities, the myth of redemption stemming from participation in high-tech production has impacted economies and cultures. Feminist media studies scholar Lisa Nakamura recounted how, in the 1970s, electronics manufacturers operating on Navajo land in New Mexico justified the employment of Indigenous women. Labor in microchip production was presented as empowering for the crafty and docile Navajo women—assumptions derived from racist stereotyping. Italy is completely different from the Navajo Nation, and yet the idea that an imported version of American digital capitalism can be a force for collective modernization and individual emancipation is alive and well there too. Belief in this myth is evidenced in many different and even contrasting ways. Some bring resources, like the $1.5 billion state-owned venture capital fund launched in 2020 by the Italian government to support start-up companies in the hope they will foster economic growth. Others sell resources off, like when mayors of small towns with high unemployment compete to attract the next Amazon FC, offering the company both farmland newly opened up for development and a local workforce ready to staff the warehouse. Over the years, the mayors of Castel San Giovanni have described the presence of MXP5 as a force of “development” and a source of “pride” for the town. This is not unique to Italy. American mayors are routinely quoted praising the arrival of a new Amazon facility as a “wonderful” or “monumental” thing for their town.

Amazon’s corporate slogans also hedge up its myth. Central is the valorization of disruption—the idea of a hero entrepreneur defeating the gods of the past. Some of the slogans (the so-called Leadership Principles) are repeated time and again and painted everywhere in the warehouse. While Aboutamazon.com, the company’s corporate website, describes them as “more than inspirational wall hangings,” that is exactly what they sound like. Customer obsession is perhaps the most famous one, a slogan that captures the strategic goal of focusing on customers’ needs: the rest (profits, power) will follow. It also signals that workers are by design an afterthought. Other slogans are even more predictable, like Leaders are right a lot or Think big. Amazon’s myth trickles down to fulfillment centers like MXP5 in many ways. Amazon routinely conducts marketing operations aimed at finding new workers, not new customers. Billboards sporting smiling warehouse workers, recruitment events, and glowing articles commissioned by staffing agencies in the local newspaper are common sights in Piacenza, as in the areas surrounding other FCs. Social media multiplies the message. Amazon encourages employees to join its army of “ambassadors”—workers who plaster social media with positive stories about their job or videos in which they happily dance inside the warehouse. Like the FC’s walls, all these practices are soaked with the Leadership Principles: at a recruitment event near Toronto, slogans, such as Fulfilling the customer promise, were projected as part of a slideshow filled with smiling arrow logos, accompanying a presentation of more mundane details like job descriptions or benefits. “Every Amazonian who wants to be a leader,” we were told, should focus on “customer obsession” and “never settle,” and let’s not forget that Amazonians “are right a lot.” The event wrapped up with free pizza.

Zendaya Promises She’ll Be in More of Dune: Part Two

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Xiaomi’s upcoming EV factory will make up to 300,000 cars per year

Xiaomi only announced its electric car plans in March, but it already has grand ambitions. According to Reuters, the economic development agency Beijing E-Town has confirmed that Xiaomi will build an EV factory in the city capable of producing up to 300,000 vehicles per year. The plant will be built in two phases and should start mass production in 2024.

The company will also set up its EV headquarters, research and sales divisions in Beijing, the agency said. Xiaomi already plans to use its retail stores to help sell cars.

There are still many unknowns for Xiaomi’s car strategy, including the initial models and international expansion. The successful tech brand expects to invest the equivalent of $10 billion in the EV division over 10 years, but hasn’t shared much detail beyond that. The Beijing factory says more — it suggests Xiaomi intends to become a mainstream (if initially small) EV manufacturer that competes not just with Chinese rivals like Nio and Xpeng, but significant foreign automakers like Tesla.

Scientists used Mars’ ambient noise to map the planet’s subsurface layers

NASA’s Mars InSight lander provided researchers with the data needed to give us our first detailed look at the red planet’s crust, mantle and core. That map doesn’t include any information on the structures nearer its surface, however, and we need that to be able to get a more complete picture of how the planet was formed. Now, a team of scientists was able to create the first detailed image of what lies right underneath the planet’s surface, showing three billion years of its history, by listening to Martian winds.

More precisely, they analyzed the ambient noise (in the absence of marsquakes) collected by the seismometer that was installed by the InSight lander. On Earth, that kind of ambient seismic noise is generated by the ocean, human activity and winds, but only the last one is present on Mars. The Swiss Seismological Service (SED) and ETH Zurich have been regularly analyzing data collected by the seismometer as part of the Marsquake Service. Over the past years, SED was able to develop ways to analyze ambient noise data to define geological structures here on Earth, and those are the techniques they used on the data from InSight.

Based on the data the tool gathered, the top three meters of InSight’s landing site is made of sand, while the next 20 meters are loose material, particularly volcanic rock fissured by meteorite impacts. Underneath that sand and rock lie lava flows divided by sediments that formed when the planet experienced cold and dry conditions. Researchers believe the uppermost lava flows were deposited around 1.7 billion years ago, while the deepest ones were deposited as far back as 3.6 billion years ago at a time when there was a lot more volcanic activity on the planet. 

The researchers recently published their study in Nature, and one of the things they emphasized is that it proves techniques to investigate our planet can also work on Mars. Other methods used to know more about Earth could also give us more information about the red planet, which may one day become humanity’s second home. 

Spotify’s simplified Car View mode is being ‘retired’

When Spotify announced its stripped down Car View mode in 2019, it seemed like a smart way to prevent drivers from being distracted on the road. Whenever you connected to your car over Bluetooth, it would remove extraneous elements like menu buttons and album art. Instead, it gave you large buttons to pause and play music; jump to the previous or next track; or like a specific song. Nifty! But hope you didn’t get too attached, as Spotify has confirmed it’s “retiring” the feature, according to a recent support thread (via Android Police).

A Spotify moderator, who was replying to a user who noticed the feature had disappeared from his Android app, noted that Spotify is “actively exploring a variety of new ways to deliver the best in-car listening experience.” They added that removing car view is necessary to “make way for new innovations.” That’s reasonable enough, though it doesn’t excuse dumping a genuinely useful safety feature without a clear replacement. 

The moderator suggested using Google Assistant (or Siri on iOS) to control Spotify hands-free, something that would also work while navigating with Google or Apple Maps. And, to be fair, that’s how many people (including myself) end up controlling tunes on the road. 

It could be that Spotify is de-prioritizing Car View simply because there are so many other ways to handle music playback in cars. If you’ve got a modern car with CarPlay or Android Auto support, you’ll only be interacting with your in-dash display and will never see Car View in action. Many vehicles made in the last decade also have some sort of media control on their steering wheels.  

Spotify Car Thing
Billy Steele/Engadget

Of course, there’s a more nefarious objective, as some Spotify users mentioned in the forum thread. It could be that the company is trying to push people towards Car Thing, its $80 display accessory. We found it to be a useful upgrade for older cars, but it also seemed superfluous when you could just mount your phone and control Spotify directly. Without Car View mode, though, that strange gadget all of a sudden seems more helpful. In cases like this, though, the simplest explanation usually comes down to companies realizing certain features aren’t being used much.

We’ve reached out to Spotify for a full explanation about Car View’s retirement, and will update when we hear back.

Owlet Stops Selling Its Baby Monitoring Smart Socks After Receiving Warning Letter From FDA

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The best deals on smartwatches, fitness trackers and wearables this Black Friday

Wearables are getting to be as ubiquitous as smartphones, but that also means companies like Apple and Samsung are making better and more expensive devices. Regardless of if you prefer a smartwatch, fitness tracker or another kind of wearable, it’s best to wait until a big sale — like Black Friday — to get one for the best price possible. This year, a bunch of wearables have been discounted and we picked out the best ones here as you don’t have to go searching for them.

Apple Watch SE

The Apple Watch SE has been knocked down to $219, which is $60 cheaper than usual. This is the best Watch for wearable newbies as well as those with tight budgets. We gave it a score of 88 for its responsive performance, comfortable design and solid feature set for the price.

Buy Apple Watch SE at Amazon – $219

Apple Watch Series 7

The latest Apple Watch Series 7 is $20 cheaper right now, bringing it down to $380. It’s the most comprehensive wearable Apple makes and it earned a score of 90 from us for its larger screen, faster charging and handy features in watchOS 8.

Buy Series 7 at Amazon – $380

Apple Watch Series 6

The Apple Watch Series 6 with a Memoji watch face sitting on a wooden table.
Valentina Palladino / Engadget

The previous-gen Apple Watch is $50 off, bringing it down to $350. While it doesn’t have the larger screen that the Series 7 does, this smartwatch is still a good choice thanks to its good performance, improved battery life and faster charging.

Buy Series 6 at Amazon – $350

Fitbit Charge 5

Fitbit Charge 5 fitness tracker
Valentina Palladino / Engadget

You can pick up the Fitbit Charge 5 for $130 right now, or $50 off its normal price. This is Fitbit’s most comprehensive fitness band and it earned a score of 82 from us for its full-color touchscreen, built-in GPS, onboard EDA sensors for stress tracking and multi-day battery life.

Buy Charge 5 at Amazon – $130

Fitbit Inspire 2

Fitbit Inspire 2 fitness tracker
Fitbit

Fitbit’s Inspire 2 tracker has dropped to $60 for Black Friday, or $40 off its normal price. This gives you all-day heart rate monitoring, up to 10 days of battery life, sleep stage tracking and more — plus it comes with one year of Fitbit Premium, too.

Buy Inspire 2 at Amazon – $60

Fitbit Luxe

Front view of the Fitbit Luxe with a light pink silicone band on a wrist against a dark brown background with some greenery. The screen shows the time is 6:30pm.
Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Fitbit’s small and sleek Luxe tracker is on sale for $100 right now. We gave it a score of 82 for its comfortable design, good battery life and capable health tracking features.

Buy Fitbit Luxe at Amazon – $100

Fitbit Sense

Fitbit Sense
Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Fitbit’s high-end Sense smartwatch is $100 off, bringing it down to $200. It earned a score of 82 from us for its wide array of health tracking features plus its big, bright display.

Buy Fitbit Sense at Amazon – $200

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic
Samsung

Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 has dropped to $200, or 20 percent off its normal price. It remains the best smartwatch for Android users and we gave it a score of 85 for its crisp display, comprehensive health tracking features and its improved third-party app support.

Buy Galaxy Watch 4 at Amazon – $200

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Garmin Vivoactive 4 smartwatch
Daniel Cooper / Engadget

Garmin’s Vivoactive 4 has dropped to $190, or nearly $160 off its regular rate. One of Garmin’s midrange smartwatches, this device tracks daily activity, sleep and workouts and it supports blood oxygen monitoring, onboard music storage, built-in GPS and an eight-day battery life.

Buy Vivoactive 4 at Amazon – $190

Withings Steel HR

Withings Steel HR smartwatch
Engadget

Withings’ Steel HR smartwatch is $60 off right now, bringing it down to $120. It’s one of the better options out there if you prefer the analog style but still want smart features like step, sleep and heart rate tracking. It also has connected GPS, a water-resistant design and a battery that will last up to 25 days on a single charge.

Buy Withings Steel HR at Amazon – $120

Get the latest Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers by visiting our deals homepage and following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The Ending of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Has Forever Puzzled and Fascinated Me

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