Skip to content

Archive for

1
Apr

Uber CEO faces class-action lawsuit over price fixing


After failing to get a class-action lawsuit dismissed, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick will go to court over price fixing claims. A US district court judge in New York ruled Kalanick has to face the class of passengers alleging that he conspired with drivers to set fares using an algorithm, including hiking rates during peak hours with so-called surge pricing. According to Reuters, district court judge Jed Rakoff ruled the plaintiffs “plausibly alleged a conspiracy” to fix pricing and that the class action could also pursue claims the set rates led to the demise other services, like Sidecar.

The ride-hailing app is no stranger to legal trouble. In addition to fighting for the right to operate in a number of countries outside of the US, Uber faced driver protests and criticism over benefits for full time employees and how it screens drivers. The company has also received a lot of scrutiny over its practice of charging higher rates during times of high demand. Earlier this year, New York City announced that it wouldn’t place limits on Uber’s surge pricing or limit the number of cars it could put on the city’s streets. We’ve reached out to Uber on the matter and we’ll update if/when it responds.

Via: IT Pro

Source: Reuters

1
Apr

The return of comments



Last Friday, we announced that we were taking a week-long hiatus from the open comments section — a decision we anticipated a lot of feedback on. What we didn’t anticipate was that a good amount of it would be positive. Here are some of the things we heard from readers via email and social media:

“So glad you’re doing this concerning the comments section. I wish a lot of other content sections would do the same.”

“This was a great move on Engadget’s part since it is quite disgusting seeing what some people post at times. Thanks.”

“Do you Engadget! I will remain loyal!”

“As a long time Engadget reader, and somebody who has never commented, I feel compelled to inform you I will not be frequenting your site again until the comments are turned back on.”

Well, we have good news for that last person — and everyone else who has missed the comments section — because today, as promised, we’re turning the comments back on. So… now what?

Not every single post will have an open comments section; much like before the comment break, some stories will not have comments because they concern topics that, in the past, have proven incendiary and difficult to moderate. We aim to eventually have comments open on all stories, and there’s more on how you can help with that below.

One of the things that was most clear when we turned off comments last week was that our comments section had become a problem — it wasn’t serving you, our readers, with a great community. Readers were sidestepping our comments section like something unsavory on a sidewalk, while others were coming just to watch the insults be hurled and the fighting commence. The relationship between our editors and writers and our commenters was often antagonistic. In short, no one was happy with the situation.

So, consider this an olive branch — we’d like to work with you to make this a better online community. We want a comments section full of interesting, informed observations, unique and well-phrased opinions, and some quality constructive criticism. We’ll be working on rolling out features to make this happen, the first of which will be in-line moderator tools. This means we’ll be looking for volunteer moderators — because no one can moderate a comments section better than its own members. If you’re interested in that, send us an email here.

Comments will be increasingly moderated; because there has been some confusion about what does and does not qualify for removal here are a list of the types of comments and behaviors that will get deleted. Please note, these are in addition to our standard set of guidelines which include no sexism, racism, homophobia, or personal attacks:

  • No more name calling. Oddly enough, calling someone an idiot or a fanboy rarely results in a productive or civil conversation. (I know, strange right? I always want to have lengthy discussions with people who start off by insulting me…Oh wait. No, I don’t and neither does anybody else.) Here’s the thing: This isn’t a grade school playground and if you can’t argue your point without being disparaging and disrespectful then what you need to do is improve your argument. This counts everything from “You’re an idiot” to “Stupid fanboy” or “SJW!” or “Dirty Republican scum!” or what have you.
  • While we’re okay with the PG-13 level swear words, anything above that is probably going to get flagged by our mods. Any time you’re swearing AT someone, that comment is getting deleted, period. Don’t drop those f-bombs please.
  • No threats or suggestions of violence or self-inflicted violence. That means no more “kill yourself” or “you should jump off a bridge” or “you sound like you need to get punched in the face.” Those comments will absolutely always be deleted, and if you make them repeatedly, your account might be as well.
  • If you only come to Engadget to tell us how much we suck, to call us biased shills (without backing up that statement with facts), to tell us our articles suck and that you hate our website well then… We’re probably going to delete your comments. We may even ban or remove your account. Because there’s a difference between constructive criticism when we’ve left out a pertinent fact or misspelled someone’s name, and those who apparently only visit to complain about articles that no one is forcing them to read.
  • It’s (clearly) fine to debate the merits of your OS of choice, but having every article that mentions either Apple or Google (and even some that don’t) devolve into people lobbing insults and arguments is getting really old. If you’re singing the same iOS vs Android tune in an article that has nothing to do with either, we’re just going to start Rick-rolling you.


I am…almost certainly not kidding about that.

In short, if you find yourself wondering if a comment is going to be a problem, ask yourself the question our mods do: Does this contribute to the conversation? And: Can I back this up with verifiable facts?

Now, another reason for the break was so we could get the moderation tools ready and we’ll be looking to roll out more features consistently. Here’s what we’re working on for the comments section:

  • Log-ins: Currently, log-in certificates last about 18 hours which is why you need to log in to comment (even if you were logged in the previous day). We’re trying to push that to at least 24, ideally more like 36 hours, but regardless we want to have a pop up box alert you when you start typing and aren’t logged in yet.
  • Notifications. You will be notified when someone replies to one of your comments, or a new comment appears in a thread you’ve commented in or are following. You will. IT WILL HAPPEN.
  • Profiles. It clearly helps foster a feeling of community when you know who the members are. Because we do take pride in our community, and we want you to as well, we’ll be rolling out full community profiles that includes a history of all that persons comments.

In the meantime, I’ll be including updates on the progress with comments in the Public Access Weekly posts, and via social media. If you have suggestions, or feelings, or adorable animal GIFs feel free to leave ’em below. In the comments section.

1
Apr

Eerie adventure ‘Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture’ heads to PC


Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was one of my favorite games that came out in 2015. Yes, it’s one of those divisive “walking simulators,” but the intriguing narrative and stunning depiction of rural England had me hooked. Today, developer The Chinese Room has confirmed what’s been rumored for almost three months now — that the game is coming to PC. There’s no release date just yet, but when it does arrive it’s safe to assume it’ll be available on Steam. If you’ve opted for a PC gaming rig over a PlayStation 4, this is your chance to see what the fuss is all about.

It’s been the worst-kept secret, but it’s now official… Rapture will be coming to PC! No release date yet, but we’ll keep you posted!

— The Chinese Room (@ChineseRoom) April 1, 2016

Source: The Chinese Room (Twitter)

1
Apr

Apple Turns 40: Reflecting on Four Decades of History


Apple, co-founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne on April 1, 1976, celebrates its 40th anniversary today.

Last night, the company hung up a pirate flag at its One Infinite Loop campus to pay homage to the Jobs-led team that worked on the original Macintosh, which was viewed as rebellious at a time when Apple was focusing on the Lisa.

(Image: Michael Jurewitz)
From near-bankruptcy to becoming the world’s most valuable public company, Apple has been through a series of highs and lows over the past four decades.


Apple’s history is vast, but the timeline below provides a basic overview of some of the company’s important moments over the years.

Apple Timeline

1976 – Apple’s history begins in the garage of Steve Jobs’ childhood home in Los Altos, California, where Steve Wozniak and Jobs tested — but designed elsewhere — the first Apple I computers, which they later introduced at the Homebrew Computer Club. The Byte Shop places 50 orders. The computer later sells for $666.66.


1976 – Ronald Wayne designs the first Apple company logo, and prepares the trio’s first partnership agreement, but relinquishes his 10% stake in the Apple Computer Company for $800 just twelve days later to avoid the potential financial risk. Wayne has assets that creditors could seize if the partnership becomes indebted.


1977 – Apple Computer Inc. incorporates on January 3, 1977.

1977 – Apple introduces its first successful product, the Apple II computer, for $1,298 after multimillionaire Mike Markkula invests $92,000 in the company. Markkula also helps Apple secure credit and additional venture capital, and recruited Michael Scott from National Semiconductor to be Apple’s first CEO.

1978 – Apple begins development of the unsuccessful Apple III.

1979 – Jef Raskin, a human interface expert who joined Apple a year prior, receives approval to begin work on the Macintosh project. Raskin names the computer after the McIntosh apple, his favorite fruit. The Lisa Project, another personal computer, also begins under Ken Rothmuller, with a projected shipping date of 1981.

Apple-LisaApple Lisa
1980 – Apple launches its IPO and becomes a publicly traded company on December 12, 1980, selling 4.2 million shares for $22 each. The company generates more capital, and instant millionaires, than any IPO since Ford Motor Company in 1956. Apple continues to trade on the NASDAQ under the stock ticker AAPL today.

1981 – IBM introduces a low-spec PC for $1,565, and eclipses Apple’s market share within two years, as the Apple Lisa misses its shipping target. Apple experiences its first internal shakeup, with Markkula replacing Scott as president, Jobs becoming chairman, and Wozniak taking a leave of absence.

1982 – Steve Jobs is forced out of the Lisa project and takes over control of the Macintosh project from Jef Raskin, who subsequently resigns.

1983 – Apple launches the Lisa on January 19, 1983, but sells only 100,000 units due to the personal computer’s expensive $9,995 price tag, compatibility issues, and perceived slow performance among consumers due to the Motorola 68000 processor’s difficulty in running the complex Lisa operating system.

1983 – Steve Jobs convinces John Sculley, then president of Pepsi-Cola, to join Apple as president and CEO on April 8, 1983. Sculley was convinced after Jobs asked him the following: “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?”

1984 – Apple’s iconic “1984” commercial airs during a break in the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII on January 22, 1984. The one-minute spot, based on George Orwell’s novel of the same name, introduces the original Macintosh. The ad’s intended message is Macintosh combating the conformity of “Big Brother,” sometimes interpreted as IBM.


1984 – Steve Jobs introduces the Macintosh at Apple’s annual shareholders meeting on January 24, 1984 for $2,495.

“Hello, I’m Macintosh. It sure is great to get out of that bag. Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I’d like to share with you a maxim I thought of the first time I met an IBM mainframe: NEVER TRUST A COMPUTER YOU CAN’T LIFT! Obviously, I can talk, but right now I’d like to sit back and listen. So, it is with considerable pride that I introduce a man who’s been like a father to me… STEVE JOBS.”


1985 – Steve Jobs resigns from Apple on September 16, 1985 following an internal power struggle with Apple’s Board of Directors and then-CEO John Sculley. Jobs founds NeXT Computer with other former Apple employees later in the year.

1987 – Microsoft releases the first version of Windows to much disappointment.

1991 – Apple and IBM partner on October 2, 1991 to create PowerPC-based computers.

1991 – Apple releases the PowerBook series on October 21, 1991, a two-decades-earlier precursor to the MacBook Pro.

1993 – John Sculley steps down as Apple CEO in May 1993 and is replaced by Michael Spindler.

1993 – Apple releases the ill-fated Newton as an early entrant in the PDA market.

apple-newton
1994 – Apple releases its first PowerPC-based desktop computers and notebooks.

1995 – Microsoft releases Windows 95, a major competitor to Mac OS.

1996 – Gil Amelio, a member of Apple’s Board of Directors since 1994, succeeds Michael Spindler as Apple CEO on February 2, 1996.

1997 – Apple, still under the leadership of Amelio, finalizes its acquisition of NeXT Computer on February 7, 1997, bringing Steve Jobs back to the company he co-founded as an advisor.

1997 – Apple is in financial trouble, with its stock reaching a 12-year low in the second quarter. Over the Independence Day weekend, and on the heels of the company losing over $700 million, Jobs convinces Apple’s Board of Directors to oust Amelio as CEO. Amelio resigns less than one week later.

“We were 90 days from going bankrupt,” said Jobs at D8 in 2010.

1997 – Steve Jobs is appointed as interim CEO and focuses on simplifying Apple’s product lineup and giving importance to talents such as Jony Ive.

1997 – Apple launches the Apple Online Store on November 10, 1997 based on its new built-to-order product strategy. The website is built using NeXT’s WebObjects web application technology acquired earlier in the year.

Apple-online-store-1997
1998 – Apple announces the iMac on May 6, 1998 as the first consumer-facing product since Steve Jobs returned to the company as interim CEO. The colorful, translucent all-in-one desktop computer, designed by Jony Ive, plays a key role in Apple’s rebound from its financial problems of years prior.

iMac-iBook-G3
1999 – Apple releases the iBook on June 21, 1999 based on the colorful iMac design. The notebook lineup is positioned as a lower-end offering alongside the PowerBook series. The original iBook G3 features a clamshell design with translucent plastic, while the iBook G4 has an opaque white plastic case and keyboard.

2000 – Steve Jobs announces at Macworld that he has elected to be Apple’s permanent CEO on January 5, 2000, dropping his “interim” designation.

2001 – Just months after the dot-com collapse, Apple’s first two retail stores open in Tysons Corner, Virginia and Glendale, California on May 19, 2001. The two locations welcome over 7,700 people and sell a combined total of $599,000 of merchandise during their first two day weekend. Apple opens over two dozen more retail stores in the U.S. over the following year.


2001 – Steve Jobs introduces the iTunes media player on January 9, 2001.

2001 – OS X is released on March 24, 2001 based on the NeXTSTEP platform.

2001 – Steve Jobs announces the iPod on October 23, 2001 during a low-key event at Apple’s Town Hall auditorium, describing the portable media player as a “quantum leap” that allows you to “fit your whole music library in your pocket.” The iPod, like the iMac, plays a key role in Apple’s turnaround during the 2000s.


2003 – Apple launches the iTunes Store on April 28, 2003 for digital music downloads.

2004 – Apple introduces the iPod mini on January 15, 2004.

2005 – Apple introduces the iPod shuffle on January 11, 2005.

2005 – Apple introduces the iPod nano on September 7, 2005.

2006 – Apple releases the MacBook Pro with Intel architecture on January 10, 2006.

2006 – Apple releases the MacBook, the successor to the iBook, on May 16, 2006.

2006 – Apple and TBWAMedia Arts Lab launch a memorable “Get a Mac” advertising campaign starring actors John Hodgman as PC and Justin Long as Mac. The series of ads, which each begin with “Hello, I’m a Mac” and “I’m a PC,” highlight the perceived weaknesses of Windows PCs while promoting Mac as a cooler alternative.


2007 – Steve Jobs famously introduces the iPhone on January 9, 2007 as if it is three separate products: a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone, and a breakthrough Internet communicator. The crowd erupts in applause upon realizing each are simply features of the smartphone.


2007 – Apple releases the Apple TV on January 9, 2007.

2007 – Apple Computer Inc. renames to Apple Inc. on January 9, 2007 to reflect its wider focus on consumer electronics. “The Mac, iPod, Apple TV, and iPhone. Only one of those is a computer. So we’re changing the name,” says Steve Jobs.

2007 – Steve Jobs introduces the iPod touch on September 5, 2007.

2008 – Apple launches MacBook Air on January 29, 2008 as its thinnest notebook ever.


2008 – Apple launches the App Store on July 10, 2008.

2010 – Following years of speculation, Steve Jobs introduces the iPad on January 27, 2010. The device resembles a larger-sized iPhone with a 9.7-inch multi-touch screen, aluminum unibody, and thin bezels. Apple’s iOS device lineup hereafter consists of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

2011 – Apple passes oil giant ExxonMobil on August 9, 2011 to become the world’s most valuable publicly traded company, with a market cap exceeding $337 billion. Apple remains the world’s most valuable company today, nearly five years later, despite briefly trading places with Google parent company Alphabet in early February.

2011 – Steve Jobs passes away on October 5, 2011, one day after Apple introduced the iPhone 4S and Siri, following a lengthy battle with a rare form of pancreatic cancer and other health complications. Apple celebrates his life at its Cupertino campus two weeks later as the public greatly mourns his loss.

Steve-Jobs-Celebration
2012 – Apple Maps launches on iOS 6 to much criticism, leading to a public apology from Tim Cook and the resignation of iOS software chief Scott Forstall.

2014 – Tim Cook introduces the Apple Watch on September 9, 2014 as the company’s first wearable device. The product is developed by a team led by Apple COO Jeff Williams, and the company collected over 18,000 hours of health and fitness data prior to its launch in April 2015.

Apple-Watch-keynote
2014 – Apple Pay launches in the United States on October 20, 2014.

2015 – Tim Cook introduces Apple Music, the company’s first subscription-based streaming music service, at WWDC 2015. Apple Music is compatible with iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, PC, Apple TV, and Android. The service competes directly with Spotify, Google Play Music, Tidal, and other streaming music platforms.

2016 – Apple releases the iPhone SE and smaller iPad Pro as it battles the FBI over smartphone encryption.

Tags: Apple, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Ronald Wayne
Discuss this article in our forums

MacRumors-All?d=6W8y8wAjSf4 MacRumors-All?d=qj6IDK7rITs

1
Apr

9 things Alexa can’t yet do – CNET


amazon-tap-product-photo-5.jpg
Chris Monroe/CNET

Even for a connected speaker, Amazon’s Alexa can do quite a lot. It can reorder essentials, Domino’s pizza and call an Uber. It can stream practically any audio, control your smart home and wake you up every morning.

More useful features are in the speaker’s future, thanks to third-party add-ons called Skills and a growing list of native integrations that Amazon has added.

That said, there is still plenty Alexa can’t do — things that, at times, seem like no-brainers.

Custom alarms

It only makes sense that a connected speaker like Alexa would come equipped with some killer alarm features. However, that isn’t the case.

Until recently, if you wanted an alarm to wake you on a daily basis, you would have to tell Alexa when you wanted an alarm to sound each and every day. Recurring alarms weren’t possible until just over a month ago. Now you can edit existing alarms in the Alexa app to recur weekly, on weekdays or on weekends. Or you can create new recurring alarms by speaking, “Alexa, set an alarm for 7:00 am every weekday.”

Seeing as Alexa’s primary function is being a speaker, you would imagine some of its music features would be available as alarm sounds. Sadly, that’s not possible without a workaround that involves streaming the alarm sound from your mobile device via Bluetooth.

Actions on IFTTT

Thanks to IFTTT integration, Alexa now works with dozens of smart home devices, can be used to create tasks in Todoist or trigger multiple recipes with a single phrase.

The shortfall of Alexa’s IFTTT integration is the lack of any actions whatsoever. Alexa can only be used as a trigger in IFTTT. That means I can’t, for example, complete a task in Todoist and have Alexa play a song. Or as Ry suggested, you can’t have Alexa play sound bites, such as a dog barking, when motion is detected or a door opens in the middle of the night.

String commands

If you want Alexa to do more than one thing, you can’t tell it everything you want it to do at once. For instance, saying, “Alexa turn on the lights, play the Evening Chill playlist on Spotify and turn the temperature up,” won’t work as intended.

Currently, you must divide every command into its own statement:

  • “Alexa, turn on the lights.”
  • “Alexa, play Evening Chill playlist on Spotify.”
  • “Alexa, turn the temperature up.”

The only workaround for chaining multiple actions to a single Alexa command is by creating several IFTTT recipes with the same trigger phrase or a Yonomi routine.

Notifications

Alexa offers virtually nothing in the way of notifications, audio nor visual. With the ability to read top headlines to you in your Flash Briefing, the next logical step — privacy concerns aside — would to have Alexa read messages from your inbox, new text messages or speak the name of the person calling you.

Amazon package tracking

You can order certain products from Amazon using Alexa, such as eligible items you’ve purchased before or top Amazon products. You cannot, however, ask Alexa for a status update on your recent orders.

Instead, you’ll have to rely on the Amazon app, your own package tracking app or smart lights to do that for you.

Here’s everything the Amazon Echo can do…

amazon-echo-promo-pic-2.jpg

amazon-echo-prime-music-2.jpg

amazon-echo-spotify.jpg

amazon-echo-prime-music.jpg

amazon-echo-radio.jpg

15 of 20

Next
Prev

Custom trigger names or voices

Alexa devices have only three words which will wake them: Alexa, Amazon or the name of the device (Echo, Dot or Tap). If you want a truly customized wake word, you’re sadly out of luck.

And if you’re anything but a native English speaker or you aren’t fond of a female voice for Alexa, there are currently no options for customizing either of those settings.

Swearing

If you use the Simon Says command, Alexa will repeat anything you say. Even if you speak a number of expletives, Alexa will repeat your words, only the swearing will be bleeped out. Some people might wish she did otherwise.

Voice memos or send audio messages

It’s no secret that Alexa is always listening. And every time you speak a command, that audio snippet is recorded, saved, and transcribed. Every audio file Alexa records is saved to your Amazon account.

You can open the Alexa application and listen to the recordings of some of your recent commands. But possibly one of the most bizarre missing features it a voice memo function. The least it could do is allow you to export your own voice commands from within the app, but that’s not currently possible.

It would also be nice to leave voice memos for your significant other or roommate or send audio snippets to other Alexa users. For example:

  • “Alexa, leave a message for Jack. [Wait for beep.] Don’t forget to grab bread from the grocery store.”
  • “Alexa, send a message to Alex. [Wait for beep.] Do you have plans for tonight?”

This of course, would require better friend or contact management from Alexa, as well as voice recognition, which brings me to my final point.

Distinguish different voices

Alexa cannot distinguish between two different voices. While my girlfriend and I have two separate profiles on the Echo, it treats us both as the same user.

If Alexa could distinguish between multiple voices, it could switch profiles on the fly, allow you to manage separate shopping or to-do lists, and treat multiple users like … more than one person.

I wouldn’t be surprised if many of these features are already in the works or, if it’s possible that some of them can work with a skill, a third-party developer is on it. But despite all the great things Alexa can do, many of the missing features are some that you would imagine such a smart speaker should already be capable of.

1
Apr

Marshmallow will hit the BlackBerry Priv by early May


Priv-Droid-Loading.jpg?itok=MaNAMFum

As per the earnings call, BlackBerry has confirmed that Android 6.0 Marshmallow will be rolling out to the Priv by late April, early May. The software update was spotted running on the smartphone earlier this week, but it’s great news that we now have an estimated time of arrival.

Should you wish to read up on exactly what will be introduced with the Marshmallow update, be sure to check out the full review. See video footage of the update running on the Priv below.

It’ll not be long now folks!

rc.imgrc.imgrc.imga2.imga2t.imgmf.gif

1
Apr

Verizon is rolling out Marshmallow to the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge


galaxy-s6-back-angle-2.jpg?itok=zgghwEl2

Verizon has updated the support pages for both the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge to include information surrounding Android Marshmallow. The U.S. carrier is now rolling out 6.0.1 to the two Samsung handsets. And no, this isn’t an April Fool’s joke.

The software release – version MMB29K.G925VVRU4CPC2 – will include a bunch of new features like improved Google Now, longer-lasting battery thanks to Doze, and more. To manually check for updates, head to Settings > About phone > Software updates and hit Check for updates.

Fear not if you haven’t yet received the update as we’re sure the update will slowly reach your smartphone(s) soon enough.

rc.imgrc.imgrc.imga2.imga2t.imgmf.gif

1
Apr

Skylanders Battlecast is set to be a Hearthstone alternative for your kids


battlecast-logo.jpg?itok=oKCOTvli

Collect the cards, play the game.

Blizzard’s Hearthstone is a phenomenal success. As is Activision’s Skylanders series. So what happens when you take both and mesh them together?

You end up with Skylanders Battlecast. A mobile game set in the Skylanders universe that has a whiff of the Hearthstone gameplay behind it.

And your kids will probably love it.

Battlecast isn’t a new announcement, it’s been on the table for quite some time now and has even soft launched out in New Zealand. But it’ll soon be breaking free and hitting the rest of the world and I got to check it out at the recent Insomnia Gaming Festival here in the UK.

The game will be free to download, but beyond that you’ll be financially investing in playing. Where Skylanders is part of the ever more popular toys-to-life genre, Battlecast is billed as cards-to-life, in that you buy physical cards and then bring them to life in your mobile game.

As with everything Skylanders there’s a collecting element to it, though at least this time the cost of entry is a little lower.

The cards have begun to roll out with the Skylanders Superchargers packages, and as such you may already have a couple. Beyond being a thing to collect, you’ll only interact with them once. Upon opening the game on your phone or tablet you’ll be able to scan them in, get a little AR animation, then they’re good to go. They’ll be locked to your account so you won’t need to scan them in again.

Activision told me that there’s a unique identifier on the cards somewhere that means you can only use them once. No sharing around. I can’t see anything that stands out, but then maybe that’s the point.

From there on the gameplay will be pretty familiar to anyone who’s ever dabbled with Heartstone. It’s pretty easy to pick up and play, though as ever, mastery will require more perseverance. There are two players, each taking it in turns to draw cards, play them, attack the opponent. Simple.

battlecast-cards.jpg?itok=gvyve1_V

Every turn you’re given an allowance of what was described as crystals, but could also be something else in the final release. Essentially it’s the amount of something you need to play certain cards. If you only have 3 but your card needs 5, you can’t play it. Again, very Hearthstone like. As is elements of the user interface.

As for release, all I was told is Spring, so any time in the next couple of months.

It’d be unfair to say this was ripping off Blizzard’s mobile game though. Card games of this type can only do so much, and Activision also has to keep it simple. Adults will no doubt jump on Battlecast, but the target audience is kids. So it doesn’t want to be too complex. There’s plenty of visual flare, too, with large, colorful, animated characters on the screen doing battle. Just as you’d hope from a Skylanders game.

The cards themselves will be available in both starter and booster pack form. No-one would confirm how many you’ll need to play the game decently, but I’m OK presuming that it’ll be at least the contents of a starter pack. As with everything Skylanders there’s a collecting element to it, though at least this time the cost of entry is a little lower.

As for release, all I was told is Spring, so any time in the next couple of months. You can already download the app but it doesn’t do much other than scan cards in right now. The final release will be available from both Google Play and the Amazon Appstore, as well as being available for iPhone and iPad.

rc.imgrc.imgrc.imga2.imga2t.imgmf.gif

1
Apr

Theranos lab failed to meet its own accuracy standards


Theranos’ proprietary blood-testing methods failed to meet the company’s own standards as often as 87 percent of the time, according to a new report. Released by the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) agency and seen in unredacted form by the WSJ, the data confirms that the company knew its finger pin-prick tests were often wrong when it used them in October, 2014. It has since pulled most of the testing done by its key “Edison” machine and can only perform a single herpes test. However, the FDA and CMS received complaints from Theranos employees that even that one was “tainted by breaches in research protocol.”

A Theranos spokesman told Engadget that “we’ve made mistakes in the past in the Newark, California lab, but when the company was made aware of the deficiencies we have dedicated every resource to remedy those failures.” It says it has since added new “quality systems, policies and procedures,” changed personnel and voided results from its Newark lab, where most of the problems were found. However, Weill Cornell associate professor of pathology Stephen Master told the WSJ that “based on [the new] data, it’s hard for me to believe that they went live with this instrument and tested patient specimens on it.”

Based on [the new] data, it’s hard for me to believe that they went live with this instrument and tested patient specimens on it.

Of the 13 tests cited by the CMS, one incorrectly measured PSA antigens used to detect prostate cancer 22 percent of the time, while a testosterone level test was incorrect at a rate of 87 percent. Overall, the quality check results were outside of Theranos’ own standards 29 percent of the time, according to the report. The CMS document also details how Theranos failed to inform patients of erroneous results in a timely manner, incorrectly stored blood samples and produced widely different results from traditional testing methods.

Because of all that, the agency accused Theranos of endangering patients and gave it ten days to come up with a corrective plan in January. It has yet to accept Theranos’ proposal to correct its procedures, and may fine the company or strip it of its human testing certification. All of that may be moot, however, as its main source for customers, Walgreens, has reportedly pulled its support.

Source: WSJ

1
Apr

Samsung’s Galaxy TabPro S is more than just a Surface knockoff


Microsoft’s Surface tablets are so great, it seems, that everyone wants to copy them. So far, we’ve seen similar devices from Apple, Lenovo, Dell, HP and Google. Incredibly, though, one of the biggest companies we cover, Samsung, is only just jumping on the bandwagon. The Galaxy TabPro S recently started shipping here in the US, and in many ways it takes after its competitors. Similar to the Surface Pro 4 and other hybrids, it has a 12-inch screen that accepts pressure-sensitive pen input, and an Intel Core M processor powerful enough to potentially replace your laptop.

Unlike some of its rivals, however, the TabPro S is the first device in its class with a Super AMOLED screen. It’s also exceptionally thin and, for the starting price of $900, the click-in keyboard cover actually comes in the box (take note, Microsoft). Too bad the typing experience isn’t very good.

Hardware

Review: Samung Galaxy TabPro S

Just as Samsung was getting ready to start selling the TabPro S, it invited reporters to a launch event at which execs from Intel and Microsoft were also in attendance. The message was clear: Samsung brought its hardware-design chops to the table, while working closely with the leading chipmaker and the company behind Windows 10. In theory, then, the TabPro S, was to represent the best that each tech titan had to offer.

And in many ways, the device does indeed meet those lofty expectations. For starters, this thing is unbelievably, shockingly light: 6.3mm thick and 1.53 pounds, versus 8.45mm and 1.69 pounds for the Surface Pro 4. I know, we always wax poetic in our reviews about how skinny devices are. But I seriously did not expect the device to feel this insubstantial in-hand. Combined with the keyboard cover, which only adds 4.9 millimeters of heft, the tablet feels like a book when I cradle it under one arm. Brings me back to my college days, except this time my backpack is way lighter.

Those thin edges, by the way, aren’t home to many ports or openings, but they don’t need to be. With the tablet docked in the keyboard, you’ve got the volume rocker and power button up top; a headphone and USB-C charging/data port on the right; a Start button on the left; and speakers on either side. I did find in my testing that the power button didn’t always respond on my first try; there’s a trick in how long you have to hold it down (longer than I initially expected, I guess). I eventually got the hang of it, but it was a little frustrating in that first week.

In the name of getting the thickness and weight down as much as possible, Samsung made some other slight compromises in build quality. Don’t get me wrong, I like the look of the TabPro S’s rounded corners and black matte-finish case (which ends up covered most of the time by the keyboard cover anyway). I’m just saying, if this were a beauty pageant, the aluminum-and-polycarbonate device we have here would rank as runner-up to the Surface Pro 4’s magnesium enclosure and clean, sculpted lines. In some ways, then, Microsoft — pigeonholed at Samsung’s event as the software expert — actually built the more premium device.

That said, Samsung just might have the better screen. The 12-inch, 3,840 x 2,160 panel here is, according to Sammy, the first Super AMOLED display in a device with this form factor. That might seem like a gimmicky claim — a desperate attempt to be first at something — but it’s actually very nice. You’ll notice it as soon as you boot up the device and see the “Samsung Galaxy TabPro S” splash screen: That alone does a good job showcasing the screen’s deep blacks and pure whites. Samsung also helpfully pre-loaded a deep blue desktop background that showcases out of the box the kinds of colors the screen is capable of.

From there, of course, you can watch movies and view photos at full screen, but you’ll even appreciate the vibrant colors on the everyday stuff, like desktop shortcuts. It reminds me of how I felt when I switched to the new 4K, color-accurate iMac as my daily driver; if you weren’t using one of these machines, you wouldn’t know what you were missing, but once you experience it, it’s hard to go back.

Keyboard cover

I’m typing on the TabPro S’s included keyboard as I write this. I don’t hate it — anymore. Similar to Microsoft’s own Type Cover, the keys here are flat and arranged close together, with just the skinniest sliver of space separating the individual buttons. So although the keys provide a good amount of travel, I made many, many typos at first, and still do; it’s just too easy to accidentally land on the wrong key when they’re all bunched together. Also, even if I did hit the correct key, my press didn’t always register, leaving me to tap, tap, tap at the Backspace button until I had gone back and retyped what I meant to say in the first place.

Now that I’ve spent a week with the device, and have used it to peck out many emails and Slack messages, I can appreciate that it’s a more productive mobile device than, say, my smartphone. But if I had my druthers, I’d still travel with a laptop or, at the very least, a 2-in-1 with a more comfortable keyboard. Something like the HP Spectre x2, or even that Surface Pro 4 I keep talking about.

Rejected review headlines: “The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S’s keyboard made me type ‘Enbadger’”

— Dana Wollman (@DanaWollman) March 23, 2016

There are other problems with the keyboard. One is that the screen angle isn’t adjustable, as it is on competing devices from Microsoft and HP. To its credit, at least, the keyboard cover is easy to attach: Just snap it into the magnetic connector on the bottom side, then fold the flap in the back to attach to the top of the tablet via magnets. The problem is, things get awkward when you want to switch from propped-up laptop mode to using the keyboard cover as an actual, you know, cover.

You’d think you could just unfold the propped-up piece in the back and then fold the case over the tablet, like a book cover. But to make the cover line up with the tablet, similar to a book spine, you have to also remove the tablet from its magnetic connector and scoot it down so that the case can fold over the back edge. It’s a bit clumsy, and the magnets are actually quite strong. That’s a good thing if ever you want to dangle the tablet upside down by its keyboard (don’t), but it makes the disassembly that much more cumbersome.

On the plus side, the tablet and keyboard cover are comfortable to use in the lap, with the weight distribution such that the device never feels like it’s going to topple backward. Also — surprise, surprise — the small touchpad built into the keyboard cover actually isn’t half bad. Though it’s susceptible to some of the same pitfalls as other Windows trackpads (causing me to accidentally reorder my pinned browser tabs, for instance), it’s generally adept at both single-finger tracking as well as multitouch gestures like two-finger scrolling and pinch-to-zoom.

Performance and battery life

Samsung Galaxy TabPro S (1.51GHz Core M3-6Y30, Intel HD 515) 4,309 2,986 E1,609 / P944 / X291 2,119 550 MB/s / 184 MB/s
HP Spectre x360 15t (2.4GHz Core i5-6200U, Intel HD 520) 5,040 3,458 E2,672 / P1,526 / X420 3,542 561 MB/s / 284 MB/s
Razer Blade Stealth (2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,131 3,445 E2,788 / P1,599 / X426 3,442 1.5 GB/s / 307 MB/s
Toshiba Radius 12 (2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,458 3,684 E2,865 / P1,622 3,605 552 MB/s / 489 MB/s
HP Spectre x2 (1.2GHz Core M7-6Y75, Intel HD 515) 3,395 3,307

E1,884 / P1,148 / X331

2,737 554 MB/s / 281 MB/s
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (2.4GHz Core i5-6300U, Intel HD 520) 5,403 3,602

E2,697/ P1,556/ X422

3,614 1.6 GB/s / 529 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga 900 (2.5GHz Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,368 3,448

E2,707 / P1,581

3,161 556 MB/s / 511 MB/s
Microsoft Surface Book (2.4GHz Core i5-6300U, Intel HD 520) 5,412 3,610

E2,758 / P1,578 / X429

3,623 1.6 GB/s / 571 MB/s

Like other superthin devices in this class (and at this price), the Galaxy TabPro S makes use of an Intel Core M-series processor — a dual-core, 1.51GHz Core M3-6Y30 chip, to be exact. In addition, it’s paired with 4GB of RAM, integrated Intel HD 515 graphics and a 128GB solid-state drive. As with some other Core M devices I’ve tested, the performance is mostly fine for mundane tasks, which in my case include juggling Slack, Spotify and nearly a dozen pinned Chrome tabs.

To maximize the fairly skimpy screen real estate, I took to working with two apps snapped side by side — usually Chrome on the left and Slack on the right. That all worked just fine, although I consistently noticed that when I snapped Slack into place to occupy half the screen, it didn’t automatically scale so that the app filled all the available vertical space; I had to manually drag the window down the rest of the way.

I also noticed that while the device ran smoothly once I got going, it could take a while after the 15-second boot-up sequence for me to fully regain control of the desktop. One time, for instance, I tried to load display settings soon after startup, but it took a few seconds to load even that simple screen. I also noticed that the back of the tablet could get warm at times, though the leathery keyboard cover helped mask that somewhat. In any case, the device never got so hot that it was uncomfortable to touch or use in my lap.

Battery life

Samsung Galaxy TabPro S
10:43
Surface Book (Core i5, integrated graphics)
13:54 / 3:20 (tablet only)
MacBook Air (13-inch, 2013)
12:51
HP Spectre x360 (13-inch, 2015)
11:34
Surface Book (Core i7, discrete graphics)
11:31 / 3:02 (tablet only)
Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display (13-inch, 2015)
11:23
iPad Pro
10:47
HP Spectre x360 (15-inch, early 2016)
10:17
Chromebook Pixel (2015)
10:01
Lenovo Yoga 900
9:36
Microsoft Surface 3
9:11
Apple MacBook (2015)
7:47
Dell XPS 13 (2015)
7:36
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
7:15
Microsoft Surface Pro 3
7:08
HP Spectre x2
6:43
Razer Blade Stealth
5:48
Toshiba Radius 12
5:12

So far, then, the TabPro S performs like other Core M devices, which is to say it’s adequate for basic use, but, as you’d expect, not nearly as powerful as Intel’s higher-end “Core i” line. What’s really soured me on other Core M machines, though, is that despite having lower-powered CPUs, they didn’t offer any advantage in battery life over Core i. Basically, then, the main advantage was that they were cheaper (but not even that much cheaper).

In a major exception to the rule, however, the Galaxy TabPro S not only holds its own against Core i-series systems, but outlasts them by several hours. All told, I got 10 hours and 43 minutes of continuous full HD video playback with WiFI on and the screen brightness fixed at 65 percent. That’s slightly longer than the 10.5 hours that Samsung promised, and it’s hours better than the Core M-based HP Spectre x2 (6:43) and the Core i5-powered Surface Pro 4 (7:15). The TabPro S might not be the most powerful productivity machine, but it more than makes up for it with enduring runtime and a thinner- and lighter-than-average design.

The competition

The Surface Pro 4. I mean, obviously. Though it starts at a similar price of $899, and starts with similar specs (Core M3, 4GB of RAM), the keyboard isn’t included; it costs $130 extra. For the money, you do get a pen in the box and, of course, that slightly more premium (and slightly heavier) design. The keyboard itself is more comfortable to type on, and the Surface Pro 4’s built-in kickstand allows for adjustable screen angles. Neither device is perfect; they each have some clear pros and cons. If you do want pressure-sensitive pen input, though, that makes your decision an easy one: While the SP4 comes with a writing implement in the box, Samsung’s pen isn’t available yet (it arrives later this quarter), and the company hasn’t revealed a price or tech specs like how many levels of pressure it recognizes.

For shoppers already tied into Apple’s ecosystem, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro ($799-plus) could make sense: It’s powerful enough for everyday computing, supports pressure-sensitive pen input with the optional Apple Pencil ($99) and works with various keyboard covers. Battery life is on par with the TabPro S, but then again, it’s bigger and heavier. Also, iOS doesn’t support mouse input, which means none of the available keyboards have a built-in touchpad. For that reason, I’m hesitant to recommend it to people who expect to do a lot of typing or spreadsheet editing. That said, it’s a better fit for creative types who plan to use some of the specially optimized apps, especially those meant to take advantage of the optional Pencil.

Wrapup

I don’t know that the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S is necessarily better than the Surface Pro 4: It isn’t offered in any comparably powerful configurations, the keyboard isn’t as easy to type on, the screen angle isn’t adjustable when propped up, and the pressure-sensitive pen isn’t available yet. That said, the TabPro S bests the SP4 in some ways, and even succeeds in some areas the Surface doesn’t. Its battery life is hours longer, despite the fact that it has a skinnier design that in theory doesn’t leave room for as big a battery. It’s the only 2-in-1 right now with a Super AMOLED screen, and it might just be prettier than the already-nice one on the Surface Pro 4. And, the keyboard comes in the box, which is welcome news, even if the keyboard is occasionally maddening.

The Galaxy TabPro S is a fine product in its own right — no small feat, considering Samsung had never made a device like this before. It will be even better, too, once the company releases the optional pen. Heck, Samsung even has an opportunity to retool the keyboard; space out the buttons a bit, make the screen angle adjustable and then sell it as an optional, backward-compatible accessory. Because if Samsung can fix the typing experience — clearly the weakest link here — early adopters would easily be able to upgrade to a much-improved product, without having to spend $900 all over again.

%d bloggers like this: