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1
Jul

Amazon adds PBS Kids shows to its children’s lineup


Amazon is always looking to pad its streaming library, and that includes new shows for younger viewers. The company announced today that it’s now the “exclusive subscription streaming home” for a number of PBS Kids series. Shows like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Wild Kratts, Odd Squad, Dinosaur Train and more are available to Prime members at no extra charge.

While some of those titles were already on Prime, they’re now exclusive to the service as some were also available on Netflix and other streaming options in the past. What’s more, Nature Cat and Ready Jet Go! are now on Prime for the first time. And now that the video service is available as a standalone subscription, parents can opt in during summer break.

Source: Amazon (Business Wire)

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1
Jul

Best cheap in-ear headphones to replace your stock earbuds


By Lauren Dragan

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. Read the full article here.

If we wanted to buy in-ear headphones to replace the earbuds that came with our phone for around the same price, we’d get the AKG Y20U. After researching hundreds of headphones in this price range, seriously considering 244, and testing 108 (68 in the last two rounds, and 40 this round) with our panel of audio experts, we’re confident that the AKG Y20U is the best purchase for the money. The headphones are comfortable, have a one-button universal remote and mic, and sound a lot better than their price tag would lead you to believe.

Who should buy this?

Ever wonder if you could get better sound than the headphones that came with your smartphone without spending much more than it would cost to replace them? Or perhaps your tween is asking you for new earbuds because they lost their latest pair (again). Or maybe you have a pet who is a fan of munching cords. Sometimes you just want a pair of headphones that cost as little as possible but still get the job done. These are those.

If you’re looking for something a little better, check out our $100 in-ear picks; if you want something for the gym, check out our exercise headphones; if you have no clue where to start, read our guide titled Which Headphones Should I Get? to help the process along.

How we chose what to test

Testing is serious business. Our panelist John tackles the third round of contenders. Photo: Lauren Dragan

We began by finding as many positive single reviews by professionals as we could. This started our “to consider” list. Next, we emailed several of our colleagues in the audio industry to ask for their favorites. Then we crowdsourced: Amazon, Best Buy, HeadFi, NewEgg, and others—if there were reviews, we read them. Anything we hadn’t previously tested that was rated four stars (out of five) or better (keeping a careful eye out for trustworthy reviews) got added to the list. Since our original testing, we’ve seriously considered 244 headphones in this category.

We made a final qualification. If a pair of headphones cost more than Apple EarPods, they were required to have a mic and remote option, like the EarPods. Pairs without mic and remote were acceptable at $25 or less. After choosing our contenders, we tested 40 new pairs of headphones in like-priced groups to see which would come out on top.

Our pick

The AKG Y20U were the clear winners in our latest round of testing with the best combination of fit, sound, and convenience for the money. Photo: Michael Hession

The AKG Y20U fit every one of our panelists, sounded great, and cost only $30 at the time of writing. For those paying attention, that’s the same price as a replacement pair of Apple EarPods—and the Y20Us sound vastly superior.

These earphones have more depth to their sound than any of our picks in this category to date. Their boosted bass is pleasant and doesn’t muddy up the mids or overwhelm the highs. You may notice a bit more oomph to an already intense bassline, but you won’t lose detail in the vocals or guitars. Unlike a significant number of headphones we tested, the Y20U’s highs aren’t piercing or sizzling, nor do they make voices insanely sibilant.

The fit is secure and low-profile. Unlike many earbuds that stick straight out from your ear, the Y20U curve slightly and tuck in against your outer ear. This means the tips aren’t bearing the brunt of stabilization, and you won’t need to adjust the Y20U in your ears frequently when you’re walking.

Finally, the Y20U pair has a universal single-button remote/mic, comes with a small coin-purse-style case, and is available in a few fun colors (teal, yellow, and gray).

The best-sounding option with an iOS-compatible remote/mic

If you need a three-button remote/mic, a pair of the Brainwavz Delta is your best option; however, it does come with a few caveats. Photo: Michael Hession

The Brainwavz Delta headphones are a great value for the price. They have a well-balanced sound signature, with a slight bump in the bass in the 60 Hz area and a little treble boost around 2 kHz to 4 kHz to balance that out. This means that you’ll have a clear, robust bassline without losing clarity in lyrics, hi-hat hits, or guitar riffs.

Another major part of why the Brainwavz work so well is their ability to fit various ear sizes and shapes. There were other models we couldn’t even test due to one or more testers not being able to get a good seal. The Deltas come with three pairs of silicone tips and one pair of noise-isolating Comply foam tips, which is a treat in this price range. The Deltas are available in both an Apple and Android three-button option with remote and mic, too.

Though the Brainwavz were highly ranked by our testers, we did receive a number of comments from unhappy readers who’d experienced breakage or static, and even though Brainwavz made some changes in the model’s build, the occasional comment persists. What also holds true, though, is that Brainwavz’s customer service is exemplary, which is worth mentioning.

The best sound for the least money

At this low price, the Panasonic RP-TCM125’s quality is tough to beat. Photo: Michael Hession

If you want to spend the absolute least amount possible and still get quality sound, you can’t beat the Panasonic RP-TCM125 ErgoFit. A former overall pick, the headphones still hold up really well and are now our budget choice. They were the favorite of every panelist in the $13-and-under category. The RP-TCM125 headphones have a nice overall balance with airy, mellow highs and present-but-not-dominating bass. They sound just as good listening to acoustic guitar as they do hip hop and rock. Unlike most competition in this price range, nothing pierces, nothing’s muddy—every frequency plays well with the others. They don’t have the depth of field or bass quality of the AKG pair, but for $13 or so, they’re really great. The RP-TCM125 headphones have a single-button remote and mic and come in a variety of colors, too.

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

1
Jul

Facebook is making it easier to post in multiple languages


Facebook has over 1 billion users around the world but, as you might expect, not all of them speak the same language. This can be an issue if you have friends and family who speak in different lingo. The company has supported multiple languages for several years now, of course, but what if you wanted to write a post that was readable by not only your English-speaking friends, but those who know Spanish and French too? Well, you could soon do that, thanks to a new multilingual composer that Facebook is testing out. With this feature, you can write a single post in multiple languages, while those who read the post will see it in just their preferred language. The feature actually rolled out earlier this year to Page authors, but is now being tested widely across all users.

This is how it works. When you’re writing a post, you’ll see some text asking you if you want the post to appear in another language. Click it, and you can then choose which languages you want from a drop-down list. It’ll then automatically fill out separate messages with the appropriate machine-translated text — the sort that you’d find on Google Translate, for example. You can go with these if you like, but if you’re multilingual and that machine-translation isn’t up to snuff, you can actually go in and fix it up so it reads correctly in those other languages. Doing this also helps teach Facebook’s machine-translation to get better over time.

As for which version of the post your friends will see, that depends on their preferred language. Their preferences are determined not only by their settings but also by which country they happen to be in and by a Language Identification process that figures out what lingo is most commonly used in their posts. So if their posts are mostly in Spanish, they’ll likely see the Spanish post instead of the English one. But if they speak a mix of English and Spanish (or a different language entirely) and it’s difficult to figure out what their preference is, they’ll just see the original text by default, at which point they can use the existing “See Translation” tool to read the translations.

Now, this feature is not available to everyone just yet. It’s just in testing right now, so that the team can work out any remaining kinks. But if you are part of the test group, you’ll find that you can enable the multilingual composer in the language section under settings. It’s desktop-only for now, though the aforementioned viewing experience should be open to all.

1
Jul

Alexa shops for Amazon Prime items so you don’t have to


Amazon’s virtual assistant could already lend a hand with re-ordering items, and now Alexa is a much more helpful shopping companion. Rather than just replenishing items you’ve already purchased or compiling a shopping list, Alexa now searches for new items based on your voice commands. If you’re looking for a new food processor, for example, the virtual assistant will go through Amazon’s Prime product listings to make a suggestion. If you’re happy with what Alexa turned up, you can easily order it without having to use another device.

Alexa uses the payment method you’ve setup for Amazon’s one-click ordering and if you aren’t happy with the item when it arrives, you can always send it back free of charge. The company says the virtual assistant’s new skill allows it to sort through tens of millions of listings based on voice cues from an Echo, Echo Dot, Tap or Fire TV. All you have to do is say “Alexa, order me” whatever you’re after and the software does the rest, as long as you have a Prime membership.

1
Jul

Hyperloop One co-founder reportedly leaves the company (update: confirmed)


Just over a month after its propulsion test in the Nevada desert, there’s a major staff shakeup at Hyperloop One. Recode reports co-founder and CTO Brogan BamBrogan stepped down from his role with one of the companies that’s looking to make Elon Musk’s high-speed transit system a reality. BamBrogan’s role is now the job of VP of engineering Josh Giegel who was promoted to co-founder and president of engineering. As the company competes with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies to be the first to develop a working system for super fast mass transit, internal tension at Hyperloop One reportedly lead to the leadership move.

In a statement to Tech Insider, Hyperloop One said that BamBrogan “decided to take a step back” from the company while thanking him for his work on the project. CEO Rob Lloyd told Engadget in an interview last month that he projected 2021 as the date when we’ll be traveling in tubes, but noted that the method of travel for freight could happen sooner. That propulsion test was certainly a major step towards achieving that goal, so it will be interesting to see if the staff shuffle causes any setbacks. Last week, Hyperloop One announced a deal with the Russian government and Summa firm to explore the possibility of the system being used for shipping and to replace Moscow’s train system.

Update: A Hyperloop One spokesperson sent Engadget the following statement:

“Hyperloop One is pleased to announce that Josh Giegel has been promoted to President of Engineering and appointed to the Board of Directors. Josh has been a valued engineering leader as co-founder and SVP Engineering since the company’s inception. Prior to joining Hyperloop One in November 2014, Josh held senior positions at SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Echogen Power Systems. We’re excited for him to take this new expanded role. Co-founder and CTO Brogan BamBrogan has decided to take a step back from Hyperloop One. We appreciate everything that he has done to put us on the path to creating the world’s first Hyperloop.”

Via: Tech Insider

Source: Recode

1
Jul

Millions of Android devices have flawed full disk encryption


Hackers can use brute force to break into tens of millions of Android devices using full disk encryption, thanks to a series of security issues linked specifically to Android kernel flaws and Qualcomm processors, Neowin reports. The vulnerabilities were uncovered by security researcher Gal Beniamini, who is working with Google and Qualcomm to patch the problems — and some of the flaws have already been addressed. However, a few of the issues may not be patchable, instead requiring new hardware, the report says.

Any phone using Android 5.0 or later uses full disk encryption, the same security feature at the heart of Apple’s recent fight with the FBI. Full disk encryption makes all data on a device unrecognizable without a unique key. Even though modern Android devices use this security feature, Beniamini’s research found that an attacker can exploit kernel flaws and vulnerabilities in some of Qualcomm’s security measures to get that encryption key. Then, all that stands between the hacker and a device’s information is a password.

Since any attack on an Android device would still require brute force and additional hacking methods, this isn’t an immediate security threat for a majority of users. But, it is notable for those who put their complete trust in full disk encryption.

We’ve reached out to Qualcomm for comment on the flaw and will update this story as the company responds.

Update: A Qualcomm spokesperson gave Engadget the following comment:

“Providing technologies that support robust security and privacy is a priority for Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. (QTI). QTI continues to work proactively both internally as well as with security researchers such as Gal Beniamini to identify and address potential security vulnerabilities. The two security vulnerabilities (CVE-2015-6639 and CVE-2016-2431) discussed in Beniamini’s June 30 blog post were also discovered internally and patches were made available to our customers and partners. We have and will continue to work with Google and the Android ecosystem to help address security vulnerabilities and to recommend improvements to the Android ecosystem to enhance security overall.”

Source: Gal Beniamini

1
Jul

Securifi Almond 3 Wireless AC Router and Smart Home Hub Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


The Almond 3 is Securifi’s first attempt to deliver on the promise of easily blanketing a large home with a strong Wi-Fi signal. It joins a growing crowd of “Wi-Fi systems” that include new names such as Eero and Luma.

Similar to these other systems, the Almond 3 system comprises multiple identical Wi-Fi units. The initial set of three currently costs $299 (discounted from $399) and each extra individual unit is priced at $119 (originally $149). You can connect these units together via network cables, or wirelessly, to dynamically scale up your Wi-Fi coverage.

According to Securifi, the discounted pre-order price will continue until a week before it starts shipping in early August. (UK and Australian prices have yet to be announced, but $399 converts to £300 or AU$535, and $149 is about £110 or AU$200.)

Is it a router? Is it a smart home hub? Securifi…
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For comparison, the Eero system costs $499 for a set of three, or $199 for a single unit, and the Luma is a little more affordable, starting at $149 for one, or $399 for three, same as the Almond 3’s regular price.

Dynamically scalable Wi-Fi coverage

Each of the units in an Almond 3 system can work as either a Wi-Fi router, an access point or a range extender. If you connect a single unit directly to an internet source (such as a cable modem) it will work as a router, just like any other Wi-Fi router.

When a second unit is connected to the first unit using a network cable, this unit will work as an access point, which extends the coverage area of the Wi-Fi network. But if an extra unit is added wirelessly, at the recommended distance of about 40 feet (12 meters) away, it will work as a Wi-Fi extender. In this case, the Wi-Fi speed of the extender will be just about half of that of the first unit.

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There’s a touchscreen on the front.


Josh Miller/CNET

Whichever way you choose to connect up the units, the Wi-Fi network is extended automatically. Each additional unit replicates the Wi-Fi settings of the first unit. This means you won’t need to fiddle with setting them all up.

Securifi says one Almond 3 unit can cover about 1,300 square feet (120 square meters) with a Wi-Fi signal, which is enough for a small home. If you have a large home, however, three units will cover up to 5,000 square feet (465 square meters). And you can use up to five Almond 3 units together.

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USB 2.0 port, in case you want to connect your printer.


Josh Miller/CNET

Almond, meet Alexa

Apart from the cheaper price, the Almond 3 has a few extra features that make it more appealing than the Eero.

First is the touchscreen, which, as with the original Almond, allows for easy setup and management of the system, without the need for a computer or a tablet. The Almond 3 also has three network ports: one Gigabit WAN and two Gigabit LAN ports (the Eero has only one LAN).

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The mobile app lets you control connected devices from anywhere.


Josh Miller/CNET

On top of that, the Almond 3 also has built-in support for ZigBee 1.2, a popular wireless standard for home automation. Z-Wave, another wireless standard, is also supported but only through a dongle (not included) connected to its USB port. The Almond 3 is therefore compatible with hundreds of web-connected devices. And each Almond 3 unit even has a built-in siren, in case you connect it to your home security system.

The Almond 3 includes a mobile app for Android and iOS devices that allows for managing your home network when you’re away from the system, including its Parental Control feature.

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Scenes are like shortcuts for your automation preferences.


Josh Miller/CNET

Securifi says the Almond 3 will work with all Amazon Alexa products, including the Echo, the Echo Dot, and the battery-powered Tap. That allows you to use voice control to activate the router’s pre-defined rules, called “scenes” — basically shortcuts. For example, you can create a rule called “Party Scene” that turns your connected speaker system on, dims the lights and sets the thermostat to a lower temperature. After that you can activate this rule by saying, “Alexa, tell Almond to activate Party Scene.”

The Almond 3 has a geofencing feature that triggers smart home gadgets when it detects your phone’s IP address leaving or coming back into range. It’s quicker and more accurate than using GPS data, but Almond 3 uses both to help avoid false triggers.

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From behind it looks like your average router.


Josh Miller/CNET

As a Wi-Fi device, the Almond 2 supports the dual-stream (2×2) of the 801.11ac standard, meaning it has a top Wi-Fi speed of 867 megabits per second when working with 5GHz AC clients. For legacy Wi-Fi clients, it has a top speed on the 2.4GHz channel of 300Mbps.

The Almond 3 is available for preorder online now and will ship in early August. It’s also expected to be widely available for purchase in stores. Check back then for our in-depth review.

1
Jul

Panasonic DMP-UB900 Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


It was 10 years ago that Panasonic introduced one of the first Blu-ray players, the DMP-BD10, and as a first-generation product it cost a small fortune: $1,300.

In the new era of 4K Blu-ray, though, prices have started out far more reasonable: The Samsung UBD-K8500 debuted earlier this year for $400, and the new Xbox One S will sell for the same price in August, with an even more affordable $300 version hitting later in the year.

Given that no one sends “memos” any more, it appears that Panasonic nonetheless didn’t get one about this pricing consensus. The company is pricing its first 4K Blu-ray player, the DMP-UB900, at $700 when it hits store shelves in September. (The player was first showcased back in January at the CES show in Las Vegas.)

While the US has to wait 9 months, the UK started selling the model in April for £599. Australia will also have to wait till September with pricing yet to be announced, but the US price converts to $932.

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Panasonic

Panasonic is positioning the DMP-UB900 as a premium player that features playback of Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray discs including HDR playback. Based on a press demo at the Panasonic offices it appears that the company has put a lot of effort into video processing — particularly when it comes to converting HDR content for standard dynamic range TVs.

The player will be source agnostic, as it will also be able to stream 4K content from Netflix and YouTube. So, too, it will be able to play back high-resolution music via a network or from a USB source.

One odd thing about the player is that it will come with a number of “Digital Tube Sound” presets and based on the demonstration we heard, these made music sound less clear and somewhat distorted. As a result, you can probably leave it off.

However, it does offer these other features that may prove of more use:

  • THX certification
  • Dual HDMI outputs with 4:4:4 compatible output
  • 7.1-channel analog audio output
  • High-res audio playback (DSD (2.8MHz/5.6MHz), ALAC, FLAC, WAV)
  • 192kHz/32-bit DAC x 5
  • DLNA support
  • Wi-Fi built-in (802.11ac)
  • Backlit remote
  • Quick Start mode
All the cool new gadgets at CES 2016 (pictures)
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1
Jul

Smartphone nerds, it’s time to start getting excited about Huawei


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Huawei is serious about Western markets, and its phones are about to get really good thanks to completely overhauled software. All of this could add up to the once obscure Chinese firm being Samsung’s major European rival in 2017.

In one fell swoop, Huawei is about to address one of the biggest longstanding weaknesses in its Android phones. As reported this past week, Huawei soon will unveil a major new version of its EMUI software, with the timing likely to coincide with the company’s IFA 2016 press conference in early September. (Also likely: a new Huawei Mate handset to showcase this new software.)

It’ll be the first chance we get to see the work of former Apple creative director Abigail Brody, who Huawei hired in September 2015 to oversee user experience, building a team out of its newly established San Francisco design center. That in itself should tell you how serious Huawei is about software design. Expect Huawei’s new UX — and possibly Brody herself — to feature prominently in the upcoming Huawei IFA presser.

We haven’t seen anything of Huawei’s re-tooled interface yet, but what we’ve heard is tantalizing. The future of EMUI is reportedly geared towards making Huawei phones more palatable to Western audiences, in stark contrast to the Asia-centric design of the company’s current software. That mirrors what we’ve heard from our own sources over the past year, which have suggested something much, much closer to stock Android than present-day EMUI, which riffs on iOS.

huawei-richard-yu-p2.jpg?itok=yAn3KLOJHuawei Device chief Richard Yu in 2013 unveils the Ascend P2, one of the first EMUI devices for Western markets.

In late 2015 Huawei made a major design hire, and quietly established a new design center in San Francisco.

Indeed, even before Abigail Brody officially came on board, we were hearing of plans to significantly pare back EMUI from those close to the company. There were whispers of notifications being done the Google way, less tinkering with icons, and (finally!) the introduction of an app drawer. The important but incremental changes from EMUI 3 to 4 were described by one source as “nothing” compared to what lay ahead in the next major version.

A more streamlined, Googley Huawei UX layer should also help the company push out Android updates faster — like many phone makers, Huawei has struggled to push out new versions in a timely manner. In a recent interview, Huawei smartphone chief Changzhu Li revealed that the company has set a two month target for updating its phones in future. Sure, it’s one thing to set such a target and another to achieve it, especially with carrier certification and other hoops to jump through.

huawei-store-china.jpg?itok=-WlKLnSLHuawei brand store in Shenzhen, China.

Imagine the top-tier Huawei hardware we know, with much better software and faster updates — and the strong carrier support the P9 enjoys.

Nevertheless, it shows a laser focus on user experience that was completely lacking in the old, weird Huawei. That being the case, the launch of EMUI 5 — again, probably on new hardware at first — could be a watershed moment for Huawei. The company has always made great hardware, but our enthusiasm for the brand has been cooled by its sometimes broken, often ugly software. The prospect of proven Huawei design language paired with software that’s good — not just usable, tolerable, but actually enjoyable to use — is huge.

It’ll represent Huawei’s graduation into a true tier-one smartphone manufacturer — a company able to excel across the board with its high-end phones. And that’s reason for rival manufacturers to be really concerned. Take HTC — still able to make great phones — but suffering from a lack of carrier enthusiasm around its HTC 10 handset, as just two of the big four UK networks picked up the device. By comparison, Huawei has all four onboard with its P9, all while being highly competitive on price with what’s actually a pretty good phone. With a much stronger user experience backing it up, the Huawei of 2017 is only going to become a fiercer competitor for the likes of HTC, LG and Samsung to deal with.

It’s also good news for Huawei’s online-focused brand, Honor. Honor phones also run EMUI, and so anything that enhances EMUI at its source automatically benefits this more affordable sub-brand. (As with Huawei, our biggest complaints with Honor phones in the past year have had to do with broken, ugly software.)

All that adds up to big reason not just to take Huawei seriously, but to genuinely look forward to what’s next from the company. And it’s a sign that in Europe at least, the Android landscape could change dramatically in the coming year.

1
Jul

BMW promises autonomous vehicles by 2021, partners with Intel, Mobileye


BMW has partnered with tech firms Intel and Mobileye with the hope that it will be able to put a whole fleet of fully autonomous cars into production by 2021.

The BMW iNext car, shown in its concept form in May, will be the basis of the self-driving range from the German manufacturer. It will draw on innovative systems and technologies created by its partners.

The news comes as rival car maker Tesla is being probed after a driver of its Model S died when the autopilot mode failed to see an 18-wheeled truck. However, BMW believes that, by the start of the next decade, automated driving technologies will make travel “safer and easier”.

It is hoping to enable drivers to completely take their hands off the steering wheel and even eyes and minds off the road ahead.

BMW

Ultimately, it wants its cars to even operate themselves, without driver or passenger.

The end results of the collaboration will be used to form a common platform that BMW will offer to other car vendors.

  • BMW to launch ‘i Next’ autonomous electric car in 2021, says CEO
  • Autonomous cars to hit UK roads in 2017, says government

The first stage in achieving their ultimate goal is to deliver and test an autonomous prototype in 2017.

“At the BMW Group we always strive for technological leadership. This partnership underscores our strategy to shape the individual mobility of the future,” said Harald Krüger, chairman of the board of management of BMW AG.

“Following our investment in high definition live map technology at Here, the combined expertise of Intel, Mobileye and the BMW Group will deliver the next core building block to bring fully automated driving technology to the street.”

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