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22
May

The Milwaukee Bucks fell prey to a phishing email scam


Just because you’re part of a major league sports team doesn’t mean you’re immune to internet fraudsters. The Milwaukee Bucks have confirmed that they fell victim to a phishing scam that compromised the basketball team’s financial data. After receiving an email impersonating team president Peter Feigin, an employee sent out 2015 tax year data for all of the Bucks’ employees, including players. Yes, that means that the salaries and social security numbers of some NBA athletes are in sinister hands.

The Bucks are conducting an “aggressive” investigation, and giving staff access to both unlimited identity restoration services and 3 years of credit monitoring. It’s also promising “preventative measures” that include training staff to better protect privacy. However, there’s no escaping at least some of the damage. Everyone, whether they’re brand new assistants or star players worth millions, now has to worry that scammers might wreck their financial lives.

Source: Yahoo Sports

22
May

Microsoft is purging terrorist content from its services


Microsoft is officially prohibiting users from posting anything that incites terrorist acts on its services, including Xbox Live, Outlook consumer version and document-sharing website Docs. In a blog post, the tech giant explained that it’s taking these steps, because it has “a responsibility to run [its] various internet services so that they are a tool to empower people, not to contribute, however indirectly, to terrible acts.” For Bing, however, the company will only remove links to websites if the authorities demand it. Search engines don’t host content, after all, and Microsoft has to respect people’s “right to access information.”

But what exactly constitutes “terrorist content” anyway? Redmond defines it as “material posted by or in support of organizations included on the Consolidated United Nations Security Council Sanctions List that depicts graphic violence, encourages violent action, endorses a terrorist organization or its acts, or encourages people to join such groups.”

Besides tweaking its consumer services’ terms to make things official, the company has also launched a page where you can report anything you think fits its description of terrorist content. Microsoft will take it down if it agrees with your assessment. While it’s clearly relying on reports from users to enforce this new rule, Microsoft might use an automated tool to scan its services in the future. It’s funding the development of a technology that can scan and flag known terrorist images, audio and video.

Source: Reuters, Microsoft

22
May

Oculus update stops you from using VR apps with HTC’s Vive


HTC Vive and Oculus Rift owners generally have a lot in common, including access to many of the same apps and games. However, it looks like a gulf is opening up between the two virtual reality headsets. Oculus has released an app update whose improved “platform integrity checks” break support for Revive, an unofficial tool that lets Rift-specific apps (those in Oculus Home) run on HTC’s gear. If you ask Revive’s creators, they believe that Oculus is checking that its hardware is connected regardless of the app you’re using — previously, you only had to convince individual apps that there’s a Rift attached.

It’s possible to get around this barrier if you have an Oculus Rift (DK2 or the finished version) hooked up when you start an app, but this isn’t exactly practical for VR fans who only have money to spend on one device.

An Oculus spokesman speaking to Ars Technica maintains that the update wasn’t specifically targeted at Revive, and that the goal was solely to fight piracy of titles that developers “worked so hard to make.” There’s some truth to that (it’s easier to crack programs when there are no hardware checks), but there’s no question that this creates a chilling effect for Vive owners who just want to see what they’re missing. It’s also somewhat contradictory for Oculus. Founder Palmer Luckey said he didn’t want to lock people into his headsets, but that appears to be happening all the same — you may have to get used to copy protection dictating the VR experiences you’re allowed to have.

Via: Ars Technica

Source: Reddit, Oculus

22
May

Watch NASA inflate the space station’s expandable habitat


It’s almost time for the ISS crew to begin testing the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). On Thursday, May 26th, BEAM will be inflated to reach its full size, and you can watch it live on NASA TV, starting at 5:30AM EDT. BEAM was ferried to the ISS aboard a SpaceX flight, which became famous for being the first time the company landed a reusable rocket at sea. It was folded during transport to save space and attached to the station sometime in April, but now it will be expanded to add a 10-x-13-foot area to the ISS.

The crew can’t treat that extra space as a living area just yet, though. Within the next two years, they’ll re-enter the module several times to retrieve data collected from the inside and to assess its condition. Their first check will take place on June 2nd. BEAM’s success could make or break the company’s plans to test its much, much bigger inflatable habitat called B330 aboard the space station. It’s hoping NASA agrees to take that one for a spin, as well. Even if the space agency ends up passing on the B330, though, Bigelow Aerospace already inked a deal with United Launch Alliance to send one to orbit by 2020.

Besides the livesteam on the day of the expansion, NASA and Bigelow Aerospace engineers will answer your questions about the module on Tuesday, May 24th. Their Q&A on NASA’s Facebook page will begin at 4PM EDT, while their Reddit AMA will begin at 5PM.

Source: NASA

22
May

Uno’s speed-reading wristband feels like a work in progress


Wearing the Uno Noteband makes me feel as if I’m in an ’80s spy movie. Whenever I receive a message on my smartphone, the device on my wrist vibrates. One swipe later and words are being flashed at my eyes, eight per second, 505 per minute. Perhaps it’s a coded, subliminal message that’ll activate the dormant part of my brain that was conditioned by that rogue Soviet general. It’s not, of course; it’s my friend Sarah telling me that she busted her ankle at the gym. Perhaps it’s better if some things remain in the fantasy world, where the dour practicalities of life can’t tarnish them.

Uno’s big gimmick is that it makes use of Spritz’s speed-reading technology. (If you have a long memory, you’ll recall that Spritz was previously touted as an app you could download for Samsung’s Galaxy S5.) Each word flashes up for a split second across the band’s 128 x 32 touch-enabled OLED display. This was enough of a draw for the company to raise $137,000 on Indiegogo last year to bring the “speed notifier” to the masses.

How the Uno Noteband works.

When we read a word, our eyes don’t simply run from the first letter to the last. Instead, adult brains get used to reading the thing in its entirety, subconsciously matching the pattern and shapes to what’s stored in our memory. The fastest way to do this is to find the Optimal Recognition Point — an anchor that helps your brain take shortcuts. So, the OPR for the word “reading” is the a, and your eyes will find that one character and work outward from there.*

If we want to read faster, we need to reduce the amount of time and effort that our eyes spend looking for the OPR in each word. Spritz’s solution is to put each word in a fixed position with the OPRs all matching up so your eyes don’t have to move. In addition, lines above and below the OPR point your brain straight to it, so you’ll have no reason to avert your gaze from that position. Spritz claims that this helps you read faster.

The central conceit here is that a device with Spritz’s speed-reading technology will have you staring at your wrist for less time. If you’re just checking a notification as it comes in, then sure, it’s pretty quick, although was that really a problem before? It’s also a lot more brain intensive because rather than a casual glance downward, the band demands that you pay close attention to whatever’s being sent your way. The idea of giving you information quickly and efficiently is a good one, but to do at the expensive of glanceability seems misguided.

The Uno band itself is a chunky black rectangle that follows the same form as devices like the Microsoft Band. Whenever you wish to read the display, you’ll have to contort your wrist so that it’s correctly oriented in front of your eyes. But whereas the Microsoft Band goes all the way around your wrist, Uno is more like a rigid candy bar that just happens to have a rubber strap attached at both ends. Though a stylish magnetic clasp on the other makes for easy removal and hides the charging port, a rectangular brick strapped to your wrist is as cumbersome as it sounds.

The whole screen is touch-enabled, with a blue LED nestled beside the panel to alert you to pending notifications. Blank when not in use, the display requires you to give it a gentle tap to wake up should you wish to view the time. The first thing you’ll be tempted to do when viewing the clock is to swipe up/down to take you to the notifications. Except that doesn’t work. Instead, that action lets you switch from the 12-hour clock to a 24-hour version.

You may be wondering why you’d need instant access to change the clock format, and the answer is: You don’t. This feature should be buried in a menu within the settings on the companion app, and yet here it is, front-and-center. It’s the first of many issues that made themselves apparent early on in my time with this device. Swipes, the key component of the user interface, are frequently ignored or misunderstood.

Swipe left to right from the time screen and you’ll be taken to your list of as-yet unread notifications. These mirror whatever’s sitting in the notification pane of your smartphone and are subject to the same size constraints. So, you’ll get the first 2KB worth of text if you’re on an iOS device, for instance, which boils down to 20 or so words for a WhatsApp, Twitter DM or e-mail.

The notifications list will show you how many pending alerts you have, starting with the most recent. You’ll then swipe upwards to cycle back to the previous notification and downwards to read the current one available on screen. It’s not a particularly elegant system and there’s no way to go back one item if you scroll too zealously. Then again, it’s hard to imagine a better way this could have been done with such a limited gesture system.

There are plenty of niggling issues with Uno’s hardware but nonetheless, it does what it’s meant to do with a minimum of fuss. The same can’t be said for the companion app. Trial and error is the name of the game as you’re presented with a list of other apps without any context or information. The list itself covers all of the software that’s able to push notifications to the Uno. Tap one of them and you’ll be given the option of muting it, but the symbol makes it look as if you’re deleting it forever. The only other available icon on the screen is the standard hamburger menu icon, which takes you through to the rest of the app, which is also sparsely designed.

An example of when things don’t go so well.

When you access the full menu, you’ll get options including “Setup,” “Help,” “Spritz Speed” and “Reset.” The first two don’t actually do anything beyond take you to a how-to page on Uno website’s for the former and the Zendesk page for the latter. The only meaningful thing you can do from the app is set the speed of the notifications as they flash on the band, from 600 words per minute down to 50 wpm for beginners.

Uno also does activity tracking, including basic step counting. Accuracy seems on par with other wearables I’ve tested, although it doesn’t seem capable of picking up other forms of movement. For instance, a session at the gym was met with stony indifference from the device despite the sweat pouring from my back. Put it this way, then: You won’t be buying this for its fitness features.

The Uno Noteband isn’t a bad device by any means, but there are so many niggling faults that it’s hard to praise it. You’d excuse some of its flaws if it were a prototype, but it seems as if its creators forgot to consider how real people might use it. It’s not comfortable to wear or stylish enough to make people put up with the discomfort. The touchscreen’s inadequate gesture sensing would have been forgiven a couple of years ago, but this is 2016 and the stakes are higher.

There are a whole host of things that Uno can do in order to rescue this device from the jaws of defeat, and none of them are too resource intensive. The company certainly needs to spend some time cleaning up its software, with the amateurish companion app being the top priority. Secondly, the device’s firmware could do with some tweaking to make it easier to use.

For instance, there’s a motion sensor in there, so why not wake the display if it thinks it’s being brought up to reading height? Plenty of other devices do that already, even power-saving devices with dot matrix displays. Same goes for notifications: If the device senses movement just after it vibrates to tell you you’ve got a message, it should play it.

Also, there should be an option to bypass your smartphone’s notification pane and push longer pieces of text to the device. Imagine the potential, for instance, of being able to pump the text of an article to your wrist for the morning commute. By limiting itself to just notifications, which are already short enough to digest quickly, it hobbles the key benefit of Spritz’s technology. You don’t bring a guitar to a party and then simply spend it tuning when everyone’s waiting for you to belt out “Wonderwall,” do you?

* This is a supremely basic explanation. If you’re a neuroscientist, please don’t write in.

Source: Uno

22
May

I salvaged my shattered iPhone with a ‘Band-Aid’ screen cover


After a BBQ last Sunday (there may have been alcohol), I dropped my phone. Multiple times. And I wasn’t lucky. Although my iPhone 6 Plus has suffered tiny hairline cracks in two of the corners, this time the drops were critical hits resulting in a spiderweb of substantial cracks, the majority of them around the bottom right corner — you know, where your thumb always is. Typing on it meant risking a tiny shard or two cutting into my thumb, and even when I avoided that, those cracks still irritated my fingertips. Touch functions were also impaired. Google Maps was not cooperating. While the brunt of the damage was in the lower corner, the drop had also crippled my front-facing camera. Perhaps the camera leaves the screen structurally weaker there, or was this the universe’s way of saying I’d taken one too many self-portraits?

And yet the next day was Monday, a work day. The Apple Store was fully booked. I needed a miracle. Or at least a cheap short-term solution. I turned to Pitamo’s smartphone bansouko (“Band-Aid”), a cut-it-yourself three-layer screen for broken smartphones. It promises to contain any more shards of doom, stop the cracks from getting worse, and keep your phone useable — all for under 10 bucks. What could go wrong?

I heard about the smartphone “band-aid” from my colleagues at Engadget Japan. None of them had tried it out — possibly because they were sober enough to not drop their (caseless) iPhone multiple times. I went to one of Tokyo’s many giant electronics stores to make a purchase.

I picked it up and grimaced. “Cut to size,” it said at the bottom of the packaging. I was going to be dependent on my cutting and tracing skills for this to work even remotely well. There’s a laborious nine-minute, Japanese-language tutorial on how to apply it, but the pictures included with the cover explain everything, even if you have no kanji-reading skills. You trace the outline of your phone (and because you cut it yourself, you can use it on any smartphone model). Then you cut out your phone-shaped sticker. Carefully. The guide then suggests you use a toothbrush to gently remove any excess phone screen shards. Except my thumb had done that for me already.

Then there’s the heady (actually low-stakes) tension of attaching your screen cover: no bubbles, get the sides aligned just right, and make sure nothing gets trapped underneath. In case you’ve never used one before, welcome to the wonderful world of smartphone screen covers. These little sheets of curvy plastic have the inexplicable superpower to trap air, hair and dust no matter how hard you try not to. (The Apple Store offers this service for free for a reason: You’ll screw it up on your own.)

The base layer of this particular cover is made of a softer material that keeps what’s left of your screen in place and intact. It also has a bit of flexibility to it and feels like it’s tightly bound to my phone. The topmost layer has a low-reflective satiny finish which the maker says should resist fingerprints more easily — though that’s really the least of my problems.

When it finally went on, it felt good. Peeling a “fresh” cover off an out-of-box smartphone is the primary reason most tech writers get out of the bed in the morning. This may be the reverse of that, but it feels just as satisfying. However, the struggle wasn’t over yet. I then had to grab a craft knife and cut away and areas that needed access to the outer elements: the home button, speaker and front-facing camera. The scrape of a craft knife on my iPhone made me queasy — especially on the home button — but I pushed through. Still, the glass-based damage to the front camera (coupled with multiple layers of plastic) means I’m going to have to learn how to take selfies with the iPhone’s main camera.


Is my screen perfect again? God, no. Look at it! But the smartphone cover is helping. I can safely run my fingertips over the screen; it’s at least useable again. My iPhone will live another day to play games, get me places on Maps, and help me rant on Facebook. Fortunately, I had paid extra for Apple Care, and so I’ll be taking my phone in later next week to get it replaced. This “Band-Aid” cover is very much a short-term solution, but by that criteria, it works.

22
May

Tesla can count on Panasonic to keep up with Model 3 demand


Tesla may be willing to stump up a lot of cash to meet brisk demand for the Model 3, but it still can’t do this alone — not when Panasonic is pouring $1.6 billion into the Gigafactory needed to make the electric car’s batteries. Thankfully, the Japanese electronics giant has Tesla’s back. Panasonic tells reporters that the company will “do [its] best” to speed up its investment if it’s needed to help Tesla meet its accelerated production goals, which now have it making 500,000 cars per year by 2018 instead of 2020. While the firm wants to get a good return on its investment, it also doesn’t want to “be a bottleneck” to Tesla’s plans.

It’s not shocking that Panasonic would be so willing to open its wallet. The tech giant stands to profit from a flood of Model 3 sales, of course, but this could also be crucial to a major shift in strategy. Panasonic is trying to reduce its dependence on consumer electronics like phones and razors, which don’t generate much profit and are subject to volatile markets. By shifting more of its efforts to the car industry, the tech giant gets both more profit and relatively stable demand. The Tesla investment is still something of a gamble (we don’t know how well the Model 3 will fare after the initial rush), but it could give Panasonic a solid foundation for its future.

Source: Reuters

22
May

Penguin Run, Cartoon: A simple, addicting game for all (Review)


“Everything Should Be Made as Simple as Possible, But Not Simpler.”
– Albert Einstein

Overview

05_penguin-run_reviewRun? More like slide!

Maybe quoting Einstein is a bit much, but it does not get simpler than this game. Penguin Run, Cartoon, a fun little game where you tap the screen to avoid obstacles or to eat fish, bewilders you by its simplistic yet addicting gameplay.

  • Developer: Universal Games
  • App Link: Penguin Run, Cartoon
  • Cost: Free with ads

There are plenty of Penguin Run games in the Google Play store, so make sure you search for “Penguin Run Cartoon” if you’re not using the direct link.

Review

Tap anywhere to jump from one side to the other.Tap anywhere to jump from one side to the other.

The game, sounds and graphics are no frills, much like Flappy Bird. Instead of the screen scrolling left to right, you maneuver your penguin up some type of frozen tube. Sharp triangle obstacles (cones), snowballs and occasionally fish slide down the sides of the tube towards your character.

The name of the game is a bit of a misnomer, as there is no running. Instead, your penguin slides on its stomach, defying gravity as it moves up the tube and jumps from one side of the screen to the other with every tap.

Use points to pick a new color.Use points to pick a new color.

The objective of the game is to jump from one side to the next in order to avoid obstacles or eat fish and accumulate points. These points can then be used to get new colors for your character.

The goal of the game is simple: get as many points as you can before you hit an obstacle. That is it! The madness comes in trying to better your previous score.

Each fish consumed provide 1 point.Each fish consumed provide 1 point.

Like Flappy Bird, this game keeps you coming back to it because the play is fast, challenging and fun. The whole game is you just tapping on the screen, but the mental dexterity required as obstacles start coming down on both sides is enough to keep your attention and your eyes glued to the screen.

Once you hit an obstacle, the game is over and an ad is displayed. Exit the ad and continue your quest. The only thing you are striving for is a higher score and you will do this over and over and over again!

Games like Penguin Run hack into this urge to always try to do better. Penguin Run makes this urge easy to satisfy, as the game is not very long or complex. If you hit an obstacle, press the reset button and start again.

Conclusion

36 points: nothing to laugh at!36 points: nothing to laugh at!

Admittedly, the game does get a little redundant at some point. There are only so many obstacles you can avoid before your mind starts drifting a bit and you start a cycle of bare misses, with the eventuality being that you tap too soon or too late and hit a cone or snowball.

That’s OK! Just start another game.

The ease of play and addicting concept, which borrows heavily from Flappy Bird, will have you coming back for more. Simplicity, in this case, leads to a lot of wasted, I mean, self-improvement time.

Download and install Penguin Run, Cartoon from the Google Play Store.

22
May

AUKEY’s Bluetooth sport headphones are a great option under $30 (review)


Bluetooth headphones have become extremely affordable over the past year. The old saying “you get what you pay for” doesn’t quite mean what it used to when it comes to audio products these days.

AUKEY is a reputable company that makes a wide range of high-quality accessories for your mobile devices. I have been fortunate to be able to test out its latest wireless sport headphones, and what surprised me most about them was the amazing price at just $28.

Specs

DSC02223

  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • 120mAh battery, up to 15 hours of talk or playback
  • CVC 6.0 Noise cancelling technology
  • 5.6 ounces
  • 7.5 × 6.3 × 1.0 inches
  • S, M, L silicone earbud tips

Build

The AUKEY Bluetooth sport headphones are wireless, and are built using a neckband to house the electronics and battery. Other wireless headphones pack the electronics into the earbuds, and controls in an in-line remote. Those designs usually do not work well for those with smaller ears, and neck band style headphones are a great alternative.

At just 5.6 ounces, the AUKEY wireless headphones are light-weight and are barely noticeable around the neck. Using this build style also allows for the ear tips to be much smaller than its wireless counterparts that house the electronics within the ear tip. Being smaller, the ear tips are very comfortable to wear for extended listening sessions. The included silicone tips come in three sizes, S, M, and L and create a nice seal for blocking out background noise.

A nifty and thoughtful feature are magnets that hold the tips in place within the plastic neckband for when you’re not using them. It keeps them safe and protected from snags and objects that can crush them.

DSC02227

Usage

It’s always nice to have accessories that don’t cause issues when trying to pair to my mobile devices. As soon as I powered on the headphones, they immediately went into pairing mode and connected to my Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. The process of pairing took no more than one minute.

I’ve used and listened to quite a few wireless headphones, and the AUKEY sport wireless headphones perform very well against its competition. The sound isn’t better than what I have heard from Jabra, Mee Audio, or from Jaybirds. But the AUKEY headphones also cost several times less than those headphones. The offering from AUKEY have a balanced sound signature, with no emphasis on highs, mids, or lows. The sound is clean, clear and crisp.

After wearing the headphones for a couple of weeks, the one thing I appreciated most was the light-weight. The weight made for a very comfortable fit with the extremely small ear buds that can fit small to large ears. The comfort factor made these headphones extra useful when I wanted to take phone calls and keep my hands free so I could multi-task.

71rbJw6l9bL._SL1500_

With the built in noise cancellation, the person on the other end of my conversation heard me loud and clear. I took phone calls that lasted over an hour without one issue. It’s quite rare for wireless headphones to go without issue on calls, but the Bluetooth maintained a strong connection.

Another feature I came to love was the impressive battery life. AUKEY advertises 15 hours of talk and/or play time, but I got closer to 10 hours. I got less than the advertised battery life due to the fact that I listen to these headphones at a high volume setting. Yet 10 hours is still the best I have used amongst all of the wireless headphones I have ever tried. It was nice not to have to recharge these headphones as often. Getting four to seven listening sessions before recharging was something I got used to quickly.

I couldn’t be more pleased with the wireless headphones from AUKEY considering they cost just $28.

Summary

With an abundance of third party manufacturers, it can become overwhelming with who to trust. AUKEY is a brand that I have grown to trust and can recommend wholeheartedly. The AUKEY Bluetooth sport headphones are a bargain at $28 and will please anyone who is budget conscious.

They sound balanced with a clear and crisp sound signature. Calls are free of static, volume issues, and background noise. Best of all, the battery life is spectacular.

If you would like to learn more about AUKEY, check them out at http://www.aukey.com.

You can purchase the AUKEY Bluetooth sport headphones at Amazon.com.

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