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‘FIFA 17’ marks a new beginning for the soccer franchise

I’ve been playing FIFA since its first title launched on Super Nintendo, when characters on the screen looked like nothing more than colorful stick figures. Nowadays, thanks to the power of modern gaming consoles, the visuals and gameplay are as close to the real thing as it gets. So much so, in fact, that oftentimes when FIFA is on my TV someone asks, “What game are you watching?” FIFA 17, which arrived yesterday in the US and lands tomorrow worldwide, is no exception.

This year, publisher EA introduced a major change to the franchise by choosing its Frostbite engine to develop it, the same one used on more intense series like Battlefield. That’s not the only new feature, though, so let’s walk through a few more before you spend $60 to play on your Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 or PC.


Xiaomi hopes to open 1,000 stores by 2020

To date, Xiaomi has focused overwhelmingly on internet sales of its smartphones and media devices in order to keep costs down. Even its tiny retail footprint has largely been limited to service centers and “experiences.” However, that’s all going to change in the next few years. Xiaomi has revealed that it plans to open 1,000 honest-to-goodness retail stores by 2020. It’ll make sure that customers can “touch and test” Xiaomi’s technology, CEO Lei Jun says. He hasn’t said where those stores will be, but it’s reasonable to expect most or all of them to be located in greater China.

A spokesperson tells Tech in Asia that the retail plan is an acknowledgement that Xiaomi has “become a household name” in China, and that you’ll see its presence grow relatively quickly. The firm is converting its existing Mi Home outlets into full-on stores, and expects 60 Mi Home locations to be up and running by the end of 2016.

The dive into retail is bound to be expensive for Xiaomi, and a gamble when the company is almost legendary for its razor-thin profit margins on hardware. It might not have much choice, mind you. While it’s true that Xiaomi is well-established, its smartphone shipments plunged this year — in no small part due to rivals like Huawei, which has a whopping 11,000 stores across China. Physical stores could both snap up more impulsive buyers and remind customers that Xiaomi is still a force to be reckoned with. There’s no guarantee that it’ll work, but Apple’s recovery in the 2000s was partly credited to launching stores that both increased availability and presented its products in the best light. Xiaomi is no doubt hoping for a similar effect.

Via: Tech in Asia

Source: Shanghai Daily


Yahoo reportedly downplayed security for years

That massive Yahoo hack might have been less of a one-off disaster and more a symptom of larger, systemic problems with security at the internet pioneer. New York Times sources claim that Yahoo made security a relatively low priority for years, prioritizing convenience when possible and reacting only after serious incidents (such as bug bounties following an account breach in 2012). Reportedly, the company even skipped out on safeguards that are considered virtually mandatory in many places — CEO Marissa Mayer rejected a password reset out of concern that it would drive users away from Yahoo Mail.

The company took a big step by hiring chief information security officer Alex Stamos, who implemented valuable measures like widespread encryption, collaboration on threat data and “red teams” that broke into Yahoo systems to see how vulnerable they were. However, Mayer supposedly fought with Stamos’ group, depriving it of resources and stalling the implementation of vital features like intrusion detection. Many of its security staffers have left for Silicon Valley mainstays like Apple, Facebook and Google, according to insiders.

A spokeswoman suggests to the Times that things are on the mend. It spent $10 million on encryption in 2014, and that its security investments jumped 60 percent between 2015 and 2016. Yahoo has a “deep understanding” of online threats, the representative says, and it tries to “stay ahead” of those dangers to keep you safe.

If the report is accurate, though, it hints that the increased spending might be necessary for catching up. It’d be an acknowledgment that the company’s previous focus on ease of use over security was too risky, and that whatever inconveniences you suffer from added security are far, far more preferable to losing sensitive info to hackers. And lax security doesn’t just scare away some customers — it could even jeopardize that lucrative Verizon deal.

Source: New York Times


GoTenna’s new communicator crowd sources for a better signal

If you’re a fan of exploring the great outdoors, especially in areas of devoid of cell service, you may have already sought out a GoTenna. These walkie-talkie-like enablers pair with your mobile device via Bluetooth so you can send messages and GPS data to others in the area using radio frequencies. Today the company is pushing the off-the-grid envelope even further with the introduction of GoTenna Mesh, along with a new premium subscription service and an SDK for developers to play with. The addition of mesh networking makes it one of the first devices of its kind, providing mobile (not fixed point), off-the-grid, long-range communication to users — so long as there’s a smattering of devices to help leverage its capabilities.

This is also the first time GoTenna is launching its product internationally, utilizing available public radio spectrums in each area. Early birds can pick up a set starting at $129 on Kickstarter, but if you wait for the retail launch it’ll run you $179 per pair.

The new hardware is smaller, albeit a touch chubbier-looking than its predecessor, and there’s no longer a need for an antenna extension. The basic range without mesh networking in action is similar to the previous model, covering up to about one mile in urban areas and three out in the sticks. From there, however, once a few devices are in play, the range extends from one device to the next nearby and so on, letting your data daisy-chain its way across greater distances.

The new technology augments the range of communication by sending data pings in the background to various nearby devices, hopping around until an efficient and successful path is found to the intended recipient. As an example, if you’re hiking and have friend A three miles ahead of you (in range) and friend B six miles ahead, the signal can hop from one to the next, retransmitting from the closest device until it gets where it’s going.

Obviously, with a robust network of active devices, the better the service can become. To help build a community for people to share their active locations, GoTenna launched the site:, where users can anonymously list the area they’re in with their Mesh. That way, you’ll know if you’re heading into an area where you can get a boost from the locals or other travelers nearby.

As before, you use the GoTenna app for iOS and Android to send messages as text or GPS coordinates. There’s still a public broadcast channel that anyone with a device nearby can pick up, while group messaging and one-to-one communication offer end-to-end encryption for privacy’s sake.

The company is also launching its first premium subscription service called GoTenna Plus. During the first 90 days, users can get a year’s worth of service for $10, with the price then landing at $30 per year. This gives you detailed topographic maps, delivery notifications for up to six users at a time, location tethering to keep tabs on other verified users in your group and trip statistics. Plus, there’s network relaying, so you if you don’t have a cell signal, but a connected friend does, you can piggyback on their service and send SMS messages to the outside world.


Twitter opens its Moments story-telling feature to all

Twitter debuted Moments as a means of slowing down the news feed almost a year ago. Back in August, the social network announced that all users would soon be able to employ the tool and today the company is keeping its promise. Everyone is now able to create their own Moments to highlight an event or story with the narrative feature. Whatever the topic or occasion may be, you can now compile a collection of tweets should the need arise. All you have to do is select “Create a new Moment,” add the relevant tweets, select a cover image and publish it for all of your followers to see. The feature is now available on the web and will soon make its way Twitter’s mobile apps.

For everyone who wants to make a Moment – starting today you can! Creators everywhere can now tell stories with Tweets.

— Twitter (@twitter) September 28, 2016

Source: Twitter (via Twitter), Twitter Support


Pink, fluffy dining at the ‘Kirby’ cafe

If you didn’t know, Kirby is a squidgy pink ball. With minimal facial features. That’s about it. Which is why he’s adorable (and popular) enough to warrant a whole bunch of merchandise, as well as temporary pop-up cafes across Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. Japan isn’t lacking for gaming culture — in fact, we’ve already toured a few in our guide to Tokyo. It’s just a shame that this one is a temporary arrangement. If you’re a fan of all things pink and circular, get to Japan while you can: The Kirby Cafe closes at the end of October, and you need a ticket to merely get inside. Even if you’re able to get in, though, can you stomach a Kirby pancake?

Created by Masahiro Sakurai (of Smash Bros. fame), Kirby’s simple design was intended as a placeholder midway through game development. However, Sakurai decided to keep it as the final character design. In fact, at one point during development of the first game, Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto wanted to change the character from pink to yellow, which sounds outrageous now. Not that it mattered much back then: The game launched on the monochrome Gameboy.

The character’s Tokyo pop-up site has been hugely popular. To get into either the cafe or the shop you have to receive a ticket, given out early each day. I got there before 9am, and my shop slot was midday (for a shop!) and 1pm for the cafe itself. The food looked great and fortunately tasted pretty good, especially for what might otherwise have turned out to be a gimmicky theme eatery.

The place is a branded takeover of a relatively decent (if not all that notable) Italian brasserie, which ensured most of the dishes and desserts were made from fresh ingredients, cooked in-house. Fear not, though: There are still plenty of stars, power-up strawberries and rainbows.

I tried as much of it as I could. “Waddle-Dee Hayashi rice” is thinly-sliced beef cooked slowly in red wine, added to a well-seasoned demi-glaze sauce. The rice came with grilled vegetables on the side, with star-shaped pickles scattered around it. (It’s a Japanese thing.) This all comes together on the plate looking like the face of a Waddle-Dee. (The Kirby universe’s version of a Super Mario’s goomba.) I didn’t feel short changed by the quantity of food, and it was pretty delicious for Hayashi rice. Meanwhile, I sipped a “Dream Fountain Sparkling Cocktail” (pink grapefruit juice, Blue Curacao), which was far more unremarkable. The star-topped muddler was the best part. But the menu states in print that I wasn’t allowed to steal keep it.

The Kirby pancakes were the highlight of my visit. A substantial layer of cream, flavored and colored with raspberry puree, laid on top of two thick, fluffy pancakes, decorated with raspberry sauce and berries. It felt like a shame to ruin the presentation by actually eating it. The first cut was the deepest. And then I vacuumed it all up in seconds, Kirby-style. I wrapped up my visit with arguably the laziest menu option: a cappuccino decorated with a Kirby stencil, cocoa powder and a splash of fruit syrup. (The coffee itself was fine.)

After all that food, I paid a second visit to the store. Kirby’s popularity meant that some bags, soft toys and tees had already sold out, but my blood sugar-level was high: I left with a fridge magnet and Japanese-style hand cloth.

The food isn’t cheap, but it tastes good and is surprisingly faithful to the character’s design — which is why I’m paying so much for pancakes and rice. I also wanted to test out Whispy Woods salad and focaccia. Here’s the whole menu: It looks the part. Tokyo’s Kirby Cafe trades in cute and pink foodstuffs until October 30th.

Source: Kirby Cafe (Japanese)


We were stealing music way before the internet and millennials

When I was 13, my babysitter showed up with a box of 12 new cassettes. I was amazed that she had been able to afford all this music. I grew up poor and even one new purchase was news; a dozen purchases was cause for celebration. Had she robbed a bank? Found a wad of twenties in a misplaced wallet? Been blessed by the benevolent lottery gods? Seeing the wonder in my eyes she grabbed the TV Guide sitting on the coffee table and opened it up to an advertisement for Columbia House, and there it was in bold letters: “12 tapes for a penny.” Thus began my life of crime.

Since the all-you-can-fit-on-your-hard-drive Napster era, it’s been generally accepted that people no longer want to pay for content. Why buy a CD or digital download when you can open a Spotify account or fire up a BitTorrent client and enjoy the same music for free? This has led to hand-wringing about how millennials (ugh, that word) have been raised to expect free stuff. They’re destroying the music industry and killing movie sales. If you spend more than 30 minutes on the internet, expect to see an article about how they are the absolute worst.

Except the expectation of getting things for free didn’t start with the Pokémon generation. It started in the 1980s when kids who embraced the ThunderCats, Depeche Mode and eventually Kurt Cobain opened TV Guide and started scamming the fine people at Columbia House.

audio cassette with magnetic tape on wooden background

Like so many people on Napster (also fueled by GenX), I didn’t feel like I was doing anything wrong when I basically stole from the company. I liked music, and those nice people were going to send it to me if I taped a penny to a postcard. I only remember a few titles from that first order: Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet (ugh), Starship’s Knee Deep in the Hoopla (double ugh), Fleetwood Mac’s Tango in the Night and Beastie Boy’s Licensed to Ill. The rest are hazy.

Columbia House expected its subscribers to purchase three, maybe four more albums at the regular price. Every four weeks a mailer would arrive with an album of the month. If you didn’t return the included postcard saying you didn’t want that album or order a different tape, that selection would arrive along with a bill.

That would happen for about three months before Columbia House would get wise and just send a bill. I was a latchkey kid so I would get home from school and toss the mailers in the trash so my parents didn’t learn about how I was conning The Man. The company never asked for a phone number (not that it would matter — our phone was shut off most of the time) and didn’t seem to realize on the second or even third time that I was just changing my last name on the account.

The company kept sending tapes, and I continued to ignore its pleas for payment. I couldn’t afford a Walkman, but I was building a pretty substantial music collection. It all came to a halt when my dad found one of the bills and made me pay off my debt. I gave him my birthday money, and he wrote a check and cancelled my account. My argument that everyone I knew was doing it fell on deaf ears as my father lectured me on debt, credit and stealing. I don’t remember the specifics. I just recall handing him my stash to settle the score with Columbia House.

Years later when I had a job and was making my own money, my music obsession cost me hundreds of miles on my car and at least $150 a month. I’d travel hours to pick up the Japanese import B-side to a Smiths song. I spent $50 on a Pearl Jam bootleg of one of their first shows in Italy. As far as I was concerned my debt to the music industry was paid in full.

Until Napster.

GenX and millennials flocked to the service that let you steal music with a few clicks. I had hard drives filled with songs from bands I wanted to check out but couldn’t bring myself to buy. If you’re over the age of 25 and under 50 and say you didn’t use Napster to pilfer music, you’re lying.

But karma got the best of me when my computer had a meltdown and all those songs were lost forever. Napster was dead and many people in my generation resigned themselves to paying for music again. And yet, we’ve skirted the blame for what’s become of the music industry. The slackers of the ’80s and ’90s mostly just want to be left alone, and because of that silence, we’ve allowed millennials to bear the burden of our music-stealing sins.

We were the original thieves of the music we love. But unlike digital files, we took it and held it in our hands. Using flashlights we stared at lyric sheets and album art under the covers in the dead of night. As adults, we giggled a little when Columbia House went bankrupt because we felt like we did that. But we have wronged you, Columbia House. And millennials, we have stood by and let you take the blame for the state of the music business. And for that, I’m sorry.

Image: Getty (Cassette tape)


Apple logs your iMessage contacts and could share them with police

Apple’s iMessage had a few security holes in March and April that potentially leaked photos and contacts, respectively. Though quickly patched, they are a reminder that the company faces a never-ending arms race to shore up its security to keep malicious hackers and government agencies out. But that doesn’t mean they will always be able to keep it private. A report from The Intercept states that iMessage conversation metadata gets logged in Apple’s servers, which the company could be compelled to turn over to law enforcement by court order. While the content of those messages remains encrypted and out of the police’s hands, these records list time, date, frequency of contact and limited location information.

When an iOS user types in a phone number to begin a text conversation, their device pings servers to determine whether the new contact uses iMessage. If not, texts are sent over SMS and appear in green bubbles, while Apple’s proprietary data messages appear in blue ones. Allegedly, they log all of these unseen network requests.

But those also include time and date stamps along with the user’s IP address, identifying your location to some degree, according to The Intercept. Like the phone logs of yore, investigators could legally request these records and Apple would be obliged to comply. While the company insisted that iMessage was end-to-end encrypted in 2013, securing user messages even if law enforcement got access, Apple said nothing about metadata.

Apple confirmed to The Intercept that it does comply with subpoenas and other legal requests for these exact logs, but maintained that message content is still kept private. Their commitment to user security isn’t really undermined by these illuminations phone companies have been giving this information to law enforcement for decades but it does illustrate what they can and cannot protect. While they resisted FBI requests for backdoor iPhone access earlier this year and then introduced a wholly redesigned file system with a built-in unified encryption method on every device, they can’t keep authorities from knowing when and where you text people.

Source: The Intercept


T-Mobile Extends Free Data in Europe and South America Until 2017

T-Mobile has announced it is extending its free unlimited high-speed data travel promotion throughout South America and 19 European countries until the end of 2016.

Simple Choice and T-Mobile ONE customers will be able to text and use data at the fastest available roaming speeds up to 4G LTE at no extra cost between October 1 and December 31.

European Destinations:
Armenia, Austria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, U.K.

South American Destinations:
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Easter Island, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela

Tags: T-Mobile, Europe, South America
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Apple Music Beats Spotify, Pandora, and Others in J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction Study

Apple Music has been ranked the highest in overall customer satisfaction among seven streaming music brands that were compared in a new study by J.D. Power. Based on 4,482 individuals who have paid for a subscription music service in the last six months, J.D. Power’s inaugural music study measured six key areas in each service: performance and reliability, ease of use, cost of service, content, communication, and customer service.

Based on a 1,000 point scale, Apple Music ranked highest with a score of 834, followed by Rhapsody (826), Pandora (825), and Spotify (824), while the industry average was ranked as 822. Apple Music earned five out of five total “power circle” marks in three categories, meaning it’s “among the best” in content, performance and reliability, and ease of use. The service earned four out of five power circles in cost of service, communication, and customer service, earning it a “better than most” descriptor in these areas.

“The streaming music customer experience appears to be affected by a number of dimensions, including paid vs. free streaming, device choice and content selection,” said Kirk Parsons, senior director and technology, media & telecom practice leader at J.D. Power. “The key to success, however, is increasingly becoming how well streaming music brands create a viable music ecosystem that can not only support multiple types of devices, but also facilitate listeners’ social sharing and following of playlists with others.”

J.D. Power discovered a few key findings in its study, including a direct correlation between paid streaming services and higher customer satisfaction. These premium services earned a 19 point advantage over freemium options, specifically excelling in the customer service and communication categories. Streaming services that support peripheral devices — like smartwatches, home automation controllers, and virtual reality — also saw higher satisfaction over services that don’t offer these alternative music streaming methods.

An interesting sticking point in the music streaming conversation lately, J.D. Power found that exclusive content “improves customer advocacy.” In total, 74 percent of people who stream these exclusive tracks said they “definitely will” recommend their service, in comparison to 54 percent of people who do not listen to exclusive music but would also recommend their streaming platform to a friend.

jd-power-apple-music-2A detailed look at the performance of each service in the six categories can be found here
Ultimately, J.D. Power found that the “social” aspect of each service is what seems to be driving activity, with “fully engaged” listeners who share and consume the playlists of other users among the most satisfied customers. Passive listeners (who don’t share their content or listen to other users’ content) account for the largest piece of the streaming industry at 44 percent, followed by fully engaged listeners at 29 percent, followers at 22 percent (those who don’t share their music, but consume content of others), and finally sharers at 5 percent (the inverse of followers).

In the bottom spots of the study are TuneIn, Amazon Prime Music, and Google Music, with all three ranking between average and poor in the content and ease of use categories. With streaming services here to stay, more companies are planning to introduce Apple Music and Spotify-like music on demand competitors instead of focusing on free radio streaming options.

The most recent measure of Apple Music had the service topping 17 million subscribers and continuing to grow at a steady rate. Despite J.D. Power’s discovery that exclusive content is generating user advocacy for each service that supports it, Apple Music has found itself in hot water lately because of its reliance on such tactics.

Tags: Apple Music, J.D. Power
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