Telltale’s ‘Batman’ and more big news from The Game Awards
Last night’s Game Awards were a lovely affair, filled with fresh trailers and information about fan-favorite games. We watched the entire show with you live on Twitch, but one day later, it’s time to look back on all the news that was.
FBI, Microsoft help take down massive global botnet
At long last, a global task force consisting of the FBI, Microsoft and various law enforcement agencies, have finally cracked down on a botnet with a ring of over 100,000 computers worldwide. Known as Dorkbot (not to be confused with the electronic art collective of the same name), the botnet is created by infecting computers with malware which then lets hackers use them for a variety of nefarious activities like sending spam or stealing personal info — login info for sites like Facebook, Netflix, Gmail, Paypal and Twitter were particularly targeted. Researchers discovered that the Dorkbot botnet, which has eluded enforcement since April 2011, has affected well over a million Windows PCs in around 190 countries in the last year alone.
[Image credit: Getty Images]
Source: The Hill
US considers rebranding its anti-ISIS propaganda
According to a report by the Washington Post, the US State Department is considering scaling back its anti-ISIS messaging. The move follows a review from a panel of marketing experts, which included people from both Silicon Valley and New York, that expressed concerns about the agency’s ability to provide credible counter arguments against the terrorist organization. The six-member group of experts, with members from both Google and Twitter, not only questioned the US government’s tactics, but if it should even be running this type of program in the first place.
Via: The Verge
Source: The Washington Post
Amazon’s Prime Music offers over a million songs and is free with a Prime account
The music streaming business is big. Google, Apple and Amazon are fighting are battling for the music space with the likes of Spotify, Pandora, and Tidal, just to name a few. Amazon has squeezed its way into the music streaming business by offering over 1 million free songs with a subscription of Amazon Prime. They’ve also added other free features like free cloud storage, and free movies and tv shows with a Prime membership as well.
Considering I just bought into HiFi audio streaming with Tidal at $20 per month, and also subscribe to other services such as Netflix (four displays) at $11.99, Google Play Music at $9.99(no ads on YouTube as well), Hulu at $7.99 and pay for Uverse cable TV(too much), I really started to wonder why I haven’t bought into Amazon’s free Prime Music with my Prime Subscription at$99 per year. I use Amazon Prime Now which offers free same-day shipping within two hours of ordering, I occasionally watch free movies on Amazon so why not Music which is free with my Prime subscription?
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Let’s go over what I have been missing.
Amazon.com Prime Music Collection
“With Prime Music, you can listen ad-free to over a million songs from top artists like Taylor Swift, Daft Punk, Kanye West, Bruno Mars, Blake Shelton, Katy Perry, The Rolling Stones, Lady Antebellum, Bruce Springsteen and Madonna.”
And just like with Amazon Prime’s video service, they frequently add more music every month. Another nice feature is you can upload your own collection of music that can be streamed to any device with the compatible Amazon Prime Music app on iOS, Android or Fire devices. It can also be streamed to computers running Windows or OSX. Amazon’s Music service is full-featured just like the other music apps.
Ad-free with unlimited skips
Start a station and enjoy uninterrupted music
Enjoy one great song after another in Prime Stations. The music keeps playing until you stop it, and won’t be interrupted by ads.
Not in the mood for a song? Simply skip it and move on to the next song. Enjoy unlimited skips to continue playing your favorite songs.
Personalized for You
The more you listen, the more personalized your stations get. Simply tap a thumbs up to hear more songs like the one playing, or thumbs down if you don’t like it. Prime Stations will learn from your feedback to create the perfect soundtrack for you.
Songs with lyrics feature a Lyrics label next to the song title, and an X-ray or Lyrics panel on the “Now Playing” screen.
Lyrics for the currently playing song display line-by-line, in time with playback, within the lyrics panel. Tap or drag this panel to expand to a full screen view, or to hide the lyrics. To view lyrics on Amazon Music for PC or Mac, click the album icon or the lyrics badge next to the playback controls while a song is playing to bring up the “Now Playing” screen.
If you’re like me and like to sing along, but frequently have a hard time understanding lyrics, Amazon’s lyrics feature offers a built-in way to read the lyrics along with the music playback.
No additional cost
With Prime Music, there is no cost. You can listen to the entire Prime Music for free – it’s included with your Amazon Prime membership.
No Internet connection? No problem
Download songs from the Prime Music catalog to your mobile devices for offline playback on a plane, train or anywhere without an Internet connection.
Why you should give Amazon Prime Music a try
Amazon Prime Music offers the biggest names in the industry with a Prime account. I will admit I do not listen to the latest music, and I realize that is one of the biggest draws to services like Google Play Music, but that costs me $120 per year at $9.99 per month. Prime Music doesn’t necessarily offer the latest hits for free, but by saving $10 a month by not paying for Google Play Music, and possibly saving $12 a month for Netflix, you could theoretically buy the latest music you want for 99 cents per song. The cost of a Netflix and Google Play Music subscription costs $264 per year, so you could be buying your music from Amazon while listening to other hits for free with their catalog of over 1 million free songs.
In addition to free music, you get these other benefits just for $99 per year:
- FREE Two-Day Shipping on eligible items to addresses in the contiguous U.S. and other shipping benefits. For more information, go to Amazon Prime Shipping Benefits.
- FREE Same-Day Delivery in eligible zip codes. For more information, go to Order with Prime FREE Same-Day Delivery.
- Prime Instant Video: unlimited streaming of movies and TV episodes for paid or free trial members in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. For more information, go to About Prime Instant Video.
- Prime Photos: Secure unlimited photo storage in Amazon Cloud Drive. For more information, go to About Prime Photos.
- Prime Pantry: Access to Prime Pantry, where members can purchase and ship to addresses in the contiguous U.S. low priced grocery, household, and pet care items for a flat delivery fee of $5.99 for each Prime Pantry box. Prime Pantry orders cannot be shipped to addresses in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
- Amazon Elements: Access to Amazon Elements products, Amazon’s own line of everyday essentials.
- Prime Early Access: Get 30-minute early access to Lightning Deals on Amazon.com and new events on MyHabit.com. For more information, go to About Prime Early Access.
- Kindle Owners’ Lending Library: access to members in the U.S. For more information, go toKindle Owners’ Lending Library
- Kindle First: Early access for members in the U.S. to download a new book for free every month from the Kindle First picks. For more information, go to Kindle First.
- Deals and Discounts, Compliments of Amazon Mom: These include 20% off diapers through Subscribe & Save and 15% off eligible products from your baby registry. For more information go to Get 20% off Diaper Subscriptions or About the Completion Discount.
- Membership Sharing: Two adults living in the same household can create an Amazon Household to share certain Amazon Prime benefits. For more information, go to About Amazon Households.
So if you already pay for a music subscription service or pay for a monthly video streaming service, you should really give Amazon Prime Music a try. It’s free for 30 days for new customers and free for current Prime subscribers. It’s definitely worth giving a shot for 30 days.
You can also win $25,000 just by listening to Prime Music now through tomorrow.
Check out Amazon Prime Music here.
Google Play Store link for Android.
Apple App Store link for iOS devices.
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LG’s K7, which should debut early next year, is a low-end phone
In the coming months, LG will release a low-end phone to be known as the K7.
Here are the alleged specifications:
- 5-inch FWVGA (854×480) display
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 quad-core processor
- 1.5GB of RAM
- 8GB of internal storage
- 5MP / 5MP cameras
Blass, writing for VentureBeat, specifically named T-Mobile as a carrier to be selling the K7, but others are expected to be doing so as well. Based on the specifications mentioned above, don’t be surprised if the K7 is around $150 off-contract. The handset should debut in early 2016 with a likely same-day release. Obviously LG won’t be hosting a splashy launch event for a device of this caliber. The company reserves that for major devices like the G4 or V10.
Come comment on this article: LG’s K7, which should debut early next year, is a low-end phone
Harmonix is working with Oculus on ‘Rock Band VR’
Through the years, Harmonix has birthed hugely successful franchises in the video game industry. This is the video game developer that created Guitar Hero, Dance Central, and Rock Band. Harmonix’s focus has generally been on titles for consoles while dabbling in mobile and virtual reality, but the company is furthering its entrance into new territory with a very experienced partner. Last night at The Game Awards, Oculus’ Palmer Luckey announced that Rock Band VR is coming in 2016.
Click here to view the embedded video.
Luckey said that Oculus and Harmonix believe Rock Band VR will be released by March 2016, the same time the Oculus Rift is due out. Samsung’s Gear VR and Google Cardboard are both already out and cost much less than the Oculus Rift will. So those things should hold you over until you crack in 2016 to spend around $1,500 on a premium virtual reality device.
Come comment on this article: Harmonix is working with Oculus on ‘Rock Band VR’
Anova Wi-Fi Precision Sous Vide Cooker Becomes First Cooking Device Available in Apple Retail Stores
Apple has recently started offering the Anova Wi-Fi Precision Cooker both online and in its retail stores, marking the first smart cooking device the company has sold to customers. Anova is a company that makes a range of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-connected precision cookers for sous vide meal preparation.
The Wi-Fi Precision Cooker Apple offers is Anova’s newest model, equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity that allows it to interface with an iPhone for monitoring purposes. Using the iPhone app, it’s possible to set the temperature on the pot from afar and monitor its cooking progress. The Anova app also includes a selection of top sous vide recipes.
For those unfamiliar with sous vide cooking, it’s a water bath cooking method that uses precise temperature control to prevent overcooking. The Anova Precision Cooker heats up and circulates water in a pot, evenly cooking food to a precise temperature that’s not possible with more traditional cooking methods.
The Anova Precision Cooker is a smart sous vide device that gets you professional quality results every time, while providing control from an app on your iPhone. Sous vide uses precision temperature control so you can’t overcook your food. Simply attach your Precision Cooker to any pot, add water, drop in your desired food in a sealed bag or glass jar, and press start.
The Precision Cooker has both Bluetooth and WI-FI connectivity so you know what’s going on with your food no matter where you are. The Precision Cooker notifies you when your food is ready, and will keep it warm until you’re ready to eat.
Eli Hodapp, editor-in-chief of our sister site TouchArcade, owns an Anova Precision Cooker and says it’s “incredible.” He says “everyone should own one” but notes the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth features on newer, more expensive models may not be useful to everyone. With sous vide, the main difference between immersion circulators is the amount of water that can be kept at a precise temperature. Since there’s no fear of overcooking, little oversight is needed.
The Anova Wi-Fi Precision Cooker is available from the Apple online store for $199.95. It’s also available immediately from a number of Apple Stores across the United States.
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Why the Xperia Z5 Premium’s 4K screen is a marketing mess
This past weekend, I was mighty motivated, though admittedly from auspicious agitation. The problem, you see, was that I decided to watch a video, Pocketnow’s Anton D. Nagy posted on YouTube. The title? “SONY Xperia Z5 Premium 4K: What It Is and What It Isn’t.” The length? Roughly 10 minutes. Now let me be perfectly clear, my objection is not with the video itself, as Anton did a wonderful job explaining Sony’s 4K tech here.
In the video, Anton demystifies the whole mystique and misconception mythos surrounding the Z5 Premium’s 4K display. He approaches this topic logically and even uses a fitting analogy with a sports car’s engine to ensure that all those watching will get it, not just the spec spectacular.
Some of the points he raised that I found to be important:
- 3840X2160 pixels with a PPI resolution of 806.
- Sony claims the decision to run at FHD most of the time is due to battery life
- Android Lollipop – which the device runs – doesn’t support 4K resolution
- 4K will work with 4K videos taken or imported, and for the Gallery.
- The Xperia Z5 plays YouTube 4K videos at 1080p resolution upscaled to 4K.
So what had me so agitated? In case that answer isn’t obvious to you yet, let me spell it out: if it takes 10 minutes to explain how a display works on a smartphone, then it makes me seriously question the hardware itself. In this particular case, why Sony even bothered to malign this so badly.
Lots of Logic
It is no secret that when it comes to Android OEM market share, Sony is far from the top dawg. Still, the company has a dedicated group of loyal fans, many of whom either love it – as I once did for reference – or else who simply adore the wonderful camera sensor used on the flagship devices.
These loyal customers are pleased with the Japanese conglomerate’s products and seemingly less likely to complain about reused designs or whatnot. Still, Sony needs to get more people purchasing its phones if it plans to keep the Xperia line viable.
To this end, it makes sense that a 4K display was chosen. No one has put such a high resolution panel on a smartphone so far, and thus the company made tech history in doing so. It could have put a QHD display on the device, but then the Xperia Z5 “Premium” would have been just shy of “Ordinary” given that rival OEMs have been placing such panels on their phones for almost two years now.
Even Sony’s decision to downplay the 4K nature to assist with battery life is a commendable achievement. If the OS itself doesn’t natively support 4K then tinkering away to enable it, as well as literally running it non-stop would kill the power cell in no time. Arguably few people would want a device that requires them to be tethered to an AC outlet just to use it.
See also: Best Android phones (December 2015)
The problem however, is that it takes 10 minutes to explain how the phone’s display works. Mainstream tech is supposed to be simple and easy to use. Apple’s entire empire is built on this intrinsic notion. Heck, last year I even had a candid conversation with a Sony employee who proceeded to bash the Galaxy Note Edge I was using at the time because it was “way too complicated for the average person to want.” And perhaps he was right.
The problem is, that the Xperia Z5 Premium is way too complicated for the average person to understand. If company makes a major marketing point out of a feature, then proceeds to post an extensive blog entry explaining how the feature really works, and then tries to justify why it exists, something feels a bit wrong. In fact, this kind of “damage control” is something we saw again, this time when Samsung tried to explain the purpose and existence of its Galaxy View tablet.
See also: Road to 4K: Do we need it?
The problem is that I’m willing to bet 95% of the customers who purchase the Z5 Premium – and let me assure you the device will inevitably be a big seller here in Japan – will have no clue whatsoever about the caveat surrounding the screen. I can easily foresee a situation wherein buyers are going around telling people “Wow 4K is so beautiful” despite the horrible irony of having been using the phone at FHD the entire time.
Is this kind of analysis something that one typically does with a new product? Sure we could debate if 4K is necessary on a mobile device, that’s a much more fundamental issue. But actually having to discuss the nature of when a screen is and isn’t 4K at any given moment just feels like a poor planning and execution.
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The Simple Solutions
The simple solution was right in front of Sony the whole time. Just deal with it and put a QHD display on the device. Heck, the canceled Xperia Z4v was already going to be making use of one for crying out loud. This would have worked brilliantly:
- Sony would still have made a legitimate reason for the Z5 Premium to be branded such along side the FHD Z5 (Standard) and the SHD Z5 Compact.
- There would be no great need to explain to customers how the “advanced” display works at times but not usually.
- There would be no up-scaling needed for anything.
- People could focus on the phone itself instead of arguing about the display.
Seems simple enough, really. But let’s extrapolate even further: why does the Xperia Z5 Premium exist at all? In making three separate Z5 devices, Sony has successfully ensured that no single one will be a break out success. Given the lack of flagship-level small smartphones, few would probably argue the Z5 Compact was a mistake. But the Z5 (standard) is quite similar to the Z4/Z3+ which released just months earlier save for a few internal upgrades.
Wouldn’t it have made much more sense to just release a single “large” Z5 and be done with it?
- Those looking for a mid-sized Z5 could just as well buy the Z4/Z3+ which was, and still is, a new product.
- The Z5 “Premium” would have been just the “Z5” thus avoiding any possible misconception that the real Z5 (standard) is somehow a lesser product because it lacks the “Premium” moniker attached to it.
- Sony released a Z3 Compact Tablet but not a Z3 Standard Tablet, thus it has already demonstrated no qualms about illogical release schedules.
Mind you this is not suggesting that the Z5 Premium is a mistake per se. Sony could have actually done some “real work” to make it into a legitimate, unique device by say, including stylus support or a new design. Really doing anything other than calling it “Premium” because it’s slightly larger and has a 4K display that can sometimes actually display in 4K would have been good. Instead, rather than try and establish a new line of products – like LG did with its V10 – Sony just took the easy way out.
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Wrap Up (Focus on the Future)
All of this leaves us wondering what will happen to the Z5 Premium when it gets Marshmallow, given that the OS has native support for 4K. Will the Z5 be “unhinged” and thus allowed to run at such a resolution 24-7? Would anyone even want this given the battery constraints that would presumably be raised? Could the Snapdragon 810 even accomplish such a task without severely overheating?
As was speculated in a recent piece about the Android 6.0 update, the sad reality is that nothing is likely to change at all, meaning that the powerful picture potential of 4K will be relegated to the confusing, convoluted scheme Sony has supplied the mainstream market with.
At the very least, the fact that Sony has released a device as peculiar and confusing as the Z5 Premium speaks volumes about the vision the company has for its product pipe-line and performance. How I pine for the Sony of days long since past…
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Rdio layoffs affect more than 100 employees, Pandora extends job offers to some
Upon being acquired by Pandora, Rdio admitted it would be shutting down and turning away subscribers. The future of Rdio’s team, which is allegedly between 140-180, was largely unknown as Pandora’s focus for the deal was on technology and not people; however, Pandora did state that “many” people from Rdio would be offered jobs. A recent WARN Report published by California’s Employment Development Department shows that Rdio laid off 123 people in San Francisco.
Rdio informed the state of the layoffs on November 18, two days after Pandora announced the acquisition. Affected employees will be relieved of their roles by December 31.
UPDATE (3:00PM ET): A spokesperson on behalf of Rdio gave Talk Android this statement:
“As is required by law, Rdio issued WARN notices of layoffs to all 123 employees in the United States. Pandora has announced plans to hire approximately 100 of our employees after the bankruptcy court approves the transaction and the deal closes, which means the majority of Rdio employees will continue having jobs.”
So, yes, a good amount of people from Rdio will have the opportunity to continue working with ease. Others, though, will have to search elsewhere for a new job.
Source: EDD (PDF)
Come comment on this article: Rdio layoffs affect more than 100 employees, Pandora extends job offers to some
Apple Campus 2 Underground Auditorium Shown Off in New Aerial Video
Apple’s second “spaceship” campus is scheduled to be completed in late 2016, giving the company just 12 months to wrap up construction to stay on schedule. Apple’s construction crews have been hard at work over the past few months, making a lot of headway on the main ring-shaped building, the underground auditorium, and the parking structures.
Drone pilot Duncan Sinfield today shared another monthly campus update video with MacRumors, giving a close-up look at how construction has progressed since November.
Four levels of the main ring-shaped building have been completed, bringing Steve Jobs’ original vision of the campus to life. With the walls in place, the special curved glass windows that will encircle the building will likely be going up soon.
This month’s video also gives a clear look at the underground auditorium Apple is building, where it will host events to show off new products. Also depicted is the Tantau development, a set of additional buildings that will serve as research and development facilities.
When it’s finished, the second Apple campus will feature the 2.8 million square foot ring-shaped main building, several parking structures, a 100,000 square foot fitness center, a 120,000 square foot auditorium, and a dedicated visitor’s center with an observation deck, cafe, and Apple Store.
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