South Africa’s rich-poor divide, captured by drone
About 25 miles east of Cape Town lies Nomzamo, a township with a rough population of 60,000 and a population density of 44,000 per square mile. About 25 miles east of Cape Town lies Strand, a seaside resort with a rough population of 55,000 and a population density of 6,700 per square mile. United by geography, the two suburban areas are divided by all else, including a buffer zone supported by fencing. The predominant language of Strand is Afrikaans, while in Nomzamo it’s Xhosa. Strand is structured suburbia for the middle classes, Nomzamo is the legacy of decades of apartheid.
Johnny Miller, a US-born photographer who moved to South Africa in 2011, has been highlighting the rich-poor divide in his series Unequal Scenes. Miller shot the photos using a drone, using the elevation to provide an objective, almost mathematical view of the problem. Through this effort, he hopes “to provoke a dialogue which can begin to address the issues of inequality and disenfranchisement in a constructive and peaceful way.”
You can visit the Unequal Scenes site for six case studies (including a description of the issues facing communities in each photo), head to YouTube for a small drone video clip or follow Miller’s work on Facebook and Twitter.
The Big Picture is a recurring feature highlighting beautiful images that tell big stories. We explore topics as large as our planet, or as small as a single life, as affected by or seen through the lens of technology.
Uber will warn its drivers if they’re speeding
Uber and safety are two words that can often sound like strange bedfellows depending on who you ask. The company famously refuses to issue basic safety checks to new drivers, with sometimes catastrophic results. Still, the firm is now rolling out an update to its driver-facing app that’ll monitor their activity and advise on things that they’re doing wrong. For instance, if a heavy-footed chauffeur is constantly edging the speed limit, they’ll be warned, as well as receiving a log of excessive braking and acceleration events after the ride. The platform will also know if you’re driving and holding your phone at the same time, issuing a reminder to keep it on the window mount. Finally, those who’ve been working extra-long hours will be advised to take a break before they become a danger to themselves and others.
The company has also taken the opportunity to burnish its safety credentials, which are often questioned because of, you know, stuff. Uber believes that its rise has seen a sharp decline in instances of driving drunk after a night on the tiles. The firm pulled data from Atlanta’s police department, implying a correlation between the upswing in Uber rides and drop in DUI arrests. Of course, the company chose to strip the labeling from the graph and admitted that they’ve been plotted against separate y-axes before being combined. Which means that the evidence could have been exaggerated to suit the cause, although it seems common sense that if taking a cab home gets exponentially easier, people would wise up.
Amazon is offering deep smartphone discounts for Prime members
If you’re an Amazon Prime member in the market for a new smartphone, you might consider one of these enticing offers. The retail giant is offering exclusive pricing on select unlocked Android phones, including the BLU R1 HD for $49.99 ($50 off its retail price of $99.99) and the Motorola Moto G for $149.99 ($50 off its normal price of $199.99.)
Both phone deals are exclusively for Amazon Prime members, but you’ll have to be willing to put up with ads displayed on your phone’s lockscreen, much like the “special offers” version of Amazon’s Kindle reader. That’s where the discount comes from, so if you’re looking for an unlocked phone on the cheap and don’t mind seeing ads so much when you lock your device, it’s a good deal.
You can preorder the BLU R1 HD and Moto G starting today, though the phones won’t be releasing until July 12th. If ads aren’t your thing you can always get a regular version of either phone for full price whether you’re an Amazon Prime member or not.
Walmart launches free two-day shipping nationwide
After a brief trial run in test cities, Walmart’s plan to take on Amazon Prime launched across America this week, Reuters reports. The $49 per year ShippingPass membership now offers free two-day shipping to all shoppers in the US, and to lure away Amazon’s Prime members, the big-box retailer is offering a free 30-day trial.
Walmart has made no small secret about its plans to be more like Amazon. Earlier this month, the company also announced it was automating monotonous warehouse work, and the move to home shipping vs. retail locations has already pushed Walmart to create a second distribution network on top of the one that already supplies its retail stores.
As Reuters notes, current ShippingPass holders will also get a free month of the service, which is aggressively priced at half the cost of the $99 per year Prime membership. While Prime still has the advantage of included music and video streaming (plus same-day shipping in certain markets), there have been rumors that Walmart will also include a similar offering involving Vudu, the streaming service it purchased back in 2010.
Hitachi is rolling out a series of Roku TVs this fall
Roku TVs are a growing trend, with several manufacturers jumping on the bandwagon to bring the streaming service to their own televisions. Hitachi is the latest to join the club, planning on releasing both 1080p and 4K TVs in a “variety of screen sizes” starting this fall.
There aren’t many other details than that at this juncture, other than the fact that Hitachi’s Roku TVs will include the Roku streaming app built into the device and will likely be created with TV fans on a budget in mind.
If you’re in the market for a Roku TV, however, Hitachi isn’t your only bid. There are scads of options from Sharp, Insignia, TCL and Hisense, which can offer a decent picture at a lower price than the higher-end models, and in the end if you’re looking for a model that you’ll primarily be streaming on you’ll be getting a pretty good bargain.
Via: The Verge
WiFi spec update promises to double your wireless speeds
You might not have to wait until 802.11ad arrives in earnest to get a big boost in WiFi network speeds. The Wi-Fi Alliance has officially debuted the 802.11ac wave 2 standard, which promises a big leap in speed without reinventing the wheel. It doubles the bandwidth per channel, which could double your performance in good conditions. You’re more likely to hit those speeds, too. There’s an additional spatial stream and wider 5GHz channel support, and MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple input multiple output) lets routers send data to multiple devices at the same time — you’re less likely to see your download bog down because someone else in your home is streaming video.
The best part? Your existing router might already support it. Numerous 802.11ac routers (like Linksys’ latest models) already support at least some aspects of wave 2 in a preliminary form, and you’ll likely only need a firmware update to use the finished standard on these devices. You probably wouldn’t want to replace any pre-wave 2 802.11ac gear unless you’re running into performance issues, but this may be the excuse you need to upgrade if your pre-ac network is struggling to keep up.
Source: Wi-Fi Alliance
‘Oddworld’ creator on how customer feedback changed gaming
When Lorne Lanning released Abe’s Oddysee, the 1997 hit PlayStation and PC platformer, “most people didn’t know what ‘www’ meant.” 19 years later, the world has changed, and the videogame industry with it.
Abe’s Oddysee was the first title set in Oddworld, a fictional universe that Lanning has devoted his career to. He followed it up the next year with a sequel, Abe’s Exodus, released Munch’s Oddysee in 2001, and Stranger’s Wrath in 2005. During this time, the internet developed significantly, but developers had yet to learn how to use it to their advantage.
Lanning and I sat on the floor of a busy conference center, surrounded by developers, fans, other journalists and “terrible, terrible live music.” We were supposed to meet to chat about Soulstorm, a follow-up to 2014’s Abe’s Oddysee remake New ‘n’ Tasty. Sadly, we’re stuck talking around that piece of news, as just a week before our meeting the decision was made to delay the formal unveiling of the game. Luckily, Lanning is nothing if not loquacious, and instead we talk about the changing state of the industry over the past two decades.
Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning.
“Back in 1998 there wasn’t YouTube, there wasn’t Twitch, there weren’t even internet news sites for games yet.” (There were, but the fact that a 13-year-old me wrote for one should tell you all you need to know about their quality). “When we started Oddworld most people didn’t know what ‘www’ meant.”
This necessitated a lot of guesswork during development. The only opportunities for feedback were market research and focus groups. And even when a game was released, developers only had review scores to go on. “We had no idea who was buying our game,” he tells me. “Stores weren’t taking that kind of data. You’d find out if you were selling, but that’s it.”
The internet has changed that, but slowly. Stranger’s Wrath was released in January 2005, just before YouTube launched, half a year before Steam began selling third-party games and eighteen months or so before Facebook would pivot from a university network to a public site. The game was a hit with critics, but didn’t repeat the sales success of previous Oddworld titles. When it came to New ‘n’ Tasty, which was published by Lanning’s company Oddworld Inhabitants, but developed by UK studio Just Add Water with Lanning as co-director, a different approach was needed.
“I’ve learned the hard way that you need to listen.”
“I used to feel like an auteur. I still do in a way, but I’ve learned the hard way that you need to listen.” During the development of New ‘n’ Tasty, he put out a trailer. “Immediately [we saw] how many YouTubers cover it, and what their audiences say.” He ran polls through Facebook and Twitter to ask the audience questions. “By that night, we’d have 10,000 results, maybe the next day 20,000. No marketing department could ever tell have gotten that kind of data when we were making the first Abe.”
Lanning also made use of Steam, and the vast amounts of data that brings. “If you buy my game I can see you’ve bought three games from me before. I can see how many hours you’ve played them, and what games people have in common with mine.” That data has completely changed his understanding of the Oddworld audience. “We used to think of all of our players as one person. Now we know who they all are as individuals. Now, I can go to YouTube and I can see how different personalities react.” He explains that Pewdiepie’s reaction might be totally different to Jacksepticeye’s. “It’s basically customer feedback. And with Twitch you can watch the chat and see reactions in real time.”
Character art for Soulstorm, the followup to New ‘n’ Tasty.
Rather than just creating a game with a singular vision, Lanning made use of the vast feedback loop that is the internet to reshape the final article. The main area he points to is difficulty: “With our first games, we found out they were too hard for people” That led to lost sales, as gamers weren’t recommending them to friends. New ‘n’ Tasty is still challenging, but it has a much kinder learning curve than past games in the series. Listening to fans – and those new to the series — worked: Oddworld Inhabitants sold over three million copies of New ‘n’ Tasty, a very healthy figure for a game created by studio with 16 employees.
When Abe’s Oddysee was released, you’d sell a game, and that was that. Games had to be perfect, or your bug would exist forever. Few households had internet access, and it wasn’t until 2002, and Unreal Championship on the Xbox, that console games could even be patched. Now, it’s almost unheard of for a game not to be patched in its first month of release. That’s partly down to the increased complexity of modern games. “Things were simpler ten years ago. We want more emergent behaviors and possibilities but what comes with that is more things you can’t predict. As a result, there are more ways that people can screw up again.” Lanning says that his goal is, of course, to make a highly polished game, but once you have a million people playing it, “you have that ‘oh shit’ moment when 50,000 people hit a bug that no one saw in testing.”
“It’s like, what the fuck are you doing? I know you didn’t test this software properly and now you’re giving it to me.”
It’s not just complexity, though. Elements of Silicon Valley’s “ship it and fix it” business model have taken hold elsewhere. “I hate that. I hate seeing Google do it, or Apple do it. I feel Apple doing shittier and shittier releases ever since Steve Jobs died. It’s like, what the fuck are you doing? I know you didn’t test this software properly and now you’re giving it to me.” He doesn’t claim that game developers have this exact mentality, but believes the knowledge that things can be fixed after release “pushes a mentality that while you should get it perfect, it’s more important to meet a deadline than make a perfect game, and fix it later.” The middle ground, it seems, is to own your mistakes. “What we have to do is put our hands up and say ‘we fucked up, we missed it, we see you complaining about it,’ and get a patch out as soon as possible.”
Lanning ends our chat with a cautionary tale about what happens when you don’t listen to your audience. “A good example of that is Evolve [2K Games’ 4-vs-1 first-person shooter]. It was going to be a huge hit. Everyone that I talked to – publishers, developers, people that have been doing this for 20 years – they all believed that. But it came out, and it fizzled – why?” Evolve received decent reviews, and sales started fairly strong, but within months the average player count on Steam was down below 500. (The lowest title in Steam’s top 100 has around 2,500 at the time of writing, for reference).
Lanning blames this on its strict requirement for four-player teams, saying that people didn’t find people they wanted to play with. “All of a sudden it wasn’t like it was at the conference, where people went back again and again to play it. Had they done more monitoring and testing, had they listened to their audience sooner, they would’ve worked out that they had a problem.”
“Evolve wasn’t a big success. But it should’ve been. And if they had more audience feedback before it came out, it would’ve been. That’s what I think, and I know guys that were programmers and lead programmers on the game.”
VLC media player hits Windows 10 today, Xbox One this summer
At last, VideoLAN’s VLC media player has a universal Windows 10 app… and it definitely won’t be confined to conventional Windows devices for long. The developer has released a Windows 10 beta that, on a base level, embraces Microsoft’s modern OS on both PC and mobile. You’ll get recent VLC staples like a media library, a network browser and a “full” player alongside Windows 10 perks like Cortana voice commands, live tiles and Continuum support when you dock your phone. However, the real fun might come later. VLC has teased the app’s promised HoloLens and Xbox One support, and it’s clear that it won’t lose much (if anything) in translation — the features and interface will be familiar whether you’re watching on a console or an augmented reality headset.
To no one’s surprise, the VLC beta is going to be rough around the edges for a while. You won’t get Xbox One support until the system has access to the unified Windows/Xbox app store this summer, but there are also technical issues holding up support for HoloLens and the Surface Hub. And if you’re holding on to Windows 8.1 or Windows Phone 8.1 for dear life, you’ll have to wait a few weeks before the app works. Even so, it’s a big leap if you’ve wanted VLC’s play-anything flexibility in a Microsoft-friendly format.
Source: Microsoft Store, JB Kempf
Many Apple Watch Bands and Bundles Currently Listed as ‘Sold Out’
Over the past few weeks, some Apple Watch wearers have noticed that a growing portion of Apple’s band inventory has been marked as “sold out,” with many styles, sizes, and colors, now included in that group.
While Apple has made it clear that its first foray into fashion accessories will follow a “seasonal” cycle, with certain styles leaving its store forever once sold out, the array of bands unavailable on the store paints an erratic picture of shortages from all three of the Apple Watch’s seasonal collections: Spring 2015, Fall 2015, and Spring 2016.
Tracked in the U.S. on both Apple.com and the Apple Store iOS app [Direct Link], the Classic Buckle currently has the most significant stock shortage of any of the Apple Watch bands, totaling 13 out-of-stock color options in both the 38 mm and 42 mm sizes. The smaller 38 mm wrist size option is the most affected, with only one band — Saddle Brown — available to purchase. Behind Classic Buckle, the Sport Band has 12 out-of-stock options on Apple’s store, the Modern Buckle has four, and the Leather Loop has three, with varying sizes affecting availability for the latter two bands.
Out-of-Stock Apple Watch Bands
38 mm Sport
42 mm Sport
38 mm and 42 mm Nylon
42 mm Link Bracelet
-Medium Storm Gray
38 mm Classic Buckle
42 mm Classic Buckle
-Small Soft Pink
-Medium Midnight Blue
-Large Blue Jay
Besides the completely in-stock Milanese Loop, the newer Nylon Band is the least affected by shortages, with only the Gold/Blue colorway out of stock right now for each wrist size. The Link Bracelet is faring similarly well for 38 mm (which has stock in both Silver and Space Black) and 42 mm (which is sold out only in Space Black).
The Hermès bands have several “unavailable” options as well (the only ones to use such wording), but two collections are marked as “Sold Out,” in line with the rest of the out-of-stock Apple Watch band inventory. Still, given Hermès’ top-tier pricing and third-party nature, their shortages probably won’t affect what the stock of Apple’s own first-party bands could hint at moving forward.
In each collection, availability varies among old color options and some of the newer Spring 2016 entries, like Green and Royal Blue for the 42 mm Sport Band. Whereas some original styles have gone out of stock steadily following the launch of the Apple Watch last year, which is expected, the sudden and varying disappearance of so many colors — both new and old — is leading to speculation on what Apple might be gearing up for behind the scenes.
Out-of-Stock Apple Watch Bundles
Apple Watch Sport
-42mm Silver Aluminum Case with Royal Blue Sport Band
-42mm Silver Aluminum Case with Scuba Blue Woven Nylon
-38mm Rose Gold Aluminum Case with Royal Blue Woven Nylon
-38mm Gold Aluminum Case with Gold/Red Woven Nylon
-42mm Stainless Steel Case with Storm Gray Leather Loop (All Sizes)
-42mm Space Black Stainless Steel Case with Space Black Link Bracelet
-42mm Space Black Stainless Steel Case with Black Sport Band
-38mm Space Black Stainless Steel Case with Black Sport Band
-38mm Stainless Steel Case with Blue Jay Modern Buckle (All Sizes)
-38mm Stainless Steel Case with Pearl Woven Nylon
As one Redditor posited, these shortages could be a potential hint at the incoming launch of new bands, but whether that means Apple is preparing for its first mid-season “Summer” collection, or getting a jump on fall, remains to be seen. It’s also been contemplated whether this could be early inventory shuffling ahead of the Apple Watch 2, expected to launch sometime around the iPhone 7 in the fall, with the potential for all-new band lugs making first-generation Apple Watch bands incompatible with the new wearable. That’s a highly unlikely possibility, however, given the proliferation and popularity of interchangeable bands that customers have accumulated already in one generation of the Apple Watch.
It should also be noted that the wording for each unavailable model isn’t Apple’s usual “Currently Unavailable” that typically appears when an item is temporarily out of stock for an undetermined period of time, but a seemingly more definitive “Sold Out.”
Fortunately, those bands that are in stock — including all models of the Milanese Loop — are showing shipping estimates with availability between one and three days. At the time of writing, the only bands with lengthy waiting periods are the 42 mm Saddle Brown Classic Buckle and 42 mm Light Pink Sport Band, which both have a 1-2 week shipping estimate. Some unavailable individual bands are also still in stock as part of a watch bundle, so there’s potentially a way for users to get their hand on sold-out bands if they don’t own an Apple Watch yet.
Be sure to visit the MacRumors forums to discuss the topic of the potential retirement of certain Apple Watch bands, along with plenty of other topics related to the Apple Watch and its accessories.
Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 2, watchOS 3
Tags: Apple Watch accessories, Apple Watch bands
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Caution)
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Sketchy Photos Show Off Lightning-Enabled EarPods for iPhone 7
A new image found on microblogging service Weibo shows off what Lightning adaptor EarPods might look like if Apple launches the iPhone 7 without a 3.5mm headphone jack, which has been gaining traction since it was first rumored last November.
The images, discovered by iPhone7.nl (Google Translate), are almost certainly a knockoff due to a disproportionate Lightning plug that appears far wider than the thin adaptors currently bundled in with products like the iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, and Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Dock.
Otherwise, the EarPods appear largely similar to the model sold by Apple today, with the same slim, rubbery white cable and inline volume control, the latter component of which appears to be somewhat warped in the first image posted on Weibo. Despite the slim chance that these are official Apple EarPods, it’s an interesting glimpse into what the long-rumored Lightning headphone adapters could look like come September.
Rumors about the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack began late last year, and have since coalesced into reports that its omission will in fact be the focus of the iPhone 7, which could help make the 2016 iPhone up to 1mm thinner than the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.
The expected shift into a Lightning port-only future for iPhones would require users to either use Apple’s first party Lightning EarPods, carry an adapter dongle to use traditional 3.5mm headphones, or make an early switch to a wireless, Bluetooth option with the added worry of battery life.
Related Roundup: iPhone 7
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