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30
Mar

2016 Toyota RAV4 review – Roadshow


The Good The 2016 Toyota RAV4 SE offers a more dynamic drive character in this normally sterile class. More aggressive looks thanks to the exclusive SE styling touches make the RAV4 visually appealing. Good power and fuel efficiency from 2.5-liter engine.

The Bad The SE’s sport suspension provides a firmer ride quality that may turn off some customers. In our drives, a rattle from the left B-pillar would annoyingly come and go. The RAV4’s Infotainment system doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto capabilities.

The Bottom Line Those who need the practicality of a compact crossover but don’t want a drab-looking or drab-driving vehicle should put the RAV4 SE on their “must drive” list.

Inside a half-mile of driving Toyota’s RAV4 SE over Michigan’s crumbling roads, I make a mental note of its firmer bump stiffness. The ride isn’t brutal, but it’s rougher — enough to turn off consumers shopping the compact crossover segment who put more stock in a compliant ride, flexible interior space and fuel economy. Lucky for those people, Toyota’s midcycle RAV4 update includes a new hybrid version that caters to those wants, and there’s always the model’s more traditional LE and XLE models.

Clearly, Toyota’s RAV4 range has grown to include flavors for all types of buyers.

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Sportier intentions

Dig deeper into the freshened RAV4 lineup, past the typical changes like new light housings, bumpers, rocker panels and wheel designs, and you’ll also find the new SE model for people who still want flexible interior space and good fuel economy, but prefer their vehicles to be a bit more engaging from behind the wheel. As the athlete in the RAV4 family, the SE gets a sport-tuned suspension; unique 18-inch wheels and a specific styling treatments to give it a little extra visual edge.

Notice that list of SE changes doesn’t include a power increase. Like the majority of sport versions of mainstream vehicles, it doesn’t get upgrades to the drivetrain, meaning the SE works with the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder making 176 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque as other non-hybrid RAV4s. That power makes it competitive with heavy hitters in the segment like the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and base Ford Escape. While fuel economy for the RAV4’s full-gas drivetrain understandably isn’t up to the hybrid model’s impressive 34 mpg city and 31 mpg highway EPA fuel economy ratings, the SE’s 2.5-liter four- and six-speed automatic transmission combination returns a respectable 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway with all-wheel drive. If front-wheel drive is all you need, then efficiency climbs to 24 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.

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A firmer suspension noticeably improves the SE’s handling, but not without a ride penalty.


Jon Wong/Roadshow

Instead, the SE’s performance changes center on the suspension, which improves the RAV4’s handling reflexes, making the small crossover a bit more fun to toss around. Turn-in response is fairly quick, and there’s some weight tuned into the wheel. Grip through corners is good for spirited drives, with not much body lean. The wider footprint from the 18-inch Bridgestone Ecopia H/L 422 Plus all-season rubber deserves some credit for the increase in handling prowess, but don’t be under the illusion that the SE is a skidpad hellion, or that it’s ready to stand at the top of the timesheets at your next local autocross, because that’s not what it’s about. The biggest downside to SE is the aforementioned harsher ride quality, a byproduct of its stiffer springs and shock absorbers.

Unless you’re buying a Ford Escape or Kia Sportage with their available 2.0-liter turbo engines, you’ll have a hard time finding a compact crossover that one might call quick. Instead, most entries in this very popular segment pack serviceable power similar to this Toyota, which motors away from stops in a brisk-enough manner and pulls well throughout the rev range, with its gearbox cycling through the gears smoothly. The RAV4 never feels underpowered. If you want, the SE includes steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, but unfortunately they aren’t particularly responsive. I abandoned their use after only a couple of miles.

More of a looker and still functional

Visually, the 2016 RAV4 lineup looks significantly better than before, with new exterior fixings turning what was a previously really bland-looking crossover into a not-at-all-as-bland-looking crossover. That’s especially true with this trim, as it takes things a little further with its standard LED lighting, SE-specific front bumper with larger, honeycombed lower grille insert and 18-inch wheels with black-painted spoke insets. The SE looks particularly sharp with the Electric Storm Blue paint seen here, even if it stands out a little more than I generally prefer. I can’t remember the last time I had random people in parking lots come up and ask me about a compact crossover, but that happened with this RAV4, and a lot of that has to do with its vibrant paint job.

The interior features a clean design, with nice touches including numerous wrapped surfaces with contrasting orange stitching. The SofTex seats — also with contrast stitching — are quite comfortable, with slightly larger side bolsters for additional lateral support. The center stack houses large, clearly marked climate and infotainment buttons that are easier to use than touchscreen controls.

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30
Mar

‘World of Warcraft’ to get a book series aimed at kids


World of Warcraft has been around for more than a decade, fleshing out the world of Azeroth with new lands, stories and characters. Its subscriber base is slowly shrinking, but the Warcraft brand continues to evolve through games like Hearthstone and an upcoming feature-length movie. Now, developer Blizzard is teaming up with Scholastic for a new book series aimed at 8 to 12-year-olds. It’s called World of Warcraft: Traveler and the first novel will be launching in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand this November. The second instalment is due in 2017.

Warcraft literature is nothing new. Over the years there have been countless novels, comic books and manga exploring Azeroth. Traveler should be a little different, however, given it’s targeting a younger readership. It’s being written by Greg Weisman, a novelist, comic book and TV writer who worked on Gargoyles, The Spectacular Spider-Man and Star Wars Rebels. The books will follow Aram, a 12-year-old boy washed ashore with little more than a sketchbook and a magical compass. He has to find his way back home, adventuring and making friends along the way.

By targeting younger readers, Blizzard is expanding the Warcraft brand and attracting a generation that might not have tried its games before. That’s could prove important if the developer is to sustain both World of Warcraft and future projects set in the Warcraft universe.

Source: Scholastic

30
Mar

Skype for iOS Gains New ‘Bots’ Feature in Latest Update


During today’s Microsoft Build conference for developers, Microsoft announced plans to bring interactive bots to the Skype platform on Windows, Android, and iOS. Starting today, Skype iOS users will have access to Bots that offer expertise, products, services, and entertainment through messaging options in the Skype app.

Today we are introducing Skype Bots–a new way to bring expertise, products, services and entertainment into your daily messaging on Skype.

Each Bot will enhance your Skype experience in its own way, bringing a new dimension into your everyday Skype chats by helping turn your ideas and plans into actions.

Available bots that can be interacted with on iOS include Bing Music, Bing News, and Bing Images. Bing Music is able to search multiple sites to find song information, while Bing Image bot and Bing News bot are designed for web navigation. With the Skype Bot SDK, brands and developers will be able to create bots that work through Skype.

In the future, Skype plans to expand Bot availability to audio and video calling, introducing new bot-based experiences. An example of Skype Video Bots was shown off during the Build Conference.


To access the messaging bots in Skype, iOS users will need to download the latest version of the app. Accessing bots can be done through the “Search” option from the Contacts page, which includes an option to add bots to Skype.

Skype can be downloaded from the App Store for free for iPhone and iPad. [Direct Link: iPad, iPhone]

Tag: Skype
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30
Mar

NASA is making an exhibit that’ll let you roam Mars using Microsoft HoloLens


You’ll be able to explore Mars in a few months, as long as you’re near Florida. 

Shortly after Microsoft ended its main keynote at Build 2016, NASA announced that it teamed up with the Windows 10-maker to let you take a virtual tour of Mars using Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality headset.

The US space agency has come up with a new exhibition called Destination: Mars. It will open at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida this summer, allowing you to “visit” several sites on Mars. NASA used real imagery from the Curiosity Mars Rover that has been roaming around the Red Planet since 2012. During the experience, you’ll also get to see Buzz Aldrin – the Apollo 11 astronaut – as a holographic tour guide.

The upcoming exhibition is made possible thanks to a mission operations tool co-developed by Microsoft and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It took data and images collected by the Curiosity rover and allows HoloLens to use that stuff in order turn your environment into Mars for you to stroll around. NASA itself uses OnSight to virtually explore Mars and to decide where its rover should travel next on the Red Planet.

The whole idea behind this exhibition is to give space center guests a “glimpse of Mars as seen by mission scientists,” according to NASA, which also said it is preparing to send humans to Mars in the 2030s. So this experience will allow the public to preview what astronauts are facing.

Watch a preview of the new NASA exhibition below, or check out Pocket-lint’s HoloLens hub for related news.

30
Mar

BlackBerry 10’s new Facebook app lives only on the web


BlackBerry 10 is on life support, with few sales and fewer devices. It’s in such a bad state that the company has switched its attention to Android, giving developers little reason to support its own operating system. Facebook jumped ship earlier this month, announcing that it would end support for its apps later this year. But wait! BlackBerry has announced a new, replacement Facebook app. Unlike the old one, however, it’s just a web app. That does mean a few extra features, such as the ability to reply to comments (yes, really), but it’s far from a like-for-like swap.

Want to stick it out with the native app? Tough. BlackBerry says the old version will stop working on March 31st, meaning the web app replacement will be mandatory almost immediately. In this scenario, something is better than nothing, although it’s hard to shake the feeling that BlackBerry is just saving face here. Some people do swear by Facebook’s mobile site though, because it drains less battery than the official iOS and Android apps. So maybe, just maybe, this will actually be an improvement?

Source: Inside BlackBerry

30
Mar

Apple’s latest Safari browser is built for developers


You no longer have to try an OS X beta (or a WebKit nightly build) to see where Apple is going with Safari’s under-the-hood features. The tech firm has released a Safari Technology Preview that helps developers work with the latest in web technology. Don’t expect to see any major interface shake-ups as a result — the big improvements in the initial version revolve around newer, faster JavaScript support, and the rest are smaller things like minor HTML updates and a better web inspector. If you craft websites for a living, though, this makes it easy to test your work without living too close to the bleeding edge.

Via: The Next Web

Source: Apple

30
Mar

The Feds are demanding that Google unlock phones as well


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) compiled and released a map of where the federal government is currently taking Apple, Google — and in some cases, both — to court in order to compel the companies to unlock a suspect’s phone. There are reportedly 70 cases in which federal prosecutors have invoked the All Writs Act, according to court records from October. The ACLU managed to turn up 63 of them — nine of which targeted Google; the rest, Apple.

Not all of these procedings involve the same issue as the recent Apple-FBI court battle over the San Bernardino shooter’s phone. In some cases, the companies have complied with the warrant (that is, the phone wasn’t encrypted or anything), however it should be noted that the Feds leveraged the All Writs Act, a statute they claim is used only as a measure of last resort, in every single one of these cases. Not unlike how they’ve managed to exploit PATRIOT Act provisions in the War on Drugs.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: ACLU

30
Mar

Apple Outlines Milestone on Eliminating Conflict Minerals in 2016 Supplier Responsibility Report


Apple today released its 2016 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report [PDF] and updated its accompanying Supplier Responsibility website to offer a look at its 2015 efforts to improve the lives of the workers that produce and assemble its products.

Apple’s focus in 2015 was on cutting down on excessive work hours and addressing bonded and underage labor practices. Work-hour compliance on Apple’s 60-hour maximum workweek mandate reached 97 percent, up from 92 percent in 2014.

For its 10th annual progress report, Apple conducted 640 total audits and 21 unannounced audits, plus it closed 250 requests for environment, safety, and labor cases and conducted 25,000 follow-up interviews to ensure employers did not retaliate against workers for participating in Apple audits.

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Apple’s auditing process, in addition to assessing work conditions and interviewing workers, seeks out core violations like underage workers, involuntary labor, document falsification, retaliation against workers, unsafe working conditions, and significant environmental issues. Noncompliant suppliers are placed on probation and if issues are not addressed immediately, Apple terminates contracts.

In 2015, Apple suppliers paid out $4.7 million to reimburse workers that were contracted through unfair and excessive recruitment fees. Since 2008, Apple has forced its suppliers to pay out more than $25.6 million to workers to put an end to bonded labor.

Apple discovered three instances of child labor in 2015 at a single supplier. When suppliers are found hiring underage employees, they are required to return children to their homes, fund their education, and pay for basic living expenses.

In 2015 we found one facility, which was audited for the first time, in violation of employing underage labor. The number of audited facilities with underage labor dropped to 1 in 2015 from 6 in 2014 despite nearly 20 percent of facilities audited being new to the process.

There were 3 active cases of underage labor at this single facility. All three underage workers were 15 years old and the minimum age requirement is 16 years of age.

A full chart outlining labor and human rights violations at Apple supplier facilities gives an overall overview of how suppliers are living up to Apple’s requirements. Apple has made progress on the prevention of underage labor and the prevention of involuntary labor, but wages and benefits continue to be an area where suppliers are underperforming.

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Apple’s reports include an environmental component, and in 2015, Apple succeeded in getting 100 percent of identified smelters and refiners in its supply chain to participate in a third-party conflict minerals audit program to ensure suppliers are not financing armed conflict. In an interview with BuzzFeed, Apple operations chief Jeff Williams said achieving that goal required kicking out 35 suppliers that “we were unable to convince to do things in the way we think are appropriate.”

Apple also improved conditions in tin mines in Indonesia, which were previously environmentally unsound and unsafe for workers.

In 2015, Apple and the Tin Working Group conducted investigative research on the ground, and worked with civil society organizations and mining companies to define a five-year regulatory reform strategy of tin mining best practices. Together we are also drafting standards and guidelines to help buyers of tin identify responsible sources in the global marketplace.

The Indonesian government is now evolving its own policies for tin production and the environmental impacts of mining.

Over the course of 2015, Apple reduced carbon emissions by 13.8k metric tons and diverted 73.7k metric tons of waste from landfills through a new waste diversion program. Since 2013, 3.8 billion gallons of freshwater have been saved through a Clean Water Program, and 100 percent of chemicals at Apple’s final assembly facilities are free of Apple-prohibited substances.

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Apple’s Supplier Responsibility report is a surprisingly interesting read, with the full document accessible through Apple’s dedicated Supplier Responsibility website.

Tag: supplier responsibility
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30
Mar

Fullscreen video service will take on YouTube and Netflix on April 26


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After launching first on YouTube, the content company Fullscreen will be introducing its own video streaming subscription service, similar to Netflix, on April 26. It will offer a mix of older TV shows and movies with original content for $4.99 a month, with a 30-day free trial

Fullscreen’s channels already generate 5 billion video views a month on YouTube. The new service, which will be available on web browsers along with iOS and Android apps, will target Fullscreen’s younger audience. According to the Los Angeles Times:

Some of the original lineup comes from YouTube personalities, such as “Electra Woman & Dyna Girl,” a comedic Sid and Marty Krofft reboot starring Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart, and “Jack & Dean of All Trades,” a workplace comedy starring and created by Jack Howard and Dean Dobbs. Acquired content includes favorite TV series like “Dawson’s Creek” and “Daria,” as well as films “Cruel Intentions” and “Can’t Hardly Wait.”

The new service will partner with AT&T which will promote Fullscreen to its mobile and broadband customers.

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30
Mar

Verizon Galaxy S7 review: What to expect on America’s largest carrier


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We’ve been using the best Android smartphone on America’s largest operator for a month. Here’s what we’ve found …

Not every Samsung Galaxy S7 is created equal. OK, they’re mostly created equal. That is, you’re going to get the same hardware no matter which U.S. operator you go with. Same Snapdragon processor. Same 32GB of on-board storage. Same look and feel.

Like so many (or too many, depending on how you look at it) phones these days, it’s what’s on the inside that changes things. Especially when the U.S. operators get involved.

First place to start: Read our comprehensive Galaxy S7 review, which goes more in-depth with the phone itself. And we’re now taking a loser look at each carrier model. I’ve been using Verizon Galaxy S7 (two of them, actually) for a month. Let’s take a look at where Verizon’s version stands out from the rest.

Software differences

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Let’s talk bloatware! Like the other carrier variants of the Galaxy S7, the core software experience remains the same. Samsung’s user interface is, for the most part, consistent whether you’re using Verizon’s or T-Mobile’s or Sprint’s or whatever.

Verizon does have a few additions, however, mostly in the settings menu. A longstanding feature is a full icon glossary, which is great if you’re new to smartphones or spot something that simply doesn’t make any sense. (The NFC icon comes to mind, right?) You’ll also find links to the My Verizon Mobile app (for all your account needs), and there are a few other settings that Verizon has tweaked for whatever reason. The emergency alerts section (at Settings->Privacy & emergency->Emergency Alerts) is another one that tends to deviate, but not in a bad way.

Where things definitely change is with bloatware, which the carriers pronounce “pre-installed applications.” These can come in a couple forms. The Amazon suite of apps is pre-installed by Verizon, and those arguably can be helpful and may well be something you’d install anyway. Kindle, Amazon Music, Shopping, etc. On the other hand, if you don’t want to use them (I never use Amazon Music, for example), they’re just in the way. You can disable them, which I do, but not uninstall them — which wouldn’t save any space anyway because of the partition they’re on in the first place. (While apps pre-installed to the System partition are annoying, that’s not space you can use for your own stuff anyway.) Verizon also includes the Slacker app, which is a pretty good audio (music and news and such) application. But, again, it’s not one I use, so it’s in the way. And Verizon still has the exclusive on the NFL Mobile app, which sucks for anyone not on Verizon. It’s a decent app, though, so it stays. (That doesn’t mean it’s not bloatware, of course.)

It’s not like Verizon ruined the GS7 or anything — but its bloatware doesn’t make the product any better.

More annoying is Verizon’s own suite of duplicative apps. There’s VZ Navigator, which I’d never in a million years use instead of Google Maps. Disabled. Message+? Disabled. There’s already a text messaging app from Verizon. (And I use Hangouts in any event.) Verizon has its own voicemail app, too. Fine. I’ll deal with that one, not that I’ll ever use it. Go90? I’m told that’s Verizon’s mobile video app. Disabled. Verizon Cloud? Hell, no. Disabled. Support & Protection (aka VZ Protect)? Nope. I’ll handle that one myself. (Though I will allow that if you’re not going to use something like Google’s Android Device Manager or a third-party app to do this sort of thing, then maybe Verizon’s app is fine. Virus scanning, however, is still mostly snake oil.)

Samsung’s got its share of things that I won’t use, too. Milk Music? Disabled. Samsung Gear (for its smartwatch)? Disabled until I decide to use a Gear smartwatch again. S Health? Disabled. Memo? Disabled. (I’ll use Google Keep, thanks.)

Point is, there’s still a lot of stuff on the GS7 that you might or might not use. And that’s before you get anywhere near the crap Verizon’s loaded on there. It’s not a deal-breaker. It’s just (unfortunately) something we’ve had to deal with because Samsung doesn’t directly sell the GS7 outside of carrier control in the U.S. Again, we call for Samsung to do something about this.

One thing that’s missing out of the box, strangely, is Samsung’s own browser — which a lot of folks like. Odd that a single duplicative app would be left out, but you can download it from Google Play just fine.

And seriously, Verizon — just how much time do you think I’ll be spending in your stores? This is not OK.

Call quality and features

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This one’s a bit subjective and a good deal anecdotal — you don’t live where I live or work where I work. And I haven’t had any major complaints about the GS7 on Verizon. It still seems to be a little more power hungry than GSM phones — that’s par for the course, though — and what Wifi wonk I’d seen appears to have been cleared up with a recent update. (There are a lot of variables in that sort of thing, though.)

Verizon still has Wifi calling, of course. I’m not a big fan of the feature in general, but it’s there if you want it. And now’s a good time to remind folks that if you want simultaneous voice and data, you’ll need to have Advanced Calling turned on.

One call-related thing I wouldn’t bother with is the included “Caller Name ID” app. Oh, it works great for showing you who’s calling, even if they’re not in your contacts, during the free trial. But for Verizon to want $36 a year for the pleasure of using what should be standard on every phone. This is a basic piece of functionality that Verizon’s trying to make an extra buck off of, and it’s ridiculous.

Pricing and financing

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Verizon offers the Galaxy S7 a couple ways. If you’re buying outright, it’ll run you $672 off contract. That’s comparable to the other carriers — just about in the middle, actually.

If you want to do the monthly payments thing, it’ll cost you $28 a month on you bill. If you’re not normally a fan of paying for phones this way, Verizon’s got a bit of an incentive. If you’re paying for the GS7 monthly, you’ll be able to trade it in for a new model after a year. (Technically, after 50 percent of the cost has been paid.)

As for which plan is for you, it depends on how much data you’re going to use. Verizon starts at $30 for 1 gigabyte and goes up to $18GB for $100 a month. That’s for new plans — there are myriad options. Don’t be afraid to adjust things to better suit your usage. You might well find out that you’re paying for more than you’re actually using.

The bottom line

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Verizon is still the largest mobile operator in the United States. You don’t get to be that by not doing a lot of things right. And like the other U.S. operators, that means Verizon’s going to do things how Verizon wants to. Bloatware, for sure. App that you’ll never use, and that you can only push out of sight and out of mind.

Verizon’s also broken one feature that’s still pretty niche, but important — we’re having major issues getting this Galaxy S7 to connect to Android Auto. Other models work great, but not Verizon’s.

One final perk, however, is that Verizon’s phones are all SIM unlocked. That’s less of a benefit while you’re in the U.S. because of how radio bands work — but it can be great when you’re traveling overseas, especially since Verizon’s international plans remain unimpressive. But pick up a local SIM once you’re on the ground, and you’re good to go. No worrying about SIM unlocking. (That’s a big reason why I’ve been taking a Verizon phone with me while I travel, actually.)

In about a month of use on Verizon, I’ve not seen anything I’d consider to be a showstopper — even with the software headaches. You’re going to find that on any carrier, really. If Verizon’s your jam, and the Galaxy S7 beckons, this is a match we can easily recommend.

See at Verizon

Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge

  • Galaxy S7 review
  • Galaxy S7 edge review
  • Galaxy S7 edge with Exynos: A Canadian perspective
  • Here are all four Galaxy S7 colors
  • Details on the Galaxy S7’s camera
  • The SD card is back on the GS7
  • Join our Galaxy S7 forums

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