What’s new in tech
Blue Origin gets closer to the moon
Jeff Bezos’ private space company has its first lunar lander, said Brad Stone in Bloomberg.com. The world’s wealthiest man “made his case for going back to the moon” with his space exploration startup, Blue Origin, by 2024, and says his new Blue Moon lander will make it possible. The vessel is “powered by liquid hydrogen, in part so it can refuel from ice water on the moon’s poles,” and includes a small rover vehicle. Blue Origin has lagged behind Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which has completed more than 70 missions, including “ferrying supplies to the International Space Station.” But trips with a reusable rocket “designed to take six paying tourists to the edge of space for a few minutes of weightlessness” are expected to start later this year, with the first orbital rocket scheduled for launch in 2021.
Listening to Alexa
“I listened to four years of my Alexa archive and found thousands of fragments of my life,” said Geoffrey Fowler in The Washington Post. Many people don’t realize it, “but Amazon keeps a copy of everything Alexa records after it hears its name”—and you can listen to the archive. For me, that included a lot of “spaghetti-timer requests, joking houseguests, and snippets of Downton Abbey.” But there was also more sensitive material, like my family discussing medication. I also found dozens of times when my Alexa “recorded without a legitimate prompt.” Apple and Google also keep recordings from their smart home devices. Amazon does let you delete your recording history, and Google’s Assistant can be set not to store recordings. Apple, unfortunately, doesn’t give you the ability to review what it has kept—or the option not to store recordings.
A good phone for a better price
The new Google Pixel3a smartphone “should make Apple and Samsung nervous,” said David Pierce in The Wall Street Journal. There’s a simple reason why: its $400 price tag. At a time when most new smartphones will set you back upward of $1,000, Google is offering a “surprisingly good” device at a substantially lower price. The phone’s processor and polycarbonate body hold up well, although the screen is not quite as sharp or impressive as that of some other devices. But here’s one thing it does boast: The camera, often the biggest difference between low-end and high-end devices, is “as good as the camera on any smartphone I’ve ever used.”