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May
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Vine on the web gets sections like the app, doesn’t require log in


You could peruse Vine clips on the web since early January, but now the app’s browser-based presence is getting more of what its mobile companion offers. The new version of the site allows you to scroll through channels and curated playlists and feature clips alongside what’s trending. What’s more, you’ll be able to access the site if you haven’t logged in, sending six-second links to anyone for full-screen viewing in TV mode. Once you do log in, you can gaze at your feed, populated with content from the folks you follow. Unfortunately, there’s no word on when you’ll be able to use the web cam for your next selfie. Bummer.

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Source: Vine

1
May
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Can’t get enough of LeBron James? Samsung’s here to help


Listen, LeBron James is the best basketball player ever of all time. And I love everything about him. His shoes. His jerseys. His Samsung commercials. Thankfully, I now have constant access to his life and can monitor his playoff performance with the new LeBron app. I can keep a watchful eye on his meals, clothes and which color of LeBron 11s he’s wearing in tonight’s game. Stats and scores are piped in through NBA’s Game Time app, which you know is a staple on my home screen. There’s a LeBron radio station too, so I can pretend he’s on the sideline queuing up selections from Kanye in the five minutes per game he’s not on the court. Now when I leave game six early, this app will alert me to come back. Of course, this is only available if you’re wielding a Galaxy S5, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note 3, or Galaxy Note II. Because Samsung. And LeBron.

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Source: LeBron (Google Play)

1
May
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Here’s an all-in-one travel adapter for your MacBook charger


Road warriors who carry a MacBook may already have Apple’s world travel adapter kit, or even Twelve South’s PlugBug for that extra USB port; but both products require swapping plugs for different regions. Konnext’s OneAdapter Twist, however, caters to the slightly lazier travelers: It’s essentially a chunky all-in-one travel adapter that sits atop any MacBook charger, though it also works just fine by itself. To switch plugs, simply twist the ring in the middle until it clicks. There’s also a 2.4A USB socket (PlugBug’s is only 2.1A), and if you need more, you can slot an optional three-socket USB hub in between. The OneAdapter Twist won’t be launching until June for around $29 to $39, but for now, we have a quick demo video of a prototype after the break.

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Source: Konnext

1
May
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Beats Music finally outfits the iPad after an iOS update


Spotify and Rdio have offered iPad-friendly apps for quite some time, but Beats Music didn’t appropriately outfit Apple’s slate with its streaming service until today. Thanks to iOS update, subscribers can snag the dedicated tablet version and swipe through unique sections like Just for You and The Sentence. That’s all the new features that the update offers, but at least now streaming playlists on an iPad doesn’t require you to ogle an enlarged smartphone app to do so. Of course, we still have to wait patiently for a desktop app so we can blast Kendrick Lamar at the office without being tethered to a handset.

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Via: The Verge

Source: Beats Music

1
May
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Beats Music Expands to iPad With New Update [iOS Blog]


Streaming music app Beats Music for iOS was today updated to version 2.0.0, adding compatibility with the iPad. The app, first released in January, was previously limited to the iPhone.

The new iPad app includes an interface that has been designed specifically for the tablet’s larger screen, incorporating features like Just for You, the Sentence, Find It, My Library, and Offline Mode. Support is included for both landscape and portrait modes.

Along with iPad support, the app has also gained “Find Your Friends,” a feature that allows users to find and follow their Twitter friends on Beats Music.

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What’s New in Version 2.0.0
You asked for it, and we listened! Introducing Beats Music for iPad:
– A stylish and sophisticated interface designed specifically for the iPad’s larger screen
– All your favorite features including Just for You, the Sentence, Find It, My Library and Offline Mode
– Dedicated support for both landscape and portrait modes
– In-app subscription and account management via your iTunes account

Additionally, so you aren’t listening alone, for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch:

– Find Your Friends — adds the ability to find and follow your Twitter friends on Beats Music

and much, much more!

Beats’ streaming music service has a heavy focus on curation to distinguish it from competitors like Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, and iTunes Radio. The company hires music experts to curate stations and create playlists from the service’s music catalog of 20 million songs.

Beats Music can be downloaded from the App Store for free, but accessing requires a $9.99 per month subscription. Unlimited streaming and unlimited downloads are included in the purchase price. [Direct Link]



1
May
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Apple Expands iTunes in the Cloud in Germany With Access to Movies and TV Shows [iOS Blog]


Apple today expanded iTunes in the Cloud in Germany, adding access to movies and television shows. As noted by German site iFun.de [Google Translation] German users are now able to download TV shows on their Apple TVs, as well as access previously purchased movie and television content on any of their Apple devices.

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Prior to today’s update, iTunes in the Cloud in Germany was limited to music, apps, and e-books, though German users were able to purchase movies via iTunes. Apple has also reportedly updated its terms of service in the country to reflect the new content offerings, but the iTunes in the Cloud support page and the country’s Apple TV page have yet to be updated.

iTunes in the Cloud, which allows iTunes users to download previously purchased content, initially launched back in June of 2011 in the United States, with U.S. users receiving access to movies and TV shows in March of 2012. Apple has been working on expanding movie and television show coverage to additional countries since that time. Currently, a number of countries have iTunes in the Cloud access to movies, while television shows are limited to just five countries.

Apple last expanded iTunes in the Cloud back in August of 2013, adding movie support in Japan and seven other European countries, including Austria, Switzerland, and Italy.



1
May
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Sony, Samsung will square off with competing 4K-focused Best Buy store-in-store units


If you’ve been in a Best Buy recently you’ve certainly noticed a shift in approach from the big box shop of old to what’s become a store filled with other stores. Depending on the layout, there’s the Apple section, the Microsoft wing, the Samsung nook and most recently a Google endcap, all of which are about to be joined by Sony. Sony’s getting back into retail in a big way after announcing plans to close two thirds of its remaining US stores just a few months ago, with “Sony Experience at Best Buy.” They’re starting with a relatively small rollout at around 350 locations (Samsung launched with 900 or so, Microsoft with 600) in the middle of this month, and like the other arrangements, will cluster Sony’s latest products with staff specifically trained on how they work.

There’s a benefit for both sides, as Best Buy (now pitching itself as the ultimate showroom) can offer a hands-on experience that online retailers can’t, while Sony has a retail presence with less cost and hassle than running its own shops. And you, the customer? If you couldn’t make it to CES, then vegging out in front of the latest 4K TV or playing with a PS4 demo should be even easier — and if they want to bring an Xperia Z2 along we won’t argue.

Update: As if that wasn’t enough, it turns out Best Buy is also working with Samsung on new in-store placements. While Samsung’s current units focus on mobile devices, the new ones rolling out to some 500 or so locations will be all about the manufacturer’s TVs and home theater equipment, with “the largest selection of award-winning Curved UHD TVs.” Your move, LG.

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Source: Sony Blog, Best Buy, Samsung (Businesswire)

1
May
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AT&T set to beat Verizon by deploying high-definition calls over LTE this month


Mobile World Congress 2012

With so many apps, services and features on today’s smartphones, it’s easy to forget that there are still plenty of people out there who still actually make calls. Eager to leverage the speed and efficiency of existing LTE networks, providers like AT&T and Verizon are busily trying to enhance voice call quality with a technology called Voice over LTE (VoLTE). Given the vast delays in deploying the service — both carriers wanted to launch it in 2013 — it’s apparent that VoLTE has presented its fair share of technical difficulties. AT&T, however, is now ready to flip the switch in select markets: sources familiar with the matter have indicated that the carrier plans to beat Verizon to the punch by rolling out VoLTE beginning on May 23rd.

VoLTE is essentially a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) service, except it utilizes the carrier’s LTE network to transmit calls. (Currently, most networks use 2G or 3G networks.) We’ve seen the tech already show up in the US through MetroPCS in 2012, but this would be the first time it’s been deployed on a Tier One network. With VoLTE actually working, it means AT&T customers should be able to enjoy HD Voice-like service, which makes conversations much clearer and richer. In theory, it should also increase power efficiency (and thus, battery life) and trim down the amount of bandwidth the carrier has to use to support those calls.

The catch? Your existing handset may not be compatible. If your phone doesn’t have the proper equipment inside, you’ll have to get a new phone to take advantage of it. The ASUS Padfone X, which was announced eons ago at CES, has the right equipment to support both VoLTE and LTE-Advanced, which means it should start appearing on store shelves soon after (or the day of) the 23rd. In fact, it’s quite likely that many current phones will just need an over-the-air update to activate the feature; whether or not those devices get the update, however, is a completely different question.

Details on actual deployment are still limited at this point, but previous rumors have indicated that VoLTE tests are well underway in a small number of markets. This won’t be a surprise since most carriers typically push out new tech to only a select few cities to make sure everything works properly in real-world use, before eventually expanding the service to other markets.

Of course, depending on how things go in the coming weeks, there’s always a possibility that this date will shift; the carrier likely doesn’t want to commit to a specific date unless it can do so with absolute surety. We reached out to AT&T for official confirmation, and were told: “We’re wrapping up our initial VoLTE market trials and our initial markets will be VoLTE ready this year.”

[Thanks, Anonymous!]

[Image Credit: Getty Images]

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1
May
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The true story of the worst video game in history


E.T. was the death of Atari.” If you believe the urban legend, then that game, based on Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster movie, is the sole reason Atari flopped in the 1980s. As the myth went, the company, allegedly so ashamed of the game, decided to bury millions of unsold cartridges in the New Mexico desert and cover them with a slab of concrete; a curious tale we now know to be true. Like the oral histories passed down from one generation to the next, though, certain details of the story behind E.T.‘s genesis and Atari’s demise have been lost along the way, and mild inaccuracies have become fact. To find out what really happened more than 30 years ago, we went straight to the man who made the game: former Atari developer Howard Scott Warshaw. This is his story.

THE BURLINGTON FACTOR

By the time he’d been approached to take on the E.T. project in the summer of 1982, Warshaw had been with Atari for some 17 months. During which time, he’d already developed and shipped two games, Yars’ Revenge and Raiders of the Lost Ark, almost singlehandedly. The E.T. team consisted of only three people: a graphics designer, a composer for the game’s opening song and Warshaw himself. “I did everything else in the game: all the design, all the programming, all the sweating. That was all me,” he said laughing.

Three decades ago, that was common. Today? Even among the nimble indie scene, that’s mostly an exception. As Warshaw explained, under the leadership of CEO Ray Kassar, Atari underwent a transformation from being a technically innovative company to one focused on licensed games. “Once you had that property tie-in, that’s all there was to a game,” he said. “All you needed was something to stick in a box and sell. Development got shorted.”

Not everyone could handle that working environment. Warshaw said that he saw more nervous breakdowns in the Atari offices than any place he’d ever worked; something he said was common in software development. “Literally, you’d see vans pulling up to take people away from Atari who’d kind of lost it,” he said. “Fortunately, it wasn’t ‘going postal’ types of stuff, but people literally got carted away because they lost their minds at work.”

Warshaw believes E.T. would have never happened had Atari founder Nolan Bushnell still been running the show. Under that leadership, games were only put to market once they were fun. “There was no pressure to release something,” he said. “I seriously doubt that [E.T.] would have been released by QA after five weeks of development.”

TAKING THE MOUND

In late summer of 1982, Kassar called Warshaw and offered him the chance to develop the game. Compounding the already tight deadline, Warshaw had a mere two days to come up with the game’s design document before presenting it to Spielberg in Los Angeles.

“We’re presenting the design; I laid out the whole plan and at the end of the presentation, Spielberg looks at me and says, ‘Couldn’t you do something more like Pac-Man?’ I was flabbergasted,” he said. “Of all the people in the world, Steven Spielberg suggested that I do a knock-off! My impulse was to say to him, ‘Well gee, Steven, couldn’t you do something like The Day the Earth Stood Still?’ But, you know, I didn’t say that. It was Steven Spielberg.”

“In retrospect, [taking Spielberg's advice] might not have been such a bad idea,” he said laughing.

EXTENDED CRUNCH

Much like today, game publishers 30 years ago had a razor-sharp focus on releasing their titles in time for the holiday shopping season. In a 2005 interview with The A.V. Club, Warshaw said that Atari waited a long time to negotiate the licensing rights for E.T. with Spielberg, and that those talks continued deep into July. The price of that license? Somewhere in the neighborhood of $22 million. Combined with the hard September 1st manufacturing deadline, that left a little over five weeks for development. “E.T. was an emergency situation that the company created,” said Warshaw. “They paid too much for the license and left us too little time to do the game.”

Warshaw said that once development had started, there was jealousy around the office because he’d just come off of working with Spielberg on the Raiders tie-in. During a department meeting on July 26th, 1982, he called everyone’s bluff. “I stood up and said, ‘E.T. is due September 1st; does anyone else want to do it?’ Nobody volunteered.”

“I laid out the whole plan and at the end of the presentation, Spielberg looks at me and says, ‘Couldn’t you do something more like Pac-Man?’ I was flabbergasted.”

Crunch period in modern game development can last more than a year, with nearly everyone on staff working 80 or more hours per week to make a game’s ship date. Labor can be spread across multiple studios (and sometimes even multiple continents), with entire game features and modes being assigned to different teams to help lighten the load. Warshaw didn’t have any of those luxuries. To take advantage of every minute at his disposal, he had a developer workstation installed in his home. He said that he didn’t quite work on the game for 24 hours a day, but added that it was an incredibly grueling five weeks of his life.

E.T. was all about the deadline,” Warshaw said. “It was absurd.” With Raiders of the Lost Ark, he had nearly nine months of development time. E.T. had to be done in just a fraction of that. Instead of panicking, though, he treated his schedule as a design problem. “You don’t try to do a six-month game in five weeks,” he said. “When I accepted the challenge, I designed a game that could be done in five weeks — there is much debate about the playability.” Delaying a game to ensure a quality release was not par for the course at Atari. Profits, on the other hand, were.

FALLOUT: NEW MEXICO

Tepid consumer reception, coupled with a reported 2.5 million (or more) unsold cartridges, meant that Atari had a lot of excess software on its hands. That December, Kassar dumped 5,000 shares of company stock mere minutes before Atari issued a press release stating that fiscal results for the year were “substantially” below expectations. The company posted a $310.5 million loss in 1983′s second quarter, and it took until September of that year for the SEC to charge Kassar for insider trading. The day after the ruling, The New York Times reported that spectators were kept at bay as Atari dumped 14 truckloads of game carts and equipment into the Alamogordo, New Mexico, landfill and covered the pile with cement. “[E.T.'s] certainly not the sole factor that played into the failure of Atari,” Warshaw told us. “It was a byproduct of the philosophies that created Atari’s failures.”

“You don’t try to do a six-month game in five weeks. When I accepted the challenge, I designed a game that could be done in five weeks.”

Until this week, not even Warshaw believed that Atari’s silicon mass grave was more than a rumor. “It doesn’t make any sense, but as soon as you come from a place of making sense, you’re losing touch with Atari,” he said, laughing. “What company in financial trouble does that? That’s why I always figured it wasn’t there.”

Warshaw didn’t need closure from the excavation; he’d already gotten that when he finished the game. His reaction to the discovery of the E.T. trash heap, though, was one of joy and satisfaction. “Something I’d done 30 years ago is still generating interest and discourse today – that feels very special.”

ROLL CREDITS

Since parting ways with the company in 1984, Warshaw’s made several documentaries (including one about Atari, naturally), written books and even had art featured at the Museum of Modern Art. These days, he’s a therapist in Silicon Valley, a job he says is the first one he’s loved in 30 years. “It all comes full circle, right? I used to entertain a lot of these same people. Now what I really enjoy is helping them with their lives,” he said. Had E.T. not flopped, Warshaw said that he’d have been at Atari “as long as there was an Atari to be at.”

“People think I should be ashamed of E.T. or recognize what a failure it is, but honestly I’ve always seen it as an achievement.”

[Image credits: John Thien for Engadget/Getty/Microsoft]

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1
May
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New York City looks to blanket the five boroughs with free WiFi thanks to next-gen payphones


Free public WiFi has been available in spots throughout NYC, but now the mayor’s office is looking to cover all of its five boroughs with connectivity. In a press release today, the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) issued a request for proposals focused on “the creation of a robust, citywide network of internet hotspots.” The project looks to transform aging payphone kiosks into around 10,000 “communication points” across the cityscape, funded by advertising. As you might expect, you’ll be able to call 911 and 311 for free from the units too. With a target of launching by 2018 at the latest, the project is said to serve up $17.5 million in revenue for NYC each year at no extra expense to its taxpayers. In 2013, then Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced an effort to bring free WiFi to parts of the five boroughs by the end of that year. There’s also the smattering of WiFi-enabled phone booths that launched back in 2012, but those few dozen are mostly scattered across Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. “By using a historic part of New York’s street fabric, we can significantly enhance public availability of increasingly-vital broadband access,’ said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

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Source: NYC Office of the Mayor

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