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Posts from the ‘News’ Category

31
Aug
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Feedback Loop: UI annoyances, remotes and speed-reading apps!


Happy Saturday! Welcome to another edition of Feedback Loop! This week we’re talking about those minor user interface quirks that just really grind our gears. Once you’re done letting the hate flow, find out whether or not speed-reading apps are worth your time and let people know if you actually use your smartphone as a remote. So get comfy and grab some coffee. Then tell us what works for you and get some advice from fellow readers.

What seemingly small UI design flaws bother you the most?

TgD is giving Windows Phone 8.1 a trial run and, while he’s been enjoying it, he has one major annoyance: the messaging interface. He finds the placement of the send button “brutal,” causing frequent interaction issues. It’s driving him up a wall, and he’s wondering if anyone else has hang-ups with the apps they use on a regular basis.

Have you replaced your remotes with a smartphone?

First Logitech started rolling out the Hub; then Samsung and HTC started bundling IR blasters into their phones. Now even Roku and Microsoft’s Xbox team are making dedicated remote experiences. But here’s the thing, I’m just not getting the point of it all. Losing physical buttons is my biggest concern. I feel like I’ll always be looking down at my phone or tablet. I’m curious to know if anyone has given up their physical remote in favor of a virtual one. And if so, how is it working out?

How would you fix Swarm/Foursquare?

Kris has been a longtime user of Foursquare, and she’s seriously annoyed with the recent unbundling of check-ins. She’s expressed her own frustrations, but is looking to hear what others think. If you’ve made the move, what does Foursquare need to do keep you from jumping ship to Yelp!?

Are speed-reading apps all they’re cracked up to be?

Everyone is making speed-reading apps. (Guess they’re the new weather widget or to-do list.) They claim to improve memory retention and, of course, leave you with more free time. But, the question is, do they really work? We’re curious to know if you’ve given any of them a shot and whether or not you’ve liked the experience.

Other discussions you may also like:

That’s all this week! Want to talk about your favorite gadget or have a burning question about technology? Register for an Engadget account today, visit the Engadget forums and start a new discussion.

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31
Aug
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Twitter makes it easier to decide who you’ll follow first


Twitter on a Nexus 5

Twitter said early this year that it would do more to help first-timers follow people, and it’s now making good on its word. The social network has just revamped its sign-up process to help you tailor those first follows to your interest. Rather than simply toss out a bunch of suggestions, Twitter now asks you to choose topics you like (such as music or technology) and offers recommendations to match. You’ll also see recent tweets from those accounts, so you’ll have a better sense of whether or not that celebrity or news outlet is really a good fit.

The new sign-up system isn’t perfect. By default, it will automatically have you following every suggestion; you have to deselect the people you don’t want to watch. Still, it could give you a much gentler introduction to the service by showing people you’re more likely to care about — Twitter is hoping that you’ll see enough interesting activity to stick around. The company obviously has some financial incentives for helping you out, but it’s hard to object to a bigger, better welcome mat.

Twitter's new sign-up process

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Source: Christian Oestlien (Twitter)

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31
Aug
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Apple Reportedly Weighing $400 Price Range for Upcoming Wearable Device


iwatch_concept_ifoyucouldseeIn the latest of a string a reports regarding Apple’s plans for its upcoming wearable device, Re/code reports company executives have “discussed” a rough price of $400 for the device. That is merely a range, however, with cheaper models perhaps also in the works.

Apple executives have discussed charging around $400 for the company’s new wearable device.

Pricing has yet to be finalized for the forthcoming product, which is expected to begin shipping next year. Sources say consumers should expect a range of prices for different models including lower priced versions.

The report indicates that it is unclear whether Apple will have the pricing issue settled in time for its September 9 media event where it will reportedly show off the device, popularly referred to as the iWatch. If not, the company would remain silent on pricing for the time being and announce it a later date closer to launch, which may not occur until early next year.

Rumors regarding the wearable device have been inconsistent over time, making it unclear where on the spectrum of health and fitness band to true smart watch it will fall. Apple may, however, have altered its announcement schedule in order to better position the device as an iPhone accessory rather than as a standalone product.

(Image: iWatch concept from ifyoucouldseethefuture.com)




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30
Aug
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Review roundup: Intel’s 8-core Haswell-E is the fastest desktop CPU ever


Since it was teased in March, enthusiasts have been itching to see how Intel’s 8-core Haswell Extreme Edition processor (the i7-5960X) performs. It has now launched (along with two other Haswell-E models) and the reviews are in. Yes, it’s the world’s fastest desktop CPU — but the general consensus is “it could have been better.” Why? Because Intel recently launched a “Devil’s Canyon” CPU for $340 with a base clock speed of 4.0GHz that can easily be overclocked to 4.4GHz. The $1,000 Extreme Edition chip, on the other hand, has a base clock of 3.0GHz and max turbo speed of 3.5GHz. Since clock speeds are often more important to gamers than multiple cores, that might disappoint many a Battlefield 4 player. On the other hand, with DDR4 support and eight cores (Intel’s highest count ever on the desktop), the chip should excel at pro tasks like 4K video processing and 3D rendering. Given the price tag, that might be the only market that can afford it. Here’s what the experts think.

Hot Hardware

Hot Hardware called the Haswell-E 5960X “a mix between kick-ass and meh,” saying that it was actually topped in some tests by the i7-4960X, last year’s Extreme Edition model. That’s because despite having two less cores, the latter has higher clock-rates. Still, it found the new chip to be “mostly superior to the previous-gen,” in terms of gaming and graphics performance. And if you’re into overclocking, the chip is more configurable than other Haswell processors. ASUS told Hot Hardware the chip was easy to take up to around 4.4GHz or so with decent liquid or air cooling, thanks to adjustable voltage, turbo and other settings. If you decide to do that, however, beware of your power bill: the chip has decent power efficiency at regular settings, but can jump to 180 watts or more when overclocked.

Anandtech

“Using the 8-core monster… does some financial damage,” was Anandtech‘s succinct sum-up of the CPU’s economics. $1,815 and up is the bare minimum price for a fully configured system, but that can easily stretch to $5,000 or more if you max out the RAM and graphics. The $1,000 price of the CPU doesn’t help, but another issue is memory: DDR4 RAM is considerably more expensive than last-gen DDR3, running about $250 per 16GB. On the other hand, you will save a bit of money once it’s up and running. Tick for tick, the new CPU is more efficient than last year’s Extreme Edition 6-core model (provided you don’t overclock), and the DDR4 RAM runs at a lower voltage and consumes less power as well. Still, you’d have to be a serious gamer to justify the mild performance bump for the not-so-mild leap in price over chips like the 4GHz Devil’s Canyon model.

Tom’s Hardware

However, if you’re into video or 3D graphics, where time is money, it might be worth paying more. Tom’s Hardware took a close look at some real-life benchmarks, including 3ds Max, Adobe Photoshop CC, Premiere Pro CC and Handbrake media encoding. The new chip tops almost all the charts, and actually bests Intel’s 8-core Xeon E5-2687W v2 in most — and that processor costs twice as much. Since most of the applications are heavily multi-threaded (unlike many games), it also wallops the quad-core, 4Ghz Core i7-4790K in all the tests. That means a 3ds Max render would run about 25 percent faster — which could easily save hours of time.

Oddly, Tom’s also showed that if you’re into gaming, the two processors introduced along with the Extreme Edition CPU — the $389 Core i7-5820K with four cores and the $583 6-core 5930K — might actually be better. It said “games often favor architecture and clock rate over core count,” and sure enough, Battlefield 4 and other titles get higher frame rates on those chips, thanks to the higher clock speeds. So if you’re a gamer, today’s announcement isn’t a total loss — but you may want to ignore the glamor chip and look at the two CPUs playing second fiddle instead.

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Source: Intel

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30
Aug
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4.7-Inch iPhone 6 Built From Parts Supports Theory of 1334 x 750 Display


Yesterday, we shared a video and some photos from Feld & Volk [Instagram page] apparently showing a 4.7-inch iPhone 6 built from parts actually booting to the “Connect to iTunes” recovery mode screen.

A Tweet today from developer Steven Troughton-Smith points out that the graphics shown on the display during this booting process “*seem* to confirm” John Gruber’s arguments in favor of the device being equipped with a 1334 x 750 display at the same 326 pixels per inch density of previous Retina displays. More specifically, the evidence points toward an approximately 667 x 375 point display, which would presumably arrive in the form of a 2x Retina display at 1334 x 750 as Gruber suggests.

Sparked by Troughton-Smith’s observation, we have independently examined photos of the booting device provided to us by Feld & Volk and come to the same conclusion.

iPhone 6 (left) and iPhone 5s (right) shown booting to recovery mode. Letterboxing on iPhone 6 visible below Lightning cable.
The method relies on the fact that the “Connect to iTunes” image does not completely fill the display on the iPhone 6, with the Lightning cable ending above the bottom edge of the screen whereas on current iPhones it extends all the way to the edge. Assuming this “letterboxing” is due to the image not being optimized for the larger iPhone 6 display, it would correspond to the image filling an area equivalent to a 4-inch screen centered on the device’s 4.7-inch display.

This would account for the margin of black seen between the cable and the bottom of the display, and measuring the ratio of the space (plus a presumed equal one at the top) to the overall display size should yield an approximation of how much larger the viewable area is in points on the iPhone 6.

4.7-inch iPhone 6 display showing apparent letterboxed areas (red) with image optimized for 4-inch display (blue)
(Click for larger)

By our calculations, the border areas not covered by the image together suggest that the iPhone 6 display carries approximately 17.5% more points in the vertical dimension than a current 4-inch display. This would move the current 568-point height of the iPhone 6 (1136 pixels at 2x Retina) to 667 points (1334 pixels assuming 2x Retina) on the iPhone 6.

Assuming the aspect ratio of the screen remains the same as in the iPhone 5s, which by all indications it does, this would mean a 667 x 375 point (1334 x 750 pixels Retina) display for the iPhone 6. Performing the calculation in the horizontal dimension is more difficult due to nature of the recovery mode image, with no portion of the visible graphics extending to the side edge of the overall image to determine how much letterboxing space is on the sides.

This analysis obviously addresses only the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 that Feld & Volk has acquired parts for. Gruber suggests the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 will likely contain a 2208 x 1242 display at a sharper 3x factor than the current 2x Retina. As pointed out by developer James Thomson and 9to5Mac, the current iOS 8 beta is indeed showing some behavior indicating a preference for displaying 3x images when available.




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30
Aug
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Back to School 2014: The 13 best accessories


Once you’ve figured out your laptop and smartphone situation, chances are you’ll want to invest in a nice backpack or a few extras to make the dorm room feel like home. Our back-to-school accessories picks are a perfect mix of necessities and extravagant nice-to-haves. Check them out below, and head over to our guide homepage to see more.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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30
Aug
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IRL: A tablet holder for using your device in bed


There are times when I just want to lie in bed and surf random YouTube channels on my phone or tablet, but it’s impossible to hold the device above my head for a prolonged period (we’ve all been there, right?).

Luckily, I stumbled upon this neat kit in Shenzhen one day: a balanced-arm tablet holder by some random brand called Usiabu, and it only cost me CN¥80 or $13, as it was from a wholesale dealer (retail price is around $25 in Hong Kong). As you can tell from the price, this product doesn’t involve any groundbreaking technology: you’ve probably already come across desk lamps that use this type of spring-loaded mechanism.

Installation is simple: secure the c-clamp mounting base onto the edge of a desk, insert the steel arm via its rotation pin and mount the plastic tablet bracket onto the dual-axis pivot for 180-degree vertical and 360-degree rotation. The arm stretches to about 90cm — which is sufficient — and the tablet bracket can handle screen sizes from 7 inches up to 12 inches; you adjust it by sliding one half of the bracket, and lock its position with a latch on the back. The tablet can also be lightly tilted within its bracket courtesy of sliding padded feet.

I’ve been using this tablet holder for over a year now (though not every single night, of course) and find it to be very handy, more so than the bendy versions that require more effort to position one’s tablet or phone. The hinges are still surprisingly tight, so thankfully, my tablet hasn’t yet dropped onto my face. If anything, I’m just disappointed by how some of the metallic fixtures have gone slightly rusty. The tablet bracket’s release mechanism can be a bit fiddly when I’m lying on my bed, as the loosened latch drops down due to gravity, which then still locks the bracket’s sliding part. Still, given how little I paid for it, these issues are relatively minor.

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30
Aug
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Scientists discover why mozzarella is the ideal pizza cheese


US-CURIOSITY-RESTAURANT-ANIMALS-ENVIRONMENT

Pizza is essentially the perfect food. Well, so long as you aren’t lactose intolerant or have problems with gluten. We realize that those are pretty big caveats, but stay with us for a second — it’ll be worth it: NPR spotted a study of why different cheeses diverge in looks and taste when baked. Seriously. In a paper called “Quantification of Pizza Baking Properties of Different Cheeses, and Their Correlation with Cheese Functionality,” researchers found that, among other things, the reason why mozzarella is so unique of a topping has to do with the way it’s prepared. The cheese bubbles and browns because of its inherent elasticity due to stretching. In contrast, cheddar isn’t as ideal because it isn’t very elastic, thus it doesn’t bubble as well. The same apparently goes for Edam and Gruyere, too.

Lest you think this paper was just an excuse for the scientists to eat lots of pizza (maybe it was), they claim that by understanding why foods behave in certain ways, they could unlock the knowledge needed to hack our grub. For example, developing a cheese that’s healthier for us and that tastes just as good as the stuff likely to cause debilitating heart conditions could come from this. Pizza that’s actually good for you? That’s something we can get behind.

[Image credit: AFP/Getty Images]

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Via: NPR

Source: Journal of Food Science

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30
Aug
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Recommended Reading: The (second) rise of virtual reality


Recommended Reading highlights the best long-form writing on technology and more in print and on the web. Some weeks, you’ll also find short reviews of books that we think are worth your time. We hope you enjoy the read.

The Rise and Fall and Rise of Virtual Reality
by The Verge

Unless you’ve been under a rock the last couple of years, you’ve read some collection of words about the return of virtual reality at the hands of Oculus and others. Thanks to a multifaceted interactive piece from the folks at The Verge, you can get caught up on the technology’s history, its current state of affairs, VR in pop culture and more. Heck, there’s even a look at a step-by-step process for building a simple, 3D-printed headset for an iPhone.

What Happened to Motorola
by Ted C. Fishman, Chicago Magazine

Wondering how Motorola went from a formidable tech company to its Motorola Mobility sector losing $198 million during the first quarter of 2014? This piece for Chicago Magazine takes a look at the history of the company that dates back to 1928 through present day — a few months after Lenovo snatched up its smartphone business from Google for a cool $3 billion.

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Why Top Tech CEOs Want Employees with Liberal Arts Degrees
by Elizabeth Segran
, Fast Company

While you might think you’ll need a degree in science, engineering, math or computer science to nab a career in tech, industry CEOs are saying not so fast. Company heads are holding fast to the idea that folks with liberal arts degrees can make an impact based on education in disciplines like philosophy, religion and other humanities.

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Metro Redux: What it’s Really Like to Develop for PS4 and Xbox One
by Richard Leadbetter, Eurogamer

We’ve placed selections that examined the challenges of developing games for both the Xbox One and PS4 in this roundup before, but here, 4A Games’ Oles Shishkovstov gets pretty detailed about the process in a Q&A with Eurogamer.

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How Steve Ballmer Became a Rookie Basketball Mogul
by Monica Langley
, The Wall Street Journal

By this point, you’ve likely read one or two headlines about former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer snatching the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers for a cool $2 billion. Now, The Wall Street Journal has a look at the events leading up to the new owner closing the deal.

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30
Aug
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Dell says its curved monitor will help make you a better gamer


What good is having an ultra-powerful PC if you’re still connecting it to a dusty old monitor? We reckon doing so would be pretty silly. Good thing that alongside the new Alienware Area 51, Dell’s pulled the curtain back on its 34-inch Ultrasharp U3415W display then. It boasts a wider-than-widescreen 21:9 aspect ratio that’s paired with 3,440 x 1,440 lines of resolution (just under 4K’s 3,840 x 2,160) and a curved screen. Dell says that the monitor’s wide field of view mated with its curves will give gamers a leg up on the competition because, compared to flat monitors, less eye movement is needed to take advantage of the player’s peripheral vision. Intrigued to test that claim? You can do so come this December. We’re hoping that regardless of size, though, a curved screen doesn’t necessarily equate to an expensive screen — Dell hasn’t announced pricing for these displays just yet.

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