Skip to content

Archive for


BlackBerry Hamburg/Neon: Release date, specs and everything we know so far

Blackberry is expected to launch three phones over the next year. One of them is the Argon and, by the sounds of it, this will be the company’s 2016 flagship phone. It’s a big, all touchscreen device with a powerful processor, support for the latest Quick Charge and Type-C connectivity.

Then there’s the Mercury; the next physical keyboard-equipped Android phone with a design reminiscent of the Passport and Classic.

Before both of those, however, there’s the Neon. This is expected to be another entirely touchscreen-based phone which fits neatly in to the high/mid end of the market next to phones from the likes of OnePlus, Alcatel and Oppo.  

BlackBerry Hamburg/Neon: Design

All recent speculation suggests the BlackBerry Neon will essentially be a rebadged Alcatel Idol 4. Rumours have suggested for some time that BlackBerry has signed up TCL Communication to build at least some of its next phones. The same manufacturer is responsible for all of the Alcatel-branded phones available to buy currently, as well as the Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 and Ultra 7. 

A recent Neon leak showing off the rear panel showed what looked very much like the Idol 4 from the back. In fact, the only major noticeable difference between the Idol 4 and the device in the leak was the brand logo. Where one has Alcatel’s stamp, the other has BlackBerry’s. Otherwise it is virtually the same device. 

The camera and LED placement in the top left corner is identical, as is the design of the metal frame around the edges, which includes the rear-facing speaker grilles on the top and bottom. With the Alcatel phone, this is a feature designed to enable clear stereo sound regardless of whether your phone is placed face-down or face-up. If it’s a genuine press render, we’re likely to see that in the BlackBerry too. 

It could be a soft-touch plastic back rather than glass, but we won’t know for sure until the Waterloo-based company announces it officially. 

BlackBerry Hamburg/Neon: Display

Unlike the BlackBerry Priv and what’s rumoured for the upcoming all-touch “Argon” flagship, which both have 5.5-inch Quad HD screens, the Neon is expected to have a 5.2-inch full HD 1080 x 1920 resolution display.

With this being the mid-range phone in the lineup, it’s unlikely that it’ll feature the curved edges like the Priv or Galaxy S7 Edge, but may still have the ever-popular 2.5D glass with subtle curves around the outside, near the frame. 

BlackBerry Hamburg/Neon: Camera

Blackberry is set to place a mammoth 21-megapixel camera on the back of the rumoured Argon, so it makes sense that the Neon’s snapper is a little less pixel-dense. Leaked benchmarks have pointed towards a 12-megapixel camera, suggesting that it won’t be the same sensor/lens makeup as the Idol 4 from Alcatel. The same benchmarks also suggest we’ll be able to record 4K resolution video with the camera. 

Selfies with the Neo should be just fine, with a 7-megapixel camera with 1080p video rumoured for the front panel of the all-touch mid-ranger. 

BlackBerry Hamburg/Neon: Hardware specs

As spec-lists go, the Neon’s so far looks decidedly mid-range. Claimed leaked benchmark results have suggested that – as well as the full HD screen – we’ll see a Snapdragon 615/617 processor paired with 3GB RAM. While this should mean performance is generally smooth and stutter free, the power won’t exactly set the world alight.

So far, phones with the mid-tier Snapdragon processor have been mostly fine, but are noticeably slower at loading games than more high-end devices. 

Along with the 3GB RAM, it’s expected that we’ll see 16GB built-in storage, which hints towards the very real possibility that we’ll get expandable storage via microSD card and hopefully Android Marshmallow’s adoptable storage feature too. 

Along with all of that, the 2,610mAh battery should get through a day’s use on a full charge and – with Quick Charge 2.0 support – will be speedily refillable. 

BlackBerry Hamburg/Neon: Release date and price 

We’re not sure exactly when the Hamburg/Neon is being released, but the device did recently show up in the FCC’s listings, suggesting that it will be announced at some point soon. A recently published roadmap from Venture Beat for the next 12 months suggests the Neon will be the first device of three coming between now and first quarter of 2017. In fact, it’s expected at some point in the next couple of months. 

As far as pricing goes, it’s looking likely to be in and around the $300-$400 USD price range, which should mean a sub-£300 price point in the UK. If we had to speculate, we’d probably predict it’ll cost around £250, placing it right in Moto G4 Plus and OnePlus 2 territory. 

Want to know more?

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


Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Apple iPhone 6S Plus: What’s the rumoured difference?

Samsung will be announcing its next Galaxy Note device on 2 August at an event in New York. By default, the new smartphone should be called the Note 6, but Samsung has said it will be jumping a digit in order to align the Note with its current 2016 flagships.

Its debut might still be a few days away, but the Galaxy Note 7 has been the subject of plenty of rumours over the last few months. With that in mind, we have put its rumoured specs up against Apple’s iPhone 6S Plus to see how the two phablets compare. 

We will of course update this feature as the official specs are announced for the Note 7, but for now, here is how it differs from Apple’s device, based on the speculation.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Apple iPhone 6S Plus: Design

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is reported to be coming with a design similar to that of Samsung’s Galaxy S7 edge but with the added advantage of the built-in S Pen. Based on the leaked images, you can expect a beautiful device sporting a metal build, tempered glass rear and a dual-edged display.

It has been claimed that the Note 7 will measure 153.5mm x 73.9mm x 7.9mm and that it will be IP68 water and dust resistant. A fingerprint sensor is expected on the front, along with an iris scanner and it looks like you’ll find the S Pen tucked in the bottom right.

The Apple iPhone 6S Plus isn’t just reported to offer a lovely design, it does, featuring a fabulous all metal construction. Measuring 158.1 x 77.9 x 7.3mm and weighing 192g, Apple’s phablet looks like it will be slimmer than the Note 7, but larger in terms of overall footprint.

It too has a fingerprint sensor on the front in the form of Touch ID but there is no iris scanner or any kind of official waterproof rating and it doesn’t come with its own stylus either.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Apple iPhone 6S Plus: Display

The Samsung Galaxy Note series has featured a 5.7-inch display in the past. It’s been suggested the Galaxy Note 7 may increase this to 5.8-inches but other reports have said it will stick to the typical 5.7-inches. Either way, it looks like it will be have a curved edges like the S7 edge, as we mentioned previously.

The display technology is reported to remain as Super AMOLED and the resolution of the Note 7 is rumoured to stay at Quad HD, like recent Note devices. If the size stays at 5.7-inches and the other display rumours are accurate, the Note 7’s pixel density should be 515ppi, while a 5.8-inch display would see a drop to 506ppi.

The Apple iPhone 6S Plus has a 5.5-inch display, making it smaller than what is expected for the Note 7, despite possibly being a larger device. It also has a lower resolution than what is expected for the Note 7, with Apple choosing Full HD for a pixel density of 401ppi, meaning the Note 7 should offer sharper images. That said, the iPhone 6S Plus has a pressure sensitive display, allowing for different features based on the force with which you press.

Apple opts for an LCD IPS display for the iPhone 6S Plus. LCD tends to deliver more realistic colours than AMOLED but they can lack the punch and vibrancy found in OLED displays. Samsung’s Note devices have been praised for their displays in the past, but so have Apple’s devices, so it’s worth remembering numbers aren’t everything.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Apple iPhone 6S Plus: Cameras

It is thought the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 will come with the same cameras as the S7 edge and S7 smartphones, both of which deliver excellent results. If this is the case, the Note 7 should feature a 12-megapixel rear snapper, coupled with a 5-megapixel front-facing shooter. 

Both sensors have an aperture of f/1.7 in order to help them excel in low light conditions so if the rumours are accurate, it’s looking good for the Note 7. It is also rumoured the Note 7 might feature a new technology called Smart Glow, which is a ring of light surrounding the rear camera that lights up to indicate missed calls and messages.

The Apple iPhone 6S Plus also has a 12-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel front camera. The aperture is f/2.2 for both cameras and OIS is on board the rear, while a Retina Flash is featured on the front.

Like Samsung’s latest cameras, Apple’s iPhone 6S Plus and iPhone 6S camera capabilities have been highly praised so while the two devices being compared here will have different ways of doing things and will be better at different things, they should both deliver great end results.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Apple iPhone 6S Plus: Hardware

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is expected to arrive with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800-series chip, either the SD823 or the SD821, or an Exynos processor, depending on the region. Rumour has it there will be 6GB of RAM on board, along with 64GB of storage and microSD expansion.

The Note 7 is also claimed to be coming with USB Type-C for faster charging and data transfer, a feature that both the S7 and S7 edge left off their spec sheets. The battery capacity for the Note 7 has been rumoured at 4000mAh, 4200mAh and 3600mAh, so it is currently unclear which it might include.

The Apple iPhone 6S Plus features the Cupertino company’s latest chip – the A9 – with an embedded M9 motion coprocessor. It has 2GB of RAM and it is available in 16GB, 64GB and 128GB storage options, none of which offer microSD expansion.

Battery capacity for the iPhone 6S Plus is said to be 2750mAh, which is quite a bit smaller than the reported capacity for the Note 7, even if the lowest suggestion is what appears in the device.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Apple iPhone 6S Plus: Software

The Galaxy Note 7 will arrive on Android Marshmallow with Samsung’s TouchWiz interface over the top. The iPhone 6S Plus runs on Apple’s iOS 9 software.

Some will prefer the Android OS, while others like iOS. This really comes down to personal preference. The software overlay on the Note 7 will mean there will be some app duplication that wouldn’t be there on raw Android, but you’ll also no doubt get specific features relating to the S Pen, which will be handy for productivity.

Apple’s iOS is a pretty simple and clean interface that’s nice and easy to use, but it offers less customisation than you’ll find on Android devices, and of course, there is no S Pen functionality or features.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Apple iPhone 6S Plus: Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and the Apple iPhone 6S Plus both have plenty going for them, especially in terms of design if the rumours for the Note 7 are true.

The Note 7 will probably have more powerful hardware and the S Pen will be the deal breaker for some, but it’s worth remembering the iPhone 6S Plus is almost a year old and it has already proved itself when it comes to camera and its ability to perform.

As half of this feature is based on speculation, we will be updating it when the official Note 7 specs are released, as well as when we have reviewed it to see how it compares to the iPhone 6S Plus in the real world.

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Release date, rumours and everything you need to know
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Galaxy Note 5 vs Galaxy Note 4: What’s the rumoured difference?
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Galaxy S7 edge vs Galaxy S7: What’s the rumoured difference?
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 7 in pictures: Photos, renders and leaks galore 
  • Apple iPhone 6S Plus review

NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1060 gives you gaming power on a budget

After debuting the fastest high-end and mid-range video cards ever seen, the GTX 1080 and 1070, we expected a lot from NVIDIA’s new lower-tier entry, the $249 GeForce GTX 1060. And the stakes were raised even higher after AMD launched the Radeon RX 480, a $200 GPU that’s fast enough to power VR headsets (and manage some decent 1440p gaming). NVIDIA claims the GTX 1060 is even faster than the GTX 980, its premium video card from 2014. That says quite a bit about how far we’ve come in the GPU world: You no longer have to break the bank for a decent amount of gaming muscle.

As with the GTX 1080 and 1070, I tested the slightly more expensive ($299) Founders Edition of the GTX 1060. While the previous two cards looked practically identical — they’re both beefy 10.5-inch-long dual-slot GPUs — the GTX 1060 is a bit shorter at 9.8 inches. They all share the same elaborate metallic case and fan design, though, along with a premium-feeling build quality. On the back, there are three DisplayPort slots, an HDMI port and a DVI connection.

The GeForce GTX 1060 features clock speeds between 1.5GHz and 1.7GHz (in boost mode), just like the GTX 1070, and there’s also 6GB of GDDR5 RAM. Because of its slightly shorter frame, and the fact that it only needs a 6-pin power connector, the GTX 1060 might be a useful upgrade for people with tight cases and less capable power supplies. If you’re really in that spot, though, maybe just hold out until you can revamp your entire system.

3DMark (Firestrike) 3DMark 11
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 Standard 10,890 / Extreme 5,715/ Ultra 2,953 X5,698
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Standard 13,918/ Extreme 7,703/ Ultra 4,110 X7,778
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Standard 15,859/ Extreme 9,316/ Ultra 5,021 X9,423
AMD R9 Fury X Standard 13,337/ Extreme 7,249/ Ultra 3,899 X,6457
AMD Radeon RX 480 Standard 10,279/ Extreme 5,146/ Ultra 2,688 X4,588

Now on to those benchmarks: The GTX 1060 performed pretty much as I expected on my system (which consists of a 4GHz Core i7-4790K CPU, 16GB of 2400Mz DDR3 RAM and a 512GB Crucial MX100 SSD on an ASUS Z97-A motherboard). It’s noticeably slower than the 1070, and slightly faster than the AMD RX 480 with 8GB of RAM. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a GTX 980 that I could use to directly test NVIDIA’s claims about the 1060 being faster, but 3DMark comparisons against similarly specced systems showed that the cards were about as fast.

4K benchmarks

Witcher 3 Hitman Doom
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 24 23 29
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 38 35 48
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 43 48 N/A
AMD R9 Fury X 35 38 N/A
AMD Radeon RX 480 20 25 35

Average frames-per-second performance in 4K with all graphics set to maximum and NVIDIA HairWorks turned off.

Unsurprisingly, the GTX 1060 isn’t much of a 4K contender. That’s a resolution that even the GTX 1070 struggled with, and honestly I wouldn’t even want to run it on the 1080. Still, it’s worth comparing the GTX 1060’s performance (if only to future-proof our benchmarks a bit). Once again, it’s slightly faster than the RX 480, but that’s kind of a moot point, since both cards delivered unplayable performance.

1440p benchmarks

Witcher 3 Hitman Doom Overwatch
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 44 44 58 60
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 60 60 55-65 60
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 N/A N/A N/A 60
AMD R9 Fury X N/A 70 N/A 60
AMD Radeon RX 480 43 45 58 60

Average frames-per-second performance in 1440p with all graphics set to maximum and NVIDIA HairWorks turned off.

When it comes to 1440p (2,560 by 1,440 pixels), my preferred gaming resolution, the 1060 was about twice as fast as it was in 4K. In some games, like Doom and Overwatch, it even managed to reach 60 frames per second, which is the gold standard for smooth performance. It was about on par with the RX 480, which came as a surprise given the 1060’s slight 3DMark lead.

Naturally, the GTX 1060 had no problems reaching 60 fps and beyond at 1080p in just about every game I threw at it. Given the amount of power it holds, that’s no surprise. It also delivered a smooth VR experience with both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. There were no signs of slowdown either as I flew around space in Eve: Valkyrie or had shootouts in Hover Junkers.

While the 1060 generally outpaced AMD’s $240 RX 480 (8GB RAM version), it would likely perform similarly against the $200 RX 480 (4GB RAM) variant. Benchmarks comparing the 4GB and 8GB RAM versions of AMD’s card show very little difference between the two. So if you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, the RX 480 is still your best bet. You can also add in another RX 480 down the line for even more performance, whereas NVIDIA has removed its multi-card technology (SLI) from the GTX 1060 entirely.

And if the RX 480 doesn’t cut it for you, it’s probably worth saving up and getting a GTX 1070 instead of NVIDIA’s budget GPU. GTX 1070 cards retail for around $379, and they’ll offer significantly better performance than the GTX 1060. The 1070 also supports SLI, so you can throw in another card in a year or two as games become more demanding.

Overall, the GTX 1060 is exactly what NVIDIA needed to compete against AMD’s revolutionary RX 480. But its pricing makes it a tough sell, since the 480 is a better deal and NVIDIA’s own GTX 1070 isn’t that much more expensive. Once GTX 1060 cards come down in price, though, they’ll become much more compelling.


Amateur diving data could help climate change studies

Recreational divers could play a significant part in studying the effects of climate change on oceans thanks to the decompression computers worn by many SCUBA enthusiasts.

Nature says that the wrist-mounted trackers often provide useful data like dive time, depth and the temperature of the water. That last one is key in measuring climate change effects, as rising water temperatures can increase the occurrence of hurricanes and disrupt fish stocks.

It hadn’t been known previously whether the data would be accurate enough to contribute to the big picture, but the researchers say that it’s good enough to tap the 6 – 10 million “citizen-scientists” that share data on social media about their dives. Add in that it’s a free source of data that could massively expand the 3,000 or so robot buoys already measuring temperature and it’s a no-brainer for researchers.

“The scuba diving community represents a huge and novel source of aquatic temperature profile data over large spatial and temporal scales. Compilation of these profiles could augment existing monitoring by enhancing the number of inshore temperature profiles, and provide a resource for scientists to better understand the marine environment and organisms’ responses to changes in the environment,” the paper says.

So, now you can go diving and get a warm feeling for contributing to the study of climate change. Win-win.

Via: The Guardian

Source: Nature


First drone pilot jailed for flying contraband into UK prisons

In a first for the UK, a drone pilot has been jailed for flying illegal substances into prisons. Daniel Kelly was sentenced to 14 months in jail after using a quadcopter to deliver “spice,” a psychoactive substance, and tobacco to inmates on multiple occasions. Kent Police say he successfully flew the drone on four separate dates: HMP Elmley, in Kent, on April 20th, HMP Mount in Hertfordshire on April 23rd and 24th, and HMP Swleside, in Kent, on April 25th. Detectives are also aware of two flights, on April 17th and 21st, over HMP Wandsworth in London, that were unsuccessful.

Kelly was caught on April 25th with a drone spray-painted black. Tape had also been placed over the lights, presumably to avoid detection during the illegal flights. “Kelly’s offending was serious,” Detective Constable Mark Silk, who served as investigating officer, said. “Psychoactive substances and tobacco have an inflated value in prison and this can lead to offences being committed within. This places inmates and prison staff at risk.”

Kelly’s sentencing is the first of its kind in the UK. But using drones as covert smugglers is nothing new. Figures obtained by the Press Association through a Freedom of Information request show a substantial rise in prison-related UAV flights. Two incidents were reported in 2014, followed by 33 in 2015. They were used to transport drugs, phones and USB drives, among other items. As drones become cheaper and easier to buy, it’s likely this trend will continue. The sentence passed down this week, then, is an important one for the police, as it could serve as a useful deterrent.

Via: Gizmodo

Source: Kent Police


Twitter adds more college sports to its video streaming lineup

Twitter is adding new video streaming deals almost daily, and today it announced an agreement that pads its college sports lineup. Following last week’s Pac-12 deal, the social network is teaming up with Campus Insiders to stream over 300 “live college events” from Mountain West Conference, Patriot League and West Coast Conference. Yes, that includes live games and competitions spanning football, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, baseball, volleyball, field hockey, water polo and swimming. If you’re not familiar, Campus Insiders is like an all digital version of ESPN for college sports, offering news and live coverage for 3,000 live events thanks to partnerships with five conferences.

What’s more, Campus Insiders puts on the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl which is “the first and only digitally-­focused college football bowl game broadcast.” Campus Insiders will provide updates and highlights in addition to its live events. Twitter will also get news and highlights from the ACC Digital Network. While that content won’t include live games, it will give fans of Atlantic Coast Conference schools a way to catch up on any action they might have missed and keep track of all the latest developments. The ACC recently announced its own network in partnership with ESPN for 2019, so that’s where most of its live action will be available. Part of that option includes a digital (streaming) channel that will show 600 live events launching this fall.

In a press release announcing the deals, Twitter’s CFO Anthony Noto noted that the agreements would allow users who are already chatting about the sporting events on the social network a chance to stream live videos in the same place. “Twitter is the fastest way to see what’s happening in sports,” he said. Campus Insiders’ digital foundation makes it more suited to tackle streaming on Twitter than a traditional network. Since it’s already doing so on its own, the pieces are in place to easily make the leap. Speaking of which, there’s no word on when you can expect the live events, news and highlights to make their debut, but we’d surmise it will start up when students head back to school this fall.

Source: Twitter (PR Newswire)


The best portable solar battery charger

By Mark Smirniotis

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

After considering 70 models and testing portable solar battery chargers for over 30 hours, we think the Anker PowerPort Solar Lite is the one to get if you need to power a small device in an emergency or off the grid. It can fully charge most phones at nearly full speed with less than a day’s worth of sunlight.

Who should get this

Honestly, a lot of people looking for a portable power solution are going to be better off starting with a USB battery pack. Our large battery pick will keep a smartphone charged every night for a week and is no bigger than a paperback novel. But if you can’t be sure of your power needs, a solar charger could refill a small battery pack in a day or directly charge a smartphone in two to three hours.

The catch is that these chargers work only with USB devices, which limits their appeal for those who need them for long-term, off-grid setups. If that’s you, you’ll probably be more interested in the larger setups from companies like Goal Zero or Suntactics. In the future, we may review these units, but for now, they’re outside the scope of this guide.

How we picked and tested

The Anker (bottom) and the now discontinued runner-up RAVPower (top) both returned to full-speed charging immediately after being shaded. Photo: Mark Smirniotis

We started with a pool of solar battery charger contenders culled from Amazon sales and user reviews, as well as authoritative review sites like OutdoorGearLab. In our survey of more than 400 readers, more than 40 percent said they would want to be able to charge a tablet and 59 percent said they wanted to spend less than $75, so we considered only models that can produce at least 2 amps, and ruled out some more-expensive offerings.

With cloudless, blue Southern California skies and an expected high in the 70s, we set out the panels we chose for testing at roughly a 25-degree angle at 10 a.m. and connected them to a PortaPow V2 Premium USB Power Monitor and an external USB battery. We disqualified any chargers unable to get back to their maximum output on their own once shaded. If you decide to leave your phone and solar charger out all afternoon to absorb some juice while you’re off hiking, you’d be pretty disappointed to find your phone charged for only a total of 15 minutes before a cloud passed by. That’s a dealbreaker.

Because we had a few models that didn’t carry this quirk, we tested them against one another to gauge power production. When they performed similarly, we chose the lighter, more compact of the three competitors as our winner.

Our pick

The PowerPort Solar Lite is the smallest and lightest charger we’ve tested that’s rated at 15 watts. Photo: Mark Smirniotis

If you need power for small devices when you’re away from electrical outlets for more than a couple of days, the Anker PowerPort Solar Lite has the best combination of charging speed, size, and price. Used alone, the Anker can fully recharge small tablets or one or two smartphones in one sunny day. If you pair the Anker with one of our favorite USB battery packs, the combination will have enough juice to keep your USB-powered gadgets fully charged every day for as long as needed. And although half of the chargers we tested slowed to a crawl when a cloud passed overhead, the Anker resumed full-speed charging almost immediately after the cloud was gone.

In direct winter sun, our peak measurement was 8.48 watts/1.67 amps, which may seem low compared with the 15 watts/2.1 amps production advertised in the specs. But after an entire day charging our test battery, the average 6 watts/1.17 amps got us 85 percent of the way to the total produced by the much larger and heavier RAVPower charger.

The Anker measures about 18 inches long when fully deployed—about half as long as the 31-inch RAVPower, making it much easier to orient toward the sun. Folded up and ready for travel, it measures 11 by 6.3 inches and weighs just 12.5 ounces. Models any larger don’t get you enough performance boost to justify the size, and any smaller won’t be able to keep up with modern, power-hungry gadgets. If anything goes wrong, Anker offers solid customer support, an 18-month warranty, and a track record of quality power accessories.

How to get the most from your charger

Making power from starlight. Photo: Mark Smirniotis

To really max out your power output, you’ll want your panels angled correctly. A good rule of thumb is that the panel’s angle, relative to flat ground, should be roughly the same as your latitude, with some minor adjustments in summer (shallower) or winter (steeper). If you really want to get the most juice, check sites such as,, or Solar Electricity Handbook to figure out the best angle before you go.

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


A new iOS 10 feature warns against open WiFi networks

We all know it’s generally a bad idea to access unsecured networks via WiFi, but it’s not every day your phone warns against it. According to Florida-based Apple beta tester Jeb Stuart, iOS 10 will do exactly that.

After connecting to an open network, iOS 10 will display a “Security Recommendation” notification beneath the network’s name in the WiFi menu settings. When a user opens up the Security Recommendation, they’re greeted with a notification that “open networks provide no security and expose all network traffic.” There’s also a recommendation to configure your router to use AES encryption for the network.

It seems like a missed opportunity, as Stuart notes, to warn users after they’ve already connected, but it’s an important step forward in keeping users safe and ensuring they understand why what they’re doing carries important implications.

Via: iOS Hacker

Source: Jeb Stuart


Eye tracking software can gauge your intent and boredom in VR

One of the singular things about virtual reality is the freedom to look in any direction. But that’s also one of its biggest narrative problems. How does a storyteller retain control when the viewer is free to decide where to look? The answer, it seems, is in the eyes.

Eyefluence, a company that’s rooted in optics, AI, machine learning and mechanical engineering, has built an interface that lets a user communicate with a virtual environment through sight alone. The idea is to convert looking into action. So the software enables you to use your eyes to do anything that you would do with a finger on a smartphone. No more typing, clicking, swiping or even talking. With a display in front of you, you would be able to navigate a menu, launch applications, pan, zoom and scroll, and even slip in information simply by looking.

Beyond the boost in productivity, though, one of the most compelling applications of this eye-machine interaction is in immersive storytelling. The eyes, when distracted or focused, can give away what a viewer is feeling in a moment. The Eyefluence software is designed to take advantage of those clues to know when you’re interested in a scene, captivated by a character or feeling bored.

“Your eyes are the fastest moving organs in your body,” says Eyefluence CEO and founder Jim Marggraff in a short film called The Language of Looking. The movie, embedded below, is a part of the annual Future of Storytelling summit that brings together inter-disciplinary innovators to discuss the challenges of telling stories in a digital world. Here, Marggraff explains the difficulty of immersive storytelling and how sight can be used to fire up an interface that pushes the narrative forward in virtual reality.

After watching the film, I spoke to Marggraff to find out how the eyes can have an impact on immersive storytelling in particular.

How does “the language of looking” fit into storytelling in VR?

There are a lot of problems in storytelling that need to be grappled with. I’ve sat with filmmakers and talked about the challenges that they have. [It starts with] shifting the mindset, to say we’re going to make the user a consequential participant in the story, meaning that what they do has a consequence in the arc of the story. It’s a new thinking. Typically, as a storyteller, you want complete control; you guide the [viewers’] eyes, their moods so they’re sensitive to the beats of the story as it unfolds. Essentially, every scene directs them and manages their emotions throughout. But now, by reclassifying the user as a participant, when you [let them] have consequence in the story, you give them a degree of autonomy.

“By reclassifying the user as a participant, when you let them have consequence in the story, you give them a degree of autonomy.”

Some of the known challenges with the medium are teleportation, locomotion and nausea. But more significant are some of the challenges in maintaining a sense of rhythm in the flow of the story. If I let you run off and start examining something around a corner, you don’t necessarily know how to stay engaged with that, you could put yourself in a boring position. How do we maintain that flow and the urgency in the beats of the story? It can be done. The software looks at the participant’s behavior to decide when it needs to move them along, when to deliver key points on the story level. So we know where you are, what you’re looking at, what you’re interested in and where you’ve lost interest. We can guide you back to the storyline at any time.

What is it about sight that makes it an appropriate solution for challenges in VR?

There are so many things we can do to take advantage of knowing what you see, what you’re aware of, what you’re not aware of and actually changing things around you without you even knowing. That all can happen with a deep understanding of how your eyes and your brain perceive information.

With the eyes, you can navigate in a large information space more rapidly than any thing else. Inside VR environments, for instance, where you have large amounts of information in a headset, you can look around. We give you the means to not just see a function [like a message or a browser] but activate it and move into a new space. For instance, you can search for photographs and find them more rapidly than before. It’s a mixture of purposeful and non-purposeful motions, to be able to search through a list of 1,000 names and find the one you’re looking for with your eyes only without scrolling, flicking or tapping. The eyes are the fastest moving part of your body. It’s as quick as thinking and looking. It’s quicker than even speaking to get things done.

But it’s also about what I like to call “sensuality” — it gets your senses engaged and the result is very satisfying. We’ve gotten feedback from people who say: “The system feels as if it’s reading your mind.” It’s not. It’s reading your intent and that comes from the signals. It’s a new kind of language that needs to be learned.

In the film you mention your collaboration with Rival Theory, the VR content studio that generates characters for virtual reality storylines. In what ways do the Eyefluence techniques work with these characters?

It works with characters that are in a live film or rendered, both have their beauty and challenges. Let’s consider a rendered character like [Rival Theory’s] that’s also an AI. It can have memory. It has a personality that evolves over time in relation to you as a participant, specifically with you. It knows you and the relationships you have. It comforts you in an upsetting event when you’ve cried. For example, if the character is a child who loses his best friend who slipped through a crevice while climbing and you see the child and you console them. That child character forms a connection with you based on eye interaction. The AI forms a memory of it and it can come back any time. It builds a bond between you and the character. We know the power of being able to look at someone, see when they avert your gaze, when their eyes well up in reaction to something you’ve said. This kind of connection has not existed before within the medium.


Comcast’s Rio portal is a good way to keep up with the Olympics

The Olympics are starting in a little over a month and Comcast has devised a way to watch pretty much every minute of them. Xfinity X1 customers — roughly half of Comcast’s user base — will have access to a special “Front Row to Rio” portal through which they’ll be able to watch live content from both NBC-affiliated networks and internet streams. But that’s just the start.

The Road to Rio homepage is accessible through the main menu that X1 customers already use. You can find live events to watch directly from there or you can search by athlete, sport and nation. What’s more, you’ll be able to add these people, teams and countries to a favorites list so you can more easily keep track of them — not unlike a browser bookmark. Conversely, if you’re just casually following the games and want to see nothing but the highlights, the platform will push “Must See Moments” notifications throughout the day whenever a marquee event is happening. You’ll have to opt in for this feature, either through the NBC Sports App or through the Rio portal.

Comcast isn’t just providing an easier way to find the events you want to follow — it’s also giving viewers slews of information about what is happening onscreen. Comcast’s development team combed through millions of pieces of data about the games and their participants and integrated it into the broadcast. Users can instantly pull up leaderboards, gold medal counts, athlete trivia and a host of other informational tidbits. These will display on screen next to the broadcast. I’m not sure why they wouldn’t just push that stuff to your mobile device so you don’t have to split the screen, but that’s how it is.

So, say you’re watching Gabby Douglas performing her floor routine. With X1, you’ll be able to pull up a submenu with details about her and links to video clips of her past performances. Or if you’re not feeling the floor routine, you can switch over to the live stream of another gymnastics event — like the balance beam or uneven bars. These live streams come through the NBC Sports app so they won’t be as polished and produced as what the network proper carries, but it’s still better than not seeing them at all. And, if you miss an event entirely, don’t freak out. Every episode of the NBC and Telemundo Primetime Shows will be available on Xfinity On Demand the next day.

With Telemundo and NBC working hand-in-hand on these broadcasts, Comcast customers will have some flexibility in which language they hear when they watch. That is, NBC’s English broadcast will be mirrored on Telemundo in Spanish throughout the games. What’s more, viewers can use the voice search function on the Xfinity remote in either language (or a mix of them, a Comcast rep told me). And for blind and visually impaired subscribers, Xfinity is providing live video description for every episode of the primetime show.

%d bloggers like this: