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Solar Impulse 2 completes its flight across the Pacific

After months of delays and days of flying, Solar Impulse 2 has finished crossing the Pacific. The sunlight-powered aircraft arrived in San Francisco Bay on the night of April 23rd, with an expected touchdown at Moffett Field (as of this writing) around 3AM Eastern on the 24th. This isn’t the toughest stint to date (that honor goes to the 5,061-mile trip from Japan to Hawaii), but it was no mean feat. Pilot Bertrand Piccard had to travel 2,717 miles between Hawaii and San Francisco, with only short naps allowed during the 3-day expedition.

As daunting as this and the eight previous legs of the trip have been, the tough part isn’t over yet. While flying over the US will be a relative cakewalk (Solar Impulse 2 should reach New York by early June), the aircraft will then have to travel 3,566 miles to Europe. That’s a straight 5 days in the air, folks. After that, the plane will complete its around-the-world mission by heading to Abu Dhabi.

This hasn’t been the quickest adventure given that the aircraft took off back in March 2015. However, speed isn’t really the point. Solar Impulse 2 and its namesake technology are meant to show that green energy can accomplish as spectacular a feat as flying across the planet. If the flight encourages anyone to embrace clean power, it accomplishes its goal.

Source: Solar Impulse, YouTube


Xiaomi teases Mi Max phablet

Earlier this week, we got our first look at the front panel of a phone rumored to be the Xiaomi Max, an upcoming phablet from the Chinese vendor with a screen size of 6.4 inches. Xiaomi has now started teasing the handset, which will be called the Mi Max.

From MIUI:


The teaser shows that the phone will be able to fit inside a pocket, but given the 6.4-inch screen size, it will be interesting to see how Xiaomi pulls it off. As for the hardware on offer, rumors suggest we’ll see a Snapdragon 820, with a render revealing a design that’s very similar to the Mi 5.



Intel execs got threats over the company’s push for diversity

Intel’s bid to promote company diversity is running into opposition… and some of it is particularly vicious. CEO Brian Krzanich told guests at a technology conference that it has received some hostility, including a “bit of a backlash” from within the company. There have even been threats against executives — yes, the company that’s trying to fight harassment is enduring some harassment of its own. It’s not certain how serious those threats are, but it’s safe to say that these weren’t polite complaints.

If you ask Krzanich, the uproar comes from a common misperception of how diversity works. The company is hiring more women, African-Americans and Hispanics in addition to people from well-represented groups, he says, not in place of them. In other words, he rejects the notion that you won’t get a job at Intel simply because you’re a white man — this is about including people who otherwise wouldn’t get their foot in the door. He adds that pay gaps are also problems, and that Intel’s next diversity report should highlight those discrepancies.

The comments aren’t likely going to assuage those critics who see diversity initiatives as threats to their livelihoods and the status quo. However, they do show that the technology industry isn’t a hive mind presenting a unified front. While many companies are publicly committed to improving their cultural variety, some of their employees are just as afraid of change as anyone else.

Source: TechCrunch


Stanford wind tunnel for birds could lead to more stable drones

Birds can navigate both urban and real jungles with ease even when they’re facing moderately turbulent winds. If they could speak, we’d have already asked their secret. But since they can’t, the Stanford School of Engineering built one of the most advanced wind tunnels in the world. It’s where assistant professor David Lentink study them more closely in order to develop more stable drones. The tunnel has a turbulence generator that simulates different wind speeds and patterns, as well as high-speed cameras that record every flap of the birds’ wings as they fly inside.

But that’s just the beginning: the researchers also plan to train flocks of birds to fly in the tunnel to determine if the turbulence created by multiple pairs of wings affects each individual’s flight. Plus, they’re planning to install equipment that can visualize how the birds’ muscles and bones move. Lentink believes that the data they’ll gather can provide the necessary information to build better flying robots. In the future, he wants to use the wind tunnel to test the bird-like machines he’s aiming to build, ones with wings that morph based on the current wind conditions.

Source: Stanford University


This LeEco mountain bike fuses exercise and your favorite mobile operating system


One of the more exotic products we had chance to look over at the recent CE China show out in Shenzhen was this smart bicycle from LeEco. A company with a broad range of connected hardware, this pretty outrageous looking mountain bike isn’t something we come across every day.

Oh, and it runs Android.

The Le Syvrac isn’t your average pedaller by any means. Besides the built in computer that runs software based on Android, it has smart functions like built in lights, a speaker and even a lock. It’s also alarmed should someone just pick it up and throw it in the back of a van and with a companion smartphone app you’ll be able to track the location of your futuristic cycle. Nestled in the handlebars is a heart rate sensor, too, for more accurate fitness tracking on the move.

The Android portion of this bike though is worth closer attention. It’s not just a smartphone that’s been glued to the handlebars, instead hosting some tailored software that the cyclist may actually want to use. It’s packing a 4-inch display and a fairly hefty 4GB of RAM. What you’re going to be doing most is tracking your activity like most good quality bike computers would. Speed, distance travelled and the weather are all pretty handy when you’re outside, as is built in maps.

The beauty is that it’s built in to the handlebars, so if you’re a serious cyclist you’ve got what you want right where you want it already.

The computer also has a music player built in, and a speaker to blast your tunes through. There’s no need to hit the trails with headphones and while the sound quality isn’t exactly top drawer, it is at least loud. Or loud enough to be heard clearly at a busy trade show, anyway.

There are seemingly three different spec levels, with a top price of RMB 39,999 ($6155), and with lashings of Carbon Fiber among the options, it’s easy to see where some of the price comes from. But even so, it’s one of the craziest pedal powered machines we’ve ever seen.


Mobile Nations Weekly: All the new things!


New phones, updated laptops, and expanding the definition of ‘mobile’

What a busy week! Let’s start things off with the new releases: the HTC 10 is now available (as is our HTC 10 review). So too is are the two most exciting VR headsets: the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive — we’re just now getting our heads around them (or them around our heads), so stay tuned for our thoughts!

But wait, there’s more new stuff! Apple refreshed the MacBook laptop with faster prossessors and storage (and a rose gold finish), and Microsoft pushed out a massive Windows Insider Preview update with exciting new features like Windows Ink and Messaging Everywhere, as well as a revised Start menu. And following up on the cool and affordable-by-humans Model 3, Tesla refreshed the Model S with a new look and improved range.

Oh, did we not mention that we have a new site for Tesla owners and fans? We didn’t? Oh, well, we do! It’s called Tesla Centra and you should totally check it out!

Android Central — Podcasts and rumors and hardware (oh my)

The worst-kept secret at Google was finally launched officially as Google Play Music added podcasts to its feature list this week. Now you can listen to all of your favorite shows — including the Android Central Podcast — in the same app as your music. It’s also available on the web, and everything syncs up between platforms as you’d expect.

On the hardware side, leaks just keep coming pointing to the release of a refreshed Moto G and a “Plus” version as well. Things look pretty familiar, but the hardware looks a bit sleeker and there’s a front-mounted fingerprint sensor, which would be a big step for the budget phone. Rumors suggest a launch date of June 9.

Now to phones that you can actually buy, where the HTC 10 is finally starting to hit retailers. We’ve rounded up everywhere you can buy it, whether you’re in the U.S. or over in the UK.

  • HTC 10 review: Iconic, impressive, imperfect
  • Galaxy S7 Wireless Charging Battery Pack review
  • The case for a Nexus 7P tablet
  • Xiaomi Mi 5 review: Excellent hardware, irritating software
  • LG G5 versus the Nexus 6P
  • 24 hours in the Oculus Rift
  • Check out our HTC Vive unboxing!
  • HTC 10 vs. iPhone 6s: There’s no place like home (button)
  • Can a Chromebook replace my MacBook or Windows laptop?

CrackBerry — BlackBerryBall


BBM encryption, Marshmallow beta releases and Priv marketing were all the rage this week in the world of BlackBerry. If that wasn’t enough, BlackBerry also announced a new agreement where HotRemit, a social wallet app developed by Digitsecure, will adopt BM for mobile payments and expense tracking in India.

  • John Chen says BlackBerry ‘stood by our lawful access principles’ while assisting Canadian Police in 2010
  • Marshmallow beta for Priv updated, T-Mobile customers now invited
  • BlackBerry and the Toronto Raptors kick off new Priv marketing
  • HotRemit adopts BBM for mobile payments and expense tracking in India

iMore — iPhone 8 rumors already?

Yes, iPhone 7 probably won’t even arrive until the fall of 2016 but that hasn’t stopped iPhone 8 rumors from trying to steal the limelight. Why? Because financial analysts got bills to pay and clients to make richer. That’s why!

Back in the real world, Apple shipped a second generation MacBook with faster Intel Skylake Core-M processors, much faster Flash storage, and — you know it! — an optional rose gold finish! We’ve already started reviewing it, so keep your browsers and apps locked to iMore!

  • I covet the new MacBook, but I’m sticking with my iPad Pro
  • All the new Apple Watch bands in one video!
  • iPhone SE review: One month later

Tesla Central — The dawn of the EV age


Cars are mobile gadgets, right? I mean, they’ve got wheels and the move. Mobile is right there in the name — automobile! Truth be told, cars are pretty much the ultimate gadget, and there’s no car company that’s cooler (or more gadgety) than Tesla. So we’ve launched a new destination for all things Tesla: Tesla Central!

On Tesla Central you’ll find the latest news and whatnot, sure, but we’re also going to be your number one source for the latest and greatest reviews, videos, and discussion — no matter where it’s been published. Of course, we’ll have plenty of our own original content too — this is a Mobile Nations site, after all!

  • Everything you need to know about the Tesla Model 3
  • Tesla cars are like computers — there will always be a new one right after you buy yours
  • The Model S got a hot new facelift and increased range
  • Waiting for the Model 3: Why I leased a Prius after putting down my deposit
  • How to reserve a Tesla Model 3: $1,000 and some patience

Windows Central — Surfacing for air

Microsoft had a wild week with Q3 FY 2016 earnings being posted. Most of the news was positive with Surface revenue passing $1 billion again for the second quarter in a row (and the first time in a non-holiday period). Azure and cloud, while still doing well, is slowing a bit, however. Microsoft sold 2.3 million Windows Phones, but considering the company purposefully slashed their Lumia portfolio this year and had been playing it low key in mobile, none of that is surprising (or even all that interesting).

A new Insider release of Windows 10 for PC and Mobile hit a new milestone with build 14328. The update for PC came with a three-thousand-word blog post that detailed all the changes. From the new Windows Ink feature to a revised Start Menu, Messaging Everywhere and Cortana additions this is by far the most feature-packed release yet and is a preview of this summer’s big Anniversary Update.

HBO released their HBO Now app for Xbox One and Xbox 360 owners to watch Games of Thrones live.

Finally, Microsoft released more patches for the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4, and we got to see Acer’s new liquid-cooled 2-in-1 PC coming in the next few weeks.

  • Hands-on with Windows Ink in Windows 10 Insider Build 14328
  • 10 tips and tricks to make you a Cortana pro on Windows 10
  • Mozo teases upcoming real wood covers for Lumia 950 and 950 XL
  • Microsoft tops list of America’s 100 ‘Best Corporate Citizens’ of 2016


Sales skyrocketed after ‘Rust’ added female character models

When Rust creator Garry Newman introduced female character models to the open world survival game, he said the idea was rooted in a social experiment: He wanted to see if lady characters would be attacked more or less because players might perceive them as being weak or vulnerable, respectively. What actually happened caught him off guard. Despite internet rage about gender being randomly — and permanently — assigned to Steam usernames, it’s actually increased the amount of players.

@garrynewman More importantly, player counts have also grown – which is the opposite of what many said would happen.

— Garry Newman (@garrynewman) April 21, 2016

According to a tweet from Newman, sales increased by 74 percent when the update was released and overall player count nearly doubled for a period, “which is the opposite of what many said would happen,” he tweeted.

Typically when updates roll out, like last year’s that introduced randomly assigned skin color and faces, there’d be a slow but steady increase over months, rather than a sudden uptick. Newman tells Kotaku that outside of Steam sales, he’s never witnessed these types of numbers before.

“We’re seeing a lot more positivity around the change than negativity,” he says. “It’s still a bit of a novelty right now, but I’m guessing in another couple of months it will just exist without acknowledgement just as the skin color stuff.” Let’s hope he’s right.

Source: Kotaku


Congress asks the NSA how often it spies on Americans

Thanks in part to leaks, it’s no secret that the National Security Agency’s foreign intelligence gathering also covers some Americans. But just how many Americans are under watch, and how many are simply innocents caught in the crossfire? Congress wants to find out. The House Judiciary Committee has sent a letter giving Director of National Intelligence James Clapper until May 6th to provide a “rough estimate” of how many Americans are swept up in spying under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. While the NSA is supposed to keep the collection of US data to a minimum, it’s not clear that the current approach is effective. There’s a concern that many people are unnecessarily included, opening the door to abuse.

There’s no guarantee that Clapper and crew will provide a reasonable answer. Both the House and civil liberties groups have made similar requests in recent years, and officials have stymied their efforts each time. Also, there’s no guarantee that the data will be useful. Remember how companies are only allowed to provide vague National Security Letter numbers? Yeah. While you’re unlikely to ever get exact numbers (they can occasionally say a lot about who’s being targeted), overly broad figures might be pointless.

The House does have one advantage on its side: it controls the legislation that lets this surveillance happen. The FISA section that allows the data collection expires at the end of 2017, and Congress could let it lapse if it doesn’t get a satisfactory answer. With that said, similar threats have been made before, to little effect. Politicians may have to prove that their ultimatum has teeth in order to get results.

Source: The Verge


Can I use apps on my Chromebook?


Apps for your Chromebook are just a click away.

If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that people love to use “apps.” That’s in quotes for a reason — because it’s not really anything new.

The word apps is a shortened term for applications, because everyone loves to shorten things. We’ve been using applications — aka programs — since we first started using computers. In fact, at one time Windows used to be an app that ran on top of DOS that let you do things with a mouse instead of typing a bunch of stuff into a command prompt. Even before that, people have been building apps and running them on computers since the days of punch-card programming. Days I do not miss at all.

It makes sense that people want to know if the Chromebook they’re thinking of buying can run apps, and the good news is that they most certainly can — and it’s pretty easy to get started.

The Chrome Web Store


Just like Android and iOS or even Windows and Mac, Chromebooks have their own app store — the Chrome Web Store. And it’s just as easy to use.

For starters, you’ll only see apps that are compatible with your Chromebook hardware. That means you won’t be installing something that doesn’t work, then have to remove it. When you visit the Chrome Store from your Chromebook, you’ll find thousands of apps and games in a searchable store. Apps from Google are there (of course) as well as names you’ll recognize like Plex or Spotify or Netflix, as well as great apps from smaller independent developers. Of course, not every app is great, but the selection is broad enough that you’ll find plenty to choose from.

More: Can you use a Chromebook offline?

Installing them is simple. Choose the app you want to install, and click the “Add to Chrome” button in the upper right of the window. You don’t have to worry about anything else, and Google has pretty strict rules about how your data and privacy are handled. Once an app is installed, you’ll find it ready to use by clicking the launcher icon (it’s the magnifying glass in the bottom left) and looking through what’s installed. To uninstall an app, right-click it’s icon and choose to “Remove from Chrome.”

Android apps on your Chromebook


Officially, Android apps can run on a Chromebook. The tools are available for developers to build apps — even apps that need Google Play Services or have in-app purchases — and upload them directly to the Chrome Store.

As of this writing, though, the pickings are rather slim with just a handful of Android apps readily available in the Chrome Store.

That’s where the grey area comes in with Arc Welder.

Arc Welder is a developer tool (using the App Runtime for Chrome) that lets you import any Android application into Chrome OS. Legally, you can only do this with your own apps that you have written, or otherwise have license to modify. Of course, people are using it anyway and have found that plenty of Android apps work as-is on a Chromebook. Plenty of others don’t.

You can find out everything you need to know about Arc Welder from Google right here. We don’t condone or condemn anything here, but do know that using an app outside of the license you agreed to when you installed it is technically software piracy.

One last thing to keep in mind is that apps take storage space to install and run, and most Chromebooks don’t come with a lot of it to begin with. Here are some handy tips that can help if you need more room to install all the things.


Oree’s real ink-and-paper stylus is not for starving artists

Known for chic, artisanal digital products like a $190 walnut keyboard, French company Orée is going after the creative set with the Stylograph. Fabricated from pure copper, the ink stylus lets you transcribe your scribblings from paper over to an iOS or Android device. The idea is to marry the tactile sensation of drawing on paper with the flexibility of digital formats. The pen is nearly a work of art in itself, but it comes with a $300 price tag — double that of rival Livescribe.

Now a retail product following a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Stylograph is not meant to take the place of, say, a Wacom tablet. “It’s not positioned as a professional tool, but as a note-taking and sketching tool,” Orée founder Julien Salanave tells Engadget. “Our audience so far has included executives, designers, architects and lawyers.” Certainly, the A5 paper you must use (more on that later) is too small for serious graphics or fine art work. Of course, unlike a regular pen and pad, you instantly get a digital copy of your idea that you can send to anyone.

The 0.7mm ballpoint pen has an onboard accelerometer and a high-speed camera on the tip. The latter tracks your strokes by scanning nearly invisible patterns on the special “stone mineral” paper. In other words, you can’t use regular paper, and replenishing it runs a pricey $25 for 190 pages. The good news is that the pen can take standard D1 ballpoint refills.

To use it, you just charge the device’s lithium-ion battery for around an hour to get two days of usage. Then, power it up and pair it via Bluetooth to an iOS or Android app — a fairly painless process. The stylus feels as good in the hand as it looks, with the copper surface offering up just enough friction for a solid grip. The pen feels nice on the special paper too, at least to my un-artistic hands.

It tracks your drawings and writing accurately, though it occasionally misses small strokes, and there’s a slight delay before it transfers sketches to the app. I was able to keep the skipped strokes to a minimum with a lighter touch, though. (Unlike the Livescribe, the Stylograph doesn’t yet have built-in character recognition.) Each page in the notebook is recorded to a matching page in the app, as shown below. In addition, the device saves your drawings to its own internal memory if your phone isn’t turned on, then transfers the images to the app when you connect.

Once recorded in the app, you can export your work as a PDF and send it out via email, cloud and other means. You can also save it as a vector-based SVG file, then open it up in Adobe Illustrator. That helps artists quickly transfer their pen and paper drawings into an easily tweakable digital format.

The original $420 price was insane, but Orée recently lowered it to a more reasonable, but still expensive, $300. You’d really have to be wedded to pen and paper to want it instead of drawing on a screen with, say, Apple’s Pencil-equipped iPad Pro or a Wacom stylus. The Stylograph is arguably simpler to use, though: You just whip out the pen, turn it on and start writing. If you don’t have time to fire up the app and sync the pen, you can do that later on.

As mentioned, Orée makes other lovely, impractical products, like artisanal wood keyboards and touchpads. Its target market apparently doesn’t mind paying a premium price for weird, fun accessories made with natural materials. The same applies to the Stylograph. If you’re an architect, designer or other professional who likes to write stuff down rather than typing it in on a screen (and you also have the cash), you’re probably in the company’s wheelhouse. For the rest of us, $300 is a big ask for such an oddball device, pretty as it is.

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