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LanceLetter - Space Tourism; Nintendo OLED Switch; Trump v Tech

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LanceLetter

July 12 · Issue #237 · View online

Stuff that matters.


Written while watching billionaires fly

Richard Branson and the Unity22 Crew in space (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
Richard Branson and the Unity22 Crew in space (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
To Space
Yesterday, billionaire Richard Branson flew, along with three other passengers (the Unity22 crew), in his Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo to the edge of space. The event, covered live online, was a mix of excitement and banal commercials for Branson’s brand. Even so, this was a momentous accomplishment. It may mark the start of space tourism (if you have tens of thousands of dollars to burn or manage to win a seat through Omaze).
Less than two weeks from now, Billionaire and former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will board his own spaceship, Blue Origin’s New Shepard, and fly to space. Like SpaceShipTwo, New Shepard will basically kiss the edge of space and offer the passenger a few precious minutes of zero gravity weightlessness. (The live feed cut out just as SpaceShipTwo was reaching space. So, we didn’t even get to see Branson floating around his cabin.)
Even though Branson’s flight marks the beginning of Space Tourism, the industry’s growth will be nothing like that of traditional air flight. Virgin’s spaceship was ferried to just below space by a mothership. Bezos’ spaceship will rise from a launchpad and then the capsule parachutes back to earth. None of this sounds remotely like tourism fare. It’ll remain risky and expensive for years to come.
So why do this? The real value here is how these programs highlight the excitement and wonder of space and help lift up the fortunes of other more traditional space programs. I’m certain NASA, which is incredibly expensive and has always struggled to get adequate funding, will get a tiny lift. For Blue Origin, these splashy tourist flights could help it secure the more lucrative NASA contracts ( Bezos desperately wants to be a part of NASA’s revived moon program).
The Switch to OLED
Nintendo finally made the OLED edition of Switch official last week. The 7-inch screen (slightly larger than the current 6.2-inch LCD) offers the exact same 1280x720 resolution but should be brighter, crisper, and more colorful thanks to the OLED screen technology.
The fundamental difference between OLED and LCD is light source. LCD’s need backlighting for illumination, which can lead to dim areas and is never as uniformly bright as OLED. OLED pixels generate their own light which makes for better colors and more precise and deeper contrast. Yes, you can imagine what this means for gaming on these extremely popular little devices.
Watching the launch trailer, I notice a couple of other nifty upgrades, like a built-in Ethernet port and a fully adjustable kickstand (much like the one I have on my Microsoft Surface Pro 7).
Nintendo Switch OLED doesn’t ship until the fall ($349), and, in the meantime, you can still get an old-school Switch, which has been in short supply since the day it launched, for $299.
Trump vs. Tech
Former President Donald Trump is still smarting over his expulsion from virtually all social media and now he’s bringing a class action lawsuit against Facebook, Twitter, and Google to say he and anyone else who’s been “canceled” by the platforms is being unfairly censored.
I have no interest in seeing this suit played out but do wonder if Trump, as the chief plaintiff, will be compelled at some point to testify and will have to explain how social media was used by him and others to incite the January 6 riot.
The larger issue here, though, is can you compel private businesses (yes, they’re traded publicly, but are not government or public services) to post, promote and allow those they deem unworthy of their platforms? And by “unworthy” I mean those who flout the rules, the agreed upon Terms of Service. I think this is an uphill battle for Trump and Co., at best but it may all be a show to keep Trump in the news as he prepares for another run in 2024.
I have some more thoughts here.
Have a good week.
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