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Sprint offers ‘Unlimited Freedom Premium’ for heavy video users

Not long after introducing its “Unlimited Freedom” option, Sprint has announced a new plan called “Unlimited Freedom Premium,” which offers high-definition video for $20 more than the vanilla plan.

Users will pay $80 for a single line for the HD video access and $140 for two lines. Previously when the original Unlimited Freedom plan was announced, we lamented the lack of option for special data plans like this one, so it’s an interesting move to offer it now after already rolling out a new plan so recently.

This likely comes in response to T-Mobile’s recent launch of T-Mobile One, which offers unlimited calling, texting and data for $70 a month in exchange for throttling video bandwidth for lower-quality video. It’s a cheaper plan, but it’s likely not tolerable for anyone looking to consistently stream HD video.

The Unlimited Freedom Premium plan includes HD music and streaming in addition to HD video at up to 8 megabits per second, and right now if you sign up for a new Unlimited Freedom account you can get Premium for free through October 31st to take it for a test drive and see if it’s worth the extra $20 for you.

Source: Sprint


Twitter is working on a keyword tool to combat harassment

Harassment is one of the biggest problems facing Twitter right now. Some of the company’s most popular and influential users have been driven off the platform because of some truly horrific, hurtful tweets. The problem hasn’t gone unnoticed. Twitter has promised to do more to combat trolls, making it simpler to flag abusive tweets and banning controversial figures such as the conservative writer Milo Yiannopoulos. Now, according to Bloomberg, it’s working on a keyword filtering system that would allow users to hide tweets containing specific terms and phrases. If you’ve muted keywords before on TweetDeck or Tweetbot, you’ll get the idea.

Twitter has been weighing the new feature for “about a year,” Bloomberg claims, and would “screen out” any keyword specified by the user, including swear words and racial slurs. Instagram introduced a similar feature for photo and video comments last month, giving people word filters and the ability to turn off comments entirely. My colleague Dana Wollman wrote an excellent piece about why these tools should have been introduced years ago — I’m sure many feel the same way about Twitter.

The platform’s public and open nature is why it’s become such an important utility. But it’s also fostered a community which, at times, can feel toxic and uninviting. That’s dangerous, because if people feel they can’t use the service without receiving an avalanche of abuse, they’ll leave, diluting Twitter’s user base and the amount of thoughtful, beneficial Tweets being published every day. It’s a big problem for Twitter — the company has long-struggled to explain the service’s purpose, and bad press regarding celebrity departures isn’t helping. To reverse its stalling user growth, Twitter needs a feature like keyword filtering, and fast.

A spokesperson for Twitter declined to comment.

Source: Bloomberg


Amazon to open bookstores in Chicago and Portland

For an independent bookstore, few threats are bigger than Amazon. With its e-book store and brutally competitive print book prices, it can be hard for a family-run business to compete. Well, it’s only going to get tougher now that Amazon is expanding its footprint of physical stores. The company has confirmed it’ll be setting up shop in Chicago and Portland — these locations will be joining Seattle, which opened in November, New York and San Diego. The details of each store is under wraps, but it’s safe to assume they’ll be packed with Kindles and Kindle Fire tablets.

Amazon has built its business online, but seems to be learning that there’s value in having a physical presence too. Sales assistants can explain the advantages of a particular product or service — something that’s increasingly useful as it builds a whole range of Prime perks and premium, quick-turnaround delivery services. As for books, well, there’s something to be said about visiting a store and plucking an interesting novel off the shelf. Gazing at the cover, reading the blurb and flicking through the pages. (Sigh.) It’ll be a while before Amazon’s stores have that old, musty feel to them, but hey, they beat looking around a website for hours on end.

Source: Financial Times


Mind-controlled nanobots release drugs inside cockroaches

Stay with me here — scientists from Bar-Ilan University and the Interdisciplinary Center in Israel created nanobots, injected them into cockroaches, and released fluorescent drugs into the insects using mind power. While that sounds insanely convoluted, the aim is to actually help humans. If a schizophrenia patient is about to have a violent episode, for instance, an EEG could trigger the release of powerful drugs. That way, they’d only get them when needed, minimizing harmful side effects.

It’s also pretty cool. The nanobots injected into the roaches are made from so-called DNA origami that’s natural and easy to program. They’re also fitted with iron oxide nanoparticle “locks” that open and release drugs when exposed to an EEG-controlled electromagnet. When EEG-wearing users increase their brain energy (by doing math), it powers up the magnet, which in turn activates the nanobots. The team can measure the fluorescence inside the bugs to confirm that it’s working.


DNA Origami (Karolinska Institute)

The EEG could be programmed to detect psychotic episodes, ADHD or other brain issues, according to the team. The drug release could also be tightly controlled using molecules that only attach to certain cell types. For instance, the medication could be released only into cancer cells if attached to the right kind of molecule.

As with all things nanobot, the research isn’t ready for human trials. There’s no EEG portable enough to wear all the time and still practical, for one. And even though we’ve written about drug-releasing nanobots many, many times, they’ve never been tried in humans. The team that performed the cockroach research may have an edge, though. One of the scientists, Ido Bachelet from Bar-Ilan University, plans to trial nanobot cancer treatment on a terminally ill patient as early as this year.

Source: PLOS One


Spotify adds a full list of tour dates to artist pages

Spotify has been providing concert info for a while, but now those listings are getting a bit more detailed. Late last year, the company teamed up with Songkick to serve up a list of nearby concerts based on your listening habits. That same partnership will now display full list of upcoming shows on artist pages under the “Concerts” tab. Just like before, there’s a “Details” button beside each date that links to the event page on Songkick.

In addition to recommendations, Spotify also already provided users a list of upcoming concerts based on their location. With the addition of full listings, the service displays the same dates as an artist’s website, but you don’t have leave the app to browse it. The new concert dates tab is rolling out today in Spotify on the desktop, so if you don’t see them yet they should show up soon enough.

Via: Hypebot

Source: Spotify


iPhone 7 Facing Supply Shortages as Production Ramps Up Ahead of Launch

Following tradition, a new report out of Apple’s supply chain is hinting that the company “may need to contend with a supply shortage” for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, citing vague issues with “faulty components” as the central problem (via Nikkei). Similar stories have emerged before the launch of the new iPhone nearly every year, stemming from Apple’s annual late-summer production ramp-up ahead of the September iPhone reveal.

“If Apple sticks to its launch schedule from last year, there may not be enough supply at the beginning, as some suppliers are still trying to fix low yield rates of their components,” an industry source familiar with the issue said.

Apple is said to be staying close to its launch schedule from last year, which could lead to low supply “during the first round of the rollout,” resulting in low yield rates, higher costs for manufacturers, and subsequently less volume to deliver to customers. Yuanta Investment Consulting analyst Jeff Pu believes total iPhone 7 builds to be 10 million less than that of the iPhone 6s last year.

Pu cut his forecasts for iPhone production to 114 million from 120 million, including both new and old models, in the July-December period, due to defects in the waterproof speaker and dual-camera module, which have yet to be resolved.

“We estimate total iPhone 7 builds to be 74 (million) in 2H16F, compared to 84 (million) for iPhone 6s in 2H15. Together with pricing pressure, we expect most Apple food chain suppliers to see (year-on-year) revenue decline for the rest of the year,” Pu wrote in a note dated Aug. 23.

Continuing the usual doom-and-gloom sentiment regarding Apple’s 2016 iPhone sales, the new report points to “weakening demand” for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus as a contribution to manufacturing numbers falling as well. Apple’s own orders are said to be “conservative” this year compared to years past, with individual components dropping precipitously year-over-year. According to various sources, core processor chips “may drop up to 15 percent,” and panel orders “are dropping around 20 percent,” both compared with the company’s 2015 supply chain orders.

Although it’s true that the iPhone 7 will be a modest update on the iPhone 6s, like every model before it, the 2016 iPhone is expected to see a heavy influx of pre-orders the day it goes live on Apple’s website, currently rumored for September 9. Users will then have to wait a few weeks to get their hands on the smartphone, with a launch either on September 16 or September 23.

Related Roundup: iPhone 7
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Twitter Working on Anti-Harassment Tool With Keyword Blocking Abilities

Following a recent string of high-profile stories centered around cruel tweets, Twitter is said be gearing up to launch a new tweet moderation feature that will let users filter content they see by using keywords (via Bloomberg). Any subsequent tweet with the specifically designated harmful words would be blocked from the user’s timeline and invisible to them, but still posted for anyone else to see.

The anti-harassment tool is said to have been in production “for about a year” at the company, and is still not quite ready for a wide rollout yet. The news comes from a group of people close to the project, and is most likely gaining traction after a particularly public year of unfortunate incidents surrounding the social network, where both reporters and celebrities were attacked on the service.

Twitter needs to attract and retain users as the growth in their numbers slows. The company has spent the past few months consulting with an outside council of anti-harassment groups about its strategy for addressing the issue, which has become one of Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey’s top priorities.

Twitter took some small steps this year, such as making it easier for people to report abuse by letting them identify multiple offending tweets while filing their complaints. But the keyword tool, if implemented, would be the first to give users more control over what they see instead of blocking individual users after they attack.

Twitter and CEO Jack Dorsey have attempted to make inroads towards creating a less harmful atmosphere on the social network, but as yet haven’t created an in-depth feature that could help prevent bullying on a wider scale. The potential keyword blocking solution sounds similar to one that Instagram is also reportedly planning to launch soon, which will let users filter out the comment section on their photos because “different words or phrases are offensive to different people.”

The news comes after Twitter reported its slowest revenue growth since 2013, thanks to the growing popularity of rival companies Snapchat and Instagram. To turn things around, Twitter plans to focus on five key areas within its network, one of which will focus on keeping users safe from online abuse: core services, live-streaming video, the site’s “creators and influencers,” safety, and developers.

Eventually, the new anti-harassment tool could become a universal filtering feature for content not just potentially harmful, “for example, users could block a hashtag about an event they don’t care to read about.” If true, the Twitter desktop and mobile apps would be playing catch-up to features currently implemented in popular third-party clients, like Tweetbot on iOS and OS X. That app has a feature-rich “Mute Filters” section that allows users to silence any user, keyword, hashtag, and client, all packed with settings to add contingencies like mute locations and duration.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tag: Twitter
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Apple Seeds Seventh Beta of tvOS 10 to Developers

Apple today provided developers with the seventh beta of tvOS 10, the next-generation operating system designed to run on the fourth-generation Apple TV. tvOS 10 beta 7 comes almost two weeks after the release of tvOS beta 6 and more than two months after the operating system was first shown off at Apple’s 2016 Worldwide Developers Conference

tvOS betas are harder 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 updates will be available over the air.

tvOS 10 builds on features initially introduced with tvOS last October, bringing expanded Siri capabilities like 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.

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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.

Over the beta testing period, Apple has been making slight tweaks and updates to the tvOS 10 operating system, but many of the changes are under-the-hood and not readily apparent to testers. Any outward-facing changes discovered in the seventh beta, which is likely to be the last beta before the golden master, will be noted below.

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
Buyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Neutral)
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Here are the best devices to pair with your Amazon Echo – CNET

Amazon’s smart speakers — the Echo, the Tap, and the Echo Dot — are home to Alexa, its virtual voice assistant. She’s a capable helper. Ask her to stream music, give you the weather forecast, or tell you a joke, and she’ll happily comply.

She can also control a growing number of smart home gadgets — from connected lights and switches to smart thermostats and DIY security systems. But with a fairly wide range of options, finding the right devices to start with can be a bit confusing. So here, let’s run through some of your options, category by category.

stack-and-amazon-alexa-echo-tap.jpgEnlarge Image

The Amazon Tap smart speaker and the Alexa-compatible Stack LED downlight.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Smart bulbs

Smart lighting is one of the fastest ways to start building a smart home, since all you need to do is swap your lights out for connected bulbs. Once they’re set up, Alexa can control them — just give each light a name, group them as you see fit in the Alexa app, then tell her to turn lights on and off or dim them up and down. Here are your options:

  • Philips Hue White Starter Kit – $80, comes with two bulbs, additional bulbs $15 each
  • Philips Hue White Ambiance Starter Kit – $130, comes with two bulbs, additional bulbs $30 each
  • Philips Hue White and Color Starter Kit – $200, comes with three bulbs, additional bulbs $60 each
  • Stack LED Downlight Starter Kit – $100, comes with two bulbs, additional bulbs $45 each
  • Ledvance Lightify Starter Kit – $60, comes with one bulb, additional bulbs $30 each
  • Lifx White 800 LED – $40
  • Lifx Color 1000 LED – $60
  • GE Link LED – $15, requires hub
  • Cree Connected LED – $15, requires hub

Enlarge Image

The $80 Philips Hue White Starter Kit comes with the essential Philips Hue Bridge and two of these white-light-only smart bulbs. Additional bulbs are $15 each, or more if you want ones that change colors.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

How to choose the best bulb

Do you want to control a lot of lights throughout your house? If so, go with bulbs that use a dedicated, far-reaching network called Zigbee instead of Wi-Fi.

Of these, Philips Hue has the broadest compatibility with third-party devices and services. For instance, you can control the bulbs with both Alexa and Siri voice controls. All of the Hue starter kits include the same hub, so start with the cheaper, white-light-only kit, then add in those pricey color-changing bulbs a la carte, as needed.

Alexa can’t change the colors of bulbs like those — she can only turn things on and off or dim them up and down. However, that isn’t the case with Lifx, one of Hue’s top color-changing competitors. On top of native Echo integration, Lifx offers an additional Alexa skill that, when enabled, teaches Alexa how to change colors on command (you just need to tack “tell Lifx” onto your command, as in “Alexa, tell Lifx to change the kitchen lights to pink.”)

If you have floodlights in your home, Philips, Stack, Ledvance, Lifx, and GE all offer BR30-shaped versions of their smart bulbs.

One final option: the $80 iDevices Socket, an Alexa-compatible screw-in adapter that lets you smarten up any bulb you choose.

Smart switches and plugs

Smart plugs are an easy smart home starting point — just plug them in to an outlet and plug something else in behind them, and you’ll be able to turn that thing on and off using your phone. It’s a plug-and-play simple means of automating a lamp or smartening up a desk fan.

If you’re up for a slightly more involved installation, try a smart light switch. You’ll need to wire it into your wall, but the extra work is often worth it, especially if that switch controls several lights at once. Here are your options:

  • Belkin WeMo Switch – $50
  • Belkin WeMo Light Switch – $50
  • Belkin WeMo Insight Switch – $60
  • Lutron Caseta Wireless Dimmer Kit – $100, comes with one switch, additional switches $60 each
  • Lutron Caseta Plug-in Lamp Dimmer Kit – $230, comes with two plugs, additional plugs $60 each
  • TP-Link HS100 Smart Plug – $30
  • TP-Link HS110 Smart Plug with Energy Monitoring – $40
  • iDevices Switch – $50
  • iDevices Outdoor Switch – $80

Belkin WeMo Light SwitchBelkin WeMo Light Switch
Enlarge Image

The Belkin WeMo Light Switch goes right into your wall, and works well with Alexa.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

How to choose the best switch

For seamless control of your lights, the most affordable option is the Belkin WeMo Light Switch, which you’ll need to hardwire into the wall. It’s the only smart light switch that doesn’t need an extra hub to work with Alexa. We’ve used a bunch of these in the CNET Smart Home, and while the app is a little laggy sometimes, the Alexa controls work like a charm.

That Belkin switch won’t let you dim the lights, though. If that’s important to you, choose the Lutron Caseta Wireless Dimmer Switch, which requires Lutron’s Smart Bridge. It’s more expensive than Belkin, but it does a a great job with dimming, and also includes built-in support for Apple HomeKit. That brings Siri controls into play alongside Alexa.

The rest of these options are all plug-in adapters. None of them require a hub and none of them will let you dim the lights (except for Lutron, again), but there are still a few small differences. Belkin’s plugs work with IFTTT, which is offers an optional additional layer of automation possibilities. The WeMo Insight Switch, the iDevices Switch, and the TP-Link HS110 will all track the energy usage of whatever you plug in behind them. And both iDevices Switches also work with Apple HomeKit. If any of those extra perks appeals to you, then buy accordingly. If not, I say just go with whatever’s on sale.

Smart thermostats

Smart thermostats let you use your phone to control the climate in your home — you can kick the heat up in the middle of a cold night without getting out of bed. With Alexa in the picture, you won’t even need your phone. Just say something like, “Alexa, change the temperature to 75 degrees.” Here are your options:

  • Ecobee3 Wi-Fi Thermostat – $250
  • Nest Learning Thermostat – $250
  • Honeywell Wi-Fi Touchscreen Thermostat – $210
  • Venstar T7900 Colortouch Thermostat – $200
  • iDevices Thermostat – $150
  • Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat – $130

Enlarge Image

Emerson’s Sensi smart thermostat is currently the least expensive option that works with Alexa.


How to choose the best thermostat

Nest might seem like the obvious choice, despite its high cost, thanks to broad third-party support and an exceptional design.

Ecobee is a better choice for Echo, though — its thermostat was actually the first to sync up with Alexa, and Amazon liked it enough to invest heavily in the company earlier this month. It works with HomeKit (Nest doesn’t) and includes a remote temperature and occupancy sensor to help keep you comfortable in rooms that run a little warmer or colder than the rest of your house. Nest doesn’t offer anything like that.

If you want to spend a little less, your options are growing fast. Amazon is making it easier for developers to make thermostats that work with Alexa, so new options are added often.

If you just want the least expensive one, go with the Sensi Wi-Fi thermostat from Emerson. It’s not much to look at, and it doesn’t have a lot of the extra bells and whistles that you’ll get with Ecobee or Nest, but it’ll get the job done.

Other Alexa-compatible devices

Alexa works with a lot more than just lights and thermostats. For instance, you can connect her with the Automatic car monitor, a gadget that tracks your vehicle’s location, mileage and maintenance needs. If you’d rather track the whereabouts of your keys, connect her with the TrackR Bravo tag, which helps you find lost items.

For even more options, try an Alexa-compatible smart hub. These include Wink, SmartThings, and Insteon — once Alexa’s on board, she’ll be able to control any lights, switches, or plugs that are tethered to that hub. That brings a lot of additional products into play, like platform-specific light switches and bargain-brand smart bulbs.

No matter what you go with, keep in mind that we expect Alexa to keep getting smarter. That means that the best approach is probably to start small, then build your setup gradually, bit-by-bit. As you get more comfortable with Alexa, you’ll have a better sense of what works for your home, what you want to hold out for, and what you can safely skip. As cool as Alexa is, your home is only smart if it makes sense for you.


10 Microsoft Word tips to make you a power user – CNET


Tell Word what you want to do.

Alina Bradford / CNET

1. Use the universal search bar to find features

Word has way too many features to remember the location of them all…and you don’t have to. There is a search bar located by the View tab that says “Tell me what you want to do.”

Just type in the name of the feature you’re looking for. The search bar also has a dropdown menu with suggestions you can click on. Hit Enter on your keyboard when you’re done typing or click on an option from the dropdown menu. Word will find the feature and present it to you.

2. Word can autocorrect capitalizations

If you’re terrible at making sure all of your words are properly capitalized, Word has your back. Click on the File tab > Options > Proofing > AutoCorrect Options > AutoCorrect tab. Click all of the boxes in this tab to ensure that Word will correct your text automatically if you type two capital letters in one sentence, forget to capitalize a day of the week or the first word in a sentence, or accidentally tap on the caps lock button. Then click OK, and then OK again to finish.

3. Create your own default formats

The formatting options at the top of the screen are handy for automatically making text into headers, titles and such, but you don’t need to use the preset fonts and colors. You can customize them in two ways.

The easiest way is to copy and paste some text that you like into your Word Document, select it, right-click on the formatting option you want to change and click on Update to Match Selection.

Another option is to right-click on the formatting option and choose Modify. From there, you can change your font, spacing, size and more. Click OK when you’re done to save your choices.


Update to Match Selection will copy the formatting of anything in the document.

Screenshot by Alina Bradford / CNET

4. Hide spelling and grammar problems

Sometimes the best way to get through writing a story, report or whatever is to just write. The blue and red lines under various misspelled words and poor grammar can be distracting and hamper your progress.

You can easily turn off these spelling and grammar checker by going to File > Options > Proofing > Exceptions for and checking both boxes. This will turn off the spelling and grammar for just the document you’re working on unless you select the All documents option. When you’re ready, go to the Review tab and click the Grammar and Spelling button to run a check.

5. Recover a document you didn’t save

Did Word shut down before you could save your document? It’s not lost forever. Your computer saved it as an ASD file. Use these instructions to find your Word document again.

6. Change the menus

Are there features that you use all the time, but you hate clicking through the menu tabs to get to it? Add the feature to the quick menu that’s found at the top-left corner of the screen.

Go to File tab > Options > Quick Access Toolbar and choose All Commands from the dropdown menu. Then, click on the command you would like to add to the quick menu and click Add. When you’re done click OK.


Customize your quick menu.

Screenshot by Alina Bradford / CNET

7. Go back to old saves

I think we’ve all sat looking at our work and felt like changing the original text was a bad idea. Luckily, Word stores your old versions. To go back to before you saved your changes, go to File > Info. In the window there will be a category called Manage Document. In the category there will be a list of your previous saves.

Click on an older version of your document and it will appear on the screen. At the top of the document will be the option to compare your new version to your old version and an option to restore the old version as your current copy. Click on your choice and follow the prompts.


It is easy to go back to a previous save in Word.

Screenshot by Alina Bradford / CNET

8. Cater to a specific audience

If your project is aimed towards a certain age group, you are going to want to write in a way that is understandable to the target audience. Word can make sure you’re doing this. Go to File > Options > Proofing, tick the Show readability statistics option and click OK. To run a report, go to the Review tab and click the Grammar and Spelling button.


A readability statistics report.

Screenshot by Alina Bradford / CNET

9. Save in the right file format

If you always need to save your documents in something other than Word’s default .docx format you can make Word automatically save documents in the preferred format every time. Go to File > Options > Save, choose the file format from the dropdown menu and click OK.

10. Turn off smart quotes

If you copy text from a Word document and paste it in WordPress, Blogger or another online text editor, you’ll need to turn off the Word’s smart quotes feature, or else your pasted text might have weird formatting.

To turn off Smart Quotes, click on the File tab> Options > Proofing > AutoCorrect Options> AutoFormat tab and then deselect the box to replace “Straight quotes” with “smart quotes.” Click OK, then OK again.

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