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Hubble photographs Jupiter’s dramatic auroras

The wispy, glowing veil sitting on top of Jupiter in the image above is actually a humongous aurora captured on cam by Hubble. A team of astronomers are using the telescope’s ultraviolet instruments to study nature’s light shows on the poles of the gas giant. They timed their study to coincide with Juno’s arrival on the planet, since one of their goals is to determine how different solar wind conditions and other factors affect Jupiter’s auroras. The spacecraft is in charge of measuring various solar wind properties, while they continue capturing images and videos almost every day during the duration of the mission.

Astronomers want to study Jupiter’s auroras, because they’re quite different from what we’re used to. They’re big enough to be able to envelope the entirety of our planet, and they’re so powerful, they never go away. See, they’re fueled not just by solar winds like their counterparts here on Earth, but also by charged particles from Io (one of Jupiter’s four biggest moons), which has numerous volcanoes. According to team leader Jonathan Nichols from the University of Leicester, the gas giant’s auroras are the most dramatic and active he’s ever seen. He said: “It almost seems as if Jupiter is throwing a firework party for the imminent arrival of Juno.”

You can find all the team’s images and videos on Hubblesite, but these are merely the first ones –you can expect to see more in the coming months.

Source: NASA, Hubblesite


Netflix UK now has every ‘Star Trek’ TV episode

With Star Trek Beyond less than a month away, there’s never been a better time to rewatch some of the franchise’s older TV episodes. Every instalment of the original Star Trek TV show has now been added to Netflix in the UK, alongside everything from The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise. Even the animated series from the early 1970s is available. So whether you prefer the classic adventures with William Shatner, or the popular Next Generation stories with Patrick Stewart, the streaming service should have you covered. Perfect if you’re a diehard Trekkie, or someone that’s just jumping in for the first time.

Star Trek:

Original Series🖖
Next Generation 😃
Deep Space Nine 🌟
Voyager 👽
Enterprise 🚀 #NowOnNetflixUK

— Netflix UK & Ireland (@NetflixUK) June 30, 2016

Source: Netflix (Twitter)


Social networks need to be more like online forums

Social networks are the modern day watering holes for the internet. But back in the ’90s, I didn’t have Twitter and Facebook. Instead, my destination was the online forum, a site where I could discuss a variety of topics in the form of posted messages (hence the term “message board”). Be it a bulletin board system (BBS) or a Usenet news group, these message boards were my first introduction to the social web. They’re still around today of course, but I’ve largely stopped using these forums in favor of the aforementioned social networks. But there is one thing I do miss about them: a sense of community.

When I first hooked up my computer to a dial-up modem in 1997, it was a revelation. See, I was a lonely nerdy girl in a small Southeast Asian country. But through the magic of the internet, I stumbled onto a world where I was no longer alone. I came upon online discussion groups, which offered me the chance to interact with like-minded people. Some were local, while others indulged in my interest in comic books, Conan O’Brien and MTV’s Daria. These were places where my thoughts and opinions mattered, where I was no longer just a quiet, meek face in a crowd. Soon, I found new friends, several of whom lived tens of thousands of miles away. I eventually met a few of them in real life, fostering friendships that last to this day.

On Twitter, however, I am just one of many voices. While I can certainly use it to keep abreast of what’s going on in the world, that feeling of being a part of a community is diluted. Sure, I can joke around with friends but it’s a lot harder to make new ones and connect with people outside of your immediate circle. After all, no one can see you tweet if you have no followers.

Faces on discs randomly connected by arrows

Most message boards have some kind of Newbie forum or an Introduction stickie where newcomers can wade in, but on Twitter, it’s often up to you to branch out and make first contact with specific people. Even Facebook is really only beneficial if you already have a network of existing friends. Of course, it’s also a lot harder to keep away from nasty trolls and spammers on Twitter compared to a message board that’s moderated.

And this, right here, is the problem. On the face of it, it seems that both message boards and social networks bring people together. But social media isn’t about building communities; it’s about sharing your thoughts with the world. Unfortunately, this often just means shouting into the void. Instead of a place where your thoughts and opinions matter, social media is where you need to fight to get your voice heard. This creates a culture of one upsmanship where the popular get more popular, the obnoxious get louder and people are vulnerable to hate.

If Twitter and Facebook want to start earning more goodwill, they need to do more than just tweak their algorithms. They need to start building communities too.

[Image credits: Getty]


Brazil freezes Facebook funds over WhatsApp evidence spat

A Brazilian court has frozen 19.5-million reals ($6-million) of Facebook’s cash after the social network’s messaging service, WhatsApp, failed to hand over data as part of a criminal investigation. Reuters reports that Brazilian law enforcement sought access to messages that could link drug smugglers from a number of recent raids. The court targeted Facebook Inc, as WhatsApp doesn’t have any financial operations in the country.

The action is the latest in a long line of similar moves from the Brazilian government. In recent months, WhatsApp has been blocked (more than once), and a Facebook executive was arrested — also due to failure to hand over messages or user data.

In this case, the frozen funds are equal to the total fines WhatsApp has incurred for not complying with law enforcement’s demands. There’s no mention of the service being blocked this time, so it’s possible the government is trying a different tact. The larger issue, for both sides, is that since April, WhatsApp has been encrypting all its messages end to end, so it couldn’t hand over the content of communications after that date even if it wanted to.

The messages involved in the drug smuggling investigation were likely sent before the activation of encryption, but Facebook reportedly claimed that messages weren’t stored anyway. There’s no official comment from Facebook or WhatsApp at this time.

Source: Reuters


Faraday Future partners with a Formula E team

Despite only being on many people’s radar for just over six months, electric car company Faraday Future has managed to keep itself firmly in the spotlight. It’s already unveiled a prototype of its FFZero 1 supercar, struck up a deal with Aston Martin and announced plans for two EV factories. Oh, and it’s working on self-driving technology as well. Some of those projects are still a way off, but today the company confirmed it’ll soon jump into the world of Formula E, by way of a sponsorship and technical partnership with the Dragon Racing team.

Under the new agreement, announced today at a Formula E London ePrix event, the team name will become Faraday Future Dragon Racing Formula E (quite the mouthful) and will commence at the start of Formula E’s third season in October. In the first year, both teams will work on developing “key technology software solutions to maximize performance capabilities within the powertrain,” with Faraday engineers giving special consideration to the overall drivetrain performance, data acquisition and analytics. The idea is to “improve vehicle simulation models,” which can better predict vehicle performance and boost efficiency.

The season after that, the team will seek to implement technology developed by Faraday Future, which includes the company’s power controller. By the 2018/19 season, all of those improvements will be combined inside a new chassis, which may also feature Faraday Future motors, gearbox and its “FF Echelon Inverter,” which the company says is the same inverter that will be installed inside every Faraday Future production vehicle.

While Faraday continues to work on a supercar and a range of more affordable options, the company will use its new alliance to conduct real-world tests and see how its components and software fair in harsher environments. “Partnering with Dragon Racing allows us to further showcase our electric vehicle leadership and technical capabilities in one of the most exciting Formulas in the world,” says Nick Sampson, SVP of Global R&D and Engineering at Faraday Future. “I clearly see Formula E as the right venue to challenge our engineers and technologies in the most extreme performance conditions.”

Via: The Verge

Source: Faraday Future


Disney Nearing Deal to Own One-Third of MLB’s $3.5 Billion Digital Business

The Walt Disney Company is nearing a deal that will net it a one-third stake in Major League Baseball Advanced Media, the streaming division of MLB whose business is valued at around $3.5 billion (via Bloomberg). According to those close to the deal, an agreement between the two companies has not yet been officially finalized, but once it is the contract will allow Disney to purchase another 33 percent of MLB’s digital sector over the next four years.

Disney currently owns ESPN, which has been reported recently to be facing troubles with its traditional, broadcast viewing numbers with the rise of streaming and web-only packages. WatchESPN offers viewers the option to watch live sports broadcasts on platforms like the Apple TV, as long as they have a cable package that includes ESPN’s content channels.

Disney has also been a key Apple content partner over the years, due in large part to Disney’s partnership with and ultimate 2006 acquisition of Pixar that made Steve Jobs the largest individual Disney shareholder and gave him a seat on the company’s board. Long-standing rumors of Apple seeking to launch an over-the-top streaming television service have generally included Disney as one of the key early content partners on board with the project, although Apple has so far been unable to secure all of the deals it would need to launch the service at the price point it wants to hit.

Given that the deal between Disney and MLBAM is not yet official, there’s no word yet on what the ultimate outcome of the acquisition would entail for the company’s streaming services. Still, some knowledgable of the deal and the streaming sports world see the move as a way for Disney to continue to bolster ESPN’s streaming offerings if MLBAM were to be rolled into the company’s online video platforms.

“MLBAM has some great assets that could help ESPN build a robust over-the-top offering,” said Bernard Gershon, a media consultant based in New York.

“You see the biggest sports media company moving to greater digital delivery,” said Chris Russo, a former National Football League executive who now heads sports investment banking at Houlihan Lokey Inc. in New York. “It really shows they’re trying to get ahead of the digital phenomenon rather than being left behind it.”

Disney currently offers a number of its services as streaming options on the fourth-generation Apple TV, including Watch ABC, Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Jr, and Watch ESPN. MLB has also been a strong Apple content partner, with an advanced live streaming app being one of the key demos during the introduction of the fourth-generation Apple TV.

Tags: ESPN, Disney
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BlackBerry Vienna/Mercury: What’s the story so far?

Almost as soon as the BlackBerry Priv – the company’s first Android phone – launched in 2015, there were rumours circulating about another Android-powered smartphone. At the time it was code-named Vienna, which made complete sense following on from the Priv which was code-named Venice. 

Since then, the phone was referred to with code-name Rome, and more recently, Mercury. While naming is important to get a sense of this device’s story, it’s easy to get confused when there are three names being bandied around for a single phone. 

In true BlackBerry style, the Mercury looks to offer a physical keyboard, a uniquely BlackBerry offering when paired with the Android operating system.

Since the early “Vienna” days, there hasn’t been too much to go on in terms of rumours, but we’re slowly getting to grips with BlackBerry’s lineup for 2016/17. 

BlackBerry Vienna/Mercury: Display

Unlike classic BlackBerry handsets the screen won’t be square but adopt a more regular touchscreen aspect, according to leaked images. Venture Beat’s most recent report on the new BlackBerry phones suggests it won’t be the usual widescreen 16:9 ratio, but rather a 3:2 ratio display. In other words: get ready for some heavy letter-boxing on your videos. 

As well as having a slightly shorter display, it’s claimed to measure just 4.5-inches diagonally but still pack in a panel with full HD resolution. Given that 1080p looks great on full-size 5.5-inch screens, the smaller display on the Mercury should be very crisp. 

Mondo BlackBerry

BlackBerry Vienna/Mercury: Design

Unlike the Priv the Vienna isn’t likely to have a sliding display, instead looking like a candybar device following the design of the Leap. In a lot of ways, it looks like a stretched out BlackBerry Classic, with rounded metal edges.

Like traditional BlackBerry phones, and unlike the Priv, the Mercury also appears to have metal frets in between the four rows of keys on the physical keyboard. This helps space out the keys to make typing easier, as well as giving it a solid feel. Above the keys, below the display, there’s the traditional Android trio of capacitive buttons. 

According to the earliest mock-ups from CrackBerry it seemed like BlackBerry would release four colour variants: silver, grey, green and red. However, it’s been a long time since those, and the most recent leaked renders only appear to show a black/silver variant.

Those recent renders from both BlackBerry Central and Mondo BlackBerry show a device with what looks slight curves on the edges of the the screen to give it a seamless look and feel. The bottom edge looks to have a Type-C port in between two grilles. Presumably one of those is the microphone, while the other is a speaker.

The Mercury also has a fairly industrial looking top panel, above the screen, which looks very similar to the Passport Silver Edition. That means that, although it looks nicely curved around the edges and on on the bottom, the top is completely flat and angular. It will be interesting to see if this is the final design, and how it looks in real life. 

BlackBerry Vienna/Mercury: Hardware specs

The most recent report from Venture Beat states that the BlackBerry Mercury will be equipped with a mid-tier Snapdragon 625 processor, as well as 3GB RAM and 32GB storage. Of course, that isn’t confirmed yet, but if true it definitely won’t be the flagship of BlackBerry’s future product lineup. 

It’s also rumoured to feature a huge 3,400mAh battery. With those specs, the smaller screen and modern Android software, we’d be incredibly surprised if it couldn’t last two days on a single charge. There’s no word on whether or not there’s any Quick Charge support, but with a phone that big, we suggest that it would need something to fill it up quickly. 

BlackBerry Vienna/Mercury: Camera

Recent reports have claimed that we should expect to see an 18-megapixel rear camera in the Mercury, similar to the Priv which – although not incredible – was easily the best camera we’ve seen in a BlackBerry. The front camera is likely to be 8-megapixels. 

The mock-ups show an LED flash on the rear and also reveal a front-facing camera.

BlackBerry Vienna/Mercury: Release date and price

BlackBerry’s next QWERTY-equipped smartphone is due to land at some point in the first quarter of 2017. Prices are difficult to guess, early rumours suggested around $500 USD, which would suggest a price around the £400 mark in UK. It’s not a high-end device, so it’s unlikely to cost anywhere near the £580 price point of the Priv. 

Want to know more?

We’ll be keeping an eye on all the rumours surrounding the BlackBerry Mercury/Vienna/Rome (whatever you want to call it) and updating as we learn more. You can follow all the news and reviews on the BlackBerry hub!


Nexus Marlin vs Nexus Sailfish: What’s the rumoured difference?

Google tends to launch its Nexus devices towards the latter half of the year, normally around September/October.

This year’s models have been codenamed Marlin and Sailfish and despite being a couple of months away from hitting the shelves, rumours and leaks have been churning constantly.

This is how the Nexus Marlin currently compares to the Nexus Sailfish, based on the latest rumours.

Nexus Marlin vs Nexus Sailfish: Design

There has been very little leaked in regards to the next Nexuses designs, at least in comparison to what we appear to know about the specs.

The majority of the rumours point towards HTC manufacturing both however, which has led many to believe the HTC 10 will be a starting point for at least Marlin, which is rumoured to be the bigger and more powerful device.

We’d expect a full metal body on at least Marlin and a fingerprint sensor on both devices.

Nexus Marlin vs Nexus Sailfish: Display

As mentioned, the Nexus Marlin is said to be the bigger of the two devices being compared here. It is rumoured to be coming with a 5.5-inch display sporting a 2560 x 1440 resolution and AMOLED technology. This would deliver a pixel density of 534ppi.

The Nexus Sailfish is said to be slightly smaller at 5-inches with a lower resolution of 1920 x 1080. If true, the Sailfish would offer a lower pixel density of 440ppi, meaning it may not be the one to pick for those interested in VR and Daydream.

Nexus Marlin vs Nexus Sailfish: Camera

The Nexus Marlin is reported to be coming with a 12-megapixel rear camera, coupled with an 8-megapixel front facing camera. This would be the same resolutions as the Nexus 6P from last year, which delivered good camera results. Whether it will be exactly the same sensors however is currently unclear.

As yet, there have been no details on the Nexus Sailfish cameras. Given this is claimed to be the lower-specced device though, we would expect a similar difference between Marlin and Sailfish as there was between the 6P and the 5X.

The 5X offered the same rear snapper, but dropped the front camera’s resolution to 5-megapixels.

Nexus Marlin vs Nexus Sailfish: Hardware

The Nexus Marlin is rumoured to be coming with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chip, which is said to be a slightly enhanced version of the SD820. Reports suggest to expect 4GB of RAM, along with 32GB and 128GB storage options.

The Nexus Sailfish is reported to feature the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 under its hood, suggesting the Marlin will be slightly faster. The RAM is claimed to be the same at 4GB, but it sounds like there will only be a 32GB model for the Sailfish. Neither is likely to offer microSD as Nexus hasn’t ever in the past.

In terms of battery, the Nexus Marlin is rumoured to be coming with a 3450mAh capacity, while the Sailfish is said to be smaller at 2770mAh.

Nexus Marlin vs Nexus Sailfish: Software

It is no secret that the Nexus devices debut the latest version of Android, which this year is called Android Nougat. There are several developer builds of the software out now so we know plenty about it already, even though the final build won’t release until Marlin and Sailfish.

Both devices will offer exactly the same user experience, with vanilla Android 7.0 stealing the show. You can read all about Android Nougat and what to expect in our preview.

Nexus Marlin vs Nexus Sailfish: Conclusion

Details are still a little thin on the ground when it comes to the design of the next Nexus devices, but based on the leaks, it looks like the Nexus Marlin will be the more powerful of the two handsets.

Currently, assuming the leaks are accurate, Marlin trumps Sailfish in terms of display size and resolution, battery capacity, processor and storage capabilities. However, the big difference will be price. As with the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, we expect Marlin to challenge flagships, while Sailfish presents a slightly more affordable device.

This may all change nearer launch though and we will be updating this feature, as well as our next Nexus rumour round up as we hear more so keep checking back for the latest.


Disgraced US agent may be responsible for multiple Bitcoin thefts

A US secret service agent already convicted of stealing over $800,000 in Bitcoin during the Silk Road investigation is also suspected of lifting even more of the cryptocurrency from two other cases. According to the affidavit, the former agent is suspected of stealing roughly $700,000 from the secret service’s account months after the agency was urged to block his access. Shaun Bridges pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to almost six year years for the original theft.

“The US Secret Service only discovered once it was ordered by a court to pay a portion of the seizure back to affected claimants,” a team of prosecutors wrote in an accompanying motion. It didn’t get quite as dramatic as the previous investigation, which lead the Silk Road chief Ross Ulbricht to plan a murder, for which he’s now serving life.

Source: Reuters


Jesus is coming … to virtual reality

Producers have been fretting about how to do feature films in VR, because the format doesn’t lend itself to traditional Hollywood techniques. However, it’s about to be used on one of the best-known tales of all time: Jesus VR — the Story of Christ, slated to arrive in Christmas, 2016, according to Variety. The 360-degree, 4K film will work on all major VR platforms, including the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear and PlayStation VR. Produced by Autumn Products and VRWERX, it’ll tell the story of Christ’s life from baptism to crucifixion.

Film directors are used to controlling what viewers watch, constantly cutting between close-ups, swooping crane shots, special effects shots, etc. However, that doesn’t work well with 360-degree VR, because the total immersion makes scene changes jarring. The medium also makes you feel you’re in the scene, not just watching it. “I think that’s going to be the definition of how you tell a story: Are you an observer, or are you a participant?” art director Robert Stromberg recently told Engadget.

The filmmakers behind Jesus VR haven’t said how they’re approaching the story, but appear to be focused on the immersion aspect. A production still (top) shows that the producers are using multiple head-mounted Sony Alpha 7 cameras, with a Samsung Galaxy Note-equipped VR viewer.

That approach will let them cameraman “be” in scenes and should make for very high-resolution video, though it’ll require a lot of data post-processing to stitch everything together. “The viewers truly feel they are there with Jesus and his disciples,” director David Hansen said. “This is the most powerful story of all time and virtual reality is the perfect way to tell it.”

Source: AutumnVR, Variety

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