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17
May

The best coffee maker


By Cale Guthrie Weissman

This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a buyer’s guide to the best things for your home. Read the full article here.

After putting in 41 hours to do research and interview experts over the past two years and brewing hundreds of cups of coffee in 12 machines, we think the OXO On 9-Cup Coffee Maker is the best. The OXO makes better-tasting coffee than the vast majority of drip coffee makers, and it’s much easier to use than the other high-end machines we tested.

How we picked

Many coffee makers produce terrible coffee because they don’t heat water to the right temperature, or they over- or under-steep grounds, or they don’t use the right water-to-bean ratio. Because flavor was the top priority for the 1,354 Sweethome readers we polled (with ease-of-use and speed tying for second as the most important feature), we looked for machines that could deliver the best taste quickly and without fuss.

To narrow down the field, we turned to the experts. The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) offers a paid certification program for coffee makers that meet the association’s criteria for excellence, including not just temperature but also time, volume, extraction, carafe, and machine performance. Right now nine machines have the certification (up from six last year), reflecting a huge shift in the coffee-making industry. For our latest round of testing, we included five SCAA-approved models.

We also checked out Amazon reviews and formal product reviews and talked to coffee professionals who are looking for the best thing on the scene. From there, we decided which models warranted an in-house Sweethome test.

How we tested

Four of the machines we tested in late 2015. Photo: Michael Hession

Our test panel consisted of three roasters from Brooklyn-based roasting company Lofted Coffee and two Sweethome employees. Using a digital scale, we weighed out six 60-gram batches of whole-bean Ethiopian coffee, freshly roasted by Lofted, to make one liter for each of the six coffee maker models we brought in for testing. We then ground the beans, brewed them in all of the machines simultaneously, served coffee to the tasters in numbered cups, and had the tasters write down their thoughts about each cup.

Once the tasting was complete, the experts from Lofted used a VST refractometer to determine the percentage of total dissolved solids (TDS) in each sample to see which came closer to the 1.15 to 1.35 percent ideal range.

We used a refractometer to measure the percentage of total dissolved solids in each coffee sample. Photo: Michael Hession

Finally, we took the best-performing machines back to The Sweethome’s test kitchen to perform more extensive usability tests and to measure how well each carafe worked.

Our pick

Expect great-tasting coffee from the OXO On 9-Cup Coffee Maker, a machine that’s easy to use and clean. Photo: Michael Hession

The sleek steel-and-black OXO On 9-Cup Coffee Maker proves that good coffee and good features don’t have to be mutually exclusive. It’s very simple to operate: Once you’ve ground your beans to the correct particle size (which is extremely important) and weighed the grounds so they extract just enough, all you have to do is spin a dial on the OXO to indicate the number of cups and press a button to start the machine. Wait about six minutes and your coffee will be ready.

The OXO also produces the second-best-tasting coffee we found, and it’s a better machine than its competition in every other respect. It has a five-port showerhead that disperses water evenly throughout the coffee-brewing basket, good temperature stability, and an automatically activated pre-infusion mode (a crucial step that heightens flavor clarity). Though other coffee makers we tested have the option of activating pre-infusion, the OXO just does it automatically. It also offers smart features that make it more convenient than the competition, like a timer that lets you know how old the coffee is and a scheduler for auto-brewing in the morning.

What really sold us on the OXO was its exceptional carafe, which pours well—it takes only an easy tilt to get a steady stream from carafe to cup—and stays hot for hours on end. After two hours of sitting, it was still 168 degrees Fahrenheit. Plus, the entire machine is easy to clean—the connected plastic parts in the actual machine are detachable and dishwasher-safe, but you’ll have to wash the carafe by hand.

For the best-tasting coffee

If you can’t immediately discard your used filter from the Bonavita 1900TS, you have to leave it in the sink so it has a place to drip until you can deal with it. Other coffee makers don’t have this issue. Photo: Amadou Diallo

The Bonavita 1900TS brews coffee faster than any other machine with pre-infusion—it made a full batch in a little over five minutes—and consistently makes some of the best-tasting automatically dripped drink you can find, thanks to a flat-bottomed filter and powerful water-heating mechanism.

Not only did tasters love it, but, according to our refractometer, it also came the closest to the ideal range of 1.15 percent to 1.35 percent total dissolved solids as specified by the SCAA. Plus, it’s among the easiest systems to operate—just fill the right compartments and flip a switch.

However, that ease of operation translates to fewer features that people want, like programmability. It also has a poor carafe that’s prone to spilling, making it nearly impossible to get the last drops out and requiring the lid to be fully screwed on just to pour a cup of coffee. Also annoying is that the brewing basket sits directly atop the carafe, so you need to find a place to put it when you’re pouring the coffee (we leave it in the sink to catch drips). We were willing to overlook these flaws when even the next best machine was a big step down in terms of flavor. But now that there are machines that address these issues and make coffee that tastes almost as good, it’s not really worth the sacrifice unless balanced flavor is your absolute highest priority.

The larger upgrade pick (that also makes tea)

The OXO On 12-Cup Coffee Brewing System has a removable kettle that can heat water for tea in addition to making coffee. Photo: Michael Hession

The OXO On 9-Cup Coffee Maker is plenty for households with two or three coffee drinkers. But if you have four or more coffee drinkers, or if you want a machine that can do tea and coffee at the same time, the OXO On 12-Cup Coffee Brewing System is the way to go.

Keep in mind that it brews much more slowly—it took more than eight minutes to make a normal eight-cup (1-liter) batch of coffee—and the coffee isn’t quite as flavorful. We recommend it only if you need the larger capacity or the tea kettle functionality.

This guide may have been updated by The Sweethome. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

17
May

NBA wants to help fans create basketball videos for YouTube


Some sports leagues clamp down on the use of game footage on YouTube and social channels while others embrace it. The NBA falls into that latter category and with the help of BroadbandTV, the league wants to give fans what they need to keep the videos coming. NBA Playmakers is the official title of the new initiative, a community for folks who are making basketball-themed content that ranges from shoes to trick shots and more. As part of the project, video makers will get access to the league’s video footage, starting with this season’s playoffs which are currently in progress.

The first videos for the new initiative will be a series that builds on the “Every Second Counts” playoff campaign. The official TV spot, which features music from Timbaland, already aired. However, as the games move towards the NBA Finals, the fan-produced versions will debut across the league’s social channels. There will also be a dedicated YouTube channel for selected videos made through the Playmakers project that’s set to go live later this year.

The NBA has already been working with BroadbandTV for quite some time and this new effort is looking to connect with younger fans. While anyone is welcome to participate, those who can produce top-notch videos that connect with millennials will be promoted most. In addition to the internet fame and fortune, other benefits include access to select footage, games/events, production facilities and new merchandise.

“NBA Playmakers brings all of the constituents together to deliver a powerful ecosystem that millennials care about,” BBTV’s founder and CEO Shahrzad Rafati explained in a press release. “We’re empowering creators to build the future of sports entertainment by partnering with one of the most renowned sports leagues in the world, and arming them with the content, tools and solutions they need to be successful.”

Source: NBA Playmakers

17
May

Google’s gigapixel Art Camera captures the subtle details


The ability to browse a museum’s library of art online isn’t a recent development, but Google’s Cultural Institute is improving that activity. The company built a camera specifically for capturing works of art in a way that displays detail as if you were walking up to in a museum. In order to fully appreciate a piece, you need to observe the brush strokes, textures and any otherwise hidden items up close, and that’s exactly what this high-res camera allows you to do.

Google already built library of around 200 hundred ultra high resolution or “gigapixel” images, but its looking to catalog much more than that. To help expedite the process, the company built a camera that captures hundreds of close-up images using lasers and sonar to ensure the smallest details are in focus. From there, software takes all of those images and puts them together like a puzzle. This will be particularly useful for capturing works that are sensitive to humidity and light, offering the ability to not only preserve their intricacies digitally, but to display them for years to come.

To help museums catalog their exhibitions with the gigapixel images, Google is sending out “a fleet” of the cameras around the world. What’s more, it’s doing so free of charge. The company’s Cultrual Institute also made the first thousand art camera images available to celebrate International Museum Day, and you can view the collection right here.

Via: The Verge

Source: Google

17
May

Sony wants to push AIs to learn from their own experiences


Artificial intelligence is being put through rigorous training. Major technology companies like Microsoft, Google, IBM and Amazon have invested heavily in machine learning techniques that teach systems how to think and react like humans. Now Sony is stepping in to introduce a new layer of learning that it believes will power the next generation of AIs.

The consumer electronics company has invested in AI startup Cogitai to build intelligent systems that will learn from their own experiences in the world. “We have a shared vision for where AI needs to go,” Dr. Satinder Singh, co-founder of Cogitai, told Engadget. “The next wave will be ‘continual learning.’ It’s the idea that machine intelligence will continually grow as it interacts with the world.”

Continual learning isn’t just about creating smart devices that sense your presence, or virtual assistants that understand you better. It’s a technique that is expected to give machines a sort of self-evolving capability. “It builds on everything that has come before,” said Dr Singh. “There’s supervised deep learning to distinguish objects and then there’s reinforcement learning because AI needs to act in the world and learn from consequences. But the new part is the ability to learn and build on those previous things.”

With roots in academia (Dr. Singh is a professor at the University of Michigan), Cogitai hasn’t much experience in the actual applications of these technologies. But Sony is not new to the AI race. In fact, it was a frontrunner in 1999 with AIBO, one of the most successful consumer robotic dogs. The company later went on to set up a Sony Intelligence Laboratory and Sony Computer Science Laboratories to focus on AI-research and development.

JAPAN

Sony’s robotic pet, Aibo, was discontinued when the company pulled back on support and maintenance.

Even after 2014, when the company pulled back support from AIBO to terminate its robotics line, it continued to develop core AI technologies on the side. Some of those efforts eventually led to Xperia’s SmartAR, PlayStation’s facial recognition, digital cameras and more recently, Project N — a wearable device from Sony’s Future Lab Program that employs advanced speech recognition and audio signal processing.

“As a consumer electronics company, whatever we develop and offer to the universe [needs to be] easy to use and not be threatening,” said Toshimoto Mitomo, who is in charge of intellectual property and business development of Sony Corporation. “How do we create AI that people can appreciate?” Now the firm wants to bring that approach to continual learning applications, too.

But despite its in-house AI initiatives, Sony has a lot of ground to cover. While bringing in the expertise of a research-heavy startup could potentially give it a much-needed boost, Cogitai, too, hopes to push past its own limitations through the partnership. “It’s great to partner with Sony who builds so many devices for so many homes and has access to data across the world,” said Dr. Singh. “The biggest boost we can get is access to data, devices and opportunities. It will help us learn and provide value to create a positive feedback cycle for our research questions.”

For now their most pressing question involves continual learning. Dr. Singh likens the behavior to that of a child who slowly learns to make sense of the world. “It starts with whatever is within reach,” he said. “The child learns to grab things then learns to walk and a much wider part of the world becomes available. There’s a continual ability in that, you take what you have and you continue to learn with it. That kind of continual development story is what we’re working on.”

[Images: Tom Merton via Getty Images (lead); Reuters (Sony Aibo)]

17
May

Symantec antivirus security flaw exposes Linux, Mac and Windows


Security holes in antivirus software are nothing new, but holes that exist across multiple platforms? That’s rare… but it just happened. Google’s Tavis Ormandy has discovered a vulnerability in Symantec’s antivirus engine (used in both Symantec- and Norton-branded suites) that compromises Linux, Mac and Windows computers. If you use an early version of a compression tool to squeeze executables, you can trigger a memory buffer overflow that gives you root-level control over a system.

The kickers are that it’s both easy to launch the exploit and particularly vicious in most cases. As Symantec is intercepting system input and output, you only need to email a file or send a web link to wreck someone’s day. And on Windows, an attack compromises the kernel — you know, the very deepest level of the operating system.

The good news? Symantec is taking care of this relatively quickly. Its antivirus suites with LiveUpdate should already have a patch in place. The biggest concern surrounds software that requires a more conventional patching process. There aren’t any known exploits in the wild, but it’s reasonable to presume that Symantec wants to have everything up to date before would-be hackers develop an intrusion technique.

Via: Tavis Ormandy (Twitter), The Register

Source: Chromium.org, Symantec

17
May

T-Mobile Expands ‘Binge On’ Free Video Streaming to NBC, Spotify, and More


T-Mobile announced today that its free unlimited video streaming program Binge On now supports an additional 13 services, headlined by NBC and video content from existing Music Freedom partners Google Play Music, Radio Disney, Spotify, and TIDAL.

The other additions include Great Big Story, Kiswe, Ligonier Ministries, NOGGIN, Qello Concerts, Univision, Univision Noticias, and Toon Goggles. Binge On now supports over 80 video services in the United States.

Binge On is a free incentive that enables T-Mobile customers on a qualifying Simple Choice plan to stream unlimited 480p video from dozens of partnered services, including Netflix, HBO NOW, Hulu, and YouTube, without any of the data consumed counting towards their plans.

T-Mobile added 16 new Binge On and Music Freedom partners in April.

Tags: NBC, Spotify, T-Mobile, Binge On
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17
May

Apple Hires Pair of Engineers From Wireless Charging Startup uBeam


As rumors swirl around Apple’s potential integration of wireless charging in future iPhone models, The Verge discovered the company has recently hired a pair of engineers with specialties focused in wireless charging and ultrasonic technology. Those two hires came in the past four months, but they are part of a larger group of more than a dozen wireless charging hires over the past two years.

The two latest hires, Jonathan Bolus and Andrew Joyce, come from startup uBeam, which is working on a wireless charging technique centered around the harnessing of ultrasonic waves that are converted into electricity to charge an electronic device. Questions about the viability of uBeam’s technology have been around for a while, and former VP of Engineering at uBeam, Paul Reynolds, has been highlighting the company’s errors and potential for failure on his personal blog. The most recent post centers around the mishandled and controversial PR battle faced by blood test startup Theranos, and the suggested implications similarly affecting uBeam.

Last week a former engineer from the much hyped wireless charging startup uBeam left some scathing criticism of the company on his blog. He compared uBeam to the now disgraced startup Theranos, saying that uBeam has avoided any full-fledged public demonstrations because its technology doesn’t work as advertised. While it can do some very limited charging over a short distance, he allowed, the basic laws of physics prevent the product from being practical at any commercial level.

Given the ongoing controversy over the viability of uBeam’s proposed technology, it is perhaps unsurprising some of its engineers are looking at other job opportunities, and Apple’s interest in wireless charging makes the company a natural fit.

Apple has filed various patents relating to wireless charging in the past, but remains quiet on its implementation in a future iPhone. Apple executives have downplayed the significance and usefulness of wireless charging before, mainly due to the necessity of users needing some kind of mat to lay the iPhone on, which would still need to be plugged into a wall.

A possible solution for that problem came from a Bloomberg report earlier in the year, which said Apple was pursuing an extended range wireless charging technique that would negate the need of a separate charging mat and fuel up an iPhone from across a room with no extraneous accessories required. Apple never commented on the report, but speculation suggested Apple could be working with Energous Corporation on the technology.

uBeam’s promise for wireless charging is similar to Apple’s alleged goal of a free range, totally wireless charging ability for iPhone devices, so the two new hires could be helping the company introduce such a feature into a new model down the line. Reports early in the year pointed to the introduction of wireless charging in this year’s iPhone 7, but it’s largely expected now for the feature to be held off until 2017 or even later.

Tags: wireless charging, uBeam
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17
May

9.7-Inch iPad Pro Crashing Issues Persist for Some Users on iOS 9.3.2


Over the past six weeks, a number of 9.7-inch iPad Pro early adopters have reported sporadic crashing issues that result in the tablet soft rebooting to the Apple logo start up screen and prompting Touch ID or passcode verification.

The bug has afflicted a wide range of 9.7-inch iPad Pro models since the tablet launched on March 31, regardless of storage capacity, color, and Wi-Fi or cellular capabilities. Both iOS 9.3.1 and iOS 9.3.2 appear to be affected.

Based on crowdsourced information from the Apple Support Communities and MacRumors discussion forums, it appears that Safari, while not necessarily the root cause of the problem, may be triggering the crashing and reboot cycles.

MacRumors reader jekjones1558 writes:

I have started getting random reboots. Today for the first time my 9.7-inch iPad Pro froze on the Apple screen during reboot. It seems to happen most when switching between Mail and Safari. I had to hold the on/off button to get it unstuck.

Apple Support Communities user MangoSoda experienced similar behavior:

My 9.7-inch iPad Pro (32GB) is less than 15 days old and has exhibited this behavior at least twice now. I’m up to date on iOS. […] Last time [it crashed] I was looking at […] images on Safari. I also had 5-6 apps running in the background.

Various related discussion topics have amassed over 30,000 views and 500 comments, indicating more than a few isolated users are affected.

The actual underlying problem remains unknown, but it is likely rooted in software and should be addressed by Apple in a future update if warranted, in the same vein as iOS 9.3.2 fixed iPhone SE Bluetooth issues and multiple other bugs. Most affected users report seeing “bug type 298” under Settings > Privacy > Diagnostics & Usage > Diagnostic & Usage Data.

Apple has not officially commented on the matter, but some customers that have contacted support claim the company is aware of the issue and working on a fix. In the interim, some customers have had their iPad Pro swapped out for a new model at an Apple retail store; however, for some, the problems persist. We will update this article if and as new information becomes available.

Related Roundup: iPad Pro
Tags: Safari, iOS 9.3.1, iOS 9.3.2
Buyer’s Guide: 12.9″ iPad Pro (Buy Now)
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17
May

Motorola Moto G (2016) Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


I’ve called Motorola’s previous Moto G the “best budget phone around”. That’s a big accolade to live up to, but by taking its already great phone and giving almost every spec a healthy boost, Motorola makes sure the two new Moto Gs might well keep their lofty title.

The new Moto G

The revamped Moto G has a 5.5-inch screen, making it rather large: half an inch larger than the previous model and a full inch larger than the original Moto G. It’s comfortable to hold though but whether it fits into your pocket depends on how tight you like your jeans.

As before, it’ll be available in a wide variety of colours, using Motorola’s online Moto Maker tool. The plain black model I saw doesn’t look too exciting, so I’ll be looking for a brighter shell to clip on.

motorola-moto-g-plus-2016.jpg
Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Moto G Plus

While the standard model has a 13-megapixel camera, the Plus bumps that up to 16 megapixels, and pairs that with a laser-enabled autofocus for faster focusing for speedy snaps.

Motorola’s new phones both run Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Motorola typically does little to customise Android, meaning it’s fast and easy to use. Thankfully it seems that Motorola has taken a similarly hands-off approach on the new models.

motorola-moto-g-plus-2016-5.jpgmotorola-moto-g-plus-2016-5.jpg
Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Moto G and G Plus key specs:

  • 5.5-inch display, full HD resolution (1,920×1,080-pixels)
  • 3,000mAh battery (up to 24 hours of “mixed use”)
  • Octa-core processor
  • 16, 32 or 64GB storage (selectable using Moto Maker tool)
  • 2, 3 or 4GB RAM (selectable using Moto Maker tool)

The Moto G will cost a mere £169 when it goes on sale in the UK in early June. The Plus will be available shortly after from Amazon and will cost £199. I’d argue that an additional £30 is a small price to pay for the higher-performance camera.

Motorola hasn’t said how much the phones will cost in the US or Australia, but the Moto G’s price converts to about $245 or AU$335, while the Plus’ price converts to about $285 or AU$395.

Cameras aside, both phones appear to offer a really solid set of specs for an extremely reasonable price. I’m looking forward to giving these new guys the full review treatment.

17
May

Home8 Smart Garage Starter Kit Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


home8-smart-garage-kit-1.jpg
Home8

Many people use their garage as much as their front door, so buying a device to control or automate it seems like a pretty logical investment. But a new company called Home8 says simple control isn’t enough — security is just as important. Enter the Smart Garage Starter Kit.

At $230, the Starter Kit costs about $30 more than Garageio and $100 more than the Chamberlain MyQ. But unlike both of those competitors, Home8’s kit includes security gadgets, like a camera and an alarm. For anyone worried that the garage isn’t just another door, but also another home security vulnerability, the Home8 Smart Garage Starter Kit could be a useful solution.

The Kit will contain three devices. First, you’ll get the garage door opener itself. The second device is the Shuttle Intelligent Hub, which will act as a bridge between your phone and the opener. That means you’ll still be able to control your garage remotely. In addition, the Hub contains an alarm, so you’ll be alerted in the case of a break-in.

The final device in the package is a Mini Cube HD camera. The camera itself is proprietary, so how well it works remains to be seen. But with 720p resolution, a ball-and-socket mount for manual swiveling, motion detection, night vision and two-way audio, it seems to have its bases covered.

While the $230 price tag feels a little high at first glance, for a high-quality camera and a connected garage door opener, it could be a great deal. The Starter Kit also works with integration platform IFTTT, and Home8 is working on Amazon Echo compatibility as well.

Between these strategic smart-home integrations and the security-centric approach to garage door automation, Home8 is taking a big step in the right direction. Now the question is whether the Smart Garage Starter Kit’s performance will match the idea behind it.

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