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21
Sep

Google’s mobile search results now show fast-loading sites


Chug a Mountain Dew, turn that thrash metal up to 11 and grab your smartphone, because it’s time to get AMP’d. Cringeworthy play on words aside, you’ll now find Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) across the entirety of Google’s search results. Previously, only articles in the Top Stories section of search results were graced with the AMP lighting tag, but as promised last month, there are now many, many more of these fast-loading sites around.

Not only do these optimized pages pop up on your smartphone’s screen quick as you like — the median load time is one second, according to Google — they also use far less data. Ten times less data than the non-AMP version of the site, in fact. Several big-name portals from around the world are already on board with the AMP project, including eBay, Reddit and WikiHow. So, whether you’re learning how to 360 flip or you’re looking for a second-hand electric guitar, there’s probably a fast-loading mobile site for that. Now that’s something to get AMP’d about.

I’ll show myself out, shall I?

Source: Google

21
Sep

Would Apple really buy supercar maker McLaren?


Apple’s automotive plans might not be as grand as they used to be, but that isn’t ruling out some bold moves. Financial Times sources claim that Apple is considering a major stake in supercar maker McLaren, whether it’s a “strategic investment” or a full-blown acquisition. It’s not certain what Apple’s exact strategy would be with this deal, but it’s reportedly eyeing McLaren for its engineering talent, technology and patents. And while there’s no guarantee that the talks will lead anywhere, the tipsters say they started several months ago — this isn’t just a casual fling, if true.

Neither Apple nor McLaren is commenting on the rumor.

A McLaren acquisition would seem odd at first blush. This is a company focused almost exclusively on high-end cars and the automotive tech to match, such as Formula 1. An ‘entry level’ ride like the 570GT you see above starts at $201,450, which doesn’t really dovetail with Apple’s premium-mass-market strategy. However, it makes sense for a tech company looking for a partner with extensive technical know-how. McLaren is one of the pioneers of advanced material uses in cars (the F1 was the first road car to use a carbon fiber monocoque chassis), and it embraces everything from touchscreen controls to hybrid electric powertrains (like that in the P1). Even if Apple doesn’t make a complete car, McLaren could help it nail the fundamentals of in-car tech.

A complete buyout would raise questions, though. What would happen to McLaren’s car range? Would it follow in Porsche’s footsteps and diversify beyond pure sports cars, or even drop self-made cars entirely? And would Apple’s Jony Ive have to give up his Aston Martins and Bentleys? Tim Cook and company can certainly afford to buy McLaren (its estimated worth tops out at $1.9 billion), but they’d have to make some difficult decisions about their involvement in the car industry.

Via: Business Insider

Source: Financial Times

21
Sep

Google stores ‘transient’ Allo messages until you delete them


Back when Google first announced its brand-new chat app Allo, the company told The Verge it would only store messages “transiently,” not indefinitely. But since May, when the app was first announced at Google I/O, things have changed a bit in that regard. A Google spokesperson confirmed that messages are now stored on Google’s end as long as that chat history is available on your personal device. But once you choose to delete the history, it’s also deleted on Google’s end — so users do have control over just how long their messages persist for.

Google told me that it made this change after the company pushed the app out to wide testing around the company; it found that the experience was better when it saved chat history for longer. That history helps Google with things like the app’s auto-reply features, which work better the more data is available for Google to analyze.

For the end user, this means that your messages are stored on Google’s servers, in the same fashion that Hangouts messages and emails from your Gmail account are. The messages are still encrypted between your phone and Google’s servers, and they’re stored using encryption that Google can open up so it’s accessible to their machine learning processes.

If both you and the other participant in your conversation choose to delete a conversation, though, the messages will be removed from Google’s servers. And if you want extra privacy, you can use Allo’s incognito mode, though you won’t get the benefit of the Google Assistant that sets the app apart from other options. Deleting the app itself from my iPhone also deleted all the content of the conversations I was having — but again, if my friends didn’t delete those chats, they’re still out there on Google’s servers.

For most users, this probably won’t be a deal-breaker — it’s not really any different than how most of Google’s many other communication products behave. But there’s also no doubt that there’s been increased attention given to the privacy and security of your online communications. If that’s a concern to you, Allo might not be the best option for you.

Via: The Verge

21
Sep

Twitter will livestream the US Presidential debates


Twitter made it a point to livestream the Democratic and Republican national conventions, and it’s keeping up that trend of political involvement now that it’s debate season. The social network is partnering with Bloomberg to livestream both the US Presidential and Vice Presidential debates, which start on September 26th. Each stream will be available worldwide through the web (at debates.twitter.com, which isn’t live yet) and Twitter’s official apps, with Bloomberg providing commentary and analysis. We can’t promise that the debates will be deep, insightful discussion that help you make an informed decision on election day, but you at least won’t have to put down your phone to watch the political circus in action.

Source: Twitter (PR Newswire)

21
Sep

A first look at Nikon’s KeyMission 360 VR action camera


Nikon may have pro photographers in the bag with its line of DSLRs, but the point-and-shoot market has all but disappeared, leaving in its wake action cams from GoPro and others. This year at Photokina, it’s showing off the KeyMission range, which features the life-logging KeyMission 80, the GoPro-aping KeyMission 170 and, most interestingly, the VR video-producing KeyMission 360. We took a closer look at the latter, although our experience was confined to looking and feeling our way around the device, and watching some sample footage.

The KeyMission 360 feels well put together. Nikon’s obviously learned from other action camera manufacturers that there should be as few steps between picking up the KeyMission and starting a shoot. This is a spartan device. The camera’s two largest faces are dominated by ultra-wide angle lenses, behind which sit 20-megapixel 1/2.3-inch sensors, capable of capturing footage in 4K. The top of the device is dominated by a record button, and also has a low battery indicator. One side of the device features a button for cycling through modes, while the other is a flap that hides space for a swappable battery and memory card. Nikon says the KeyMission is shockproof up to 2m (6.5 feet), and waterproof down to 30m (just shy of 100 feet), and it’s also going to be selling silicone cases to further ruggedize the camera.

That sample footage, by the way, looked great, especially on the 4K displays at Nikon’s booth. We also checked out footage in an admittedly low-quality VR headset, and while that wasn’t a great guide for fidelity, it did show us that Nikon’s algorithm for stitching is pretty damn good.

In around 10 minutes of footage, I noticed one bad “tear” — a line where the output of the KeyMission’s two cameras didn’t meet up and it severely impacted the experience (if you’re confused as to what I’m talking about, go look around on Google StreetView). There wasn’t much in the way of warping, and the output is also almost entirely spherical — the very bottom and top of the scene can be slightly obscured, but not by much.

So early signs seem good — they better be for the KeyMission 360’s MSRP of $500 — but we’ll have to put it through its paces properly when it arrives this October.

Steve Dent contributed to this report.

We’re live all week from Cologne, Germany, for Photokina 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

21
Sep

Tesla’s major Autopilot update starts rolling out today


Tesla CEO Elon Musk has taken to Twitter to announce the latest update to his company’s EVs will begin rolling out tonight. We’ve heard quite a lot about the “major overhaul” that is version 8.0 already, since it includes significant tweaks to the semi-autonomous Autopilot mode — a reaction to the feature’s role in a fatal crash this summer. Following the update, Autopilot will rely more heavily on radar, rather than these sensors playing second fiddle to camera feeds. The idea is radar is much more reliable than cameras when visibility is poor, such as when you’re driving through snow or fog.

V8.0 starts downloading tonight. Release will be gradual to make sure there aren’t small regressions. Many car configs, many environments.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 21, 2016

There’s a bit more to it than that, though. Radar sensors, which Tesla began adding to vehicles manufactured from October 2014 onwards, are prone to interference and artefacts in ways that cameras are not. But as part of this update, new capabilities are being added that improve radar reliability and allow cars to better map their surroundings to inform Autopilot. Furthermore, a new feature will disable Autopilot if the vehicle detects the driver is regularly taking their hands off the wheel. These improvements, Musk believes, would’ve saved the life of the Tesla owner killed in a collision with Autopilot engaged.

Version 8.0 isn’t entirely focused on Autopilot, though, with several relatively minor changes to the dashboard and media app UIs included in the update, as well as improvements to regenerative breaking. Musk’s favorite feature, however, is apparently a new always-on temperature control option. Using a combination of automatic venting and air conditioning, the cabin will never get hotter than 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) to make sure car-bound kids and pets don’t fry when you pop into the store on the way home. And if that still seems a little too warm, the maximum temperature will be user-defined come version 8.1.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Elon Musk (Twitter)

21
Sep

‘Water Bear’ protein could shield human DNA from radiation


Tardigrades, aka ‘water bears,’ are microscopic organisms that survive in harsh environments from the antarctic to oxygenless space. They are so robust that Japanese scientists froze a group of them for 30 years and successfully revived two specimens. But to understand what makes these tiny creatures so impervious, another group of researchers took a closer look at their genes. By mapping the entire genome of a particularly stress-tolerant tardigrade species, Ramazzottius varieornatus, they found a protein that protects DNA from being irradiated — which could be used to shield humans.

As the University of Tokyo researchers describe in the science journal Nature, they took a sample group of human DNA and watched it deteriorate when bombarded with X-rays. But when they allowed some of those to create that tardigrade protein, they only showed half the damage as the control group. Further, those protected cells were still capable of reproducing. As in all specific studies, it’s too early to state how this will translate into treatment, prevention or any dramatic transhumanist strengthening of our species. But the scientists believe more of these proteins, and new applications, are likely lying in wait for more research to uncover.

Via: Gizmodo

Source: University of Tokyo newsroom

21
Sep

North Korea inadvertently reveals its whole internet


There are already plenty of reasons why North Koreans don’t go online, whether it’s the low standard of living or a highly oppressive government that blocks anything which might challenge its worldview. However, you can add one more thing to the list: there just isn’t much to do in its portion of the internet. North Korea has inadvertently leaked its domain name system data through a badly configured high-level server, showing the rest of the world that there are just 28 .kp domains. And as Reddit users quickly found, the websites at those domains aren’t what you’d call riveting reading material.

In many cases, these are strictly functional sites for everything from buying Air Koryo tickets through to state news outlets like Voice of Korea (below). The most exciting sites are those for the Pyongyang International Film Festival, a “National Unity” well-being group and sports. One, friend.com.kp, may be a social network.

Don’t expect to get an easy peek. Many of these sites are inaccessible, whether it’s because they’re not meant to be seen outside North Korea or simply because the nation’s internet connections are particularly fragile. You may have to be content with screenshots showing a handful of the sites. All the same, this is likely your best glimpse yet at one of the most obscure, isolated corners of the digital world.

North Korea's 'Voice of Korea' news site

Via: Reddit, CNET

Source: GitHub, Imgur

21
Sep

AT&T to Target Cord Cutters With Late 2016 Launch of ‘DirecTV Now’ Streaming Video Service


AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson today confirmed that the company is planning to launch an online streaming video service, called DirecTV Now, sometime in the fourth quarter of 2016 (via CNET). Featuring “very, very aggressive price points,” the service is said to include more than 100 premium channels and will come in app form on smartphones, tablets, and set-top boxes, although the specifics of the launch were kept to a minimum.

Stephenson remarked on the company’s ability to introduce the service at a low price point, due to the fact that DirecTV Now won’t require customer visits and installation, and “all of the ordering, customer service and billing is done digitally, reducing the need for more traditional tech support.” The streaming service will also provide the option between one and two streams per household, with customers able to increase simultaneous streaming by paying a little more each month.

Cord cutters have seen an explosion of options when it comes to streaming video, including services like Hulu, Netflix and HBO Go. But cobbling these services together is costly and complicated, which is why many consumers still stick with the easier package deal of a cable subscription.

AT&T believes it can offer something more attractive. The company plans to initially go after the 20 million households with no pay TV subscription, Stephenson said. When asked if DirecTV Now could threaten its traditional DirecTV business, Stephenson acknowledged some risk. But “that’s a good sign,” he said.

“If you don’t see them threatening your legacy products, 99 percent of the time they don’t go anywhere,” he said. “It means you found something the market really wants.”

Users will also be able to bundle DirecTV Now into the company’s broadband and mobile services, and all of the various aspects of AT&T’s offerings will work in the same ecosystem, so customers who stream DirecTV Now on their smartphone won’t get hit with data overcharges.

AT&T has struck deals with Disney and HBO for its new streaming platform, but Stephenson noted that a few “holdouts” still remain, preventing DirecTV Now from a more immediate launch. Still, the CEO said the content deals process is around 90 percent done. By the time customers begin signing up for the service after its late-2016 launch, Stephenson thinks that “in 2017, this will be a big driver of video for us.”

The amount of video streaming apps and services has been growing steadily over the past few years, and new companies consistently announce their presence in the space. This year, Hulu confirmed an upcoming live cable TV service, and premium channels like HBO, Showtime, and Starz each have their own content specific, monthly subscription services that range between $9 and $15. Apple was even attempting to get a similar $30-$40 web-based TV package launched last year, but failed deals with networks caused the company to put its plans on hold.

Tags: AT&T, DirecTV
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21
Sep

Next-Generation Apple Stores Opening in Arlington, Brea, Glendale, and Pleasanton on September 24


Apple has announced a grand reopening date of September 24 for four of its U.S. retail locations, including stores at Market Common Clarendon in Arlington, Virginia, Brea Mall in Brea, California, Arrowhead Towne Center in Glendale, Arizona, and Stoneridge Shopping Center in Pleasanton, California. Apple’s new store in Birmingham, England will also open on the same day while its Bullring store permanently closes.

Each store will open this Saturday at 10:00 a.m. local time, complete with Apple’s next-generation retail layout, including The Avenue, Genius Grove, The Forum, The Plaza, and The Boardroom, coupled with some combination of large glass doors, sequoia wood shelves, indoor trees, light boxes extending the length of the ceiling, and large digital screens for product marketing.

Apple opened its Clarendon store in 2001 as one of its first retail locations
Apple Clarendon opened in December 2001 as one of the company’s first retail locations, retaining its classic black facade with two Apple logos for nearly fifteen years before closing for renovations in April. The store will remain located at 2700 Clarendon Boulevard in the Market Common Clarendon complex, a less than five mile drive from downtown Washington D.C.

Apple Brea Mall will be moving to a new space within the shopping mall, and Apple Arrowhead will be relocating to a new unit within its outdoor shopping center. Likewise, Apple Stoneridge will be moving into a larger 9,991-square-foot space recently vacated by clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, according to building permits filed with the City of Pleasanton earlier this year.

thefashionmallatkeystone_heroApple’s all-new store at The Fashion Mall at Keystone in Indianapolis
September has been an eventful month for Apple retail, including two new stores in Mexico City and Hong Kong and thirteen grand reopenings announced so far: two locations on September 2, four locations on September 10, three locations on September 16, and four locations on September 24. Meanwhile, Apple Pentagon City in Arlington will close for renovations starting September 25.

Apple is in the process of renovating several of its stores with next-generation designs inspired by Jony Ive, with progress ramping up ahead of the holiday shopping season. All new stores opened since mid 2015 share the revamped design language, including the latest flagship locations at Union Square in San Francisco and at the World Trade Center transit hub in New York City.

Related Roundup: Apple Stores
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