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24
Jul

Regulator: Tesla crash shouldn’t hinder self-driving research


If you thought that officials would halt progress on self-driving cars in the wake of a Tesla Autopilot crash in May, you’re in for a surprise. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lead Mark Rosekind told guests at an event that he and other regulators don’t plan to slow down the development of automoous vehicle hardware. To him, the car business “cannot wait for perfect” — people have to be “desperate” for any technology that could save lives. He isn’t touching the Autopilot crash specifically (the NHTSA is still investigating), but it’s reasonable to say that he doesn’t currently see the tragedy changing his stance.

The statements suggest that Tesla won’t face significant regulatory battles in the future, at least not with the NHTSA. Elon Musk largely shares Rosekind’s opinion: that autonomous driver assistance features save more people as a general rule, even if they’re not completely ready yet. There’s some supporting evidence, too, So long as tech like Autopilot doesn’t create a rash of incidents, any serious delays will come from the companies themselves.

Source: Wall Street Journal

24
Jul

FCC chief asks telcos to offer free robocall blocking services


Tom Wheeler, head honcho at the Federal Communications Commission, has fired off letters asking the country’s biggest communications providers to offer robocall blocking services for free. The FCC is still fielding a barrage of complaints from people sick and tired of robocalls a year after it passed a proposal that should have helped the situation. If you’ll recall, the commission made it perfectly legal for carriers to block automated calls before they reach subscribers back in 2015. Unfortunately, telcos are still reportedly telling customers that they have no authority to those calls. As a result, they still make the up the biggest number of complaints filed with the agency.

Wheeler wrote on the commission’s website:

“In regard to the Commission’s expectations that carriers respond to consumers’ blocking requests, I have sent letters to the CEOs of major wireless and wireline phone companies calling on them to offer call-blocking services to their customers now — at no cost to you.”

According to Consumerist, he sent the letters to AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular and Verizon. The ball is now in their court, and it’s up to them to grant the chairman’s request.

Wheeler also sent letters to intermediary carriers, companies that connect calls from internet services like FiOS to carriers’ lines. He asked them to retain the original caller ID info for calls made through those services, since spammers and scammers typically spoof their phone numbers. Consumerist says the letters asked those companies to create a list of local entities regularly impersonated by robocallers. That would make it easy to flag and block suspicious calls, especially those made from outside the United States.

Via: Consumerist

Source: FCC

24
Jul

‘Gears of War 4’ will have plenty of PC-specific features


The history of Microsoft-backed Xbox One games coming to the PC isn’t exactly stellar. When Remedy’s Quantum Break reached Windows, it was saddled with limitations that were partly dictated by the Universal Windows Platform’s own limits, such as frame rate issues and an overall lack of features. You shouldn’t run into those problems when Gears of War 4 rolls around, though. As part of a Eurogamer interview, The Coalition has revealed that the cover-based shooter will have ample PC-specific features. You’ll get much deeper video settings that include dynamic resolutions, so your ultra-wide display won’t go to waste. It’ll also take advantage of many-core PC processors, higher-resolution textures and UWP’s recently unlocked frame rates, offering a distinct visual advantage to playing on a brawny computer.

Other perks? There’s a benchmarking mode to make you feel good about your hardware upgrades, and you have full control over the keyboard and mouse input. In short, this should feel like a PC-native game even though it’s likely to be the definitive Xbox One title for 2016. That’s still not going to make everyone happy (developers have railed against UWP’s closed ecosystem for years), but it beats having to deal with console-like limitations just to play some big Xbox hits on your Windows gaming rig.

Source: Eurogamer (1), (2)

24
Jul

Ben Heck powers on the Nintendo PlayStation’s CD drive


When we got our hands on the legendary “Nintendo PlayStation” prototype last November, the device worked fine as a Sony-branded SNES console sans audio, whereas its CD drive — the part that eventually led to the birth of the PlayStation — failed to be recognized by the system. The device has since been handed over to hacking maestro Ben Heck, who has just revealed that he finally got the CD drive to power up. First of all, Ben cleaned the contact pins on the Super Disc driver cartridge to get its 256KB of extension RAM talking to the console, then he removed one of the mod wires on the logic board, which got the CD drive to make a ticking noise and even pulling its tray back in.

It was a nice “wow” moment for everyone, but the ticking noise suggested that the CD drive was struggling to move its optical head, plus the screen was flickering. Ben figured this was to do with a power glitch caused by three leaky electrolytic capacitors on the logic board, so he replaced those with modern ones, and boom! The CD drive is alive! The diagnostic software gave all the green ticks, and the CD player’s control panel appears to be working. As a bonus, the audio function has also been restored since that’s part of the CD drive’s decoder, so we can now fully enjoy SNES games on this super rare device as well.

What’s left to do now is to find some compatible disc games and see if they’ll run on the Nintendo PlayStation — prototype owner Terry Diebold believes he may have one in the boxes he bought from that fateful auction. We also came across a homebrew game called Super Boss Gaiden based on the Super Disc cartridge’s software dump, so here’s hoping they can get that to work on the device.

Source: The Ben Heck Show (YouTube)

24
Jul

Google Play starts showing apps’ actual download sizes


Google Play now displays the actual storage space a whole app or an upgrade will take up, so you don’t accidentally download anything too big. If an update is only 2.91MB, it will show that exact figure right there in each app’s detail box. That will give you the chance to reconsider your download or to free up some space before getting a particularly large game or VR experience.

Besides displaying more accurate file sizes, Google also tweaked its Play Store algorithm to make updates even smaller. Most Android apps (98 percent of them) only download changes to their APK files when you update them, and those new files merge with the old ones. The updated algorithm will make those updates up to 50 percent smaller.

Finally, Google’s improved compression algorithms will reduce big games’ file sizes, which could be as huge as 2GB, by around 12 percent. Those with high-end phones might not get much out of these changes, but they could make a big difference for those who own more affordable devices with limited storage.

Source: Android Developers Blog

24
Jul

Yahoo must explain how it got a drug trafficker’s deleted email


Were you wondering how Yahoo managed to recover deleted email that was supposedly impossible to retrieve? You’re not the only one. A judge has partially granted a motion that orders Yahoo to explain how it recovered deleted email from UK drug trafficking convict Russell Knaggs. It won’t have to detail more than how it dealt with the email account in question, but that still means having to say just how it grabbed six months of message drafts when its own policies suggest this should have been impossible. The company has to provide both documents and a relevant witness by August 31st.

For its part, Yahoo has maintained that it scooped up auto-saved drafts using a “proprietary tool,” and denies the defense’s claims that it had to have had access to government surveillance to collect the information. At the same time, some of Yahoo’s own staffers allegedly contradicted each other with their earlier explanations of what happened. It may need a formal, thorough explanation if it doesn’t want to maintain doubt and raise Knaggs’ hopes for an appeal.

Source: Motherboard

24
Jul

Moto Z Droid or Moto Z Force Droid — which should you get?


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Two phones, both alike in dignity. On fair Verizon, where we lay our scene …

The Moto Z lands on Verizon on July 28. And if even if you’ve made up you’re mind that you’re going be diving into this modular menagerie, you’ve got a decision to make. Verizon, as it’s been prone to do with its Droid line of late, has two Moto Zs from which you’ll need to choose.

In many ways, they’re exactly alike. Same software. Mostly the same internals. And they both use the new Moto Mods accessories.

Let’s take a look at the ways in which they’re different, though, and see if we can’t figure out which one is for you.

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Better battery capacity

Should you ever turn down the opportunity to have more battery? The Moto Z has a 2,600 mAh battery. The Moto Z Force has a 3,500 mAh battery — that’s about a 34 percent increase. Along with that extra battery comes some extra thickness, however. The Moto Z is a svelte 5.19mm thick (or thin, I guess). The Moto Z Force is 6.99mm. That’s without the stock Style Shell back that comes in the box, however, so you’ll need to add a couple millimeters for those, too.

I’ve used both phones. You should never pass up the opportunity for more battery out of the box.

I’ve used both phones. And you should never pass up the opportunity for more battery out of the box. Even with external batteries and the 2,200 mAh Moto Mod Power Packs that are available for the Moto Z and Moto Z Force, that extra 34 percent can be the difference between having to top up toward the late afternoon, or not.

The extra thickness on the Moto Z Force means a few things. One is that I don’t mind using it without a Style Shell as much. That doesn’t mean I won’t use it without one, but the option is at least more comfortable. The other is that it’s going to fit larger hands better than the Moto Z. That’s subjective, but not unimportant.

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Higher-resolution camera

The Moto Z and Moto Z Force have similar cameras. Same camera app, same f/1.8 aperture. They’re both pretty darn good in sunlight, and less so when it gets dark. They’re both what I’d call an above-average camera, though a few steps down from the best available.

The only real difference is that the Moto Z Force has a higher possible resolution — 21 megapixels — than the Moto Z, which is lower at 13MP. (One thing to keep in mind, however, is that both phones shoot at a wider, 16:9 aspect ratio by default, and don’t use the full resolution until you change the setting to accommodate their native 4:3 aspect ratios.)

For my money, I’d opt for the Moto Z Force because of its larger battery and better chance at surviving a fall.

For the most part this discrepancy hasn’t really affected me any. At least not in the way I shoot and share photos. For things like Facebook and Instagram and your basic social sharing, either one has served me just fine. It’s another differentiator for Verizon, I suppose. But merely adding more megapixels doesn’t necessarily improve the finished product that much.

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ShatterShield

If a bigger battery didn’t do it for you, this one might. The Moto Z Force is the second phone to sport “ShatterShield.” The short version is that means some extra protection for the display. So you’ll be able to drop it without the screen breaking into a million pieces.

That doesn’t mean you might not kill the phone if it takes a bad fall. Here’s the important part from Moto’s fine print:

The display and embedded lens are warranted against shattering and cracking for four (4) years from the original date of purchase; scratches or other damage to the protective lens is not covered by this warranty, but should always be in place to prevent scratches and other damage to the underlying components. This phone is not shockproof or designed to withstand all damage from dropping.

We dropped the Moto Z Force until it quit working. Actually, let’s be more specific. The phone still works. The display, while showing signs of abuse, did not crack. It, uh, just doesn’t actually show a picture anymore. So the first four times it took a bad spill ShatterShield worked as advertised. That’s a pretty good insurance policy.

The bottom line

So which phone should you get? The Moto Z, or the thicker, longer-lasting, better protected, higher-resolution Moto Z Force? For my money, I’d opt for the latter. The upgraded camera sensor isn’t that big a deal for me. But more battery and a better chance at surviving a fall?

That’s worth my money just about every time.

Moto Z and Moto Z Force

  • Our Moto Z review!
  • Moto Z specs
  • Moto Mods custom backs
  • Moto Z and Moto Z Force will be Verizon exclusives until the fall of 2016
  • The latest Moto Z news
  • Discuss in our Moto Z forums

Motorola
Verizon

24
Jul

HTC Desire 530 now on sale at T-Mobile and HTC.com


The mid-range HTC Desire 530 smartphone is officially on sale in the U.S. The phone can be purchased unlocked on the company’s website for $179, or you can get it from T-Mobile for $159.99 without a contract. T-Mobile is also selling it for $0 down and $6.67 a month for 24 months.

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The Desire 530 was one of number of smartphones that were first revealed by HTC during the 2016 Mobile World Congress trade show in February. The 5-inch Desire 530 has an interesting “micro-splash” design for its case that is supposed to give each phone a completely unique pattern of dots. Inside there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor, 1.5GB of RAM, 16GB of onboard storage, an 8 megapixel rear camera and a 5 MP front facing camera. Audiophiles can experience the phone’s “BoomSound” enhancements.

The HTC Desire 530 is also supposed to go on sale via Verizon Wireless at some point in the near future.

Check out our hands-on impressions of the HTC Desire 530

See at T-Mobile

See at HTC.com

24
Jul

The 2016 RNC was celebratory and friendly, both online and off


Donald Trump has, whether knowingly or not, tapped into some deep-seated bigotry still lurking just beneath the surface of this country. I do not know if Trump agrees with the openly racist people he retweets or if he’s merely aping the language and memes of the alt-right for political gain. As many have discovered, though, Trump’s most vocal supporters on Twitter are often unabashedly anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist and racist. The question for me as I prepared for the 2016 Republican National Convention was, would these newly invigorated hate groups suddenly feel as safe expressing themselves face-to-face as they do online?

I’m happy to report the answer is no — mostly, anyway. The 2016 RNC certainly wasn’t without incident or ugliness, but by and large the crowds were peaceful and respectful, and the hate groups did not find the Republican Party waiting for them with open arms in Cleveland.

Using a tool called Hyp3r, Engadget collected every tweet and Instagram that was geotagged from the official convention venues. We scoured the data looking for slurs, overtly racist language and echoes (more on those below) and came up empty. Hyp3r pulls in tweets from only users with the location enabled on their devices, so it’s not a comprehensive collection of 140-character missives, but our data suggest that Trump’s white-supremacist contingent didn’t make it to the convention floor. Or, at the least were very discreet about their more radical beliefs.

On Twitter, white supremacists can hide behind the anonymity of their screen name and use an obscure marker called an echo — literally just a series of parenthesis ((()) — to target people for an army of trolls. Sometimes those attacks are just insults and memes, but they sometimes turn violent. Countless people have received death threats, especially Jewish journalists. I’m not even Jewish and even I have even been on the receiving end of threats and harassment after tweeting unflattering things about Donald Trump. Multiple times I’ve been told I would soon find myself in an oven.

Second time today someone has threatened to put me in an oven. @realDonaldTrump supporters are the best. pic.twitter.com/N8X6oSdkDF

— Terrence O’Brien (@TerrenceOBrien) March 25, 2016

In person, though, such overt racism is considered deeply taboo. Indeed, expressions of these sentiments at the convention, both in person and on social media, appeared to be few and far between. And they were often quickly snuffed out. Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa found himself on the receiving end of criticism from both sides of the aisle after he suggested on MSNBC that nonwhites had contributed little to civilization. And Illinois delegate Lori Gayne had her credentials stripped after she posted a photo of a police sharpshooter with the caption “Our brave snipers just waiting for some N**** to try something. Love them” on Facebook.

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Supporters watch Donald Trump speak on a giant screen outside the Quicken Loans Arena.

Some delegates I spoke to expressed concerns that this might violate Gayne’s right to free speech, but all of them condemned the language. That includes Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider, who told the Chicago Sun-Times that the GOP, “has zero tolerance for racism of any kind and threats of violence against anyone.”

A group of Cruz delegates from Washington I interviewed also suggested the tone on the floor did not reflect that of Trump’s most virulent supporters online. While they did accuse Trump delegates of bullying and said they had heard at least one threaten violence against a delegate from another state, they had not overheard anything overtly racist or anti-Semitic on the floor. This came as a relief because many of the Washington delegates were part of the “Never Trump” movement. They were in part motivated by what delegate Selena Coppa called Trump’s sounding of a “dog whistle” for white supremacists.

So does that mean the bigots all stayed home?

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Not quite. There was a small collection of openly hostile hate groups in Cleveland this week; they were confined to the streets outside the convention center. But even there they were merely a very vocal minority. A small group of protesters had set up in Public Square most of the week declaring that Allah was Satan and that “all true Muslims were jihadists.” One man paraded up and down 4th, right outside the convention center, with a sign declaring that “Jews DO run the media.” I witnessed a man offer a Hitler salute and chant “Sieg Heil!” though I suspect he was simply trolling, and there were several members of the anti-immigrant group Soldiers of Odin on the ground and well as a handful of high-profile white supremacists.

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But I watched a Trump supporter talk down the man screaming “Sieg Heil.” And it’s not as if the Soldiers of Odin were greeted with cheers when they arrived at Public Square.

Could it simply be that everyone was on their best behavior because they were out in public and the eyes of the nation were focused on them? Perhaps. But I’m choosing to believe that tone at the convention truly reflected the beliefs and attitudes of the rank-and-file party members.

The rhetoric from the stage during the RNC was predictably ugly and chances are, next week’s Democratic National Convention won’t be much better. But that sort of partisan red meat is mostly for show. The people in the streets and on the convention floor were polite and friendly. The air was celebratory, not hostile.

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A Trump supporter and Black Lives Matter protester jam outside the Quicken Loans Arena.

I’m not going to pretend to agree with the politics of Donald Trump or the Republican party, but months of watching the campaign play out mostly through the lens of social media had left me despondent. A week in Cleveland has me feeling a little more hopeful. Most of the vitriol online didn’t spill over into the streets at the RNC. Face-to-face it seems we’re able to still realize that, even if we disagree about how to get there, we all share common goals as Americans.

24
Jul

The ‘Station’ desk cradles your body and gut-punches your wallet


Our computers have rapidly shrunk from room-size behemoths to hulking desktops to the svelte laptops that now dominate modern offices. What haven’t changed much are the tables and chairs that the computers (and we) sit on. A new integrated workspace from the Altwork company, appropriately named the Station, has been designed to replace both pieces of furniture while giving you more flexibility in how you interact with your computer. I was recently able to get a butts-on demo of the Station, and the only contortion I had to perform was wrapping my mind around its massive price tag.

At first glance, the Station resembles a fancy dentist’s chair with a pivotable tabletop attached to the front. Its leg rest coils under the seat like an inverted scorpion’s tail when not in use but will nearly straighten when fully extended. The entire thing rides on casters and weighs only 210 pounds (without a monitor), so it is relatively easy to move around and reposition. That’s not something one could easily do on an old-timey rolltop. Additionally, the tabletop, monitor stand and optional upper laptop mount are all adjustable for maximum ergonomic efficiency. This allows you to “fit” the Station to your specific needs, and once you do, these settings can be saved in one of four user-programmable presets.

The Station can transform between four basic functional positions. It can serve as both a conventional seated desk and a standing desk. If you swing out the monitor and tabletop, it becomes a collaborative workstation. And if you get serious about your workflow, the Station’s “focus” position will put you flat on your back with the monitor and tabletop (not to mention your keyboard and mouse) suspended above you. When I was seated like this during a recent demo, it was quite comfortable, though I didn’t feel more productive so much as just really silly and self-conscious. The fact that I was splayed out on this thing like a portly harbor seal in the middle of a crowded We Works probably didn’t help either.

The focus position carries other pitfalls as well. Like, where am I supposed to put my coffee cup? Oh, it goes on the $650 side table that Altworks is hawking as an accessory item? Yeah, OK. What’s more, you’ll need to affix magnets (you know how they work) to the bottoms of your keyboard and mouse to prevent them from sliding off. And great googly moogly, does this thing take forever to fully recline — 30-plus seconds by my count — so if you want to work in focus mode, you’d better block out a couple of minutes to get situated and pray that you don’t have to get up from there until you’re done.

Then there’s the price. You’re going to need a second job to afford one of these things. The standard model, which comes in either of two frame colors (gray and a slightly darker gray), will retail for a whopping $5,900. That doesn’t include the $650 side table, it doesn’t include the $175 upper laptop mount and it sure as heck doesn’t include a computer monitor; that’s just the workstation itself. Now, if you want to get fancy with upholstery, seat-back and frame color options, you’re going to want the “Signature” model. It’s $6,900. Yeah, nearly seven grand for a device that transforms into both a standing desk and impromptu medical exam table. Sure, you get a $2,000 discount if you pre-order one before Saturday, July 30th, but that’s still a sizable investment just to replace your current office furniture.

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