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How to make your yard smart

Ah, the joy of the yard. Sitting outside watching a movie in the summer is appealing enough, as is the idea of sitting in the car for your own private drive-in cinema.

Smart tech can also ensure your lawn is watered and mowed with no intervention from you though. You can keep cats off the plants automatically, with no more running round shouting “shoo”, but you can also control more stuff more easily.

Open the garage door with your smartphone, or set the lights to go on and off without even touching a switch are just a couple of possibilities. Here are a few gadgets to make your yard smart.

Hozelock Cloud Controller

British gardening brand Hozelock makes products available worldwide. The very latest of these is this unassuming looking timer which attaches to the garden faucet. At the other end you’ll put your lawn watering device or plant watering system.

It also connects wirelessly to the internet via a dongle on your router. This means that you can set it to water the plants at sunrise and sunset – apparently the times the plants like it the most – safe in the knowledge that it’ll adjust the timings automatically as the seasons change.

Even better, you can change the schedule remotely from your phone, or press a button on the controller for a few minutes’ extra water if you need to. Clever, efficient and reliable.

WORX Landroid robotic mower


It was only a matter of time after the advent of robotic vacuum cleaners that we should see a robot for the lawn.

This mower can be set to saunter around the garden to keep the grass at a proper length. Instead of a regular mower which you’d probably use a couple of times a month, this machine can cut the grass every day.

It’s quiet enough not to wake you and it can manage slopes, too, of up to 20 degrees.

Optoma HD28DSE projector


If you fancy home cinema in the garden, this projector is a good place to start. You need a projector of significant brightness for outdoors, at least 2,000 lumens. This model manages 3,000 lumens so no worries there.

With the right glasses, you can even show 3D movies. You’ll need to invest in something like the Elite Yard Master weatherproof screen (honestly, a sheet won’t do) and some speakers that will work outside.

Of course you’ll also need a decent Blu-ray player like the one below, to have something to watch. Please remember to avoid nights with a full moon, and take care not to annoy the neighbors.

Sony BDPS3700 streaming Blu-ray Disc Player


Sony’s player is light and compact enough to be carried out to the garden to plug into the projector. It works with DVDs which it can upscale to almost Full HD resolution.

Blu-ray discs, of course, will look glorious. Of course, you can use it indoors, too, and this player has Wi-Fi built-in so you can stream content from sources such as Neflix and Hulu Plus, as well as play from disc.

You can also play PlayStation 3 games though the TV, even if you don’t have a games console. The first Blu-ray players took an age to spring into life but this one is ready to go in a second or two.

ScareCrow Motion Activated Animal Deterrent


Need to keep cats from wandering over your plants? When the ScareCrow senses an animal in your garden, it makes a startling noise and releases a short burst of water, to tremendous effect.

Even if it misses a sprightly feline, it’ll give it enough of a surprise to make it wary of coming back. It works at day and night and protects up to a 1200 square foot area, though do remember to replace the battery every six months. It also works to deter foxes, dogs and other animals, too.

Open Sesame HNAOS01 garage opener

Open Sesame

Remote controls for the garage door are great, but maybe you don’t have enough of them. One for each of the cars would be nice, and maybe one to keep in the house so you can close the door again when you’re safely inside.

This system is an addition to the one that came with the garage. It’s a small Bluetooth box and a smartphone app so you can use your iPhone or Android handset to control the door.

Have as many remotes as you have cellphones! The device is password-protected so nobody can pair their phone to the system without knowing it (so be sure to change it from the default).

Honeywell ECONOSwitch 7-Day Solar Programmable Light Switch Timer


Program your lights to come on and off exactly as you’d like them with this timer. It’s simple to setup and very flexible with seven programs that can apply to a single day or repeat every day.

It works with LEDs and other bulbs and it is easy to install. You can set it so the lights go on and off at sunset and sunrise, which can save electricity in the long run, of course.

Want to turn the lights on right now? The program swtich also works as a regular on/off switch. Best of all, it automatically builds in daylight savings so you don’t need to reprogram twice a year!

The Honeywell Lyric Water Leak and Freeze Detector is an early warning system that notifies you on your smartphone when a leak is detected or the temperature drops below a temperature of your choice. By catching it early, you may be able to avoid expensive repairs and loss of treasured items. To find out more visit

This article was created in association with Honeywell.

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Samsung won me with VR but is losing me with updates

I want to get a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, I really do. I like my Galaxy S6 Edge, with its striking curved screen, and the new model improves on it in nearly every way. Most importantly, I like to dabble in virtual reality — I’m not ready to commit $700+ to a PC-based headset yet — and I can still get a new Gear VR headset free with the S7 Edge. Shamefully, though, my S6 Edge hasn’t received an update to Android 6.01 Marshmallow, leaving me high and dry with Lollipop. I certainly didn’t expect that with a $800 flagship phone, and I refuse to let it happen again.

Marshmallow first came out on Nexus devices in October 2015, and “Nougat,” aka Android 7.0, will probably arrive around the same time later this year. The new release is full of interesting features, including a multi-window mode, improved settings and, most importantly to me, a new VR mode. For those reasons, and also the fact that I like having the latest software, I would like to get it as soon as it arrives.

The S6 Edge came out in early 2015 (I have the international, unlocked version), and some folks have indeed received an Android 6.0 update. To find out if there was a problem with my phone or carrier, I contacted the company’s support line in France, and was told that the release had not rolled out to me yet. So what’s the delay? Some users have reported problems with the fingerprint scanner and passwords after updating, along with slowness and battery issues. If that’s accurate, then Samsung may have decided to work on Marshmallow before releasing it widely.

Does my phone still work with Lollipop? Of course, but that’s not the point. Marshmallow brings a more stylish UI, a memory manager that my phone desperately needs, an improved “do not disturb” function (which I desperately need), per-app battery optimization and more. Also, as someone who likes to have the latest software (and, since I write about it, I kind of need it), I’d really rather not wait for it.

To reiterate, I really like the Galaxy S6 Edge and Gear VR. Samsung wisely partnered with Oculus, and the Gear VR is easily the best mobile virtual reality headset out there. As I mentioned in my mini-review of the original Gear VR Innovator Edition, I love the potential of VR filmmaking (even if creators haven’t quite cracked it yet), and the headset-and-phone combo gives me a way to view content. That includes games like Land’s End and interactive VR films including The Martian VR Experience. In addition, Samsung has created a VR version of its web browser that allows you to see 360-degree videos and other content.

I don’t want to sacrifice VR for the latest updates, but what if I can have both? The best way to make sure you’ve always got the latest Android release is to get a Nexus phone. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a VR option for Nexus that’s even close to as good as what Samsung has — at least, until Android Nougat came along.

For Nougat, Google has created a whole new VR platform called Daydream, and a VR mode with improved performance. It also created a reference headset that looks a lot like the Gear VR, but includes a motion-sensitive remote that resembles the controllers for the Vive and Oculus Rift. Its VR tech will only work on “Daydream-approved” smartphones, which will presumably include the company’s own upcoming Nexus models.

If things go as planned, Google’s VR should be on par with Samsung’s Galaxy S7/Note and Gear VR combination. There is a risk it’ll take Google a while to get to the same level as Samsung, which has a big head start and Oculus behind it. However, Google says that HTC, ZTE, Huawei, LG and, yes, Samsung have Daydream-ready phones in the works, and it’s partnering with HBO, Ubisoft, the NBA and others for content.

Until a few months ago, I was ready to get a Galaxy S7 Edge and the latest Gear VR headset.

This new information has created quite a conundrum for me. Until a few months ago, I was ready to get a Galaxy S7 Edge and the latest Gear VR headset. Now I’ve decided to wait until the fall, when the first Daydream-compliant smartphones and headsets arrive. I’ll continue to use my S6 Edge and Gear VR, and hopefully it’ll get the Marshmallow update before Nougat arrives.

I doubt my own experience is unique. Anyone who drops nearly a grand on a smartphone will want to wring the maximum utility out of it. Samsung delivered a great design, great screen and lots of power with the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, and the Gear VR gave users another good reason to consider it. With the discouraging delays to Marshmallow on my S6 Edge, however, I’ve lost confidence in Samsung’s ability to keep its latest model up to date. And once Daydream comes along, it’ll have lost one of the best advantages it had in the Android market.


FBI: Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be charged over private emails

Days after presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton spent a few hours speaking with FBI investigators about her emails, director James Comey provided an update. Comey said that while Clinton was “extremely careless” with her use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State, the FBI found no evidence that she was trying to break the law by doing so. The director went on to explain that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring charges against Clinton for how she and her team handled those messages.

“Although there is evidence of potential violations regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” Comey said.

Over the weekend, Clinton noted that she was happy to answer any further questions the FBI had on the matter, and that she’d been doing so for over a year. During that time, the US government has been investigating Clinton’s handling of government emails, releasing batches of messages turned up during the investigation. Comey reiterated today something we already knew: some of the messages contained classified information. Clinton has maintained that those messages were not marked as such when she sent of received them.

The FBI director also explained that the bureau found no evidence that Clinton’s personal email server was hacked, but he didn’t rule out the possibility of unauthorized access. He noted that “this investigation was done honestly, competently and independently,” as a means of addressing criticism that the FBI will most certainly face for not recommending charges.

Of course, even though the FBI has concluded its investigation, that doesn’t mean that the ordeal is over. This will likely remain a hot top until the election as presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Donald Trump has been critical of Clinton’s email practices throughout his campaign. After the FBI announcement today, Trump tweeted “the system is rigged” and “as usual, bad judgement.” We’ll likely hear from both Clinton and Trump on the matter later today as both candidates have campaign stops scheduled in North Carolina.

Source: CNBC


Microsoft launches Skype Meetings, a group video chat tool

Microsoft has unveiled a free HD Skype tool for small business users called Skype Meetings. It runs on a browser and will let you meet with up to 10 people for the first 60 days, and a maximum of three after that. Users can also share screens and PowerPoint presentations, and the organizer can wield a virtual “laser pointer” or mute users. Such features are already available with Skye Business, but that app requires a paid Office 365 subscription. With Skype Meetings, however, anyone with a link can join a chat.

Microsoft’s regular (free) Skype product already allows group video chat with up to 25 folks, whether on PC or mobile. There’s also new competition via Sean Parker’s Airtime and Houseparty from Meerkat, though those apps are more aimed at social, not business users. Nevertheless, those products (along with existing ones like Google Hangouts) may have prodded Redmond to release the browser app.

While Microsoft already has a web-based version of Skype in beta, it lacks the collaboration tools from Skype Meetings. That means it’s technically giving its business users the first non-beta browser version of Skype. Not surprisingly, Microsoft is using the new tool to entice users to Office 365. It points out that with Skype Business you can “conduct large group meetings for up to 250 people … and initiate an IM, audio or video conversation from within apps like Outlook, Word and PowerPoint.”


The best fan

By Seamus Bellamy

This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a buyer’s guide to the best things for your home. Read the full article here.

After close to 60 hours of fan research, nearly a week testing products in an overheated house, and nine hours measuring air-blowing output with equipment from the HVAC industry, we found that the Seville Classics UltraSlimLine 40″ Tower Fan was the best fan for most people. The Seville is a well-built tower fan with a number of convenient features. It’s also the most powerful fan we tested.

How we tested

Using a handheld digital anemometer and decibel meter we charted the CFM and noise generated by each fan in our test group. Photo: Seamus Bellamy

We used a handheld digital anemometer to measure each fan’s cubic feet per minute (CFM) of airflow, which is a standard unit of measurement used by HVAC specialists, among others, to determine the volume of air moving through a space like a duct system. I combined the anemometer data with qualitative observations of whether I could still feel any wind.

We decided very early on in our process that we didn’t want to fall down a science hole on this guide, but rather, figure out which fans were qualitatively the best for most people. So we intentionally ignored factors such as the different sizes of the fans and velocity estimates. That said, we needed a metric to back up what I felt from each piece of hardware we tested. Even in an uncontrolled room where the fans vary in size, a higher or lower CFM reading could help to define the sensation I experienced while sitting in front of the machine.

I also looked at how much energy each fan used over the space of a month, as well as whether each device drew any power while switched off. For a real-world test, I spent five days and six nights living with all of the fans in my test group to see how they handled themselves in the heat. I took note of how easy the fan was to control, how wide an arc it could rotate in while oscillating, how loud each one was, what the quality of the noise was like, and whether the breeze from each fan was cooling and pleasant.

Finally, I checked the safety of each fan. Did its operating temperature get dangerously hot after running all day? Were the gaps in the grate big enough for fingers to fit through and touch the blades?

The best room fan

The Seville proved to be the most powerful fan out of everything we tested. Photo: Marshall Troy

The Seville Classics UltraSlimLine 40″ Tower Fan simply circulated more air than any other fan we tested, as measured both in a controlled test environment and in a home’s living room and bedroom. It has a compact 11.15 by 11.6 by 40.1-inch footprint and a stable design that was the hardest to tip over of any we tried. It comes with the best remote control in our test group, a 7.5-hour sleep timer, and an oscillating mode that makes it easy to share the breezy wealth with your sweaty, overheated friends and family. It wasn’t the quietest fan we found—it put out 67 decibels on its highest setting—but it was quieter than an extremely pricey competitor. It’s also difficult to take apart to clean internally, but that was a problem with every tower fan we tested.


The Vornado 660 can’t oscillate, but it can move a respectable amount of air. Photo: Marshall Troy

If our main pick is unavailable when the warm weather hits, pick up the Vornado 660 Whole Room Air Circulator. It can’t move as much air as the Seville Classics UltraSlimLine fan (in our tests, the Vornado produced a CFM reading of 406 compared with the Seville’s 550). It’s also significantly louder, has a larger footprint (15 by 11.75 by 13.5 inches versus 11.15 by 11.6 by 40.1 inches), can’t oscillate, and doesn’t come with a sleep timer or a remote. But it does have easy-to-use controls, a robust build quality, and an industry-leading five-year warranty.

Best personal fan

Powerful, a little loud, but capable of oscillating, the Lil’ Blizzard is a great little fan for a small amount of money. Photo: Marshall Troy

If you’re looking for a cheap, powerful fan to use at your desk, the Holmes Lil’ Blizzard 8-Inch Oscillating Table Fan is a great choice. When running on its highest setting, the Lil’ Blizzard produces 70 decibels of sound, which admittedly is a little loud. But, as its name suggests, the fan can oscillate or be locked into place. It comes equipped with two different speed settings, is easy to clean and—with its small 8.1 by 8.9 by 11.8-inch footprint—won’t hog all of the space on your desktop or side table. And though it might not be the most powerful personal-size fan that we tested (we’ll get to that in a minute,) the Holmes Lil’ Blizzard is a capable fan at a great price.

Best of both worlds

The AM06 is a compact, but powerful and feature-packed fan to consider if money’s no object. Photo: Marshall Troy

The very best desk fan we found is the Dyson Air Multiplier AM06 (and, at its price, you’d hope it would be the best). During our testing, the AM06 moved more air than any other desk fan. On its highest settings, this 4-pound, 5.8 by 12 by 19.7-inch fan could put out as much air as some of the room fans we tested—and it often worked as well as they did, despite being much smaller. The AM06 can oscillate in a 45-degree arc and it comes equipped with more speeds than any other fan—10—to help you dial in exactly the right level of air. Though it isn’t the quietest piece of hardware we tested, the noise it generates is of such an even quality that it helped me, a legendarily light sleeper and insomniac, drift off to a restful slumber. Other design details, like a sleep timer and a nicely shaped, small remote that stores on the side of the fan via a magnet, add up to a product that feels very polished. Last, it’s just handsome—that may sound superficial, but when you’re looking at something for three months straight, it’s nice to find it attractive. If you’re looking for a small fan that can fulfill multiple roles in your home (and you can afford to pay its current price of about $250), check it out.

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


White House launches a data initiative to reduce prison numbers

Just before the holiday weekend last week, the White House launched the Data-Driven Justice Initiative (DDJ), a new effort that will use wider data access to reduce prison populations. The US has been widely criticized for its tendency to over-incarcerate citizens — it accounts for 25 percent of the world’s prison numbers, even though it houses only 5 percent of the world’s population. And all of that comes at a cost: 11 million people are processed through America’s local jails every year, the White House says, costing around $22 billion. As part of the DDJ, 67 municipalities across the country are banding together to use data-powered strategies to keep low-level offenders out of jails, primarily by pushing them towards mental health and addiction help.

The White House is also calling on tech companies for help. Amazon’s Web Services group (the cloud computing folks) will convene a consortium to bring together data scientists, researchers and other technologists to come up with solutions for DDJ cities and states. Participants currently include the likes of Palantir, which is widely known for its data analytics, Motorola and Code for America.

As part of the DDJ, communities will also equip their police and first responders with strategies to de-escalate crisis situations to push people towards social programs and services. They’ll also use data to identify low-risk offenders in prison and figure out ways to get them released early. Similar strategies have been adopted by some US communities to resounding success, Wired reports. Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, for example, used data strategies to find low-risk offenders who could be released early. They were able to lower their prison population by 40 percent with jumps in reported crime.

Via: Wired

Source: The White House


Comcast will put Netflix on its cable set-top boxes

Comcast and Netflix have usually been bitter enemies, to put it mildly, but it looks like they can find some common ground. The two have announced a deal that will put Netflix on Comcast’s X1 set-top boxes sometime later in 2016. The terms of the pact aren’t public, but Recode tipsters understand that it’ll be similar to the arrangements Netflix has been making with other cable providers for years. You’ll hear more closer to launch, the companies say.

However the partnership shakes out, there are strong incentives on both sides to make it work. Netflix would undoubtedly appreciate the extra business from customers who don’t already have access through their smart TVs or media hubs. For Comcast, however, the deal may be more cynical. The cable giant is under pressure for strategies that are allegedly anti-competitive, such as strong-arming Netflix into a network peering deal and exempting its own streaming service from data caps. Including Netflix on the X1 would throw a bone to regulators looking for evidence that Comcast is stifling Netflix and any other service that poses a threat to its cable TV business. Also, it’s a simple admission of reality — while Comcast doesn’t like that Netflix lures some customers away, it can’t pretend that the hugely popular internet video provider will disappear.

Source: Recode


BlackBerry Classic Discontinued to Pave the Way for ‘State of the Art Devices’

BlackBerry has announced that it will no longer manufacture the BlackBerry Classic, meaning that the touchscreen smartphone will no longer be available once remaining stock is depleted through official sales channels.

For many years, Classic (and its BBOS predecessors) has been in our portfolio. It has been an incredible workhorse device for customers, exceeding all expectations. But, the Classic has long surpassed the average lifespan for a smartphone in today’s market. We are ready for this change so we can give our customers something better – entrenched in our legacy in security and pedigree in making the most productive smartphones.

BlackBerry Classic, equipped with a physical QWERTY keyboard, was unveiled in December 2014 with a design similar to the once-popular BlackBerry Bold smartphone series released between May 2008 and November 2011. BlackBerry’s dominance has shrunk considerably since then, however, with iOS and Android smartphones now combining for some 98 percent of worldwide market share.

BlackBerry said it will be updating its smartphone lineup with “state of the art devices,” presumably with an Android focus like the BlackBerry Priv. The company will continue to support BlackBerry 10 with software updates, including version 10.3.3 due next month and a second update to follow next year. The BlackBerry 10-powered BlackBerry Passport and BlackBerry Leap remain available for sale.

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Apple Seeds Second Beta of iOS 10 to Developers

Apple today released the second beta of iOS 10 to developers for testing purposes, just over three weeks after first unveiling the new operating system at its 2016 Worldwide Developers Conference.

Today’s update is available as an over-the-air download to those who installed the first beta or the beta configuration profile and it’s available for direct download through the Apple Developer Center. The update is accompanied by a new beta of Xcode 8.

iOS 10 is a major iOS update with a host of new features and design tweaks, including a new Lock screen experience with 3D Touch-enabled notifications, a more easily accessible camera, a redesigned Control Center, and a new widgets screen.

Messages has been entirely overhauled with features that include background animations, bubble effects, Digital Touch, handwritten notes, Tapback replies, predictive emoji, and its own dedicated App Store, and Photos has gained impressive facial and object recognition capabilities along with a Memories feature for rediscovering forgotten moments.

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There’s a new Home app and apps like Maps and Apple Music have been redesigned, plus there are hundreds of smaller tweaks and changes in the operating system.

iOS 10 is only available to developers at the current time, but Apple plans to introduce a public iOS 10 beta in July before the official fall release of the software.

For full details on iOS 10, make sure to check out our iOS 10 roundup.

Related Roundup: iOS 10
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Apple Seeds Second Beta of tvOS 10 to Developers

Apple today provided developers with the second beta of tvOS 10, the next-generation operating system designed to run on the fourth-generation Apple TV. tvOS 10 beta 2 comes three weeks after the operating system was first shown off at Apple’s 2016 Worldwide Developers Conference

tvOS betas are more difficult to install than beta updates for iOS and OS X. Installing the tvOS beta requires the Apple TV to be connected to a computer with a USB-C to USB-A cable, with the software downloaded and installed via iTunes or Apple Configurator. Once a beta profile has been installed on the device through iTunes, new beta releases will be available over the air.

tvOS 10 builds on the features initially introduced in tvOS, bringing expanded Siri capabilities with topic-based search, Live Tune-In for automatically accessing live channels, and options for managing HomeKit accessories.

Single-Sign On allows users to sign in and authenticate cable credentials just once instead of requiring authentication in all cable-supported apps, games are now able to require controllers, and there are new features for Photos and Music.

A dark mode offers a better visual experience for darker rooms, universal apps are automatically downloaded, and there’s a new Apple TV remote for iOS devices that mirrors the Siri Remote.

For a full overview of all of the new features in tvOS 10, make sure to check out our tvOS 10 roundup.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 10
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