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17
Jul

Two more Chromebooks are ready to test Android apps


Nearly two months after Google confirmed the Play Store and more Android apps are coming to Chrome OS, it finally added support for the feature on some new hardware. The Acer Chromebook R11 and Chromebook Pixel have joined ASUS’ Chromebook Flip — where we recently gave Android apps a try — with support as long as owners switch their devices to the dev channel. Naturally, it’s all still early ahead of the real rollout later this year, but if you’re a developer or curious user trying to find out how it works for yourself, they might be a couple of laptops you already own.

17
Jul

Ben Heck tears down the legendary Nintendo PlayStation


We got a good, close look at the Nintendo PlayStation last year and even talked to Sony veteran Shuhei Yoshida about it, but have you ever wondered about everything inside the ill-fated game console? Ben Heckendorn, aka Ben Heck, is happy to show you. The homebrew gadget expert has conducted an extensive teardown of the cancelled system (the same one we saw, even) that shows exactly what it’s made of. While it’s evident that Sony had the largest role in the machine, this was very much a collaboration — you’ll find a mix of both Nintendo and Sony chips in this prototype, on top of the occasional third-party component.

Ben also suspects that this PlayStation wouldn’t have fared well even if Nintendo and Sony had put their differences aside. Although it would have had a much faster CD drive than the Sega CD (a whopping 2X!), it otherwise wouldn’t have been any more powerful than the cartridge-only Super Nintendo. That would have put it on par with Sega’s rival unit, or even slightly behind.

This isn’t the end of it. Ben believes he knows enough that he might have a shot at repairing the console (the CD drive wasn’t working when we saw it). If so, it raises the possibility that you’ll witness a fully functional device before long. You might not ever see it play native CD titles, but it’ll bring new life to an important part of video game history.

Source: The Ben Heck Show (YouTube)

17
Jul

The Pentagon is developing cyber warfare tools to fight ISIS


US Cyber Command chief Adm. Michael S. Rogers has created a dedicated unit tasked with developing a suite of malware and digital weapons that can be used to wage (a digital) war against ISIS. The Pentagon originally gave Cyber Command the daunting task of launching online attacks against the Islamic State earlier this year. Unfortunately, according to The Washington Post, Cybercom was ill-prepared for the role — besides lacking the tools to get the job done, it didn’t have the right people to pull it off. WP says the new team is called “Joint Task Force Ares,” and some of their possible missions include disrupting the terrorist group’s payment system and knocking their current chat app of choice offline.

The Pentagon could also use the task force if it will reduce the risk of civilian casualties — for instance, cutting off communications to a hideout instead of bombing it. However, while it will be in charge of offensive operations, it won’t be responsible for finding the military’s airstrike targets. At this point in time, Joint Task Force Ares will only deploying cyberattacks against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. A Pentagon official told the WP, though, that the unit will go global in the future.

Source: The Washington Post

17
Jul

Tesla hopes existing tech improves its semi-autonomous driving


Many have speculated that Tesla could have prevented the Autopilot-related Florida crash if its cars had lidar (visible light detection and ranging) to better understand the world around them, not just cameras and radar. However, Tesla might have a way to improve its semi-autonomous driving without grafting on new equipment. Elon Musk explains that his company hopes to adapt its existing radar systems to produce a lidar-like map of the surrounding environment with the help of “temporal smoothing” that compares object positions over time. The current hardware should produce a high-enough resolution for this to work, he adds. And unlike lidar, it can see through dust, rain and snow.

Musk doesn’t have a timetable for when this radar upgrade could happen, but he believes that it would produce at least “moderate” improvements in Autopilot (if not major ones) without requiring brand new hardware.

Tesla has a strong financial motivation to pursue this strategy, as you might guess. It’d have to spend a lot to add lidar to cars, not the least of which might be significant redesigns to accommodate the sensor tech. If this goes forward, though, it could be a big deal. It still wouldn’t make Autopilot foolproof, but it might mitigate (or even eliminate) a key weak point and make the hands-off system that much more trustworthy.

Working on using existing Tesla radar by itself (decoupled from camera) w temporal smoothing to create a coarse point cloud, like lidar

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 15, 2016

Source: Elon Musk (Twitter 1), (2), (3)

17
Jul

‘Pokémon Go’ expansion marred by a possible cyberattack


Good news! Pokémon Go is available in 26 more countries… if you get a chance to play, that is. Trainers can now grab the mobile game across a wider swath of European nations (such as the Netherlands and Sweden), but temporarily went down amid reports of a possible distributed denial of service attack. The internet collective PoodleCorp claims to have flooded Pokémon Go servers worldwide with enough traffic to effectively render them useless.

We’ve reached out to the developers at Niantic for its take on the claims and will let you know if it can shed light on the situation. However, it’s hard to know how much of this was due to the self-proclaimed attackers. As many players can tell you, Pokémon Go has had periodic issues since launch. Although it’s unlikely that numerous servers would fail on their own at the same time, there’s no firm evidence of a denial of service attack beyond the alleged perpetrators’ say-so.

PokemonGo #Offline #PoodleCorp

— PoodleCorp (@PoodleCorp) July 16, 2016

Via: Gizmodo

Source: Pokemon Go (Facebook), PoodleCorp (Twitter)

17
Jul

Exploring the limits of good taste with Xbox Design Lab


A gamepad is the part of a game console people have the most intimate relationship with. You’re holding it in your hands for hours on end, and you know it so well you can control its every function without even looking at it. When the action gets intense, your hands start to sweat from twiddling the thumbsticks. For plenty of people, it’s the first thing that comes to mind when they want to throw something out of rage over a cheap death. Microsoft wants to make that connection even deeper by handing you the keys to the factory with its aptly named Xbox Design Lab.

The folks in Redmond are following the well-worn path forged by Moto Maker, Nike’s iD shoe-customization web app and countless sites that let you make one-off game controllers. The value proposition is straightforward: For $80 — a $20 premium over the stock gamepad — you can create a personalized controller for your Xbox One. Back during E3, Microsoft said 8 million color combinations would be possible. In practice, though, I found that keeping my choices simple was the best way to design a gamepad that won’t embarrass me when company comes over.

The design process breaks down into seven steps: picking colors for the controller body, bumpers and triggers, D-pad, thumbsticks, face and menu buttons, and the back panel. The same rainbow of 15 colors is available for the body, back and D-pad. The thumbsticks have eight options, the face buttons have five, while the ancillary view and menu buttons have four.

On paper, that sounds like a lot of room for creativity, but once I got down and dirty designing my joypad, it was anything but. My coffee table is littered with black remotes and gamepads, and I was feeling nostalgic for the controller that shipped with the Xbox 360 at launch, so I opted for a “robot white” body.

From here, the choices become much more difficult because there isn’t enough granularity. Both thumbsticks have to be the same color. The view and menu buttons, too, and the face buttons all have to be the same style. The latter bit crushed my dreams of having X, Y and B in black with the A button a contrasting lime green.

In fact, the backside’s battery cover isn’t customizable on its own either, which is a shame considering how much space whatever color you choose takes up. What’s more, the installation at Microsoft’s E3 booth had custom Guide buttons on display. Unfortunately, those different-colored, illuminated jewels that take you to the main menu didn’t make their way to the final product.

After a few hours of fiddling around, making garish looking mock-ups and trading screenshots back and forth with my coworkers, I wound up with the understated beauty above. The key to making a good-looking controller is restraint. Sure, I could’ve made something with more colors, but I didn’t want my creation to look like someone vomited confetti on a gamepad. Hence, I opted for “photon blue” thumbsticks instead of “regal purple,” “oxide red” or “deep pink” and matched them to my back panel.

Next, I paired an “electric green” D-pad with matching shoulder buttons and triggers. That’s because, quite frankly, throwing a fourth color into the mix would’ve been a bad idea if I wanted to follow the rules of design. The shoulder buttons and triggers butt up against the back panel, so I had to pick something complementary there as well. Sorry, “lightning yellow,” maybe next time. To keep with my theme of restraint, I went with a white face, menu and view buttons.

For an extra $10, you can have a few words laser-etched into the spot between the D-pad and right thumbstick. Before you get your hopes up, though, be warned that expletives aren’t allowed. Basically, anything that would get your Gamertag flagged for vulgarity won’t work here. Had I realized that sooner, I could’ve saved myself 10 minutes.

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While I wish there were more options and granularity in the design process, I have to commend Microsoft for the 360-degree 3-D rendering of the gamepad. Every time you choose a different color, it appears instantly on the mockup, replete with realistic lighting, shadows and reflections. It’s really cool and helps ease any anxiety one might have over how their choices will look in real life.

Sure, $80 to $90 for a gamepad is steep, but compared with other online custom shops it’s actually cheap. Building a one-off pad from Evil Controllers offers greater customization, but there’s an upcharge for most colors and finishes every step of the way. A black matte grip for the sides of the controller is $15, while nondefault choices for the face range from $20 to $25. What starts as a $70 gamepad can cost more than $250 by the time you’re finished. On top of that, the static 2D design interface for Evil Controllers or The Controller Shop are no match for Microsoft’s interactive mockups.

And now, I wait. The order confirmation email says I should have my white, green and blue gamepad by September. Until then, I just need to be patient and use my Elite controller for Inside and repeat runs through Quantum Break. Hopefully I don’t throw it.

Source: Xbox Design Lab

17
Jul

A Nexus 5X from Project Fi is the best $199 Android phone you can get


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Sometimes it’s better to find the right deal than go straight to a “cheap” phone.

A few weeks ago, my mother’s scratched, cracked and generally destroyed Moto X 2014 finally gave up the ghost — the screen turned off, and it wasn’t coming back on again. Being that she bought it at a discount already, it wasn’t worth paying upwards of $150 to have the screen replaced. Instead, she sent me looking for the best phone for her around $200. It had to be relatively compact, have simple software she was familiar with and work on T-Mobile.

I thought about maybe what T-Mobile could offer in its prepaid store. I looked around eBay and deals sites for refurbished phones. I considered “budget” offerings like the Moto G4 and Honor 5X … and then I realized the best phone for the money was right under my nose: I could buy a Nexus 5X from Project Fi for the fantastic price of $199.

project-fi-nexus-5x-cart.jpg?itok=W3qUCb

At its original list price of $349, the Nexus 5X doesn’t make sense for too many people — it can get a little slow sometimes, the hardware isn’t top-notch and the speaker is weak. But when you cut that price by over 40% to $199, sold directly by Google brand new, the situation changes a bit.

The Nexus 5X offers the best $199 phone experience.

For $199 the Nexus 5X is a stunner. The external hardware isn’t too visually interesting, sure, but it’s built well and the screen is better than the price indicates. The speakers aren’t as good as the Nexus 6P, but they’re again better than this class of phone. The camera is slow, but the end results challenge flagship phones and leave other $199 models in the dust. Best of all (especially for my mother) is the clean and simple software experience, where it’s not loaded up with tons of carrier bloat and cruft that just gets in the way and becomes confusing. And I can rest assured she’ll get monthly security updates and platform version bumps for the next couple of years.

And not only is $199 an amazing price, Project Fi offers no-interest financing to make it even easier to buy. Just $8.29 per month for a great phone; $10.38 per month if you opt for the 32GB version.

Sure not everyone has a friend or family member with a Project Fi account to buy them a discounted Nexus 5X (or wants to sign up themselves, though I’d recommend you consider it), but if you have that option available I’m not sure how you can pick another phone for $199. When you’re looking at phones in this price category there will always be compromises aplenty, so it’s all about choosing the phone that does what you need — in this case the solid, affordable phone with a great camera and known software upgrade path wins. And my mom is loving her new Nexus 5X.

Nexus 5X

  • Nexus 5X review
  • 5 things to know about the Nexus 5X
  • Read the latest Nexus 5X news
  • Learn about Nexus Protect insurance
  • Learn about Project Fi
  • Join the Nexus 5X forums
  • Nexus 5X specs

Google
B&H Photo
Amazon

17
Jul

Mini review: Our quick verdict on the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active


Last week we reviewed (and accidentally damaged) Samsung’s newest rugged phone, the Galaxy S7 Active. Though we learned the hard way not to push the envelope with drop tests, we were impressed that the S7 is every bit as high-end as the regular S7. We say that because many of the rugged phones on the market make do with lesser specs. Here, though, you get the same great camera set up as on the standard Galaxy S7, along with fast internals and a capacious battery that’s actually bigger than on the original. And, despite, the fact that we cracked the screen, we were grateful that the phone at least worked normally afterward — not something we’d expect from most devices. All told, the main caveat isn’t that its screen isn’t crackproof: It’s that it costs a hefty $800, and is exclusive to AT&T. Focus to recommend this, then, you better be OK with that carrier, and probably have a serious case of butter fingers too.

17
Jul

24 hours with Fujifilm’s X-T2 mirrorless camera


The long-awaited Fujifilm X-T2 finally made its debut last week, bringing with it a completely revamped set of specs compared with its predecessor, the X-T1. One of the highlights of the new compact shooter is its 4K video support — a first for Fujifilm’s X-Series line of digital cameras. But there’s more to like here beyond the UHD (3,840 x 2,160) recording. Inside, the mirrorless X-T2 packs a 24.3-megapixel (APS-C) X-Trans CMOS III sensor, the same one found on the flagship X-Pro2. That’s complemented by the X-Processor Pro imaging chip, which the manufacturer says uses enhanced algorithms to help produce its most accurate autofocus system yet.

The X-T2’s AF is fast and precise, especially if you’re coming from an X-T1 or, dare we say it, even an X-Pro2. So far, I haven’t come across any subjects, still or moving, the camera couldn’t handle. That said, I won’t make any final judgements until I’ve tested it in low-light conditions and more challenging scenarios than a day out in New York City. Along with our review unit, Fujifilm sent an XF10-24mm Fujinon lens with optical image stabilization, which is the only glass we’ve been using on the X-T2.

Stay tuned though, as we’ll have a more in-depth story before the X-T2 hits stores in August. For now, here are some photos taken with Fujifilm’s latest mirrorless shooter.

To view our sample images in full resolution, click here.

17
Jul

‘Star Wars: Battlefront’ add-on will tie into ‘Rogue One’


EA and DICE are determined to wrap up Star Wars: Battlefront’s year of add-ons with a bang. The developers have used Star Wars Celebration to reveal that the fourth DLC pack will revolve around the Rogue One storyline. Rogue One: Scarif will let you play as rebel Jyn Erso or her Imperial nemesis, Director Krennic, as you fight for the original Death Star’s plans on the planet Scarif. While you’re not getting a look at actual gameplay just yet, EA vows that the add-on will be available in time for the movie’s mid-December debut. Season Pass holders will get to play two weeks early.

But what about the previously announced Death Star pack? You’re finally getting a good look at that, too. The new content will see you fighting both inside and outside of the giant space station (flight combat plays a much stronger role, clearly). And you can play as either the bounty hunter Bossk or Chewbacca — Han finally has his best friend at his side. The Death Star extras arrive in September, so you’ll definitely have something to play while you’re waiting for Jyn and company.

Via: GamesRadar

Source: EA

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