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Recommended Reading: Why is ‘Orange Is the New Black’ so good?

‘Orange Is the New
Black’ is Netflix’s
only great drama

Alison Herman,
The Ringer

The fourth season of the Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black starts streaming this weekend, and if you haven’t watched your first episode yet, now’s the time to catch up. The show is widely regarded as the best on the streaming service, or at least the best drama in the library. Alison Herman from The Ringer discusses that latter point and why Netflix’s other dramas just don’t stack up.

Snapchat launches a colossal expansion of its advertising, ushering in a new era for the app
Christopher Heine, AdWeek

Snapchat announced big changes to its app this week, specifically with regards to advertising.

The technology behind ESPN’S digital transformation
Harry McCracken, Fast Company

ESPN has been undergoing a massive overhaul for a while now, and this is the tech that runs it.

Apple’s brain trust — Iovine, Reznor, Cue and Kondrk — on streaming’s new world order and why ‘we all should be’ worried
Shirley Halperin, Billboard

The rumored Apple Music redesign was revealed at WWDC this week, but the folks behind the service had some things to say about music streaming as a whole.

Replay Revolution: How to remove human error from officiating
Michael Rosenburg, Sports Illustrated

There have been a number of blown calls in this year’s NBA playoffs. NFL officials make their fair share of mistakes as well. However, 360-degree replay angles could help, and the tech might not be that far off.


As Scoot has grown, so has the size of its rental bikes

Scoot’s red scooters, frequently seen weaving in and out of San Francisco traffic like tiny army ants, are getting an upgrade. Not only are the rental scooters getting bigger, but they thankfully will look a lot better than the current crop of bikes that the company offers.

Scoot announced today that it’s teaming up with Mahindra to bring the GenZe 2.0 electric scooter to the streets of San Francisco. The larger bike will become the default model in the fleet alongside the current “Cargo” bikes, which will remain in use. “For us, they [the Classic bikes] have been working very well for a long time,” Scoot’s vice president of fleet Mike Waltman told Engadget. “Our members love them. We don’t need to get rid of them.”

Going forward, they’ll just be referred to as “Classic” in the lineup. Like Coke Classic, but not a cheap ploy to get you to buy more sugary brown water. And in this case, you’ll probably actually enjoy the replacement.

The new scooters are part of the company’s continued expansion. Waltman said that Scoot would be adding 100 new GenZe bikes to its fleet every month. Its goal right now is to fill the demand of the areas in the city it’s already currently serving.


Waltman notes that Mahindra’s Ann Arbor, Michigan factory and willingness to work with Scoot to modify the bikes at the factory to Scoot’s specifications was key in the company’s decision to switch from Chinese scooter makers it had been using. “They show up. We screw on the mirrors and we test ride them,” he said.

Those changes are more than just a coat of red paint. The Scoot version of the GenZe has been modified since Engadget took a test ride earlier this year at CES. The handlebars have been lowered. The underseat storage isn’t accessible to riders (it houses electronics) and the touchscreen display has been replaced with a smartphone dock. The new bikes are also keyless — a first for Scoot. Moreover, the bikes are turned on and off via the app. And to keep them from being whisked away by thieves, the bikes have an innovative locking stand.


I took one of the Genze bikes for a quick jaunt around San Francisco, and I noticed right away that it has a more comfortable ride and higher sitting position than the old “Classic” scooters. The latter is helpful to see over vehicles in traffic. The “pickup bed” of the stock Mahindra has also been replaced with a top case that in addition to storing helmets, doubles as storage. As it happens, the bin has also been shaped to caress your spine when you lean back.

The new scooter is being adding to the fleet today. On Monday it’ll be part of the morning and evening commute and even more red blurs will zip by cars stuck in San Francisco traffic. But at least once they come to a stop, they’ll actually look nice.


Mercedes Benz’s E300 is a luxury car that happens to be high-tech

The Mercedes Benz E-Class has always been fancy. Wood, leather and a sense that you’ve made some pretty solid life choices are all part of the package. But the automaker has also been on the cutting edge of tech. For example, it added radar-aided adaptive cruise control to its vehicles back in 1998. So it’s no surprise that the 2017 E300 is filled to its German gills with the latest and greatest in car technology. The car is indeed impressive, but not without a few hiccups.

It’s easy to get caught up in the luxury of the E300. It’s luxurious and swift (thanks to 241 horsepower and 273 pounds of torque), with features you didn’t think you needed until you actually experience them. For instance, when you take a corner, the sides of the chair expand to keep you from sliding in your seat. It’s like a side hug for g-forces.

Keeping your butt in the seat (which isn’t novel, but still pretty necessary) is one of those instances where Mercedes takes an idea and gives it a bit more oomph — maybe more than the average driver even needs. For example, its cruise control car-tracking feature, Distronic, can follow a vehicle ahead of an E-Class at a predetermined distance. That’s not that special; but it can do it at speeds up to 130 miles per hour.

Steering Pilot, the feature that keeps the car in its lane, is also rated at speeds up to 130MPH. Sadly, in the short time I was in the vehicle, I was unable to get up to that speed to test the automaker’s claims. Darn these US laws and our lack of an Autobahn.

I was able to try semi-autonomous features out at a more reasonable 70MPH, and they worked as advertised. But I’m still a ways off from completely trusting a car from hiccuping and putting me in danger. While I was sitting in the passenger seat, there was a moment when the driver and I were concerned that the car wouldn’t stop when it was encountering gridlock, but after a few nervous seconds, it stopped and began idling behind a van.

Once traffic had dispersed, the lane-change assistant worked about as well it does in all other cars that have this feature. If you have an open lane, it’s happy to oblige. If there’s a vehicle parallel to the E300 or quickly approaching, it stays put. Like its competitors, Mercedes is quick to point out that you should keep your hands on the wheel during all of these maneuvers. That’s good advice, because ultimately, you’re still in control.

But if things ever should get out of control, Mercedes is there to at least alleviate the damage caused by an impact. The Pre-Safe Impulse Side system detects lateral collisions and moves the driver and passenger 2.75 inches away from the car’s body. It’s using the same side bolsters that keep you in your seat when going around corners, only now it’s pushing you away from an impact.

There’s also a new Pre-Safe Sound. When an imminent impact is detected, the car plays a “pink noise” that readies your ears for the sound of a collision. According to Mercedes, this will reduce hearing damage. If you’ve ever been in an accident, you may have experienced a ringing in your ears afterwards; this is supposed to prevent that.


While the car keeps you safe from dangers on the outside, the interior of the new E300 features an optional dash-wide display with two monitors. One replaces the dash cluster; the other, the infotainment system. My first concern about these displays is glare. While sitting in the passenger seat, I did have some difficulty seeing the screens in the afternoon daylight. But once I was behind the wheel, I didn’t have a problem with distracting reflections.

Both displays can be controlled with the new touch-based controllers on either side of the steering wheel, and that’s where things get a bit wonky. For starters, I had difficulty mastering the controls. Maybe after a few hours in the car I would have had more success selecting items, but during my brief demo, at least, I couldn’t quite get the system to land on the options I wanted most of the time. The E-Class vehicles also have a touchpad in the center console to control the dash, which I ended up using heavily. It’s not a bad solution, but I still hope a bit more fine-tuning will go into the pads on the wheel before the car eventually hits showrooms.


But that’s really my biggest complaint about the car. If you demand luxury and can afford the starting price of $52,150 (the all-wheel-drive 4MATIC starts at $54,650), the E300 is a solid car with tons of tech that doesn’t get in the way. Though Mercedes is looking to the future, it hasn’t diluted the experience with bells and whistles. You still feel like you’re driving the New England manor of cars. Except now the wood and leather are complemented with technology.

Source: Mercedes Benz


DIY phone camera lenses and filters – CNET

These DIY lenses and filters are all inexpensive and add a bit of fun to your phone photography. But if you’re looking to spend some serious cash on phone lenses, take a look at the Zeiss ExoLens for iPhone or the Olloclip for iPhone or Android handsets.

DIY macro lens


This photo was taken with the DIY macro lens.

Lexy Savvides/CNET

Grab a jeweller’s loupe or stand magnifier for this one, as well as some mounting putty.

Make a long strip of putty that will fit around the eyepiece of the loupe and position it over the lens.

Open the camera app to properly position the loupe to ensure it’s not causing vignetting.

For best results, hold the loupe close or on top of the subject you are photographing. Adjust focus as necessary using the camera app.

See some more examples of photos taken with this lens (and all the others) in the video above.

Ring light

For this DIY use an LED camping light (often called UFO light) which you can find on sites like Amazon. Grab some velcro with adhesive backing and position it on the phone case so the lens looks through the center hole of the light. The velcro helps you to reposition the light as you need and also means you can remove it easier than double-sided tape.

As the ring light provides even illumination that helps to eliminate shadows, it’s useful for portraits and macro photography. Thanks to Simon Ellingworth for the inspiration on this one.

Colored filters


You will need a soft jelly case, paper fastener and colored gels or thick cellophane. Cut squares of the colored gels that will fit over the lens with enough room to fasten to the case. Mark a spot for the pin to push through both the gels and the case, then cut a small hole with a safety knife.

Attach the pin and firmly fasten at the back to keep everything together, with enough give to let the gels rotate in front of the lens freely when you pull them back and forth. Use a small piece of tape to fasten the pins to the inside of the case just so you don’t scratch your phone.

Try experimenting with different color combinations or just positioning the gel in front of the camera’s LED flash (rather than the lens) for a different effect.

Shoot amazing photos with this DIY filter…






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Other objects

Try using a prism for creative effects. This will refract and distort light to create reflections, flares and unexpected results. Look for an equilateral glass or plastic prism like this one.

For more specific techniques on how to use a prism for photography, check out this article.

You can also use sunglasses as a filter. Depending on the lens, it will give your images a different tint. Try using sunglasses at sunset or on very bright days to alter the properties of the light entering the lens. If you have polarized sunglasses, try holding and rotating them in front of the phone lens to achieve a similar effect to using a polarizing filter.


SanDisk Clip Jam review – CNET

The Good The SanDisk Clip Jam has a lightweight design with a built-in clip. You can easily copy music from a PC or Mac and the microSD slot provides an extra storage option in a pinch. Unlike the iPod Shuffle, it has a screen.

The Bad There’s no Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. It’s not compatible with any streaming music services.

The Bottom Line If you hate iTunes, the SanDisk Clip Jam is the best bargain music player you can buy.

MP3 players have slowly been replaced by smartphones, but if you find yourself in the rare situation of needing one, lucky for you, their near-extinct status means lower prices. The simple SanDisk Clip Jam is compellingly cheap enough to justify buying it just for the gym. For just $40, £30 (converts to AU$54) this super lightweight music player boasts a built-in clip, has a no-frills digital screen for easy browsing and it works with both PCs and Macs.

The Clip Jam lacks the Bluetooth found in the Apple iPod Nano — so don’t expect to use your wireless headphones or speakers. And though it’s small, it’s not as sleek as the tiny iPod Shuffle — but it is cheaper than both Apple music players. Additionally, the SanDisk MP3 player has one feature no Apple iPod has ever had: a microSD card expansion slot. Using this, you can increase its built-in 8GB storage with an extra 64GB. It’s no infinite cloud of streaming music, but it’s a lot more space than the Shuffle (2GB) and Nano (16GB) offer.

Best of all, you don’t have to use iTunes to transfer your music — just drag and drop your music files. (The Clip Jam shows up as an external drive when connected to your Mac or Windows PC.). It’s compatible with WMA, WAV and AAC files, such as the ones you purchase from iTunes or Amazon. But it won’t work with any subscription music services, nor will it work with the old copy-protected iTunes purchases made before 2007.

The built-in clip that sturdily keeps it in place while on a run makes it comparable to the iPod Shuffle, which has a similar design. However, aside from looks, they don’t have much in common. The Shuffle has no screen to choose what you want to listen to. The SanDisk Clip Jam, on the other hand, has a low-res screen that lets you peruse all of your music, podcasts and Audible audiobooks and the aforementioned microSD card expansion slot.

Unfortunately, without Wi-Fi or streaming music integration, the SanDisk Clip Jam is a victim of the times. More and more people are switching to streaming music services, like Spotify or Apple Music, instead of downloading singles or albums. Without this function, the SanDisk MP3 player feels antiquated.If that’s of no concern, or you just want to load a few of your already-downloaded favorite songs for the perfect running playlist, the SanDisk Clip Jam is an affordable, user-friendly alternative to the iPod Shuffle.


Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II review – CNET

The Good The Canon PowerShot G7 X II is nicely designed with good photo quality for its class, and improves noticeably over the earlier model.

The Bad Still lags behind the competition with respect to features and some aspects of performance.

The Bottom Line Performance improvements raise the G7 X Mark II’s grade to excellent, as long as you’re not looking for a lot of frills.

I like the Canon G7 X, one of the company’s 1-inch sensor enthusiast compacts — the one without the viewfinder — but that model just can’t keep up when it comes to speed. Given that its successor, the G7 X Mark II, is fundamentally the same camera (albeit with some important enhancements), it’s not surprising that I like the Mark II as well. But while the $700 (£570, AU$950) camera improves on the earlier model in some respects, the admittedly better performance still lags in places.

Good where it counts

The Mark II’s photo quality is a definite improvement over the original, and it does have improved noise at higher ISO sensitivities. Since raw images don’t have noise reduction applied, they aren’t affected, but I think the JPEG processing is generally better in the newer model. The video looks good too, with less jumping in the continuous autofocus.

Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II full-resolution…
See full gallery






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Analysis samples


JPEGs shot with the Auto Picture Style look pretty clean through ISO 800, though you can see the sharpness drop slightly at ISO 400.

Lori Grunin/CNET


Details in JPEGs start to smear noticeably at ISO 1600.

Lori Grunin/CNET


The new Fine Detail Picture Style doesn’t improve JPEG results significantly at all sensitivity levels, but it makes a difference at ISO 800, and helps preserve sharpness a little at higher ISO sensitivities.

Lori Grunin/CNET


Though the white balance is a little better in the G7 X, you can see the quality improvement from the G7 X Mark II at ISO 1600.

Lori Grunin/CNET


Canon’s Auto setting produces pleasing colors, but does shift some hues, most notably reds, by boosting saturation.

Lori Grunin/CNET


You can bring out quite a bit of shadow detail by shooting raw (as well as get rid of fringing), but as with similar cameras, blown-out highlights are pretty much gone.

Lori Grunin/CNET

A processor update brings with it faster startup and an increased continuous shooting speed we clocked at 5.6 frames per second with autofocus and autoexposure. And it’s also faster to focus in low-contrast conditions, as Canon claims. Its biggest holdup is when it needs to process images, such as taking a couple of consecutive nonburst shots or doing HDR. However it does start up a little faster than big-name competitors. And it’s fast enough for slowish action, such as the occasional kid, pet or jumpshot.


ICYMI: NASA is studying how fire acts in space

ICYMI: NASA is studying how fire acts in space
Today on In Case You Missed It: NASA is studying how fire acts in space to guard against a potential outbreak in an environment as fragile as the International Space Station. A baby monitor for people with money to burn might interest you, as it syncs with an app that will ping you when movement in the crib is detected.

We also round up the week’s biggest stories in TL;DR. The first mammal going extinct from climate change is a doozy, as is the increase in sexual assault accusations against Tor developer Jacob Appelbaum. As always, please share any interesting tech or science videos you find by using the #ICYMI hashtag on Twitter for @mskerryd.


Batman: Arkham VR preview: Find out why the PS VR game was best of E3 2016

We’ll come out with a bold claim right from the off, not only was Batman: Arkham VR the last game we saw at this year’s E3 before its doors were shut, it was also the best. Of the whole show.

That’s a personal opinion, of course, and it doesn’t mean we didn’t like other stuff at the event; Battlefield 1 and Zelda impressed greatly, for example. It just means that nothing quite blew us away as much as Warner and Rocksteady’s first dalliance with virtual reality.

Here’s why…

This being E3, there wasn’t much of a game on show and the two distinct segments of Batman: Arkham VR we played were more like proof of game concepts than the game itself. They were more than enough though to convince us to give the main game a try when it arrives in October as one of the first wave of PlayStation VR titles.

It also reaffirmed our hope in VR as a gaming technology. A couple of other experiences of late had made us feel queasy or uncomfortable, throwing doubt on the medium. But it was clearly the software at fault and when a VR game is good, you get a sense of immersion no other format can offer.

There were two different sections in the demo. The first starts in Wayne Manor, with butler Alfred informing you that you’ll need to step out of the clothes of Bruce Wayne and into the cowl of the Bat.

The game uses the PlayStation Move motion controllers rather than a joypad, so you have complete control over floating hands that appear in front of you in the game. Using these you unlock a piano, press a few keys randomly and the process of donning the costume begins.

You descend on an elevator pad down through the bowels of the Batcave, which is magnificent and awe-inspiring in scale. You’ll look around as much here than in any other game we’ve seen to date, to take in every visual cue.


When you finally arrive at the bottom, the process of becoming Batman begins, from putting on the gloves, the cowl and testing every one of the gadgets that you store on your utility belt. It’s an experience rather than a game at this stage, but is still completely immersive, especially for Batman and comic book fans.

The next section takes you to a grim alley, where ex-partner and friend Nightwing lies dead. Yep, we just said that Nightwing has been murdered. We were just as shocked.

It is up to you to piece together some of the clues at the scene of the crime in order to advance the investigation.

Regular players of Arkham games will recognise the drill: scan the body, then fast forward or rewind through a re-enactment of what took place in order to find out why Dick Grayson lies in a bloody heap. The one major difference is that you are right in the middle of the action. Literally.

As you spin through the events, looking for key moments in the fight with an unknown assailant, Nightwing and an avatar go to it around you. And considering they are your height, it’s a surreal and exciting moment for sure.

Once you’ve found the relevant clues, which ultimately lead to the possibility of a witness, the demo essentially ends. However, you do get to use your grappling hook on a hovering aircraft first.

First Impressions

Unlike some VR games that we’ve tried in the past, which we can’t wait to finish, the Batman: Arkham VR experience for E3 was too short – in that we didn’t want it to end. We were about 15-20 minutes in the headset, we feel, although we can’t be 100 per cent sure.

There are some things that will take further investigation when we review the game fully. For example, the movement mechanics are based on blink hotspots, in that you look at a target on screen, press the button and instantly move to that position. That removes the fun of swinging around the rooftops, but also prevents motion sickness.

We’d also like to see if there will be more to it than basic investigation, CSI stuff.

For now though, it made us leave E3 for the last time this year with a beaming smile on our faces. And that’s got to be a good thing.


IBM and Gogo join forces to dodge in-flight turbulence

In what might seem like an unlikely partnership, IBM’s Watson division and Gogo Inc. (the people who bring you in-flight WiFi) have joined up to make flying a little bit smoother for everyone. As the Wall Street Journal reports, IBM is leveraging its $2 billion purchase of The Weather Company and Gogo’s internet connection to give airline pilots a heads up on turbulence.

According to The Weather Company CEO and General Manager Cameron Clayton, the concept is fairly simple: “What Waze does for cars, we do for airlines,” Clayton told the Journal. Or, more technically speaking: when a plane’s instruments record bumpy skies, that information will be uploaded to IBM and Watson through Gogo’s connection. Watson will then cross-check that turbulence with The Weather Company’s meteorological data and then alert other aircraft if they need to adjust their routes. Compare that to the current system, which requires a pilot to alert air traffic controllers on the ground, who then have to manually send out the heads-up to other pilots in the area.

According to IBM and Weather, turbulence costs airlines around $100 million per year “due to crew and passenger injuries, unscheduled maintenance, operational inefficiencies, and revenue lost while planes are out of service.” And, if nothing else, Watson can at least tell everyone to buckle up a little earlier.


Here’s the cable industry’s counter offer to fix TV boxes

Earlier this year the FCC voted on a plan to fix crappy cable boxes. Dubbed “Unlock the Box,” the plan would make cable companies open up their services for use on boxes made by other companies. Now, after a few months of complaining and poking holes in the FCC plan, the cable companies have a proposal of their own. Their offer consists of an “industry-wide commitment” to create HTML5-based apps for third party devices like phones, tablets and connected TV boxes. It was presented this week by representatives for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), AT&T/DirecTV, Comcast and others.

That way customers could watch TV without leasing equipment, while content providers would stay happy because things like DRM, advertising and channel lineups would remain consistent. The app will be provided free of charge to makers of these third party devices, and would work with universal search features, however viewing of the content would only be possible within the app itself. You can check out the framework of their offer in a letter here (PDF), and a spokesman for FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said he is waiting for more details to see if it meets all of the goals.

Of course, leaving the software in the cable industry’s hands means there’s no assurance the apps will be any good, which could put us right back in the same place. Also, it’s a five year commitment (with the potential for renewal), with two years to roll the apps out. A group called INCOMPAS (that counts Google, Level 3, Netflix and TiVo among its members) issued a statement (PDF) in response saying the cable-backed plan is an attempt to “delay negotiations.” The FCC’s plan already has support from the president, but a compromise offer could make for easier going — the only question now is if it will actually help consumers who haven’t chosen to cut the cord.

97-80 06-17-2016 NCTA, AT&T-DIRECTV, Comcast, and Charter

Via: Fierce Cable

Source: FCC

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