Urban Engines has been analyzing city traffic and how people get around. So, naturally, it’d make sense if the company was acquired by an outfit interested in making its maps more efficient. That’s where Google comes in. The search giant has bought the Urban Engines with the sole purpose of improving Maps. “Location analytics is an important focus for both Urban Engines and Google, and we’re excited to combine forces to help organizations better understand how the world moves,” the announcement post reads. It’s a little early to tell exactly what Urban Engines will bring to the table for Maps, but based on its history, perhaps better routing around traffic jams is a pretty safe bet.
Source: Urban Engines
Windows Insiders who still miss the experimental Messaging everywhere feature may want to get the latest version of Skype Preview for PC and Mobile. Microsoft has updated the app to be able to send and receive text messages on Windows 10 computers, so long as Skype Preview is the default messaging application on their Windows 10 Mobile devices. The new version shows both IMs and text messages in a single view for each contact to prevent clutter, as well.
Microsoft started testing the Messaging everywhere feature back in April, which allowed early adopters to text from their PC. However, Redmond decided not to ship the feature with the massive Windows 10 Anniversary update and even pulled it from the platform’s preview builds. Back then, the company said the decision came from the belief that it can deliver a better experience through Skype. While only Insiders can get the update for now, Microsoft says it will roll out the feature to all Windows 10 users who have the universal app in the coming months.
Just in case LG’s line of 2016 OLED TVs wasn’t impressive enough already, next month it will ship a massive 77-inch version, complete with 4K resolution and HDR compatibility. Jumping up in size from the $8,000~ 65-inch version won’t be cheap, however, as the company announced a $19,999 MSRP. That buys more than just the OLED tech loved for its deep black levels and impressive contrast, as LG is also rolling out its new Signature Concierge service with the premium-priced display.
By laying down the $20k (pre-orders are open this weekend at select retailers, in case you were wondering), you are also signing up for “24/7 VIP-level service providing one-on-one customer support.” Register your display (why not, you can probably get assistance doing that too), and you can expect a $200 AmEx gift card and LG G Pad tablet to go with it. Combined with a display that won our Best of CES award, one might even wonder how you could afford not buy one. So go ahead, put that order in, and then invite us over for movie night, we’ll bring the Ultra HD Blu-ray.
Ever wanted to listen to the audio from a web video on your Android phone, but couldn’t because the sound would stop the moment you switched apps? You won’t be hampered from now on. Google has released a beta of Chrome 54 for Android that plays web videos in the background, letting you carry on with other tasks while you finish that lecture or video podcast. You’ll get a notification with basic play/pause controls in case you need to take a break. There’s no firm indication of when the finished Chrome 54 will be ready for everyone, but you can grab the beta from Google Play if you’re feeling experimental.
Source: Chromium Blog, Google Play
Some early iPhone 7 adopters are getting considerably more than they bargained for. Reports are surfacing of both the regular iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus producing hissing sounds when they’re subjected to a heavy processor workload, such as a game. They continue to function, thankfully, but it’s a bit disconcerting when most phones are virtually silent. It’s not clear what the cause is — some suspect coil whine or similar electromagnetic effects, but there’s no guarantee that this is the case.
The issue doesn’t appear for everyone. I tested an iPhone 7 using 3DMark “Ice Storm Extreme,” a performance benchmark that puts the processor under serious strain, and heard no hissing at all. That suggests that the noise may stem from a manufacturing issue instead of an inherent design quirk. Not that this will make you feel any better if you’re affected, of course.
We’ve asked Apple for its take on the reports and will let you know if it has something to say. It won’t be pretty if you run into this issue and want a replacement iPhone, though. Supplies are already extremely tight, so you may end up waiting days to get a blissfully quiet device.
Source: Stephen Hackett (Twitter), Darrell Etherington (Twitter)
The Good The Filtron Cold Water Coffee Brewer offers an affordable way to make cold brew coffee at home. The cold brew the Filtron makes is rich and delicious, and you can use either disposable or replaceable filters with it.
The Bad The Filtron Cold Water Coffee Brewer is more complicated to use than other cold brewers thanks to its multi-chamber filter.
The Bottom Line If you don’t mind a little extra set-up hassle and you want the flexibility to use different filters, the Filtron Cold Water Coffee Brewer will serve as an affordable gadget for making quality cold brew coffee at home.
Able to make large amounts of tasty cold brewed coffee at a time, the $40 Filtron Cold Water Coffee Brewer doesn’t demand much of an up front investment either (the price roughly converts to £30 in the UK and AU$55 in Australia). The manual contraption is a bit tricky to operate though due to its big size and more parts than its competitors.
Similar to other cool water brewers such as the Toddy and Oxo systems, the Filtron is essentially a plastic, cylindrical bucket (called the “coffee bowl”) that holds coffee grounds and water for steeping, which you then place on top of a container for decanting. Like those other products, you also must plug a tiny hole on the bottom of the coffee bowl with a rubber stopper.
The Filtron cold coffee brewer is tall, large and unwieldy.
Where the Filtron differs though is its use of a second “water bowl” designed to trickle brewing liquid over its supply of coffee grounds. The water bowl has no stopper for its small bottom opening so your finger is required. That’s three main sections in all, two of which you perch rather precariously on top of a very slender plastic carafe. Perhaps that’s why the vessel is plastic as opposed to fragile glass which the Oxo and Toddy products use. It feels as if one stray nudge could tip over the entire set up.
iOS 10: Five hidden features you may have missed
Take control of your iPhone’s inbox and have fun with photos with these less-than-obvious updates.
by Vanessa Hand Orellana
One killer iOS 10 feature is flying under the radar: Apple Pay in Safari.
Like before, you can use Apple Pay to shop IRL and within some apps, but iOS 10 also adds the option to use Apple Pay within Safari. So, when you check out online with Apple Pay, you’ll touch your finger on the home button to complete the transaction.
(I’ve tried it. It makes shopping really easy. Too easy.)
More: The complete guide to iOS 10
Who accepts Apple Pay in Safari?
Unlike the first roll-out of Apple Pay at brick-and-mortar stores, which required retailers to adopt new credit card terminals in order to support the service, Apple Pay on the web is much easier for retailers to support. A lot of retailers outsource their e-commerce platforms, and we expect those platforms to make widespread adoption of Apple Pay easy.
In other words, you’ll be seeing it in a lot of online shops really soon.
But you don’t have to wait. At WWDC, Apple announced Apple Pay would be immediately available at more than 70 retailers, including sites like Target, Sephora, Nike, Hotels.com and even Kickstarter. You’ll know a retailer supports Apple Pay if you see the option at checkout.
What about Safari on Mac?
Yup, you’ll also be able to use Apple Pay in Safari on your Mac when macOS Sierra arrives on September 20. It works almost exactly the same way as mobile, except you’ll use the Touch ID feature inside an iPhone’s home button to confirm your purchases.
How secure is Apple Pay?
Apple Pay for the web uses the same security standards as Apple Pay does in physical stores. Like many other mobile payment services, Apple Pay utilizes tokenization within a secure element to ensure your credit card data is never exposed. Read more about security, including tokenization, in this post.
Which devices are compatible?
Apple Pay — for the web and IRL — works with the iPhone 6 and later, iPad Mini 3 and later, iPad Pro and iPad Air 2. When it launches for Mac, you’ll need a Mac (2012 or later) running macOS Sierra and one of the above devices.
How to set up Apple Pay for Safari
If you already use Apple Pay for real-life shopping, you’re halfway there. Here’s the complete setup process.
- Set up Apple Pay. (If you already have, skip this step.) On your iPhone, head to Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay. Tap Add Credit or Debit Card and follow the process. Depending on your bank, you may have to call to complete the authorization process.
- Add shipping information. On your iPhone, in Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay, scroll down to Transaction Details. Add your shipping address, email and phone number, so Apple Pay can autocomplete those forms at checkout.
The next time you shop at a supporting online store, choose the Apple Pay option, touch your finger on your iPhone’s home button and the transaction will complete.
Make the most of your Samsung Gear VR experience with these accessories.
The Samsung Gear VR is currently the most affordable entry point for people interested in exploring virtual reality. As more and more developers start working within this emerging tech space, the hope is that you’ll have plenty of reasons to pick up and use your Gear VR more often for more applications.
As your usage increases, you’ll want to invest in some essential accessories to get the most out of your Samsung Gear VR. Here are a few recommendations to get your on your way.
- Over-the-ear headphones
- In-ear headphones
- Microfiber cloths
- microSD cards
- What do you use?
Not every game for the Gear VR requires a ganmepad, but most of the best games are made even better by not having to tough the pad on the side of your headset. Enhance your gaming experience on the Gear VR with what we call the best gamepad for this headset.
SteelSeries Stratus XL
As mentioned above, SteelSeries makes a quality controller. So while the SteelSeries Free has been priced out of consideration, the Stratus XL is arguably your best bet — as long as it’s bigger size isn’t an issue.
The Stratus XL similar in size and feel to an Xbox One controller with analog sticks laid out similar to Sony’s DualShock controllers. It’s a great compromise between the two leading console gaming standards and will instantly feel familiar the moment you pick it up. This Bluetooth controller is compatible with Android devices and Windows 10.
See at Amazon
A fully-immersive VR experience is only possible with the right pair of headphones. Whether you prefer the over-the-ear variety or in-ear buds, we’ve picked out some prime options that pair well with the Gear VR headset so you can block out reality as you delve into your favorite VR games and apps.
Bose QuietComfort 25
If you are looking for the best audio experience with your Gear VR, this is where you start. The Bose QuietComfort 25 feature active noise cancellation, which will certainly come in handy when you’re trying to block out the noise of the world and get immersed into your VR headspace. These are quality wired headphones that are highly functional in any environment, but will really take you to another world when you slide the Gear VR on.
See at Amazon
One more thing: If you’re looking to go wireless, check out MrMobile’s review of the Bose QC 35 headphones!
Panasonic ErgoFit In-Ear Earbuds
If you’re looking for simple, straightforward in-ear headphones, Panasonic has what you need. They’re pretty basic in-ear headphones, which include a mic and a pause/play button built into the main cord, but they’ll deliver great sound comfortably at a great price. With three different pad sizes available, you should be able to find the right fit for your ears, and they should stay in as you move about wearing your Gear VR
ErgoFit buds are available in a variety of colors, but they’ve also been lumped in with a few other Panasonic in-ear options — drops360 and drops360 Luxe. If you’re switching around the colors and suddenly see the price jump up, it’s because Amazon is showing you one of those higher-end models instead. And you might be inclined to spend a bit more for the better drivers, which provide better bass and build quality, if that’s important to you.
Otherwise, the ErgoFit earbuds come with a 90-day warranty and should be more than serviceable — especially at such a low price point.
See at Amazon
Want something nicer? Check out our Samsung Level In headphone review!
Another thing that might distract from your VR experience with your Samsung Gear VR is dust or smudges on your device or the VR headset lenses. To prevent that problem, it’s a good idea to have some microfiber cloths around to give things a good (but gentle) cleaning.
AmazonBasics offers a 24-pack of microfiber cleaning cloths for under $10 — that’s less than $.50 a cloth. Better yet, they’re machine washer safe, so you’ll be able to keep your gear clean for months and months with this small, one-time investment. And of course you’ll also have microfiber cloths on hand for cleaning all your other devices. Also available in packs of 36, 48, and 144 — which may essentially constitute a lifetime supply.
See on Amazon
This is a must-have accessory, especially if you’re using a Samsung Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 edge — the only current Gear VR-compatible mobile devices with microSD slots. Loading up your favorite movies, tv shows, apps and other media onto the microSD card allows you to use your Gear VR to its full potential without clogging up your phone’s internal storage, or continually cycling through content.
We’ve broken down a list of the best microSD cards to use with your Galaxy S7, but to save you a bit of time, we’ll recommend the Samsung EVO Plus 128GB, which is sure to provide you with more than enough storage for hours upon hours of VR entertainment.
See at Amazon
What do you use?
If you own a Samsung Gear VR, we’re curious to know what your must-have accessories are. Anything we’ve omitted on our list? Let us know in the comments!
Samsung Gear VR
- Gear VR review
- The Best games for Samsung Gear VR
- Inside Samsung’s Gear VR web browser
- Gear VR vs. Google Cardboard
I live in a two-bedroom San Francisco apartment built in 1916. It has a view of the bay and the top of the Golden Gate bridge. There’s crown molding, high ceilings and some pretty dope neighbors. It should be perfect. And it is — if you’re cool with plaster walls blocking 90 percent of all WiFi signals.
My livelihood is gadgets, most of which need to be online. But if anything is farther than 12 feet from the closet where I store my router, I know I’ll experience drop-outs or painfully slow speeds. I’ve resorted to using two routers placed in separate corners of the apartment. It’s ridiculous. So when Linksys offered up the EA9500 Max-Stream MU-MIMO router for review, I wanted to see if it could permeate what I assume are the lead-filled walls of my home.
Like most modern WiFi routers, the EA9500 resembles a spider that’s been flipped onto its back. The eight adjustable antennas can be positioned to optimize your signal. But, during setup I followed Linksys’ recommendation to leave the blades pointed straight up. I would have to decide later if I needed a little extra WiFi pointed in a particular direction.
If you’ve set up a router in the past 15 years, you know the drill: Plug the router in, find the wireless network, launch your browser, plug in the IP number. Fortunately in the past few years, Linksys has killed the default password in favor of a unique alphanumeric passcode generated during setup. That’s good news for folks who might not be aware that ‘admin’ and ‘administrator’ might not be the best username-and-password combo. (We realize that might not be you, dear Engadget readers, but perhaps your less tech-savvy relatives?)
After using the browser-based setup wizard I logged onto the router with my MacBook Air from the living room. Success! WiFi was flowing freely throughout my Faraday Cage of a home. Even the furthest room from the network closet was awash in free-floating zeros and ones. I was even able to log onto the network from my garage three floors down.
To accomplish this the router goes a little overboard for the typical home and you pay a steep price ($350) for all that future-proofing. The tri-band router can spew 1,000 Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 2166.67 Mbps on one of its two 5GHz radios. That sounds awesome until you realize most of your devices can only handle about 1,300 Mbps. It’s like buying a Ferrari only to drive 25 miles per hour.
It also supports MU-MIMO — a wireless feature that creates dedicated data streams between the router and supported devices. The end result is quicker throughput. Right now it’s found on most high-end smartphones and Windows-based computers. Where you won’t find it are Macs. While the iPhones 6S and 7 support the wireless standard, Apple has yet to add it to their laptops or desktops. I use Macs so I’m missing out on the router’s coolest feature right now. Linksys sells USB dongles that add MU-MIMO, but they only work with Windows machines.
If you own a Windows computer, then, it should be amazing. Apple users are stuck using WiFI the old fashion way. While Apple is expected to announce new MacBooks before the end of the year, there’s no guarantee they’ll support MU-MIMO. That alone might give you pause to purchase the powerful EA9500 if that’s your platform of choice.
That said, the router and its companion app have made network troubleshooting in my house a breeze. Anything I can do from the browser, I can do from the app including setting up guest access, port forwarding, device prioritization, password changes, firmware updates and most importantly, restarting the router. All these features can be accessed both in the home and out which is especially helpful when you get a frantic call during the workday that the WiFi is down at home.
Finally, the EA9500 has eight gigabit ports, which are essential if you’re trying to fill your house with the Internet of Things and need somewhere to plug in all those hubs. But like everything else on the router, it’s probably overkill for the average user.
After a month of use, I can’t imagine going back to another router, even with the lack of MU-MIMO support on my computers. But, I’m an extreme use case. I need all those gigabit ports, my home is a giant lead cage and frankly, being a tech reporter gives me more reason to be ahead of the curve. For the average home, the features on the EA9500 are mostly unnecessary.
If you’re in the market for a router and want access to the helpful Linksys app, the less expensive $250 EA8500 is a more than adequate 802.11 router with MU-MIMO. If you don’t need MU-MIMO because you live in an Apple house, the E8400 is a dual-band router that’ll cost you $230.
As for me and my home, I’ll continue to enjoy wireless access to the Internet in my entire apartment for the first time since I moved in.
By Sue Marquette Poremba
If we were to poll the readers of this article, we would likely find that the vast majority of readers — if not all — regularly shop online, make banking transactions online, fill out registrations and applications online, pay taxes online and maybe even vote for contestants in reality shows online. Yet Americans cannot vote for candidates for public office online.
Voting online would certainly be a lot more convenient than standing in line on Election Day. Voters could cast their ballots from home or work, and when they had time during the day. It might also increase voter participation in federal, state and local elections, especially among young people.
But experts warn that online voting isn’t as simple as it sounds. Even though it has already been tried in a few places around the world, it probably can’t be secured. We already worry about hackers stealing our credit cards and our identities. If we voted online, we would have to worry about hackers stealing our elections, too.
The history of online voting
Voting online isn’t a new idea. In 1999, then-President Bill Clinton asked the National Science Foundation to look into the viability of online ballots. Arizona Democrats and Alaska Republicans gave online voting a try in 2000 during the primaries.
In 2000, the U.S. military launched a pilot program to let active-duty personnel stationed overseas vote in domestic elections. Four years later, the program was terminated after an independent report found serious security risks. In 2010, Washington, D.C., experimented with online voting for military and absentee voters, but it was considered a failure as security experts found the system easy to hack.
MORE: Best U.S. Election Apps
Utah Republicans had the option to caucus online during the 2016 primary season. Each voter registered online and, in turn, received a PIN to be used to cast a vote. But the system created long waits for voters confused by the process, reported the The Salt Lake Tribune.
Several countries have experimented with online voting, but none has forged ahead as far as the tiny Baltic country of Estonia, where nearly a third of ballots are cast online. But Estonia’s elections don’t look anything like those of the United States, where more votes are cast in some cities than in all of Estonia.
The Estonian online voter must plug a national ID card — mandatory for all Estonians older than 15, and each of which has an embedded encrypted chip — into a card reader attached to his or her computer. It sounds secure, but two independent assessments, led by Verified Voting in 2011 and the University of Michigan in 2014, found serious flaws with the system.
“What we found alarmed us,” wrote the authors of the 2014 report. “There were staggering gaps in procedural and operational security, and the architecture of the system leaves it open to cyberattacks from foreign powers, such as Russia. These attacks could alter votes or leave election outcomes in dispute. … We urgently recommend that Estonia discontinue use of the system.”
Estonia has instead beefed up the cryptography on its chips, although both reports said the greatest weakness was the servers that counted the ballots.
What has taken off in the U.S. is online voter registration. According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, 39 states have or will soon have online voter-registration opportunities, and residents of 34 states can look up their voter-registration information online.
If we voted online, we would have to worry about hackers stealing our elections.
“Automatic voter registration is the gold standard of modernized registration,” the Brennan Center’s website said. “It builds on other reforms to bring voter registration to the 21st century — which are increasingly commonplace across the country.”
Yet even online voter registration carries risks. In August 2016, the FBI revealed that foreign hackers, possibly working from Russia, had breached voter-rolls databases in Arizona and Illinois. If online voter registration is the gold standard, would online voting be the platinum standard? Right now, it appears to be the invisible standard.
Making voting as easy as shopping on Amazon
Despite the security risks, there are many proponents of online voting. Some argue that online voting would boost turnout and grant political power to groups that traditionally don’t vote as often as others.
“Online voting would eliminate voting barriers for many different communities, including people with disabilities and the elderly, who have a hard time getting to the polls,” said S. Nadia Hussain, program director for Vote Everywhere, an advocacy group that, according to its website, seeks to “strengthen democracy by leading long-term voter engagement, public policy and social justice initiatives.”
“People can often take for granted that they can find their polling place, walk in and vote,” Hussain added. “However, not all polling places are disability accessible even though legally, they should be.”
Hackers anywhere in the world could take advantage of a vulnerability in voting software and could potentially decide the president and other political leaders.
“It’s still not perfect, since online voting does require a computer and internet,” she said,” but it does open up more options, which is very important to the population in general.”
Cyber the Vote, a blog that advocates online voting, dismisses concerns about ballot security as a smokescreen devised by politicians who want to keep people away from the polls.
“Our inability to modernize has been due to a variety of causes, led by an election administration and integrity culture that is resisting automation,” Cyber the Vote publisher Rob Weber wrote on the site in June.
“Both the media and the public have a warped view about voting convenience,” Weber added. “We see long lines as an expression of patriotism. … . What we almost never see are all the voters who walk away from those lines and don’t vote.”
Only as secure as the rest of the internet
Technical experts see things differently. Online voting won’t work, they argue, not because political forces are out to disenfranchise the young, the elderly or the disabled, but because it simply can’t be secured.
Securing our votes isn’t the same as securing our financial transactions, said Kevin Du, professor of computer and network security at Syracuse University and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
“Banks have money, but spend a lot of time to protect infrastructure,” Du said. “If they lose something, they can write it off, because it’s money.”
However, voting is different because we’re talking about power, and power is difficult to quantify.
“I can imagine this will become a huge business for hackers,” Du said. “If voting is online, it’s more beneficial — they can change your vote, they can deny someone from voting, they can do a lot to mess with power.”
We’ve already seen how low technology — the hanging chads in Florida’s 2000 presidential vote, for example — could alter the balance of power, and that was by voters in a single state. Hackers anywhere in the world could take advantage of a vulnerability in voting software and could potentially decide the president and other political leaders.
Based on how frequently government agencies have been hacked in the past few years, chances are good that malicious actors will have little trouble getting into the networks — as the FBI recently warned may already have happened.
“There’s no way with any reasonable amount of resources that you can guarantee that the software and hardware are bug-free and that they haven’t been maliciously attacked,” Stanford computer-science professor David Dill stated in June in Futurity, a science-news website run by five dozen English-speaking universities worldwide.
MORE: Trump vs. Clinton on Your Digital Security, Privacy
“Voted ballots sent via Internet simply cannot be made secure, and make easy and inviting targets for attackers ranging from lone hackers to foreign governments seeking to undermine U.S. elections,” reads the website of Verified Voting, a nonprofit group dedicated to transparent and accurate elections. “There is no way to guarantee that the security, privacy and transparency requirements for elections can all be met with any practical technology in the foreseeable future.”
Unless voters demand online voting, or until security professionals find a way to improve the security of internet voting systems, expect to continue to see long lines at the polls on Election Day for years to come.
More from Tom’s Guide:
- Can Posting Political Stuff on Social Media Get You Fired?
- Best Smartphones
- How to Dump Trump, Hillary Off of Your Facebook
- 15 Twitter Accounts to Follow During the 2016 Presidential Election
All images courtesy of Shutterstock