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After Math: The final frontier

We saw some significant developments in the field of space exploration this week. Jeff Bezos unveiled his latest heavy lift rocket. The Gaia satellite has mapped its billionth Milky Way star. China launched another piece of its Heavenly Palace into orbit. And Galaxies just can’t seem to stop exploding. Numbers, because how else are you going to accurately measure your insignificance against the infinite voids of space?


Lyft expects self-driving cars to handle most rides in 5 years

When Lyft says it’s optimistic about the future of self-driving cars, it’s not joking around. Co-founder John Zimmer has posted a manifesto which sets very ambitious goals for autonomous driving. Most notably, he expects self-driving cars to handle the “majority” of Lyft’s rides within 5 years, and all of them within 10 years. Zimmer doesn’t say exactly how his company will reach that milestone so quickly, but he sees a transition where driverless tech gradually increases in capability. Fixed-route autonomy would show up as early as 2017, while low-speed (under 25MPH) autonomy on changeable routes would start as soon as 2018. Full autonomy would just be the next logical step, then.

The executive doesn’t stop there. He also foresees that private car ownership will “all-but end” in major US cities by 2025. Far fewer young Americans have driver’s licenses than the previous generation, in part because ridesharing reduces the need for a personal car — add self-driving cars to the mix and many urbanites may never need their own vehicle, Zimmer says. He even predicts that cities will change in response to the technology, such as reclaiming parking lots as community spaces.

The 2021 target may be difficult to hit. Numerous automakers only expect to start shipping their first self-driving cars that year, let alone put them into service in fleets. There’s also the not-so-small matter of regulation. For Lyft to fulfill its dreams, many of the 36 states it operates in would have to legalize autonomy. Given that the country is only taking tentative steps toward legalization at the moment, there’s no guarantee the needed legal framework will be in place. And assuming it is, will self-driving cars be sufficiently widespread that city dwellers could safely ditch their cars just 4 years later?

Whether or not Zimmer is realistic, his screed makes it clear where Lyft wants to go, and when. Much like Uber, it’s convinced that the US’ self-driving future is right around the corner. That’s going to dictate not only its partnerships (such as with GM) and research, but its attitude toward drivers. They aren’t completely going away in Lyft’s vision, but they’ll be less important than they are now.

Source: John Zimmer (Medium)


Toddy Cold Brew System review – CNET

The Good The Toddy Cold Brew System is an inexpensive way to make a large volume of cold brew coffee without much hassle. The cold brew the Toddy creates is concentrated, strong, yet smooth, sweet and delicious. The Toddy system has only a few parts and is a snap to assemble.

The Bad Like many manual cold brew coffee products, brewing with the Toddy system takes some practice to perfect. The Toddy Cold Brew System is also tall and eats up some counter space when brewing. The Toddy can’t use paper filters and comes with just one reusable felt filter and rubber stopper.

The Bottom Line The Toddy Cold Brew System is an exceptionally simple, affordable way to create concentrated cold brew coffee and lots of it.

The mechanics of brewing cold brew coffee are simple but in practice the activity is often messy, frustrating, and time consuming. There are products for sale to help make the process go more smoothly though. The $40 Toddy Cold Brew System is one such gadget which certainly succeeds at its task and for not a lot of money.

As kitchen contraptions go the Toddy is very bare bones. The kit consists of a plastic brewing container, essentially a bucket, attached to a handle. At the bottom of the container is a small, recessed hole and reusable felt filter pad that you place above it. Sadly the Toddy can’t use paper filters. Plugging the hole is a tiny rubber stopper. The lidless container then rests on top of a squat glass decanter.


The Toddy cold coffee brewer is a very basic but effective contraption.

Chris Monroe/CNET

To brew, just add 12 ounces (340.2 g) of coarse coffee grounds to the container. You then combine that with 56 ounces (1.7 L) of cool water. Of course you can’t throw everything together all at once. Instead the manual asks that you stagger ingredients, half your grounds then half your water, and repeat in order to ensure an even mixture. It takes a little practice to get the process right.


Espro Press P5 review – CNET

The Good The Espro Press P5 effectively strains unpleasant grit from the coffee it brews. The P5 can also create tasty cold brew coffee and even steep tea if you purchase an optional filter.

The Bad The Espro Press P5 costs twice as much as conventional French Press coffee makers. Despite its steep price, the Espro makes half the amount of coffee as similar appliances.

The Bottom Line French Press coffee fans who sometimes enjoy cold java will love the highly filtered drinks the Espro Press P5 slings but serious cold brew addicts should look elsewhere for their concentrated coffee fix.

Dark, rich, and intense, classic French press coffee is delicious. With more ground particles in solution than regular drip coffee though, this potent yet often gritty beverage isn’t for everyone. Equipped with a unique double filter, the $60 Espro Press P5 solves this problem by sifting out residual coffee grounds with satisfactory results. It’s quite a capable cold brew coffee maker as well, thanks to a dual strainer that’s just as adept at filtering chilled java as it is when handling piping hot joe.

Like any French Press, the Espro Press P5 is a cinch to use and consists of just a few parts. These are a glass pitcher, a metal cradle and attached plastic handle to hold it, plus a steel lid and plunger assembly.


The Espro Press P5 looks like a basic French Press but is more capable.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The P5’s genius though lies in its plunger design. Instead of the usual flat perforated plate that sits at the end of a metal rod, at the foot of the Espro Press’ plunger is a big basket filter.


Uber’s self-driving cars, and more in the week that was

It’s official: Self-driving cars are here. This week Uber’s autonomous taxi fleet picked up its first passengers in Pittsburgh, while Ford announced that its self-driving car will have no steering wheel, gas pedal, or brakes. Ford is also working on cars that can harvest drinking water from thin air — and then dispense it from a dashboard tap. In other auto news, the Chevy Bolt scored an EPA-certified driving range of 238 miles — further than the base Tesla Model S. Tesla sued an oil exec for allegedly impersonating Elon Musk to steal trade secrets. And design studio Duffy London debuted the solar-powered super yacht of the future.

Scotland is a leader in wave power projects, and the nation just kicked off the world’s largest tidal energy plant, complete with 49-foot-tall underwater turbines. In other energy news, Blue Planet Energy launched a modular home battery with more storage than Tesla’s Powerwall. Solenica debuted a solar-powered gizmo that reflects sunlight indoors to brighten any room, while researchers at Georgia Tech created a new fabric that harvests solar and kinetic energy. And the US government temporarily blocked the highly controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.

Denmark is making a tremendous investment in the future of food by hiring some of the world’s leading architects to build the “Silicon Valley of agriculture.” In other design and technology news, Designnobis unveiled a pop-up emergency shelter that collapses down to 2.5 feet for shipping. Airstream launched a tiny house on wheels that can go practically anywhere. Sweden announced plans to open its ICEHOTEL all year round with the help of solar energy, and Space10 created a spherical farm pod that brings agriculture to city streets.


The bottom line: Engadget on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know by now that the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus ditch the headphone jack. And if you’re like some of the readers who’ve been reaching out to us, you might be nervous about upgrading. Take it from us, since we’ve had a chance a to test both devices: Aside from the no-headphone-jack thing, these new phones are less radical than you think. In fact, we’d say Apple made some safe choices here, playing catch-up with other phone makers. These are the first waterproof iPhones, for instance, though Samsung and others have been offering this feature for some time now. Ditto for the iPhone 7 Plus’ dual-lens camera: It’s cool, but hardly the first we’ve seen.

That said, these features will feel new to Apple fans, and also, it’s hard to argue with everything these phones have to offer, including fine build quality, fast performance, long battery life and strong image quality. If you own a recent iPhone like the 6s or 6s Plus, you might not feel compelled to upgrade, but if you have an older model, this is as good a time as any to trade in. As for the headphone jack, you’ll either use the included adapter or switch to the pack-in Lightning EarPods. Just avoid the AirPods for now.


Panasonic Viera TX-50DX802 4K TV review: Your affordable 4K future is here

It’s a bit of a numbers war when it comes to buying a 4K TV. And when spending over a grand on the latest and greatest Ultra HD tech, you want to make sure you’ve got it right. Fortunately Panasonic’s TV numbering system is relatively logical (if inelegant): the DX802 (DX800) sits below the flagship DX902 (DX900). The lower the number equals the more features you’ll see stripped away.

But, actually, the DX802 doesn’t relinquish too much of the DX902’s excellence. It does away with the Ultra HD Premium badge, there’s no honeycomb structure for specific local dimming (it still offers local dimming though) and is a 2,000Hz rather than 3,000Hz panel. Other than the “floating” design the biggest difference most might notice, however, is the price: the 50-inch model on review here is £1,199; the 58-inch just £1,399.

One small step down the specs ladder, one giant leap for your bank account then? Is the Panasonic Viera DX802 the perfect balance of quality to price, or is it outclassed by its nearest competition?

Panasonic Viera TX-50DX802 4K TV review: Design

Back to that design for a minute, though. The DX802 is a rather striking panel, which appears to “float” in space, given the way it’s hinged on its stand. The feet aren’t spread miles apart like on the DX902 either, so it’ll be easier to seat it onto a variety of TV stands. However, as there’s no swing from the stand it’s rigid in position.


At its thickest point (36mm) the DX802 is a lot slimmer than the DX902 (64mm max), although with the stand protruding so far from the set that’s almost inconsequential. The reason for this difference in size is simple: the absence of that honeycomb filter of the DX902. It means the DX802 should be the better looking wall-mounted telly.

The other big point of note is that the DX802 comes with its own soundbar included, which you’ll need to slot into the dedicated port on the TV’s rear to give a sound boost. The goal here is clear: to be an all-in-one, do-it-all telly for those who aren’t going to buy into heaps of additional boxes for the sake of sound. It adds a lick of extra audible welly to proceedings too, providing as much as most households will need for TV, movie and gaming playback.

Panasonic Viera TX-50DX802 4K TV review: Connections

Where that soundbar plugs in is next to all the other connections, which are tucked away out of sight behind two plastic panels, to keep the rear looking neat and tidy.

For most this hide-away idea will be of little consequence, unless the TV’s planted in the centre of a room: we would most likely just leave the rear panels off to make it easier to plug in additional new bits of kit, PlayStations and the like, over time.


The connections are thorough, with all four HDMI 2.0 ports being HDCP 2.2 compliant. That’s the digital content protection that’s attached to broadcast media to prevent piracy, so it’s essential that kit like the Sky Q 4K box plugs into such a port, as anything less will cause an issue. Panasonic, then, has you covered.

In addition there are three USB ports, which can be handy for additional content, pictures and the like. No SD card slot to be found here, though, which is often a Panasonic staple. The Ethernet port is behind the second, smaller panel – but there’s Wi-Fi wireless connectivity too (we’d advise wired for 4K streaming).

Panasonic Viera TX-50DX802 4K TV review: Firefox and Freeview Play

When it comes to the operating system make-up of the DX802, Panasonic has opted for Firefox OS – just as it does in its other TVs. This is where you can pin selected apps to your screens, select between inputs and the like.

As we’ve said before, however, Firefox OS hasn’t seen the same reception as LG’s WebOS user interface. The numerous ways to access the electronic programme guide (EPG), for example, seem a bit fussy: through the preview with a press of OK; by pressing the guide button on the remote; or with a long press on Home and a click to the left to open a side bar that will show live previews of channels. This final function you’ll likely never find, because it’s pretty hard to get to.


Oh, and we’re not at all keen on the second, smaller remote control with its trackpad-style control. Fortunately there’s a main, larger remote also included in the box which, for us, makes a lot more sense. It’s got a quick-access Netflix button, too, so it’ll quickly be dubbed “the Netflix remote” in most households, we’re sure. Lose the control behind the sofa and there are some basic controls around the side of the TV’s body to adjust channels and volume, if needed.

In among the DX802’s inputs is built-in Freeview Play, the free-to-air service and catch-up platform that, in many cases, will mean you can do away with needing a set-top box altogether. Well, unless you’re a Sky or Virgin junkie and want specific channels. This is a potentially big selling point for the Panasonic and one that we (as typical Freesat users) can appreciate.

It’s the catch-up element that makes Freeview Play that much more advanced than standard Freeview. So if you missed a BBC classic then you can simply scroll back through the EPG, locate the show, and hit play. No need to open a separate app. Thing is, as it stands at this moment in time, it’s not especially complete: ITV Hub and All4 aren’t available in the HD channels – only BBC iPlayer is. It also doesn’t offer a remind function. All this can improve over time with software updates, of course, so these issues may be ironed out yet.


Many modern viewers may not be as fussed about traditional TV and catch-up these days. And here, via dedicated apps, the Panasonic DX802 services all the important points: there’s Amazon and Netflix, both in 4K, to make the best of streaming resolution and HDR (high dynamic range) where available.

Panasonic Viera TX-50DX802 4K TV review: Picture quality

Which brings us to the core of what the DX802 is all about: sumptuous 4K picture quality. And even without the honeycomb dimming system and lack of Ultra HD Premium badge, it’s one sound looking set. Step down in quality… what step down?

Ok, so there will be some differences compared to the DX902. The kind of points that might matter to movie aficionados who want the ultimate black levels. Although, arguably, you might be better to go with an LG G6 OLED instead for that. But the DX802 still holds up really well. We’ve been streaming 4K content via Amazon and found ample richness in the blacks without excessive bleed from the TV’s edge-illumination system.

We think the DX802 is as bright as you’ll need a TV to be, even if it’s not as much as some of the competition, like Samsung’s ultra-bright models (such as the comparable KS7000) or, of course, the reference-level brightness of Panasonic’s own DX902. That’s probably part of the reason the DX802 doesn’t achieve its Ultra HD Premium badge, as a sub 1,000-nit panel when taking an average read across the panel.


Even so, the HDR content is simply stunning, delivering all the colour and depth you’d expect from an HDR10 capable set (that’s the non-Dolby HDR format, if you’re wondering). Sadly we’ve not been able to see 4K UHD Blu-ray playback for this specific review, as we don’t have a player handy (sad face).

Motion control is well handled out of the box, too, with various options available to tweak your way through how playback is affected. Most of these options will smooth and blur for a hyper-real effect that we’re not especially big fans of; stick to traditional frame-rates, we say, for the most movie-like look.

Overall we’re pleased as punch with the DX802’s picture quality. In isolation it has all the detail, colour, brightness and black levels that you’ll need from a TV. For the price it’s an exceptional offering. Not quite class-leading, mind, but in among the mix.


What the Panasonic TX-50DX802 manages to deliver is one good-looking, do-it-all 4K package – and for a reasonable sum of cash too. No need to buy an extra soundbar, as one’s included, or even the necessity for a separate set-top box thanks to the built-in Freeview Play receiver.

Its deft ability with handling 4K picture quality – from broadcast through to app-steamed in Ultra-HD, including HDR – ensure that the DX802 can stand proud in among the competition. No, it’s not as adept as the DX902 at the top of Panasonic’s range, while it’s also a step less bright than Samsung’s range of KS models, but even if this Panasonic doesn’t tick all the best-in-class boxes, it doesn’t cease to be one capable set.

That’s the rub of it: the DX802 ticks all the boxes – from sound quality to price point, and picture quality to connectivity – to deliver one of the most well-rounded and affordable 4K sets on the market. And it’s not an ultra-giant either, at 50- or 58-inches.


Alienware: VR rigs will become the new Wii thanks to laptops

Almost exactly seven years ago, Alienware joined the Tokyo Game Show for the first time to launch its redesigned machines since Dell’s acquisition. This week, the American company is once again present there to launch the Alienware 17 and 15 laptops for Japan, with one of their main selling points being their VR capability courtesy of NVIDIA’s GTX 10-Series graphics. While this won’t change the fact that high-end VR rigs are still relatively expensive, global marketing director Joe Olmsted reckons the mobility aspect will be enough to turn VR into the new home party machine that can be shared between friends — much like what he did with the Nintendo Wii back in the days.

“I don’t know if you remember but ten years ago it was hard to get a Wii, and yet everyone wanted one, everyone wanted to play it, everyone wanted to do tennis and bowling,” recalls Olmsted, who first joined Alienware 13 years ago. “So we had one, we just lugged it around in a bag and went from place to place to place, you know, be wherever our buddies were at on a Friday night.”

“With VR, I can see that happening; I certainly do it myself.”

Over the last few months, Olmsted has been bringing his company’s next-generation VR-ready notebook (he sure likes to tease) and his own HTC Vive — all tucked into one bag — to friends’ houses for extra entertainment at parties and gatherings. As he quite rightly puts it, “it’s basically a portable VR [rig].” Neither do the Vive nor the Oculus Rift have to be stuck at home because of the bulky desktop PC they’re tied to, as the latest high-end laptops can perform just as well, let alone whatever future model that Olmsted is already using. For those planning on doing the same, you may also want to bring tripods to prop the trackers up.

According to the exec, the GTX 10-Series graphics is the biggest performance jump he’s ever seen on laptops, but that’s not to say the previous generation isn’t good enough for VR, either. Take Alienware’s VR backpack, for instance: It’s essentially an Alpha R2 mini PC powered by the older GTX 960, and it’s utilized by Australia’s Zero Latency to host its six-player VR zombie game. Obviously, for those who are buying a PC now for the sake of VR, you’ll want to go straight to the GTX 10-Series to be as future-proof as possible. In the case of the Alienware 17 and 15 laptops, they’ll be hitting the US store on September 30th and then its UK counterpart on October 4th.


ESPN will air a drone race series starting October 23rd

ESPN’s first experiment with drone racing coverage must have been successful, as it’s committing to robotic sports in a big way. The TV network has unveiled a multi-year broadcasting deal with the Drone Racing League that will have both ESPN and ESPN2 airing races in the Americas, starting with the 2016 season. The series broadcast kicks off on October 23rd at 9PM, and will spread five races over the course of 10 episodes. It all comes to a head with two DRL World Championship episodes on November 20th.

Drone racing TV is crossing the Atlantic, too. Sky has landed its own deal that will bring DRL competitions to TV this fall through the Sky Sports Mix channel, with a race coming to London in 2017. Austrian, German and Swiss fans will want to either tune into 7Sports’ channels or attend the first-ever DRL event in Germany next year. All told, drone races are about to get much more exposure — they’re not truly mainstream, but they’re getting much closer.

Source: DRL (PR Newswire), ESPN MediaZone


Note 7 owner sues Samsung, saying phone exploded in his pocket


Florida resident Jonathan Strobel suffered a “deep second-degree burn, roughly the size of the phone,” his lawyer says.

A Florida man has sued Samsung after his Galaxy Note 7 allegedly exploded in his pocket, causing second-degree burns. Reuters reports that Jonathan Strobel was in Costco store in Palm Beach Gardens on September 9 when the handset caught fire.

He said the phone burned directly through his pants, resulting in severe burns on his right leg. Strobel said he was also severely burned on his left thumb, after he reached over to try to remove the phone from his pants.

Strobel is now seeking unspecified damages for “medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other alleged injuries,” according to the report.

Unfortunately for my client the recall came too late.

“He has a deep second-degree burn, roughly the size of the phone, on his right thigh,” Strobel’s lawyer is quoted as saying. “Unfortunately for my client the recall came too late.”

Samsung has been criticized in recent weeks for originally starting its own voluntary replacement program in the U.S. without the involvement of the authorities.

The timing of the incident puts it after Samsung’s own replacement program was in place, but before the Note 7 was officially recalled in the U.S. on September 15. The same day Strobel says his handset exploded, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission told Note 7 owners to stop using their handsets while it worked with Samsung on an official product recall.

This case is the first known lawsuit related to the Note 7, which as of Thursday was linked to 92 incidents of battery fires or explosions in the United States alone. The CPSC said those 92 cases include 26 reports of burns and 55 reports of property damage.

One potentially significant detail missing from the report is whether or not Strobel’s phone was charging when it allegedly caught fire. (Given that it was apparently in his pocket at the time, the probability is in favor of it not being plugged into anything.) Most of the high-profile cases of Note 7-related fires have involved the phone exploding while charging.

Samsung America president and COO Tim Baxter apologized in a video message on Thursday, as the Note 7 was officially recalled in the U.S.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

  • Galaxy Note 7 recall: Everything you need to know
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review
  • The latest Galaxy Note 7 news!
  • Here are all four Note 7 colors
  • Complete Galaxy Note 7 specs
  • Join the Note 7 discussion in the forums!


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