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27
Aug

Six innovative rooftop solar technologies


By Cat DiStasio

It’s never been easier to give your house a solar roof. Falling manufacturing costs and increasing demand have led to a number of fascinating new solar products in recent years, including roof shingles with integrated solar cells, modular solar arrays and even efficient thermal tiles made from glass. As the technology improves and more people get turned on to the benefits of renewable energy, we expect to see even more innovative products hitting the market in the coming months and years, pushing forward the envelope for solar power production.

Dow Chemical Powerhouse solar shingles

In 2010, Dow Chemical unveiled a line of solar-integrated rooftop shingles that were a marked improvement over existing technologies. The sleek plastic-coated Powerhouse shingles were capable of converting 13 percent of the sun’s energy into electricity — a full 2 percent increase over other solar shingles on the market at that time. The shingles were expensive when they debuted ($10,000 for 250 shingles spread over 1,000 square feet), and an array that size would only make a small dent in energy usage for a typical household. However, Dow promised they would pay for themselves within a decade, and the product was an important step forward for integrated solar power systems.

SRS Energy’s Solé Power Tiles

A year before Dow wowed the solar industry with its attractive shingles, SRS Energy launched a product that promised to make installation a breeze. Its curved Solé Power Tiles were designed to mimic the shape of interlocking mission-style clay or cement shingles. In this case, the solar shingles had the same barrel design as their traditional counterparts, so they could be easily integrated into existing mission roofs. This adaptive quality would enable homeowners to replace as little or as much of their roof with the unique solar shingles as they liked, without having to rip off the entire roof.

SolTech Energy’s icy glass solar heat shingles

Solar shingles continue to evolve, not only in efficiency but also in design. Sweden-based SolTech Energy created a stunning example of the best of both worlds with its translucent glass mission tiles, which, when installed across an entire building, give the illusion of a roof tiled with ice. The shimmering SolTech roof tiles capture solar heat and use it to warm air beneath the tiles, which is then used to heat water and warm the home during the winter. The company claims the gorgeous roof tiles can produce about 350 kWh of heat per square meter (10.7 square feet), depending on weather conditions and the angle of the roof.

SunTegra’s Solar Roof Systems

Solar shingles — once a unique way to add solar power production to your rooftop — may actually become a thing of the past. That’s thanks to the emergence of new roof technologies that integrate solar cells so fully that they’re actually part of the roof, rather than just installed atop it. Elon Musk promised that SolarCity, which is being acquired by Tesla Motors through a $2.6 billion merger deal, will create such a roof, but the New York–based SunTegra Solar Roof Systems has already done it.

The company’s integrated solar systems have been installed on homes in the northeastern United States and in California, two prime spots for making the most of the sun’s energy. SunTegra’s solar roof (available in tiles or shingles) currently costs 15 percent more than typical rooftop solar panels, but the company claims it’s just as durable and weather-resistant as traditional roof coverings, which is something most solar panel manufacturers cannot say.

SolarPod Grid Tied requires no holes

When it comes to ease of installation for rooftop solar arrays, the SolarPod might have the market cornered. The system can be mounted to nearly any type of roof and requires no drilling of holes. Since holes are the last thing you want in your roof, this is a fairly clever solution to a common installation challenge. SolarPod’s Grid Tied solar array is an integrated and modular plug-and-play solar power system that includes a prefabricated frame made from corrosion-resistant steel that holds the solar panels. Because the frame floats above the existing roof, it’s also easy to adjust the angle of the solar array to capture the maximum amount of sunlight for that particular location, thereby increasing solar energy production.

SoloPower on a roll

In a completely different approach to easing the woes of installation, SoloPower developed a flexible solar panel that can be unfurled as easily as a carpet. The thin-film solar panels, linked together in long strips, boast an 11 percent energy conversion rate and a smooth installation process, thanks to their light weight and flexible composition. In theory, the flexible solar panels could be unrolled right over the top of an existing roof, in any quantity desired, without the sort of expensive glass and aluminum frames required by most rooftop solar arrays. Although the desire for integrated solar roofs may drive innovation faster, it would be nice to see more flexible — and potentially portable — options hit the market as well.

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27
Aug

Lenovo’s Thinkpad X1 Yoga will make you want OLED everywhere


The dream of large OLED screens has, for the past few years, seemed perpetually on the horizon. LG has had OLED TVs on the market for a while, but they’re still far more expensive than comparable LCDs. If you’ve wanted to get your OLED fix recently, you’d have to get it on a smaller phone or tablet screen. Now, the technology is finally making its way to laptops from the likes of Dell’s Alienware, HP and Lenovo. So you can bet that I jumped at the opportunity to test out the new OLED-equipped Thinkpad X1 Yoga as soon as review units appeared. For the most part, it’s a pretty typical Thinkpad convertible PC, but its screen is truly a thing of wonder.

Hardware

The Thinkpad X1 Yoga doesn’t offer up many surprises design-wise. It sports a black matte case, clean lines and it’s built out of some sturdy material (a combination of a carbon fiber cover and magnesium alloy elsewhere). Its understated aesthetic befits its purpose: it’s here to do work, not game or be an entertainment powerhouse. That doesn’t mean it’s ugly, it just resembles very traditional PC laptops, much like its sibling the X1 Tablet. Really, the X1 Yoga doesn’t need any design flourishes, as it ensures the 14-inch OLED touchscreen is the real star of the show. (More on that below.)

While it’s built like a workhouse — there’s no flex to the case, and it feels like it could survive some major tumbles — the X1 Yoga is also impressively portable, at 2.8 pounds and 0.67-inches thin. That’s about on-par with most other Ultrabooks (and it’s even 0.2-pounds lighter than the 13-inch MacBook Air). It’s not as razor-thin as HP’s stunning new Spectre, but because of that it’s surprisingly versatile, with three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and miniDisplayPort connectors, and a microSD card slot. There’s also a proprietary OneLink+ port for connecting to Lenovo’s docks, as well as a fingerprint sensor to the right of the trackpad.

Being a Yoga device, the X1’s screen can bend a full 360-degrees around the case, effectively turning it into a very large tablet. (In that mode the keyboard also recesses into the case, to prevent stray strokes and key damage.) You can also fold the screen over at an angle in a “tent” formation. That’s ideal for standing it up on a table, or on your lap in bed. Lenovo designed a new double hinge for this device, and it’s one of their smoothest implementations yet. The screen is easy to move around, but it also feels secure once you set it in place.

Lenovo also tucked a stylus into the side of the X1 Yoga, which is useful for drawing or quickly jotting down notes. It’s powered by super capacitor technology, which charges it whenever it’s sitting inside the case.

Display and pen input

The X1 Yoga’s OLED display doesn’t waste any time impressing you. The red border around Lenovo’s logo has an almost electric feel upon boot-up, and that carries over to everything in Windows. OLED displays are known for their bold colors and deep black levels, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Watching videos and perusing photos is a revelatory experience. OLED adds an enormous amount of depth to images that makes them seem almost three-dimensional.

With a resolution of 2,560 by 1,440 (1440p/2K), the X1 Yoga’s OLED screen is significantly sharper than a 1080p display, though it’s not quite 4K. That’s just fine, though, as Windows 10 still isn’t well suited to 4K, and the benefits of such a high resolution are wasted on laptop screens.

The X1 Yoga might not look like an ideal media machine from afar, but it ended up being one of my favorite ways to watch Netflix in bed. Mostly, that was due to sheer immersiveness of the screen. Its speakers sit right below the screen, and as is usual with Lenovo’s gadgets, they were merely adequate. If you really want to get into a movie or TV show, bring along a good pair of headphones.

The laptop’s ability to flip around in a variety of different orientations also made it very useful. When I needed help in the kitchen, the tent formation was perfect on my countertop for watching videos and references recipes. And when I wanted to dive into the NYT, Comixology or a digital magazine app, the tablet mode was immensely convenient. It also worked well in direct sunlight, but be prepared to deal with some reflectivity depending on how it’s oriented.

While the built-in stylus was convenient for jotting down quick notes, it’s also too light and flimsy to use for a very long time. It doesn’t feel as substantial as Microsoft’s Surface Pen or Apple’s Pencil, instead it’s like trying to write with an incredibly skinny pen. If you’re really looking forward to handwriting on the X1 Yoga, though, you’re probably better off investing in something that won’t cramp your hand after a few minutes. On the plus side, the stylus is pressure sensitive, which could be useful for artists.

Thinkpad+X1+OLED++gallery+3.jpg

Typing and trackpad experience

If there’s one thing you can be guaranteed to find on a Thinkpad, it’s a solid keyboard. That’s been true of the line since IBM debuted it decades ago, and it’s something Lenovo has maintained ever since it took over Big Blue’s computer arm. The X1 Yoga’s backlit chiclet keyboard is one of the most comfortable I’ve used in an Ultrabook. I had no trouble quickly typing up notes and reports from Intel’s Developer Conference, or banging out most of this review. The keys are sloped inward slightly, which feels comfortable as you’re resting your fingers on them, and they have a satisfying amount of depth.

Basically, the X1 Yoga’s keyboard feels like a balance of traditional Thinkpad typing with the modern chiclet style. I wish Lenovo included some media keys among its second functions though. Even the ability to start and stop music would be helpful (and being able to move between tracks would be even better). Lenovo used to offer some media keys on the X1 Carbon’s capacitive touch strip, so hopefully we’ll see those return eventually.

The Thinkpad’s trackpad is incredibly smooth, though it’s not as roomy as the MacBook Air’s or those found on other Ultrabooks. And if you’re a Thinkpad diehard, you’ll be pleased to learn there’s also red Trackpoint nub among the keys, as well as mechanical mouse buttons right below the keyboard. For the most part, I relied on the X1 Yoga’s trackpad, which was accurate for mousing, though it sometimes got confused between left and right clicks. I’m not a huge Trackpoint fan, but it was admittedly helpful while I was cramped in a middle airplane seat. In situations like that, being able to mouse with just your finger, and without moving your elbows, is immensely helpful.

Performance and battery life

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 OLED (2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6600U, Intel HD 520) 4,892 4,186 E2,609 / P1,419 3,577 2.2 GB/s / 1.3 GB/s
HP Spectre 13 (2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,046 3,747 E2,790 / P1,630 / X375 3,810 1.61 GB/s / 307 MB/s
Huawei MateBook (1.1 GHz Core M3, Intel HD 515) 3,592 2,867 E1,490 / P887 2,454 538 MB/s / 268 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet (1.2 GHz Core M7-6Y75, Intel HD 515) 4,951 3,433 E1,866 / P1,112 2,462 545 MB/s / 298 MB/s
Dell XPS 13 (2.3GHz Core i5-6200U, Intel Graphics 520) 4,954 3,499 E2,610 / P1,531 3,335 1.6GB/s / 307 MB/s
Razer Blade Stealth (2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,131 3,445 E2,788 / P1,599 / X426 3,442 1.5 GB/s / 307 MB/s
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (2.4GHz Core i5-6300U, Intel HD 520) 5,403 3,602

E2,697/ P1,556/ X422

3,614 1.6 GB/s / 529 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga 900 (2.5GHz Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,368 3,448

E2,707 / P1,581

3,161 556 MB/s / 511 MB/s

On the hardware front, the Thinkpad X1 Yoga offers everything you’d expect from an Ultrabook today. It starts with an Intel Core i5-6200U, 8GB of DDR3 RAM and 128GB SSD. The model we reviewed is a bit beefier, with a Core i7 6600U, 16GB of RAM and 256GB SSD.

It tackled just about every productivity task I threw at it: My daily workflow typically consists of having several browsers open with dozens of tabs, Slack, Spotify, and photo editing software running all at once. The Thinkpad handled video streaming from Netflix and Hulu just fine, and it processed dozens of large photos without any issues. It was about as fast as other recent ultraportables, like the new HP Spectre, when it comes to benchmarks. Tough, since it’s sporting Intel HD 520 graphics, it can only tackle basic games.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed by the Thinkpad X1’s battery life. It lasted only around 4.5 hours during typical usage, and I always had to recharge it in the afternoons. In our battery test, which involves playing an HD video continuously at 50 percent brightness, it lasted 8.5 hours. It’s likely just far more efficient at handling video than a plethora of different programs running at once.

Configuration options and the competition

As always, expect to pay dearly for the privilege of using OLED. This Thinkpad X1 Yoga model starts at $1,682, while the standard LCD version starts at $1,400. Its hardware starts with the specs I’ve mentioned above, but it would cost you $2,168 to upgrade to all of the specs from our review model. Still, the premium is likely worth it if you’ve been hankering for some OLED goodness.

While there’s plenty of ultraportable competition on the market, there are few alternatives that pack an OLED screens. HP recently revamped its Spectre x360 convertible with the technology, which starts at a more reasonable $1,499. And Alienware’s gaming-ready OLED models come in at $1,800. It might be worth sticking with the Thinkpad if you want OLED with the best productivity build quality, but if you’re a gamer, Alienware’s option is worth a look too.

Wrap-up

It’ll likely be a while before OLED becomes the norm on laptops, but the Thinkpad X1 Yoga is a fine example of why we’d want it in all of our devices. Yes, even in a laptop that looks like it belongs in a boring corporate cubicle. That could also be appealing to some buyers: it looks like a dull Thinkpad on the surface, but it’ll blow your mind when you actually turn it on.

The Thinkpad X1 Yoga is a reminder that OLED isn’t just bright and bold, it’s a transformative display technology. Now if only it weren’t so expensive.

27
Aug

Recommended Reading: The political media machine on Facebook


Inside Facebook’s (Totally
Insane, Unintentionally
Gigantic, Hyperpartisan)
Political-Media Machine

John Herrman,
The New York Times Magazine

A barrage of political links, ads and other content has filled up your News Feed over the last few months. With each new election, the amount of noise seems to get worse and now that we have two candidates who both have quite a list of shortcomings, the chatter is at an all-time high. The New York Times Magazine takes a deep dive into how Facebook is serving as a massive political media machine and its influence on democracy in the US.

Dear Internet: It’s Time to Fix This Mess You Made
Wired

In a week that saw actress Leslie Jones attacked online once more, Wired penned an open letter to the internet to plead for an end online harassment.

Pandora Looks for a Way Out of the Doldrums. Cue Questlove.
Ben Sisario, The New York Times

Will teaming up with The Roots’ drummer and DJ Questlove give Pandora a much-needed boost as it preps to launch a streaming service? The New York Times has details on the partnership.

​Tiger Electronics Took on the Game Boy with Devices as Powerful as Calculators
Ernie Smith, Motherboard

Tiger Electronics was a mainstay in handheld gaming with simple gadgets that ran on two AA batteries. This piece from Motherboard offers a bit of nostalgia for those of us who played them and history lesson for those who didn’t.

Def Jam Can’t Compete With Apple
Justin Charity, The Ringer

After Frank Ocean independently released his long-awaited album Blond as an Apple Music exclusive, there are a lot of opinions about what this means for record labels. As The Ringer notes, Apple Music has industry experts like Jimmy Iovine running the show which could lure more popular artists looking to cut ties to a label.

27
Aug

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (OLED) review – CNET


The Good The new OLED display looks stunning, and this professional-level Yoga has a great keyboard, active stylus, and rugged body.

The Bad It’s not as thin or light as the more consumer-oriented Yoga hybrids, and adding the OLED screen is an expensive option.

The Bottom Line The best 2-in-1 Yoga Lenovo makes gets even better with the addition of a stunning OLED display.

Configure at Lenovo.

Has it really only been four years since Lenovo’s first Yoga hybrid? That 13-inch two-in-one PC was the biggest argument in favor of the then-new Windows 8 and its tile-based interface, because it could transform into a touch-friendly tablet with ease, and because it did so without compromising the familiar clamshell laptop experience that nearly every PC user is accustomed to.

It turned out that the Yoga really was the one hybrid to rule them all, and every other major PC maker, including Dell, HP, Toshiba and others, experimented with all sorts of flipping, folding, rotating, and shifting hybrid PC design before settling on a similar 360-degree hinge. Today, you can’t even casually browse a computer store (either brick-and-mortar or online) without tripping over Windows PC with kiosk and table tent modes.

lenovo-thinkpad-x1-yoga-01.jpgView full gallery Sarah Tew/CNET

Lenovo went on to make several variations on the Yoga, including different screen sizes, different colors and higher-end models with watchband-style hinges. But the overall best Yoga design the company produced was the ThinkPad Yoga. This variant, part of the buttoned-down ThinkPad line of business computers, kept the best parts of the transforming Yoga experience, but also added a clever keyboard trick.

When the hinge rotates from its clamshell position all the way to its tablet position, the keyboard tucks itself away inside the base. It looks and feels like a retractable keyboard, but in reality, the outer edge of the keyboard tray raises up slightly to be flush with the keys, which are in turn locked into position. But the end effect is the same, so feel free to keep calling it a retractable keyboard. It’s a great feature missing from the standard IdeaPad Yoga systems, which leave a deactivated keyboard clacking under your fingers when in tablet mode.

Still, the ThinkPad Yogas were never as thin, flashy or lightweight as the consumer models, so I could see going with a slim IdeaPad Yoga 900 instead. Until now.

lenovo-thinkpad-x1-yoga-01.jpglenovo-thinkpad-x1-yoga-01.jpg
View full gallery
Sarah Tew/CNET

The latest 14-inch ThinkPad model, called the X1 Yoga, adds an OLED display (in its highest-end pricing configurations), making it one of the first laptops anywhere to have this stunning new type of screen. This isn’t a surprise development, Lenovo announced OLED was coming to the Yoga back in January at CES 2016, but it’s taken until now for the first units to finally ship. We recently reviewed a version of Dell’s Alienware 13 with an OLED screen, and my colleagues and I were blown away by what a big difference it made in everything from gaming to video viewing, and to a lesser extent, casual web surfing and productivity work. The Samsung TabPro S, a Surface-like tablet hybrid, has a similar AMOLED screen and was also very impressive.

Here in the larger 14-inch X1 Yoga, you can really appreciate why OLED screen technology sets the standard for excellence in the best-looking current-gen big-screen televisions, and why, despite the very high costs, TV buyers crave them. Even for a smaller laptop screen, there’s still a premium to pay. The exact high-end configuration we tested, with the OLED 2,560×1,440 display, a Core i7-6600U processor, 16GB of RAM and a big 256GB SSD, costs $2,289, as configured through Lenovo’s website. In the UK, you can get an identical OLED configuration for £2,286. In Australia, the same configuration costs AU$3,999.

lenovo-thinkpad-x1-yoga-01.jpglenovo-thinkpad-x1-yoga-01.jpg
View full gallery
Sarah Tew/CNET

If you’re looking for OLED on a budget, Lenovo also offers a Core i5 version in the US with the same OLED display but half the RAM and SSD storage for $1,682.

ThinkPad Yogas always cost a few hundred dollars more than the consumer versions, because of the retracting keyboard, better construction and built-in IT-friendly security features. Adding OLED drives the price up even further, but it’ll be a least a few more years before OLED laptops and TVs are as inexpensive as their LCD counterparts.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (OLED)

$2,289
14-inch, 2560 x 1440 OLED touch display
2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6600U
16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1866MHz
128MB Intel HD Graphics 520
256GB SSD
802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Micorsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit)

This new X1 Yoga keeps much of the look and feel of previous models, from the low-key matte black color to the red trackpoint nestled between the G, H and B keys — a throwback to an earlier era of laptop computing that feels more like a branding play than a practical navigation tool these days.

27
Aug

Android Central 303: 7.0 ways to enjoy Nougat


This week, Alex, Andrew, and Daniel convene in New York City to discuss Nougat. It’s a full hour of all the new features in Android 7.0, and why you’re going to want it — now.

(A quick warning: there is one curse word in the episode. Sorry, Jeff!)

Thanks to this week’s sponsor:

  • Harrys: Use promo code AC to save $5 off your first purchase — start shaving smarter.

Podcast MP3 URL: http://traffic.libsyn.com/androidcentral/androidcentral303.mp3

27
Aug

ICYMI: The first autonomous robotic octopus has arrived


ICYMI: The first autonomous robotic octopus has arrived
Today on In Case You Missed It: Harvard Researchers created the world’s first fully-autonomous octo-robot, something that runs on hydrogen peroxide and moves by pumping oxygen into its tentacles. We’d be afraid, except it looks so similar to what research vessel EV Nautilus just spotted in the sea that we can’t help but be charmed instead. If you’re more into nature as medicine, you may be interested in the study that showed houseplants may be better at removing air pollution than many ventilation systems.

We round up the week’s stories with TL;DR but can’t limit our suggestions to just one this week. Read up on the Apple iOS patch after a human rights activist was spied on here, and the story about the VR video starring President Obama and more even more impressive, the National Parks!– is here.

If you’re similarly into that seal video, the full ‘avoiding feeding orcas’ thing can be found here. As always, please share any interesting tech or science videos you find by using the #ICYMI hashtag on Twitter for @mskerryd.

27
Aug

How to enable Night Mode on your Nexus in Android 7.0 Nougat


nexus-6p-night-mode.jpg?itok=ZKA76kaU

How do I enable Night Mode in Android 7.0 Nougat on a Nexus device?

During the Android 7.0 Nougat Developer Preview, Google experimented with a system-wide Night Mode that offered a number of improvements to compatible Nexus phones to allow them to work better at night and in other low-light situations. Unfortunately for tinkerers (but completely understandable for a variety of reasons), that mode was hidden in the run-up to Nougat’s release — but with a little help you can get at least some of those features back.

While the overall dark theme is not available, Nexus devices running Nougat (5X, 6, 6P, 9, Pixel C) can activate a handy blue light filter similar to the one found on the Galaxy Note 7. Here’s how.

How to get Night Mode on Android 7.0 Nougat

Open Google Play Store.
Tap Search bar.
Enter Night Mode Enabler. Press Install.

Return to home screen.

nightmode-nougat-1.jpg?itok=jSi6oWXR

Pull down on Notification Shade.
Pull down again to enter Quick Settings.
Hold down on Settings icon (cog icon). You should feel a vibration and see a message saying, “Congrats! System UI Tuner has been added to Settings.”

Return to home screen.

nightmode-nougat-2.jpg?itok=nGqLI269

Open Night Mode Enabler app.
Tap Enable Night Mode.
Toggle Night Mode to on.
Toggle Adjust tint to enable blue-light filter.

nightmode-nougat-3.jpg?itok=6TWR61gm

That’s it! Now you have what’s remaining of Night Mode in Nougat. This certainly isn’t the ambitious system-wide dark theme that many people wanted when it was first previewed, but this is really useful nonetheless.

Android 7.0 Nougat

  • Android 7.0 Nougat: Everything you need to know
  • Will my phone get Android Nougat?
  • All Android Nougat news
  • How to manually update your Nexus
  • Join the Discussion

27
Aug

Privacy groups call foul on WhatsApp sharing data with Facebook


WhatsApp’s new terms-of-service are causing quite a stir among privacy advocates. Yesterday, the company announced it would begin sharing user phone numbers, profile data, status message and online status with Facebook, its parent company — a change that the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) claims violates a Federal Trade Commission consent order.

Specifically, the privacy group says it’s planning to file a complaint against the companies for violating statues of the Federal Trade Commission act that warns against “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.” Here, EPIC is accusing WhatsApp of lying to users when it promised its 2014 sale to Facebook wouldn’t effect it’s privacy policy — which pledged never to share or sell “personally identifiable information” like the phone number, name and profile data shared under the new policy.

WhatsApp says it needs to share limited data with Facebook to test out new features designed to help users “communicate with business,” such as receiving fraud notifications from a bank or flight delays from airline companies. WhatsApp also maintains that all messages will still be completely encrypted, and unreadable by both Facebook and WhatsApp staff.

HILVERSUM, NETHERLANDS - FEBRUARY 2014, 2014: WhatsApp Messenger is a proprietary, cross-platform instant messaging subscription service for smartphones with Internet access founded in 2009.; Shutterstock ID 177177047; PO: aol; Job: production; Client: drone

Users also have up to 30 days to opt-out of the sharing portion of the new terms-of-service, but according to EPIC, that doesn’t protect the companies from the FTC’s consent order. The order apparently requires the company to obtain an opt-in consent before asking them to agree to the new terms. WhatsApp does technically offer an opt-in option, but it’s not clear how to access it: one must click “read” to view the terms-of-service agreement before the opt-in checkbox appears.

It may sound like privacy groups are splitting hairs, but how user data is handled can have unforeseen legal consequences. It’s not just special interest groups who are concerned — The United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner is also investigating the WhatsApp policy change to ensure it complies with the Data Protection Act. It’s a complicated little mess, but Facebook, at least, is confident it’s on the right side of the law. “WhatsApp complies with applicable laws,” a spokesperson said in a Motherboard interview. “As always, we consider our obligations when designing updates like this.”

Source: EPIC, Motherboard, BBC

27
Aug

The Public Access Weekly: Everyday robots


Tomorrow is International Cosplay Day, so a quick shout-out to all you creative folks out there who spend so much time stitching together costumes to bring fantasy to life: Y’all are rad! It is very cool to see the myriad ways in which people bring their favorite fictional characters to life, and I have complete respect for the time, dedication and imagination that it takes to cosplay. If any of you are planning on participating, we would love to see pictures and hear about any events you attended!

Additionally, and I really, REALLY shouldn’t have to say this (or get shouty about it) but don’t post things on Public Access if you haven’t written them. We do not, ever, in any-freaking-way tolerate plagiarism — and yes, rephrasing someone else’s article word-for-word counts as plagiarism. If you are posting an article for someone else, their name is the only name that should appear in the byline field. If we discover that your article has been plagiarized, we will pull your post and revoke your membership to Public Access immediately. We have a one-strike policy against plagiarism, because seriously, stealing someone else’s work is a crappy thing to do.

Looking for something to read? Check out:

A lot of people have opinions on Uber, Lyft and the way those companies are impacting the taxi industry. To whit, Massachusetts’ governor recently enacted a law that will charge the services 20 cents which will go to infrastructure — and to the taxi industry, meaning ridesharing companies will be directly funding the taxi’s they’re disrupting. It’s an interesting tactic, and plenty of folks are weighing in with their two cents in the comments.

This article — on a study that showed people prefer robots that are capable of expressions while also demonstrating that people will lie to a robot to avoid ‘hurting its feelings’ — is provoking some interesting comments and discussions about humans, empathy and machines.

Virtual reality is the hot new technology on the horizon, with the industry diving in deep to AR and VR hardware, applications and use cases. However, it seems that a majority of VR developers are throwing their weight behind the HTC Vive — and not the Oculus Rift, which is Facebook’s contender. Don’t miss the debate in the comments about the various drawbacks merits of each offering, and how other VR headsets may factor in.

Looking for something to write about? Mull over:

In honor of this Xbox Onesie that may (or may not) go on sale in Australia, tell us about your geekiest article of clothing. What is it, where did you get it, and why did you buy it? Also, you all know the rule: Pics or it didn’t happen.

One of the only games I’ve played recently was Limbo — a game rated “T” meaning its appropriate for those at a teen age level and above. And this article about the recent crop of YA games has me excited to play some new titles. If you play YA games, or games technically intended for a younger audience, tell us what you enjoy about them and share some of your favorite titles. Alternatively, write up a review of the last YA-style game you played.

Here’s one to really chew on: Have you ever wanted to quit the Internet? Has there ever been an online experience that made you just want to throw up your hands and walk away from the whole damn thing? Tell us about it – what happened, how it made you feel and what made you come back online?

27
Aug

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Galaxy S7 Edge


Unlike last year, a Plus variant of the Galaxy S7 Edge was no longer necessary, with the display size of the device being bumped up to 5.5-inches. Instead, Samsung decided to incorporate the dual curved edge display feature into the Galaxy Note series, with the Galaxy Note 7.

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge review

Samsung has always managed to maintain some separation between the Note line and the Galaxy S series, but things being more similar than ever between the two has led to a lot of people to dismiss the Galaxy Note 7 as a Galaxy S7 Edge with an S-Pen. Is that really a fair way to assess the Galaxy Note 7, and are there significant differences between the two Samsung flagships? That’s what we aim to find out, in this in-depth look at the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Galaxy S7 Edge!

Buy the Galaxy Note 7!
Buy the Galaxy S7 Edge!

Design

There are obviously a lot of similarities between the Galaxy Note 7 and the Galaxy S7 Edge, and that starts with the design and build quality. Both smartphones feature a metal and glass unibody construction, and with the Galaxy Note 7 also coming with a curved display, they do look and feel very similar.

Of course, this is by no means a bad thing, and what you get are two beautifully designed smartphones that feel extremely solid in the hand. However, as is the case with any smartphone that features a glass backing, both devices are fingerprint magnets, and you do have to wipe them down continuously to keep these phones looking pristine.

Samsung Galaxy Note7 versus Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge-9

While the Galaxy Note 7 does borrow heavily from the design language of its flagship counterpart, Samsung has managed to further refine the design with the former. While the curved edges on the front of the Galaxy Note 7 are noticeable, they are not as drastic as what is seen with the Galaxy S7 Edge, and does help avoid accidental presses with your palm or fingers.

The metal frame has also been more seamlessly integrated into the glass of the Galaxy Note 7, making the phone feel like an unified piece of hardware. While this may seem like a minor design element, it actually makes a huge difference when considering how much smoother and more comfortable the device feels in the hand. Of course, the Galaxy S7 Edge does feel incredible as well, but the Galaxy Note 7 takes it to another level, and how Samsung continues to improve the metal and glass design with every flagship is certainly very impressive.

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The Galaxy Note 7 is the larger of the two smartphones, but not by much, and the curved glass allowed for it to be smaller than its predecessors, despite featuring the same display size. One difference between the two devices, that isn’t easily seen, is that Galaxy Note 7 is protected with Gorilla Glass 5 panels, an upgrade from the Gorilla Glass 4 that is found with the Galaxy S7 Edge. Granted, there is some controversy surrounding this with regards to its scratch resistance, but overall, it is supposed to be the stronger and more durable of the two.

The rest of the design elements of both the Galaxy Note 7 and the Galaxy S7 Edge are typical Samsung. The power button and volume rocker are on the right and left sides respectively, and up top is the SIM card slot, with the SIM tray also housing a section for a microSD card. On the bottom is the headphone jack and single speaker unit, and with the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung has finally made the move to a USB Type-C port from the standard microUSB that is found with the Galaxy S7 Edge.

Samsung Galaxy Note7 versus Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge-7

The Galaxy Note 7 also has a slot at the bottom that houses the S-Pen, and in case you were wondering, Samsung has re-designed the S-Pen to make it impossible for it to slide into the slot the wrong way.

Display

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The Galaxy Note 7 comes with a larger 5.7-inch display, compared to the 5.5-inch screen of the Galaxy S7 Edge, but other than the slight difference in size, these displays are practically identical. Both are Super AMOLED screens with a Quad HD resolution, resulting in both being extremely sharp, and offering colors that are vibrant and saturated, along with deep inky blacks.

Samsung’s display prowess is well known at this point, and it’s not surprising that both devices feature stunning displays, making doing anything, from watching videos, browsing the web, or playing games, an absolute joy on either smartphone.

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The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 does offer an interesting feature, and that is support for streaming HDR content, which makes watching movies and TV shows, on Amazon Video or Netflix for example, even more enjoyable, on this already bright and beautiful display. This is something you really have to see in person to truly appreciate, and things will only get better, as more and more HDR titles are released.

Another really useful feature of the Galaxy Note 7 is the ability to downscale the display resolution to 1080p, or even 720p, to get that little bit of extra juice out of the battery.

Performance

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Under the hood, both smartphones come with the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, that is backed by the Adreno 530 GPU and 4 GB of RAM. Depending on the market, and Exynos 8890 variant of both smartphones are available as well. With the same processing package and software package, the day to day performance you get with both is understandably identical as well.

While some may be disappointed with the fact the Galaxy Note 7 doesn’t feature an upgraded processor or more RAM, the available setup is definitely plenty powerful. Both smartphones are blazing fast, and everything, from opening, closing and switching between apps, to processor-intensive gaming, is easily handled. There also finally some Vulkan-supported game titles available on the Google Play Store, allowing for superior graphics and gameplay on both the Galaxy Note 7 and Galaxy S7 Edge.

Hardware

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While the Galaxy S7 Edge is available in 32 GB and 64 GB variants, 64 GB is the only on-board storage option available with the Galaxy Note 7. If storage is still a concern, both smartphones also offer expandable storage via microSD card, up to an additional 256 GB. In some markets, both smartphones come with dual SIM capabilities, but since a hybrid slot is utilized, users will have to choose with dual SIM or expandable storage.

Right below the display of both smartphones is a fingerprint scanner that is embedded into the physical home button. At this point, we are all aware of how well Samsung’s fingerprint sensors work, and in both cases, they are fast, accurate, and reliable, and provide a nice additional layer of security.

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However, with the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung has taken bio-metric security a step further, with the inclusion of an iris scanner, which uses infrared to scan your eyes and unlock the phone. It actually works surprisingly well, given that it is a first generation feature, but does take a little bit longer than when using the fingerprint sensor, because of the additional steps involved.

After waking up the phone, you actually need to swipe up before it starts scanning your eyes. The swipe gesture is meant to prevent the phone from scanning your eyes when you don’t want it to, but the option to disable this would have been nice to have.

Samsung re-introduced dust and water resistance with their 2016 flagships, and both the Galaxy Note 7 and Galaxy S7 Edge come with an IP68 rating for protection against the elements. In the case of the Galaxy Note 7, the S-Pen is also protected, which means that if you ever find the need for it, you will be able to take notes while the phone is submerged.

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Speaking of the S-Pen, as is the case with every iteration, the new stylus brings with a lot of improvements. It has a much finer point and more levels of pressure sensitivity, allowing for a more accurate and precise writing experience. However, perhaps the most important change is the fact that the S-Pen cannot be put into its slot backwards anymore.

Samsung has also added a slew of features to take advantage of the revamped S-Pen. You can now hover the stylus over the screen to translate text or images, magnify the screen, or create a GIF from something like a Youtube video to share with friends, assuming that it is not DRM protected content. The Screen Off Memo has also been improved, giving you the ability to scroll and write much longer memos, that can also be pinned for up to an hour to the Always On display, to make it more easily accessible.

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The Galaxy Note 7 packs a 3,500 mAh battery, which is the largest we’ve seen with a Galaxy Note device, but is still slightly smaller than the 3,600 mAh unit of the Galaxy S7 Edge. The difference in capacity is negligible when it comes to the battery life that is available with both.

If you are looking for a smartphone that provides five or six hours of screen-on time on a consistent basis, and can comfortably last a full day even with heavy usage, both devices will do the trick. Both devices also come with fast charging capabilities and fast wireless charging as well, so no matter how you decide to charge your phone, you will be able to do so quickly.

Camera

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Both smartphones also feature the exact same camera package as well. On the rear is a 12 MP camera with a f/1.7 aperture, OIS, and the super fast dual pixel autofocus technology, and up front is a 5 MP shooter with a wide angle lens, which works really well to put a lot of detail into your selfie.

Given that the camera of the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge are widely considered to be some the best smartphone cameras around, Samsung can’t be blamed for deciding to stick with the same sensor. It takes fantastic images in almost all lighting conditions, with plenty of detail, sharpness, color, and depth.

The pictures do look similar for the most part, but it appears as though Samsung has tweaked the image processing. First off, the image sharpening looks a lot more natural with the Galaxy Note 7, and isn’t as aggressive as what is seen with the Galaxy S7 Edge, and secondly, the white balance issues that plagued the latter in low-light conditions aren’t to be seen with the former, which is amazing, and just these two changes help make the Note 7 camera even better.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 camera samples

The most notable improvements with the camera experience actually have to do with the camera application. While the camera app of the Galaxy S7 Edge is already clean and easy to navigate, Samsung has made the camera software more intuitive with the Galaxy Note 7.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge camera samples

A double tap of the home button launches the camera as usual, and the app comes with all of the same features as before, including selective focus, live broadcast, and a robust Pro mode, but the interface of the Galaxy Note 7 camera app has been revamped with a much flatter and more simplistic look. It is also much easier to navigate with one hand, using swipe gestures. You can swipe to the right to access the camera modes, to the left to bring up the various camera filters, and swipe up or down to switch between the rear and front cameras.   

Software

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On the software side of things, both the Galaxy Note 7 and Galaxy S7 Edge are running Android 6.0 Marshmallow, with the TouchWiz UI on top. As expected, the general look and feel of the software package is similar, with features like Multi Window and a Themes store available with both. However, Samsung has made a few changes to the TouchWiz UI that is available with the Galaxy Note 7.

If you look closely, you will see that many of the app icons have been revamped with new graphics and a more uniform look. Certain UI elements, like the notification shade and the Settings menu, have also been given a slight facelift to match the rest of the changes that have been throughout TouchWiz.

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The settings menu is cleaner and a lot more streamlined, making is much easier to find what you’re looking for. They have also dialed back a lot of the colors to allow for a more minimalistic appearance. Instead of the bright bold colors that are seen with the Galaxy S7 Edge, Samsung has opted for a softer, more eggshell like color scheme that is more appealing and easier on the eyes. This change can be found throughout the interface, and especially with Samsung’s own applications.

Samsung also consolidated all of their different note taking applications into one app called Samsung Notes, and whether you use the app or not, this change makes the process of finding the appropriate app for making a note or drawing a lot less confusing, while also helping reduce some of the bloatware. The only change that I’m not a fan of is that the toggles in the notification shade on the Galaxy Note 7 are no longer scrollable like they are on the Galaxy S7 Edge, and to get to the brightness slider, it now takes two swipes down on the notification shade instead of one.

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The Galaxy Note 7 also brings a new secure folder to lock away any apps or sensitive information that you don’t want anyone else to access, and this can be locked with a standard password, pin, lock pattern, your fingerprints, and even the brand new iris scanner. Touchwiz is surprisingly pleasant to use on the Galaxy Note 7, with Samsung making a lot of really nice changes,  and hopefully we’ll see this trickle down to the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge in a future update.

Finally, with the Galaxy Note 7 also featuring dual curved edges, it’s only natural for the Edge Panels to make their way over from the Galaxy S7 Edge. The Edge features include panels to easily access your favorite contacts, most used applications, and tasks, along with a variety of other information, including sports scores and the weather, all available with a simple swipe from the edge of the display.

Specs comparison

Display 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display
Quad HD resolution, 518 ppi
5.5-inch Super AMOLED display
Quad HD resolution, 534 ppi
Processor 2.15 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
Adreno 530 GPU
2.15 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
Adreno 530 GPU
RAM 4 GB 4 GB
Storage 32/64 GB
expandable via microSD card up to 256 GB
64 GB
expandable via microSD card up to 256 GB
Camera 12 MP rear camera, f/1.7 aperture, OIS, LED flash
5 MP front-facing camera with wide angle lens
12 MP rear camera, f/1.7 aperture, OIS, LED flash
5 MP front-facing camera with wide angle lens
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.2
NFC
GPS + GLONASS
USB Type-C (USB 3.1)
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.2
NFC
GPS + GLONASS
microUSB 2.0
Battery 3,500 mAh 3,600 mAh
Software Android 6.0 Marshmallow Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Dimensions 153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9 mm
169 grams
150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7 mm
157 grams

Gallery

Final thoughts

So, there you have it for this comprehensive look at the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Galaxy S7 Edge! As we have seen throughout this review, the Galaxy Note 7 borrows a lot from the Galaxy S7 Edge, but it is an entirely different phone that offers its own unique experience. Despite how much it has in common with the Galaxy S7 Edge, it does feel the way a Note device should feel, and it certainly is more than just the Galaxy S7 Edge with an S-Pen.

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With Samsung getting a lot right with the Galaxy S7 Edge, it’s not surprising to see a lot of these hardware and software features make their way over to the Galaxy Note 7, and this does, in fact, help simplify the decision making process for consumers. The Galaxy S series, and now the Galaxy Note 7, all offer the same core specifications, the identical camera setup, and largely similar software experience, so when making a choice, it all boils down to which features you are looking for.

If a small and compact device is your need, the Galaxy S7 is the way to go, and if durability is a concern, the Galaxy S7 Active is a great companion. The Galaxy S7 Edge gives you a slightly larger display, with curved edges, and a bigger battery. However, if the S-Pen is important, and an iris scanner seems interesting, the Galaxy Note 7 is the answer.

The Galaxy Note 7 is certainly not a worthy upgrade from the Galaxy S7 Edge, but it isn’t meant to be. Instead, of you are looking to make the jump from older Samsung flagships like the Galaxy Note 5, the Galaxy S6 series, or the Galaxy Note 4, it will definitely feel like an amazing upgrade, and you won’t regret making the leap to any “7.”

Buy the Galaxy Note 7!
Buy the Galaxy S7 Edge!

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