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Samsung is packing more ads into its smart TV interface

Samsung wants to be more than just a hardware company, which is why it’s strengthening its longstanding flirtation with the ad business. The Wall Street Journal claims that the manufacturer, struggling to turn a profit in TVs, will increase the number of tile ads that it displays in the menu bar of its smart TVs. These small squares are currently only available in the US, although the paper believes that Europe will be added to the program in the near future. In addition, older models will get the ads delivered to the home screen thanks to a future software update.

It’s believed that Samsung has turned to Lee Won-jin, a former Google executive, to help spearhead its push into advertising. Much like its mobile division, its TV arm is struggling to make a profit on devices in an age when 40-inch-plus displays can be bought for a few hundred dollars. Then again, it’s likely that people, resentful of paying big bucks for a premium TV set that becomes yet another ad platform, will opt for a cheaper device that doesn’t come with that risk.

Source: WSJ


The best espresso machine, grinder and accessories for beginners

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 more than 60 hours researching and testing at-home espresso equipment with assistance from Stumptown’s coffee education crew, we think the Breville Infuser is the best espresso machine. It’s part of the best espresso setup under $1,000, which includes the Rancilio Rocky grinder and all the accessories you need to pull great shots at home.

Who this is for

This setup is for someone who likes good coffee and wants to take the time to learn more about the craft. But at-home espresso is not for the faint of heart. Tommy Gallagher from Counter Culture Coffee explained that you’re better off going to a coffee shop where the barista is trained, has dialed in the espresso already (meaning they’ve found the ideal grind size already), and uses a multithousand-dollar machine to ensure that what you’re drinking is at least moderately good. But if you’re interested in learning a culinary craft, an at-home espresso setup can be very rewarding.

How we picked and tested

Emily Rosenberg of Stumptown Coffee’s education team pulls a shot with the Infuser. Photo: Michael Hession

To find the best setup for beginners, we interviewed coffee experts ranging from award-winning baristas from some of Manhattan’s best coffee shops to the technical brains behind two of the most well-known roasters in the country (Counter Culture and Stumptown) to entrepreneurs who focus on connecting coffee enthusiasts (both professional and consumer) with the correct equipment. We also read through hundreds of articles and forums on coffee blogs such as CoffeeGeek and Home-Barista and other sites like Prima Coffee. Finally, we spent two days in the Sweethome test kitchen putting all the machines, grinders, and accessories through their paces with some assistance from Stumptown Coffee’s coffee education team.

Our espresso machine pick

The Breville Infuser looks great on any kitchen counter. Photo: Michael Hession

Among espresso machines selling for less than $1,000, the Breville Infuser stands out for its consistency, effective steam wand, and user friendliness. Not only could it make a single impressive-tasting shot of espresso, it could do so consistently with each successive shot once properly adjusted. That’s the hallmark of a good machine. It was also the easiest to use: It had the best documentation and most user-friendly design (with ample labeling and easy-to-read instructions), and it comes with most of the accessories you need to get started. It’s everything a beginner could want in an espresso machine.

Espresso machine runner-up

The Gaggia Classic has an, ahem, classic aesthetic that adds some retro-Italian flair to your counter. Photo: Michael Hession

We think most beginners are better off with a more fully featured machine that will hold your hand a bit better. But if the Breville Infuser is sold out or you want something that is capable of occasionally pulling a better shot than the Infuser, the Gaggia Classic has been doing so since 1991. Despite its age, the Classic came in a close second because it wasn’t quite as consistent as the Infuser. It made some really great shots, but the pump occasionally skipped a beat midshot, leading to pressure fluctuations, and the steam wand wasn’t up to par.

Our grinder pick

The Rancilio Rocky lives up to its reputation as one of the most capable home-use grinders available. Photo: Michael Hession

Though a good espresso machine is crucial to a great espresso setup, most coffee aficionados will tell you that the grinder is actually more important. An imperfect grind simply can’t produce good espresso, whereas a fine and even grind can elevate even mediocre machines. Among the four espresso-ready grinders we tested ranging from $170 to $470, the Rancilio Rocky was our favorite. When Rancilio introduced the Rocky in 1989, it was one of the first home-use grinders with commercial-grade burrs. It was a hit then, and it continues to impress users decades later thanks to its ease of adjustment and consistent grind.

If you want something more adjustable and are willing to pay extra for it, the Baratza Vario is our upgrade pick (but it’s a bit trickier to use). And on the cheaper end, the less-adjustable Baratza Virtuoso (our pick for best drip coffee grinder) can do a passable job for less money.

Our accessory picks

A milk frothing jar is crucial to achieving the microfoam needed for a proper mixed drink. Photo: Michael Hession

Beyond the machine and grinder, many coffee geeks keep a shelf filled with accoutrements of varying degrees of necessity. We tested about a dozen various doodads to find picks for the most popular and important ones:

  • Knock boxes are for disposing of spent grinds. We like the Cafelat because of its high-back design and removable bar for easy cleaning.
  • Tampers are for evenly pressing your grinds prior to pulling a shot. The Infuser (and all Breville models) comes with a surprisingly good plastic tamper that has metal tamping surfaces, but you can get a better, aluminum tamper from Rattleware for not much money, or splurge on the more ergonomic stainless steel Rattleware tamper. (You’ll also need to buy a tamper if you get a non-Breville machine, but make sure to get the right size; most machines use a standard 58mm tamper—consult your manual if you’re not sure.)
  • A milk-frothing pitcher is necessary for making lattes and other milk drinks. Again, the Breville comes with a good milk-frothing pitcher, but its 16-ounce capacity is better suited for cappuccinos than lattes (because you need extra space to accommodate the foam), so we have a 20-ounce pick—also from Rattleware.
  • And, of course, you need cups to pull shots into and drink out of. We like the 3.1-ounce version of the Duralex Picardie we recommend in our drinking glass review because they look great and are cheaper than porcelain alternatives. That’s why they’re gaining popularity at cafes around the world.

And finally, if you think this sounds like too much stuff just to get a cup of coffee in the morning, we’ve got you covered as well in the What about Nespresso? section in our full review.

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


Plug this into your Android phone and it records 3D video

As the latest Android phones cram more camera tricks up their unibody sleeves, what about your current smartphone that’s barely a year old? Well that might be where the Eye-Plug comes in. Hidden inside a humble stand deep within Computex here in Taipei, the USB-C accessory plugs into your (currently Android-only) smartphone, adding another camera sensor to your phone for front- and rear-facing dual camera frivolity. (That’s where you need that handy reversible connection.) I tested out the prototype accessory, with full production scheduled for later this year. 3D selfie videos could be a horrifying reality.

The company’s spokesperson told us it would be priced at around $35, which sounds insanely cheap — we’re double checking that. The company alsowasn’t specifying the resolution of the camera, but the live preview footage we recorded and tested was a perfectly acceptable resolution for Google Cardboard 3D viewing. Alongside shooting your own 3D video, you can also do some post-processing focus and blurring, with the second camera helping to define depth.

There’s some caveats: there’s no iPhone model (it’s in the works), your Android phone needs a USB-C port, and the camera quality may not perfectly match your smartphone’s own shooter — not all sensors are made equal — so color accuracy could be wobbly. The accessory pairs with custom-made camera and 3D viewing apps, and don’t worry if your smartphone’s camera isn’t center-aligned: the software compensates and calibrates when you use the Eye-Plug, to keep things as 3D-ish as possible.

Stay on top of all the latest news from Computex 2016 right here.

Source: Eye-plug (Facebook)


Atari returns to hardware with smart home gadgets

Classic video game brand Atari has announced it’s making new hardware, but sadly it’s not a new console. Instead, it’s making connected home and smart devices. There aren’t many details about exactly what new gadgets they’ll make, but they will range from “simple” to “highly sophisticated,” and will be in the home, pets, lifestyle and safety categories. The company also says the new gear is a result of a partnership with Sigfox — the same company behind the connected Antarctic research base. Sigfox’s IoT technology will provide instant the connectivity and the promise of extra long battery life.

Atari says it’s focusing on the mass market, as well as the charity sector, and that the IoT connectivity will provide various functionality, such as GPS tracking, provide status and temperature info and other basic functionality such as a panic button, or alerting family that you’ve run out of gas. Atari mentioned to Engadget a wide range of potential markets including kids (trackers), sports, travel and collars for pets.

This isn’t the first time Atari has tried to reinvent itself. Over the company’s 40-year history, it has made arcade games, traditional consoles, home computers, handhelds and, of course, amassed a healthy library of game franchises. Titles that have been reimagined (several times) for modern platforms. More recent ventures include an LGBT-themed social game, and a move into online gambling.

Of course, the Atari from the 70s is not the same company we see today. The original firm, as founded by Nolan Bushnell, changed hands in the 80s after the video game crash in 1983. The Tramiel family, of Commodore and Amiga fame then led Atari’s consumer electronics division into the 90s before a a series of deals would ultimately see the Atari brand and catalog become a licensing operation.

No doubt it’ll be interesting to see what any new hardware will look like and whether Atari can continue to trade on the good will and nostalgia of people who love its games. Even the company’s biggest mistakes have a habit of working out well in the end.

Source: Atari


Facebook reportedly considering making Messenger more secure

Facebook Messenger could be getting a significant security update this summer. According to The Guardian, the Zuckerberg-led company is looking to implement end-to-end encryption for its messaging app, which has over 900 million monthly active users. The planned feature, which Facebook would neither confirm nor deny, would also be opt-in and not activated by default. The reasoning for that lies with Facebook’s larger goals for Messenger: making it a smart, assistive app. Already, the company’s rolled out a Bots for Messenger feature that allows users to engage with and order services from brands.

To ensure Messenger’s machine learning features continue to grow and adapt (e.g., smart replies), Facebook needs access to users’ messages. Encryption obviously gets in the way of this mission since it prevents Facebook from intercepting and analyzing those texts, hence the need for users to opt-in. It’s the same stance Google’s taking with its own smart messaging app, Allo — another platform that offers optional encryption.

The move underscores growing concerns over privacy and digital convenience. For users, however, it presents a dilemma — if you want the sort of lazy, machine-assisted service provided by the likes of Google and Facebook, you have to be willing to let your privacy guards down. If you value privacy, then you have to be content looking in from the outside.

Source: The Guardian


Google wants to give its AI assistant a childhood

Now that Google Assistant is promising two-way conversations, Google wants to give the artificial intelligence a little more personality. The company has asked both a freelance artist (Emma Coats) and the head of its Doodle team (Ryan Germick) to make Assistant more relatable to its human users through multiple techniques, including a possible “childhood” that you might identify with. You could also see a more Siri-like playfulness, with both ready-made answers for silly questions as well as a little vulnerability.

There’s a practical reason for making you feel more at home with Assistant, of course. The easier it is to get along with the AI, the more likely it is that you’ll use it — and that, in turn, could lead to more internet searches. Not that many are likely to object. One of the biggest gripes with the current generation of AI helpers is their tendency to be cold and strictly task-oriented. Adding some character, even if it’s pre-programmed, could help bring this smart software into the mainstream.

Source: Fast Company


T-Mobile Debuts $30 Tourist Plan Featuring 2GB of 4G LTE Data

T-Mobile has announced a new $30 prepaid Tourist Plan for international visitors to the U.S. that offers 1,000 minutes of domestic calling, unlimited domestic and international texting to over 140 countries and regions, and unlimited 2G data with the first 2GB at 4G LTE speeds.

Tourists visiting the U.S. can visit a T-Mobile store with an unlocked GSM smartphone, sign up and pay for the plan, and receive a free SIM card to access the carrier’s network. The one-time, one-line plan lasts 3 weeks and cannot be renewed after automatically expiring at 11:59 p.m. on the 21st day of service.

International phone numbers cannot be ported to the U.S., so T-Mobile will assign customers a new U.S. number when they sign up for the Tourist Plan. International calling from the U.S. to other countries is not included in the plan and cannot be added as an additional feature, but customers can use Wi-Fi-based calling services.

The Tourist Plan includes 200MB of U.S. data roaming, but other T-Mobile perks such as Mobile Without Borders, Binge On, and Music Freedom are not included. The plan permits tethering, with Mobile Hotspot using data from the 2GB allotment of 4G LTE data, followed by slower speeds afterwards.

The new plan is available June 12. Postpaid and T-Mobile@Work customers are ineligible.

Tag: T-Mobile
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Mophie Launches Wireless ‘Charge Force’ Battery Cases and Charging Pads

Mophie today introduced a new line of iPhone battery cases that support wireless charging through a bundled-in charging pad. Called the “Charge Force,” Mophie’s new wireless charging ecosystem begins fueling up a device the moment it’s set down on a compatible charge pad, and prioritizes an iPhone’s charge before moving over to the battery case.

The new Charge Force-compatible cases aren’t limited to Mophie’s pad, either, giving users the ability to charge up their iPhone anywhere that supports Qi and “virtually all wireless charging standards.” The company also announced its own series of charging pads, including a vertical one for an office desk, a vent mount for the car, and a basic flat model for the home. Powerful magnets hold the iPhone in place securely at any angle, even on a bumpy road trip in a vehicle.

“Wireless charging is being integrated into our lives at coffee shops, restaurants, airports, in furniture, cars and so on,” said Shawn Dougherty, mophie COO and Co-Founder. “By providing a diverse range of wireless charging options, we’ve taken the performance and convenience of mobile power even further.”

On the iPhone battery case side of things, Mophie said that all of the latest juice pack products support Charge Force so users can take advantage of wireless charging with juice pack’s “compact design.” There aren’t any differing design options to choose from at launch, however, with a simple black colorway available for those interested who have either an iPhone 6/6 Plus or iPhone 6s/6s Plus.

A bundle with a juice pack case and Charge Force charging base for the smaller, 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 6s costs $99.95, while the same bundle for the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus and 6s Plus will run users $129.95. Those bundles come with the basic home charging base, which is sold separately for $39.95. Alternative pads for a desk and a car vent are available for $59.95 each.

Tag: Mophie
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2017 iPhone May Include Enhanced Taptic Engine for More Complex Vibrations

In a report corroborating details about Apple moving towards an elongated three-year period between major iPhone refreshes, or a tick-tock-tock cycle, Japanese website Nikkei claimed that 2017 models will be equipped with a “high-performance motor” able to “create more complex tactile vibrations.”

The report does not provide additional details about the new motor, but it is reasonable to assume that Apple could upgrade the Taptic Engine in the 2017 iPhone. The new motor could allow for improvements to both 3D Touch and broader haptic feedback when interacting with the smartphone’s display.

The so-called iPhone 8 is expected to have enough major changes, including an edge-to-edge OLED display and glass casing, that at least one analyst predicts Apple will skip the iPhone 7s name entirely as a point of emphasis. The already much rumored device could also have wireless charging and no physical home button.

If rumors predicting Apple will integrate Touch ID into the display on the iPhone 8 prove true, a new Taptic Engine could provide the necessary haptic feedback to simulate pressing the home button, and possibly also for virtual volume, mute, and power buttons made possible by a curved or wraparound display.

The rest of the report corroborates well-known details about the iPhone 7 series due in 2016, reiterating that the next-generation smartphones will retain a similar design as the iPhone 6s series sans a 3.5mm headphone jack. Water resistance and camera and battery improvements should be some of the headline features.

Related Roundups: iPhone 7, iPhone 8 (2017)
Tags: Taptic Engine, 3D Touch,
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Intel’s ‘Kaby Lake’ Processors Still on Track for Late 2016 Launch

Intel’s next-generation Kaby Lake processors are still on track for a late 2016 launch and are set to enter production by the end of this quarter, according to an announcement made by Intel at Computex.

Earlier this year, Intel announced it was no longer adhering to its “tick-tock” processor release cycle, which saw it alternating between shrinking chip fabrication processes and building new architectures each year. Kaby Lake, rather than being built on a smaller process, will be the third member of the 14-nanometer family after Broadwell and Skylake, and is the successor to Skylake.

Kaby Lake is considered a semi-tock with optimized microarchitecture. It supports Thunderbolt 3 and native USB 3.1, but it will not feature support for DisplayPort 1.3, so Macs with Kaby Lake chips will remain unable to drive 5K displays over a single-stream cable. According to Intel, Kaby Lake will feature advancements in performance, battery, and media capabilities.

Intel’s last two chip releases were plagued with delay after delay, which is likely the reason why the company decided to move away from its long-running tick-tock policy. Several of Apple’s Macs, including the Retina MacBook Pro, have been impacted by Intel’s chip delays over the last few years with unusual update cycles and long periods of time between updates.

With Kaby Lake chips set to debut in late 2016, it is possible refreshed Macs released late in the year could take advantage of the new processors, depending on when Kaby Lake chips appropriate for each Mac launch. iMacs, for example, are likely to be refreshed in the later months of 2016, and recent rumors have also suggested we won’t be seeing a refreshed Retina MacBook Pro until the fourth calendar quarter of the year.

Intel is also beginning production on entry-level Apollo Lake processors, also set to launch before the end of the year. Apollo Lake is designed for Atom-based notebooks like all-in-one machines and tablet PCs.

Tags: Intel, Kaby Lake
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