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8
Dec

Two Mountains One Goat: Some quick, bleating fun (Review)


Flappy Bird paved the way for one-tap control games. It’s simplistic, fast paced gameplay kept people coming back for more with goals that were obtainable yet difficult enough to that you had to keep trying before you could succeed. Taking it’s cues from Flappy Bird, Two Mountains One Goat is a game with a very similar style, but will it’s tweaked gameplay hold it’s own? Let’s take a look.

  • Developer: Commander Prompt
  • Price:  Free/$1.14 ad-free
  • Download: iOS, Google Play

Gameplay

Two Mountains jumpGetting started with the game is quick an easy. Connect to Google Play Games if you want Achievements and Leaderboard functionality, then hit the big start button. Your goat starts off at the bottom of screen with two mountain walls going up both sides of the screen. When you tap, your goat jumps from the right wall to the left or vice versa, gaining altitude with each leap. Your first few jumps are pretty straight forward. Then the birds start.

Oh, the birds. These birds have it in for your poor goat. Some hover in the middle of the screen and might trip you up if you’re not focused, but can usually be avoided. Some move slowly back and forth and again can be pretty easily maneuvered around. Then there are some that move so quick it seems nearly impossible to make it past.

It’s at this point that these games get fun if you’re up for the challenge. There’s no greater feeling than when you successfully time it and make it past that one bird that moves at lightning speed… but that high is quickly squashed when the next bird is equally as fast and you jump right into it. It’s that small victory of making it past your nemesis bird that drives you to hit play again and try to beat you score because that fourth bird isn’t going to stand in your way again!

Graphics

Screenshot_20161123-164014-1-300x300.pngI swear Bird #4 has it out for me.

Similar to games like Flappy Bird, Two Mountains has a retro, pixel look to it which doesn’t get old as you watch your cute little goat leap from wall to wall or plummet to his death for the hundredth time. The beautiful mountain scenery helps make this game even prettier. Animations are smooth and beautifully simplistic.

Longevity

The game is a lot fun. If you’re someone who’s driven by trying to beat your best score, then you may love this game for a long time. Likewise, if you can get a group of friends to download it, then competing with them on the leaderboard may provide some fun too. Just on its own, however, once you’ve played about 10 rounds, it does start to get stale. There is only one game mode and nothing to unlock apart from achievement. I find myself opening it up to tap a few quick rounds while waiting around at the bus stop or if I’m in a long line at a store, so it’s a great time waster, but it lacks depth beyond this.

Conclusion

Two Mountains One Goat is a pretty solid game, with its cute pixel graphics, easy one-tap controls, and fast gameplay. It’s best played in short burst or if you have a few buddies who you can compete against on the leaderboards. If you’re someone who likes to play a game for a minute or two just to pass time throughout your day and you like games that will challenge your muscle memory like Flappy Bird, then Two Mountains One Goat is for you.

8
Dec

MrMobile Head to Head: Pixel vs iPhone!


A war is brewing! Well, not a war. It’s more like… not a war. But for the iPhone and the Pixel, it can only mean one thing — War! Alright, this paragraph may be ridiculous, but what we’re talking about isn’t. It’s time for the iPhone and Pixel to face off!

MrMobile is pitting these two titans head-to-head, bringing to light the most important questions of our day. Do the iPhone’s lush camera colors outshine the intense image stabilization of the Pixel? Can having an headphone jack edge out those who might want to Snapchat underwater? And who really is behind the mystery of the abandoned theme park? Michael Fisher reveals all in this thrilling episode! (Except the one about the abandoned theme park — that was Old Man McCreevy.)

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8
Dec

Google’s Trusted Contacts is a simple way for families to have some peace of mind


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Getting your child their first phone is maybe as exciting for the parent as it is the kid. It’s also scary as hell, yeah, but part of the idea of putting a computer in their pocket is so that you can keep in touch with them as they start branching out into the world — especially if things go wrong. (And they will at some point, right?)

Now emergency contact apps are nothing new. Various manufacturers have had them baked into their phones for some time now. (See Motorola Alert for one, and Samsung’s SOS service for another. Google — which makes this little operating system called Android — has oddly been missing from that equation. Until now, with the release of Trusted Contacts.

Here’s how it works.

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Fire up the Trusted Contacts app and you’ll get a short walkthrough of what to expect. And the app is easy enough to use that you probably won’t need too much more instruction than that. First you’ll select some contacts you want to use as your “Trusted Contacts.” Add them, and they’ll be sent an email that lets them know you think so much of them you want to put your wellbeing in their hands. (Presumably you’ve already done this anyway, but whatever.) They have to approve your request before anyone gets notified of anything.

Once that’s done they’ll show up in your list of Trusted Contacts. (Do note that at launch Trusted Contacts only works on Android, though iOS support is coming. But that won’t keep you from adding someone who uses an iPhone — and they’ll still receive notifications by email.) You can pin your contacts so that they’re always present in your notification area, if you really want to keep track of things.

From there you have two basic options — share your location with your contacts, or request (nay, demand!) the location of your contacts.

Sharing your location

trusted-contacts-share-location-screens.

You’ve got a couple options for sharing your location with your contacts. You can do in the normal, non-emergency way, which allows you to select who will get to see where you are. Or you can send out an emergency blast (after a 10-second “are you sure?!?!” period) to every single person in your Trusted Contacts. They’ll be notified on their phone, as well as by email. Simple enough.

Requesting a location

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You also can ask your contacts to share their location with you. Basically as a “Where are you, are you OK?” sort of thing. They’ll get a big, bright pop-up stating that you want to know where they are. If they approve, they’ll be sharing their location for 24 hours, or until they manually stop sharing. If they don’t respond back within 5 minutes their phone will automatically share its location for the next 24 hours.

There are limitations here, of course. It’s possible for your phone to be somewhere other than where you are. Phone batteries die. This isn’t the be-all, end-all of keeping folks safe, for sure. And it’s really meant as more of a safety thing than a snooping thing. It doesn’t hide the fact that someone can see where you are at all.

And you also have to have installed the Trusted Contacts app in the first place. For my money I’d love to see it baked in to Google’s default suite of apps, unless it’s going to conflict with a manufacturer’s version. Because this is a basic safety service that really should be employed by anyone with a phone.

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8
Dec

What is T-Mobile Digits and why do I want it?


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T-Mobile’s Digits brings phone calls and texts into the 21st century, but at a time when people care little about those things, will it make a difference?

T-Mobile has unveiled a new service called Digits, making phone numbers less reliant on a SIM card, and expanding the simple phone number into the smartphone age.

But for all of its big talk, Digits is a bit confusing, so let’s break it down.

What is Digits?

At its core, Digits is T-Mobile’s way of utilizing its new IMS (IP Media Subsystem) backend to dynamically direct calls to any device, or store multiple numbers on a single device.

Basically, without the technical mumbo jumbo, it’s a way to free the phone number from its legacy place, and to utilize the flexibility data-based nature of Voice over LTE and Voice of Wi-Fi to allow a call to take place, or to be received, in the most convenient place. This is very similar to Google Voice, and to many other Voice over IP services like Viber and Skype, but T-Mobile has one major advantage: it owns the network, and it distributes the phones.

So what can Digits really do for me?

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Provided you’re on one of T-Mobile’s compatible postpaid plans (yes, this is yet another way for T-Mobile to upsell you), Digits can make it easier to manage phone calls in the increasingly inevitable situation you have multiple devices.

The basic idea is that if you receive a call on your traditional T-Mobile number, your phone should ring, along with any device — another phone, a computer, a tablet, even a connected smartwatch — at the same time. You can also make calls from any of those same devices without your phone nearby, and without the need to have a SIM card.

A secondary but for many people equally important feature is the ability to have more than one number available on a single device. So instead of having separate personal and work phones, you can have a single smartphone make and receive calls from two or more numbers.

This sounds a lot like Google Voice

digitsonsamsunggalaxys7calllog.jpg?itok=digitsonsamsunggalaxys7dialerchooseline.digitsonsamsunggalaxys7settingshometurne

Yes, it does. The major difference here is that T-Mobile is committing to a couple of things that even Google, which creates both Android and Google Voice, can’t do:

  • It is integrating Digits directly into the Android phones it sells, working with manufacturers like Samsung to seamlessly add Digits support into devices like the Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S7 and Gear S3.
  • It is making it easy to do so-called “SIM replication,” which allows you to duplicate a phone number onto a second device, such as another smartphone or a connected smartwatch.

This is in addition to the Google Voice-like Digits app that’s available for Android and iOS, to make and receive calls and texts from any device, anywhere. There’s also a Digits portal on the web for people who sit in front of a computer all day and want to be able to initiate communications that way. And because the app is available natively and through an app, devices with SIM cards from AT&T, Verizon or Sprint — any carrier, really — can access Digits messages. If you lose your phone, for instance, you can download the Digits app onto a friend’s device and make and receive calls and texts from there, too.

Like many cross-platform messaging services, call logs and messages also sync in real-time between devices, which is a huge boon to productivity if you don’t always have your phone in front of you.

It’s tailor-made for Android

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Android is the only platform on which T-Mobile can rely to help Digits grow.

Digits is a cross-platform play, sure, but it is tailor-made for Android. Not only does iOS have its own cross-device communications protocol in iMessage, which may mess with Digits’ ability to route texts, but Apple doesn’t allow for any system-level alterations, rendering one of Digits’ primary use cases moot.

Indeed, Android is the only platform on which T-Mobile can rely to help Digits proliferate, but by potentially limiting half of the population to merely an app-based experience, it is almost immediately cut off at the proverbial knees. Still, Digits has a five-device limit, and can easily be tuned to be used on an iPhone or iPad, especially since as of iOS 10 VoIP apps can take over the lock screen like a regular dialer.

The best Digits experience will always be on Android, and initially is only natively available on the Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge, Galaxy S6 edge +, Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 edge or Note 5 purchased through T-Mobile.

So should I sign up?

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Digits, while free during the beta period, won’t be afterwards, and T-Mobile isn’t saying how much it will cost.

Digits is an intriguing product, and an example of what it looks like when a carrier turns next-generation core technology like IMS and HLR (which works to virtualize SIM data on the core network) into something that is truly compelling to consumers.

There are a couple of caveats, though: Digits, while free during the beta period, will not be afterwards, and T-Mobile isn’t saying how much it will cost. It’s likely going to be just a few dollars per month, but users already need to have one of the carrier’s postpaid plans such as T-Mobile One or Simple Choice. And only the primary account holder can actually sign up for a second line in order to carry two on a single device; secondary users can merely share their existing number across multiple devices.

During the beta period, which is indeterminate but should go into next year, T-Mobile will ask users to provide feedback on the service. This is a complicated thing, despite its upfront simplicity, and bugs will need to be worked out.

In the long run, though, Digits is coming to market at a time when the phone number is likely the least important aspect of a smartphone user’s experience. Data, and the avenues to the internet it provides, is the backbone of the mobile experience. Phone calls and rich texts sent over a carrier network, even one as advanced as T-Mobile’s, still feel somewhat anachronistic.

Nonetheless, the Digits beta seems like a great option for T-Mobile users running select Samsung phones on Android, and we look forward to trying it out!

See Digits at T-Mobile

8
Dec

Your Google Assistant is about to get smarter thanks to Actions on Google


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Actions are the tools developers need to integrate their products into Assistant on your Google Home.

Google has opened up the Actions on Google program today, and developers can now start building their own tools and conversational bots for Google Home.

First seen at Google I/O 2016, the Actions SDK brings everything developers need to integrate their services into Google Assistant the same way Pandora or Google Cast is. Once implemented — there is nothing to install and all the integration with services is done through Google’s cloud servers — we can tell Google Home that we want to talk to or about a service and the new conversations are ready to take what we say and provide the appropriate response.

Google’s Wayne Piekarski walks through a demo using a service they built called “Personal Chef” in the video below. (This will trigger your Pixel or Google Home. Several times.)

Note: The demonstration starts at 1:25

For developers: Google’s Conversation Actions web documentation pages are where you’ll get started building your services into Google Assistant. You can choose to transcribe and decipher a user’s words yourself using the conversation API to process input and use the Actions SDK to process and build actions as intents.If you’d rather not process transcribed speech yourself, you can use api.ai which can build out the workflow of a conversation using Conversation Actions. Google also has integrated Gupshup to help build, test and deploy conversational bots and actions on Google Home.

For users: All of this is handled by the folks who built a service and there’s nothing to install. You’ll be able to tell Google Home you need a thing or want to talk to/about a thing and Assistant will automatically handoff to the correct service the same way things are done now when you tell Google to play a song or cast a video. Seamless integration is what makes Assistant seem “smart”.

For now, the service is only available for Google Home but Google plans to bring Actions to Assistant on the Pixel and in Allo in the future. Google also is working on enabling support for purchases and bookings, and developers who are interested in creating actions using these upcoming features can register for our early access partner program.

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8
Dec

Facebook was dominated by the presidential election in 2016


As the year winds down, companies like Twitter, YouTube and others have made a habit of reminding us of all the stories that dominated the conversation over the last 12 months. Facebook does the same and today the social network revealed the most popular topics that hit your News Feed in 2016. As you might expect, the US presidential election took the top spot while Brexit was the hottest subject in the UK.

Other popular topics include Pokémon Go, Black Lives Matter, the Olympics, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali and soccer’s Euro Cup. Notably absent from the list is perhaps the biggest story since the election was decided: fake news. Facebook has been dealing with the issue well before November, including false stories about the Pope endorsing Trump and a report about Fox News firing anchor Megyn Kelly surfacing as a trending topic. The Kelly story was promoted shortly after Facebook said it would no longer rely on editors to pen descriptions for popular stories on the site. The move to an algorithm-driven approach hasn’t exhibited much improvement thus far but he company has recently said it will make improvements to user reporting methods and early detection to combat the issue.

For something a little more personal, Facebook has also created year-end videos for each user. The footage provides a look back at your highlights from 2016. The company says the compilation is editable and once you settle on a final version, you can share it with all of your friends. Those individual videos will be making the rounds to your News Feed during December, but you can take a look now via this link.

In addition to its own video highlights, Facebook also posted a list of the most popular user footage from 2016. It’s no surprise that Chewbacca Mom took the top spot, followed by a smattering of election coverage and Dallas residents lining up to greet police following an attack earlier this year. To browse the full list of popular videos from 2016, consult the source link down below.

Source: Facebook

8
Dec

Mozilla helped build a gallery-style exhibit on data security


For a few moments after stepping in from the cold, it was easy to forget I wasn’t in a ritzy SoHo holiday pop-up shop. The room was stark white. Cheerful staffers huddled around display tables in matching hoodies. It wasn’t until I spotted a set of tomes filled with stolen LinkedIn passwords — just feet away from a pair of Air Yeezy 2s purchased off the deep web by an automated bot, naturally — that the space’s true purpose became clear.

Welcome to the Glass Room.

Designed by Mozilla and the nonprofit activists behind the Tactical Technology Collective, this exhibit serves as both a commentary on consumer culture and a primer on the pitfalls of living our lives online.

The first of the 54 items on display here seem a little absurd, and that’s by design. Consider the Unfitbit. It’s a Fitbit strapped to a metronome, designed by Surya Matty and Tega Brain to disconnect the physical you from the quantified exercise that gets collected by companies and nets people discounts on their insurance. Beyond that lies an array of cloth samples shoved into tiny mason jars. As it turns out, they’re from an honest-to-goodness startup called Smell.Dating that — you guessed it — attempts to hook people up based on their individual aromas. Throw in all those LinkedIn passwords exposed during a 2012 breach — and those sneakers — and you’ve got a fairly benign starting point for an exhibit that becomes surprisingly creepy.

That creepiness settles in once you head down the stairs, where the space begins to show off products that are actually being sold. My churchgoing days are long behind me, and it’s just as well — one exhibit showed off how a bit of software from a facial-recognition-software vendor monitors live video feeds to see who showed up for that week’s service. Nearby was a simulated video feed of the US-Mexico border — bought, built and used by the state of Texas — monitored by some 200,000 volunteers hoping to catch drug deals in action and undocumented immigrants on the move.

Nearby lay a slew of sensors collectively called Silver Mother. These were designed to attach to pill bottles and beds and doors to help worried children more easily check up on their aging parents. It’s the sort of seemingly innocuous tech that eager startups pitch all the time, but co-curator and TTC Executive Director Stephanie Hankey said these products were prime examples of how surveillance has become normalized. These days, she says, Big Brother doesn’t have to be a faceless force peering into our lives. As Hankey put it, monitoring each other has “become more banal, bureaucratic and simple,” to the point where we sometimes willingly assume the role ourselves.

The whole experience is sickening, in a poignant, even helpful, kind of way. Upon completing a few laps around the space, there were two thoughts that not even a trip to the Detox Bar — where “inGeniuses” offer workshops on how to be a more secretive, savvy web user — could shake.

First, you can’t help but feel like a sucker here. Like everyone I know, I use Google to figure out every little thing — and in so doing, give the company a thorough portrait of my interests and habits. I use apps to log the things I eat and how much I move and the places I go and the places I want to go. I trust that the companies to which I give this information won’t do anything nefarious with it, but even when I don’t, I give them my data anyway, in exchange for convenience. I’m not alone, either: These services have become woven into the fabric of modern life to the point where opting out can feel almost a little suicidal.

Second, have we reached the point where we create so much data that it’s impossible to manage all of it responsibly? Hard, reliable numbers are tough to come by, but to paraphrase Douglas Adams: “You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big” the amount of data humanity produces each year is. Because of the sheer volume of just the data you personally generate, and the many services we entrust with that data, there’s isn’t really a way to ensure we’re secure from end to end.

After all, how many apologetic emails have you gotten from stores whose payments systems were breached, or from massive tech companies whose infrastructures fell prey to malware and savvy hackers?

That’s not to say that trying to individually safeguard our personal data is a fool’s errand. But with news story after news story highlighting breach after breach, it sometimes feels like all we can do is minimize potential damage.

This exhibit is bound to open some people’s eyes to truths they might not have been ready for, but the Glass Room wasn’t specifically designed to be a downer, either. Rather, Hankey and her colleagues wanted to craft an experience that would elicit a mix of laughter and latent dread.

“We did that to make people realize they can embrace this without going, ‘Oh my God, this is a terrible world,’” she said. “They might think that, but we’re not trying to present it that way. On the other hand, I think that people should and will find their own entry point to these questions. Everyone has a different reason to care about these issues. That’s why we have a breadth of content — to try to find a place for each person to connect with it in their own way.”

The Glass Room is located on 201 Mulberry Street in NYC, and runs through Dec. 14th.

8
Dec

Apple CEO Tim Cook to Deliver 2017 MIT Commencement Address


Apple CEO Tim Cook will deliver the 2017 Commencement address at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the university announced today.

“Mr. Cook’s brilliance as a business leader, his genuineness as a human being, and his passion for issues that matter to our community make his voice one that I know will resonate deeply with our graduates,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif says. “I am delighted that he will join us for Commencement and eagerly await his charge to the Class of 2017.”

In a statement, Cook said he was looking forward to speaking to MIT’s graduating class in 2017. The Commencement will take place on Friday, June 9.

“Apple stands at the intersection of liberal arts and technology, and we’re proud to have many outstanding MIT graduates on our team,” Cook says. “We believe deeply that technology can be a powerful force for good, and I’m looking forward to speaking to the Class of 2017 as they look ahead to making their own mark on the world.”

Cook has previously given Commencement speeches at George Washington University and Auburn University, his alma mater.

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8
Dec

Spotify Won’t Be Purchasing SoundCloud After All


Rumors last month suggested Apple Music rival Spotify was in advanced talks to acquire audio distribution platform SoundCloud, but it appears discussions have ended after Spotify pulled out of the deal.

According to TechCrunch, though months of talks took place, Spotify ultimately decided not to purchase SoundCloud because of worries the acquisition would negatively impact its impending IPO.

Spotify hasn’t officially said it will go public in 2017, but there has been plenty of speculation, including a funding round with incentives tied to a listing. The source said Spotify went cold on SoundCloud because “it doesn’t need an additional licensing headache in a potential IPO year.”

SoundCloud, which allows users to upload, promote, and share audio recordings, would have allowed Spotify to add user-created content to its own music catalog, but Spotify would have needed to deal with licensing issues, something it did not want to do ahead of an IPO.

SoundCloud has upwards of 175 million total listeners a month, while Spotify has 40 million paying subscribers. Apple Music, Spotify’s main competitor, has been gaining subscribers steadily and as of December 2016, boasts 20 million subscribers.
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8
Dec

ITV will soon ditch the ads on ITV Hub, as long as you pay £3.99 a month


One of the biggest bugbears we have about the ITV Hub is the proliferation of adverts that play before each catch-up show. Yes, the channel needs to make money somehow and is a commercial enterprise, but there’s so many of them you can be forgiven for giving up on watching the programme itself.

That’s soon to change, with a new option being rolled out that could mean the end of advertising in the app forever. If you pay for it, that is.

ITV has announced that it is to offer a subscription option as part of its catch-up and on demand service. ITV Hub+ costs £3.99 per month and gets rid of the adverts entirely.

It is already available on some iOS devices thanks to a pilot scheme, but will roll out to many more smartphones and tablet apps soon. Hub+ users will also be able to strip the ads from PC and Smart TV versions of the ITV Hub in the “coming months”.

In addition, ITV has announced that it is introducing offline viewing, with downloads to be available to iPhone and iPad users before Christmas. This will also require a Hub+ subscription.

You can continue to watch ITV programming for free, but won’t get the download ability or an ad-free experience.

We would argue that better picture quality should be a priority rather than no adverts, with some ITV Hub streams being very low bitrate in comparison to services from rival broadcasters. It’s like watching a Lego reworking of X-Factor at times. But hey, what do we know?

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