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13
Nov

Cox brings its internet data caps to Florida and Georgia


Like it or not, you’re going to have a hard time escaping the clutches of landline internet data caps. Cox has expanded its trial 1TB data caps from Cleveland to include customers in Florida and Georgia. Once a two-bill grace period expires, you’ll have to pay $10 for every 50GB of data you consume over the limit. You’ll start getting warnings if you reach 85 percent of your cap. It’s not clear if or when Cox will expand the trial or make it permanent, but it won’t be shocking if it becomes a mainstay.

At the moment, 1TB is par for the course among numerous US internet providers, and relatively roomy. About 99 percent of customers are on plans that meet their needs, Cox claims. The problem, as always, is that caps can easily be anti-competitive. Telecoms can use caps to steer heavy users toward conventional TV services, or exempt their own internet services to discourage you from using competing offerings. Also, there’s the simple matter of future-proofing. A 1TB cap seems like a lot now, but it could be a problem a few years from now when you’re regularly streaming 4K video, downloading extra-large games or backing up your entire PC.

Via: Multichannel News, Consumerist

Source: Cox

13
Nov

IMAX is raising $50 million to create high-quality VR


If IMAX is going to get serious about virtual reality, it’s going to need some cash… thankfully, it’s not having trouble on that front. The media mainstay has wrapped up the first phase of an effort to raise $50 million for creating “at least” 25 premium VR experiences across numerous platforms, including dedicated IMAX VR locations. On top of its own contribution, some of the bigger investors include Acer (not surprising given its link to IMAX partner Starbreeze), the talent seekers at Creative Artists Agency and a trio of Chinese media companies (China Media Capital, Enlight Media and Studio City).

That’s a lot to invest in technology that’s still young, but it’s not shocking. IMAX is already in the midst of introducing experimental IMAX VR centers at theaters in the US and UK. The company is going to need a lot of content for those VR centers if they take off — having over two dozen high-quality experiences could keep you entertained for a while after the novelty wears off.

Via: Gamasutra

Source: PR Newswire

13
Nov

Best Smart Home Hub


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We don’t have slick future homes like The Jetson’s yet, and the path to getting there has been more than a little rocky so far. Still, if you want to start making your house a little smarter on your own, there are some hubs that aren’t total garbage.

Best overall

Samsung SmartThings

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See at Amazon

While one-off connected home gadgets are fun, the real power of the connected home comes from all of the smart things in your house talking with one another.

Samsung’s acquisition of SmartThings in 2014 signaled the company was ready to bridge the gap between its incredibly popular mobile and appliance divisions with tech that worked to give you access from everywhere. Since the acquisition, Samsung has focused on expansion and refinement of the SmartThings brand, turning it into a complete solution that users can slowly build based on their needs.

The SmartThings Hub has grown over the years to support smart outlets and switches, a keyfob that lets the house know when you’re home or away, door and motion sensors to keep you informed and safe, and a massive network of third-party accessories that work with SmartThings hubs and apps.

Bottom line: Samsung SmartThings is the most supported connected home hub, so you stand the best chance of building a system that works with your needs.

Why Samsung SmartThings is the ‘best’

It’s got the most support, basically.

The one big point that makes SmartThings stand out in the crowd right now is support. All of the major popular products support SmartThings, and that’s important when trying to create a smarter home for yourself. All of the good smart thermostats, connected lighting, automated door locks, and even most connected kitchen tech supports SmartThings out of the box. That kind of plug and play support makes a big difference when trying to set everything up, especially if you’re trying to set a up a connected home for someone who isn’t technically minded but could use some assistance.

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So why is this called the least terrible, with best in quotes up there? Security is a big part of it. SmartThings aren’t encrypted from end to end, which means your house could be an easy target for someone who wanted to cause you some trouble by turning on your stove when you aren’t home. Almost no connected home tech was built with encryption in mind, which is why Google and Apple are trying so hard to build new systems that place a premium on being secure.

Beyond security, a lot of the SmartThings kits aren’t particularly convenient. You can buy a $54 connected outlet that takes up two outlet spots on your actual outlet but only gives you one place to connect something to power, and it’s only real feature is that you can turn it on and off with your phone. That’s cool for very specific situations, but why not make something that fully replaces the outlet instead of an adapter that actively takes away outlets? It’s messy, but it’s one of the best messes you can build for yourself right now.

Best for price

Belkin WeMo

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See at Amazon

If convenience and sheer number of options isn’t where you place your priority, and you’d rather have something a little cheaper with a little more flexibility and customization, the folks at Belkin have what you want. WeMo kits offer a lot of the standard connected hub features like motion sensors and power outlets, but also include fully integrated switches and other smarter pieces that are a lot more technically designed. This is the kit for those who don’t want it to look like they have a smart home.

WeMo also partners with a lot of the less expensive connected home options out there, and the company usually does so before anyone else. Cheapest LED bulbs, smarter room heaters, and even a crock pot that talks to your phone are on the short list of things that WeMo supports out of the box.

Bottom line: Belkin’s WeMo kits have been around longer than most, and while they’re clumsy they get the job done.

Conclusion

The connected home market is kind of a mess right now. There are a lot of individual products that work well, but it’s going to be a while before a single truly great hub comes out to support everything. If you’re not willing to wait, Samsung’s SmartThings is a decent place to look for building your ideal setup. If you’re ok with clumsy software in exchange for hardware that does a better job disappearing into your house, Belkin WeMo is probably what you want for now.

Best overall

Samsung SmartThings

516xzcxohzl._sx425_.jpg?itok=yDqoQmEr

See at Amazon

While one-off connected home gadgets are fun, the real power of the connected home comes from all of the smart things in your house talking with one another.

Samsung’s acquisition of SmartThings in 2014 signaled the company was ready to bridge the gap between its incredibly popular mobile and appliance divisions with tech that worked to give you access from everywhere. Since the acquisition, Samsung has focused on expansion and refinement of the SmartThings brand, turning it into a complete solution that users can slowly build based on their needs.

The SmartThings Hub has grown over the years to support smart outlets and switches, a keyfob that lets the house know when you’re home or away, door and motion sensors to keep you informed and safe, and a massive network of third-party accessories that work with SmartThings hubs and apps.

Bottom line: Samsung SmartThings is the most supported connected home hub, so you stand the best chance of building a system that works with your needs.

13
Nov

‘Desert Bus’ video game charity kicks off its 10th year


It’s a big moment for video game charities: Desert Bus for Hope has launched its 10th annual campaign. As is their custom, the volunteer team will play the Desert Bus mini game from Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors for as long as they can in the name of the Child’s Play hospital charity. This year, they’re aiming for at least 111 hours — the more money you donate, the longer they drive on that incredibly boring virtual road between Tucson and Las Vegas. And this year, there are quite a few reasons to check in beyond the usual on-camera antics.

To start, there are numerous guests, including musicians like the Doubleclicks, Molly Lewis, Paul & Storm and Seth Boyer. Actress Ashly Burch, Penny Arcade’s Jerry Holkins and others will also make appearances. And of course, there’s the obligatory mix of auctions and giveaways, including the all-important 10th anniversary Jenga set.

The charity isn’t the biggest (Extra Life raises millions each year), but its unique non-stop, single-game hook has its allure. The charity managed to raise almost $684,000 in 2015, and each year has represented a big jump in donations. In short: the odds are good that kids in hospitals will have something to celebrate when Desert Bus 10 finally wraps up.

Source: Desert Bus for Hope

13
Nov

Facebook Messenger public chats arrive in two countries


Facebook’s plan to revive its public group chat feature just became official. The social network tells the Courier Mail that it’s rolling out a test version of Messenger Rooms on Android devices in Australia and Canada. As leaked code suggested, this is similar to but not quite like the Rooms app of old. All you have to do is create (or search for) a room around a given topic — after that, anyone can join. If you’re worried that you’ll get an influx of trolls, you can require approval for new participants.

It’s not certain if and when Rooms will make it to the US, UK and other countries. The Australian and Canadian launches are really about giving Facebook a way to test English-language features with a smaller audience, to make sure they work smoothly and gauge demand for a wider rollout. However, Facebook’s public announcement of Rooms suggests that you could see the feature in other regions relatively soon. As it stands, this is a safer investment than the Rooms stand-alone app. Facebook doesn’t have to pour as many resources into this as it would dedicated software, and you’re more likely to use the feature if it’s inside an app you already use.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: The Courier Mail

13
Nov

Android and chill: Everything has bugs and will be hacked


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And by everything, I mean your phone. And your computer. And your television. And your WiFi router. And your car. And …

Google, Apple, Microsoft and Adobe got raked over the coals this past week because their latest products were all hacked at Pwnfest 2016 in Seoul. Windows 10, Android 7.1 and MacOS Sierra all fell in just a matter of moments from browser-based exploits, giving members of China’s Qihoo 360 team full access to all admin functions and a healthy bounty for being the folks who got in. And Flash, well it was just being Flash and got hacked faster than it can load itself on a web page.

Well of course they were. They almost always are. And they will almost always continue to be.

I was chatting with a friend about this. She is not a nerd and was surprised that this was able to happen. She was more surprised when she found out that these products get hacked every year. After all, these companies stand on a stage somewhere and tell you how much money and time they spend for this product to be the most secure version ever, so thinking that they are invulnerable makes sense. But no software is invulnerable because that’s just not possible.

How fast it gets fixed — and not how fast it gets hacked — is what really matters.

These exploits were all reported ethically. That means the team told Google (and everyone else with a product that got broken) how they did it and didn’t tell anyone else. But by seeing how they were initiated it appears that something like Javascript (or another common web platform) was exploited. This exploit didn’t exist when Android 7.1 or Windows 10 or MacOS Sierra (and I miss OS X already) were developed so it’s certain that code wasn’t put in place to handle what would happen. You simply can’t write in safe fallbacks for everything that could happen and if you could the software would be worth gazillions of dollars. Hackers know this and the people writing the code that gets attacked know it. The only people who should know it but don’t seem to are the media who report it as something unheard of and sensational when it’s really mundane and expected.

Your phone running Android 7.1 (or your computer running Windows 10 or MacOS Sierra) is likely the most secure version of the operating system ever built. But it’s only secure against things that the folks building it knew about, and against itself. People are already working on finding a bug or exploit in something else and seeing how they can use it to crash everything and burn it to the ground. Some of those people do it for the right reasons — a quarter million in cash for finding it and telling the companies involved is the best and most right reason of all time. Others are doing it in the hopes that they can get your credit card number. Both types of people will be successful, and everything you use will be hacked because it’s riddled with bugs and holes.

Even my BlackBerry Priv, which some people think of as unhackable, is probably already hacked by someone, somewhere, who knows that “wasting” an exploit against a phone that hardly anyone uses is not the way to get a bunch of card numbers. Better to sit on it and hope you can find a better target because once found out it will be fixed. The first thing you do when you find a Linux exploit is to see how you can use it against a Windows computer, because the goal is to get it on as many machines as you can.

Your phone runs software that will be hacked. The people who write it have prepared for it.

Look at the phone in your hands. It has software on it that will be hacked. Know this. But also know that there are probably other factors in place that mitigate any potential harm and the company who wrote that software has a method where they can fix it and try to get it to you as fast as possible. That is the thing to take away from all this hacking news. What matters is how fast the bugs are fixed, because bugs are in every piece of software ever written. This is how software gets better each time it’s updated.

It’s always been this way and the only thing that has changed is how much attention it receives.

13
Nov

Five great deals in the GearBest 11.11 sale


Electronic retailer, GearBest, is having an online sale offering huge deals on everything from phones to tablets to laptops and smartwatches.

Here are five of the best deals we’ve found:

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3

This full metal body phone from Xiaomi features a 5.5-inch display, 32GB of storage and comes with a fingerprint sensor and massive 4000mAh battery. The 13-megapixel rear camera lets you take gorgeous photos while the 5 megapixel front camera is great for selfies. It’s available in Silver, Dark grey and Gold.

25 per cent off – £118.33

Cube i9 Windows 10 Ultrabook Tablet PC 

The Cube i9 tablet PC is equipped with an Intel Core M3-6Y30 Dual Core 1.51GHz (up to 2.2GHz) processor, has a large 12.2-inch screen with a form factor similar to the Surface Pro 3. There’s 128GB of on board storage, and runs Windows 10 making it for great for working on the go.

48 per cent off – £287.84

GearBest

ELE MGCOOL Band 2 Heart Rate Monitor Smart Wristband

This simple fitness tracker lets you track your movement, heart rate, and track your sleep. Featuring a small OLED screen, it only needs charging every 7 days and works with both iOS and Android. It’s IPX7 waterproof too.

£15.98

Asus ZenFone 3

This Android smartphone from Asus comes with 5.5-inch display, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 635 Octa Core 2GHz processor the phone has a 16 megapixel camera and 4G connectivity.

63 per cent off – £255.86

JISIWEI I3 Smart Robotic Vacuum Cleaner

The JISIWEI I3 is designed for house cleaning and maintaining, and security. The robot vacuum cleaner features a number of scheduling options for cleaning and auto cleaning and comes with multiple working modes, optimized cleaning routes, intelligent voice prompt and smart protective sensors. It even features a built-in web camera so the I3 can take videos and images that allow you to know what has happened at your house even when you’re out.

50 per cent off – £109.54

 

13
Nov

Nike’s new store in New York City is loaded with tech


SoHo is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in New York City. It’s home to hundreds of shops from some of the most popular brands, including Apple, Adidas and, as of last month, Google. Now you can add Nike to this list. The sportswear giant will soon open a five-story, 55,000-square-foot space loaded with technology, from 3D-printed decorations (pictured above) to a Kinect-powered basketball court. There are also other simple, yet useful, things such as Apple Pay support and large touchscreens on walls that help you call an associate or buy products on the spot.

Sean Madden, senior director of service and experiences for Nike’s direct-to-consumer division, says the tech inside the store isn’t meant to be the main attraction. Instead, he says these features are designed to make the shopping experience more personal. With the hoop, for example, the Kinect sensors are there to capture movements from your body and display those on a massive screen in front of you. That being said, the idea is obviously that you’ll use that area to try on shoes you may be interested in buying.

I went inside the store, which happens to be near Engadget’s NYC office. Here’s what else I came across during my tour.

13
Nov

Six green designs powered by algae


By Cat DiStasio

It’s easy to underestimate the awesome superpowers of the tiny plants we all know as algae. The photosynthetic organisms are minuscule powerhouses capable of generating light and energy while scrubbing greenhouse gas emissions from the air. Many types of algae are also edible, fueling the human body with hard-to-get vitamins and minerals. Over the years, designers and engineers have worked to incorporate algae into everything from energy-generating furniture to air-cleaning light fixtures and even pollution-busting highway overpasses, all in an attempt to put the tiny plants to work for people in very real ways. The trend of integrating algae into product design continues, growing more efficient and fantastic with each passing year. Here are some of the most exciting ways that algae is changing the future of design.

Algae-powered oxygen bar

While the oxygen bar trend has been around for some time, designer Adam Miklosi’s Chlorella Pavilion could be the first to lean on algae as a source of oxygen. The pavilion resembles a round hand-woven basket, and its walls contain living algae which are pumped through the core in a swirling “algae fountain” that consumes carbon dioxide while emitting pure oxygen as a byproduct. The funky, futuristic clean air pods hold several chairs where visitors can breathe in some of the cleanest air on Earth. The design, still in its conceptual phase, could inspire future businesses to tap into the air-cleaning power of algae to produce pure oxygen, which is touted as a treatment to flush toxins from the body and alleviate symptoms like headaches, weak immune systems and even sinus issues.

Living Things Furniture

This line of photosynthetic furniture and fixtures uses microalgae (effectively a “liquid plant”) to bring bright green accents to modern spaces, while simultaneously providing light and much-needed nutrients. Architectural designer Jacob Douenias and industrial designer Ethan Frier partnered to create Living Things, a spirulina-based line of lamps and algae-integrated tables that improve their environment and enable a healthier lifestyle for their human owners. The living algae housed within the luminous green liquid-filled lamps recycle light, heat and carbon dioxide, reducing energy needs and cleaning the surrounding air — like ultra-efficient houseplants for the next generation.

Urban Algae Folly

EcoLogicStudio’s Urban Algae Folly is an elevated, angular building that grows spirulina (a form of microalgae) in tubes. The sun-loving algae grows denser as it thrives, creating a shaded canopy for passersby. The tiny plants can be harvested and converted into biomass for fuel, or consumed by humans as nutritious food. Microalgae-based structures like Urban Algae Folly can reportedly clean ten times as much carbon dioxide from the surrounding air than large trees, making this concept a perfect fit for polluted urban centers around the world.

The freeway algae farm

Perhaps nowhere on Earth is the concentration of carbon dioxide emissions greater than on major roadways, where vehicle traffic coughs out tons of greenhouse gases each year. In Switzerland, the French and Dutch-based Cloud Collective created an urban algae farm on a busy highway in an effort to combat those very emissions and generate a little renewable energy at the same time. The system is comprised of a network of translucent pipes affixed to the side of a regular overpass, through which microalgae flow, feeding on the carbon dioxide emissions from the passing cars below. Because algae consumes carbon dioxide and emits pure oxygen, this sort of urban farm is highly effectively for cleaning the air in the most polluted of places.

Algae-powered streetlights

Many of the algae-based lamps we’ve seen are designed as art pieces, or for homeowners with futuristic taste and deep pockets. This large-scale algae lamp created by French biochemist Pierre Calleja in 2013 was intended for industrial applications. Calleja designed the lamp to illuminate low-light urban locales, such as parking garages and city streets. According to its inventor, a single algae lamp could consume roughly a ton of carbon from the air each year — the equivalent of 200 trees. By installing air-cleaning lamps in dark urban spaces, cities could fight climate change while creating safer places for residents who just need a little help to light their way.

Air-cleaning Algaevator

Perhaps one of the most outlandish algae-based designs in history, the Algaevator is a functional piece of artwork, if not of architecture. This spiral-shaped pavilion was created by designers Jie Zhang and Tyler Stevermer to harness the biofuel potential of tiny green microalgae. Housed within a cubic frame, the Algaevator features a central funnel-like structure which holds a spiraling garden of algae. A low-energy pump pushes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to the bottom of the coil, where it is consumed by the microalgae. As the algae grows, it emits pure oxygen and creeps slowly toward the top of the structure. In total, the Algaevator is an air-cleaning machine that doubles as a living work of art, carefully crafted to highlight the brilliant green hue of hard-working microalgae.

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