Letter from the Editor
Happy Holidays everybody! As 2016 winds to a close, we’re spending its last two weeks looking at the best and worst in the world of technology. On this Christmas Eve, I give you the greatest successes in the tech world over the past year. (Those hoping for some holiday schadenfreude will have to wait until next week.)
In case it wasn’t already apparent, Elon Musk has done pretty well for himself in the past 12 months. Roberto Baldwin detailed how Musk’s car company made major strides toward vertically integrating sun to volts and realizing his master plan to get everyone driving (or being driven by) his EVs. It’s his world, y’all, we’re just living in it.
Meanwhile, where Musk’s extra-terrestrial pursuits with SpaceX saw some setbacks, Mariella Moon explained how NASA truly thrived in 2016 (particularly on social media), despite having fewer relative resources than in years past. Turns out, most of us think learning about space is cool, but apparently not cool enough to get Congress to increase the agency’s funding.
Netflix increased its own funding by raising the cost of its streaming services. Much to the delight of shareholders, that price hike couldn’t stop the company’s upward trajectory. Richard Lawler wrote that the company’s success was driven by its growing slate of original shows and international expansion, among other things.
And finally, Aaron Souppouris explained how augmented and virtual reality entered the mainstream in 2016, but they’re really just stepping-stones on the road to mixed reality — the true melding of real and digital worlds.
Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the sequels to “Rogue One”DARPA’s LUKE bionic arm is going to vets first
After eight years of development, two of Dean Kamen’s prosthetic arms have been delivered to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Dubbed LUKE (Life Under Kinetic Evolution), it was inspired by the Star Wars character and can understand multiple commands at once, allowing for more natural movement.
Gamers, hide your walletsMicrosoft, Sony and Valve are all offering big holiday sales
Now that you’ve snagged gifts for everyone else (if you’ve waited until the last minute, don’t worry, we can help), it’s time to pick up a few things for yourself. If video games are your habit of choice, you’re in luck: Deep discounts are available on PC and consoles alike, covering every genre and style of release we can think of.
ShockerApple is reportedly putting Mac development on the back burner
If you think Apple’s computers aren’t getting enough love, this report could help explain why. MacBook Pro issues and a focus on mobile devices mean there aren’t as many resources for developing new desktops. Tim Cook says Apple has “great” desktops in its roadmap, but who knows when we’ll actually see them.
Real-time fantasyNBA InPlay app listens in to know what game you’re watching
The NBA is rolling out a fantasy basketball app that works in a unique way: to rack up points, you have to watch the game. It uses the audio to recognize national broadcasts, while viewers select players and get points from their performance. The league’s slate of Christmas Day games is a perfect opportunity to try it out, which is probably why InPlay came to Android and iOS this week.
Remember: The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals2016: The year in winners and losers
So far, our looks back through 2016 are all positive, so peruse the year’s winners while you can. Tesla, Netflix, mixed reality and NASA all walk away from 2016 with heads held high and a seemingly bright future. All that changes next week when we figure out who took a step backward in the past twelve months.
But wait, there’s more…
- Samsung Gear S3 Frontier review: Lots of features, not enough apps
- Sling TV accidentally reveals its set-top box for cord cutters
- Death isn’t enough to keep a classic character out of the latest “Star Wars” film
- The first trailer for “Blade Runner 2049” is here
As most of us are paying attention to our long holiday weekend, Cyanogen Inc. has announced that “all services and Cyanogen-supported nightly builds” will be discontinued by December 31st. While its statement says that the open source CyanogenMod OS and source code will remain available, owners of Cyanogen-powered devices like the OnePlus One will need to make a switch for future updates.
There’s no name attached to this announcement, but at the end of November, new CEO Lior Tal announced the company cut ties with co-founder Steve Kondik. He also said the company would consolidate into a single Palo Alto-based team by the end of the year, as it pivots towards a Modular OS future building add-ons for Android instead of a replacement.
As for Kondik, he tweeted on December 2nd that he’s “actually happy to rebrand.” Android Police pulled a post from the official CyanogenMod Google+ developer community that suggested he may crowdfund a relauch of the project, but nothing is confirmed yet.
Google’s Santa Tracker went live today, allowing anyone with Google Maps installed on an iOS device to keep up with Santa’s mythical journey across the world in real time.
Users can type ‘track santa’ into the Google Maps search field to view the area in which Santa can be currently found dispensing gifts. Tapping the blue Santa icon in the bottom right of the screen offers up more details about the region, including a live video feed and an arrival time for Santa’s next stop as well as the user’s current location.
We’ve received this special preview from one of Santa’s many developer elves, who are hard at work in the North Pole helping Santa prepare for his big day. Santa’s dashboard – featuring the latest and greatest in Google Maps technology and sleigh engineering – will allow you to follow his progress around the world, and also learn a little about some of his stops along the way.
Further down the screen are options to play a selection of festive mini games, watch videos of Santa going about his business, and access a portal to Santa’s village.
Friendly elves have invited younger Google Maps users to explore the village, where they can learn about holiday traditions around the world, play games like Present Bounce and Penguin Dash, visit North Pole airport, code a snowflake, and take a Santa selfie, as well as other fun activities.
Google’s Santa Tracker continues a 12-year tradition for the company, allowing excited children and parents to keep up with the jolly gift-giver’s travels throughout December 24.
As of writing, Santa was last seen in Urup, in the Kuril Islands, with his next scheduled stop being Onekotan.
Tag: Google Maps
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If you got a speedy delivery on a last-minute gift at the height of holiday season, you might have Amazon’s fleet of cargo planes to thank for pulling off a minor miracle. Although Amazon says the fleet is only meant to supplement Fedex and UPS at the moment, its own air cargo business will eventually play an important part in letting Amazon handle end-to-end logistics. According to a new report from Reuters, Jeff Bezos and company have already figured out how to leverage their private fleet to minimize overhead while getting the most out of their shipping partners at the same time.
As Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Cheeseman told Reuters, the company doesn’t intend to do away with UPS and Fedex — at least not yet, anyway. “Our own delivery efforts are needed to supplement that capacity rather than replace it,” Cheeseman said.
But that doesn’t mean Amazon can’t squeeze out another dollar in the process. The major shipping carriers have recently started charging by volume rather than weight, which Reuters attributes to more people buying things like toilet paper and diapers online rather than in stores. To counter the rising shipping prices, Amazon has started shipping large boxes of lightweight items itself and passing off the heavier and more dense packages to its legacy shipping partners. According to Reuters, Amazon’s planes have been flying at nearly full capacity, but at less than half their capacity by weight — meaning they’re likely saving on fuel costs as well.
At the moment, Amazon only flies to about 10 different airports near its warehouses across the US, but it uses smaller hubs and avoids stopovers that could lead to delays. Those less-trafficked airfields also allow Amazon’s flights to leave later each night — another advantage when most online shoppers have a tendency to finally hit the checkout button in the evenings when they’re home from work.
If you’re trying to get access to 4K video through DirecTV, now you don’t have to pick up its most expensive TV packages for access. TVPredictions confirmed with AT&T that almost all customers (anyone with the Select plan or higher) can watch the three 4K channels with NBA and other content. You’ll still need a Genie HR54 DVR and an Ultra HD television, of course, but previously, for 4K customers needed Ultimate or Premier service plans that could cost twice as much.
Of course, even if you don’t have a 4K TV at home (or waiting for you under the tree) keep an eye out for local bars and restaurants making the upgrade. AT&T says DirecTV is the first provider to offer 4K broadcasts to businesses. That’s happening just in time for UFC 207 next week, as Ronda Rousey returns to the ring in a match that will be available in Ultra HD. Finally, a rep tells HDGuru that HDR is “on the radar for next year.”
Source: TVPredictions, AT&T
Yesterday Consumer Reports revealed that Apple’s 2016 MacBook Pro became the first MacBook to fail to achieve a recommendation due to inconsistent battery life. Apple SVP Phil Schiller today tweeted that the Cupertino company is working with Consumer Reports to understand the battery tests.
“Working with [Consumer Reports] to understand their battery tests, ” Schiller tweeted. “Results do not match our extensive lab tests or field data.” Apple claims its internal testing has seen the new MacBook Pro providing up to 10 hours of battery life when watching iTunes movies or browsing the web.
Working with CR to understand their battery tests. Results do not match our extensive lab tests or field data. https://t.co/IWtfsmBwpO
— Philip Schiller (@pschiller) December 24, 2016
Consumer Reports’ test has come under scrutiny since publication of the non-recommendation. The tests were conducted by opening a series of 10 web pages sequentially on Safari. This tests’ inconsistency had the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar registering 16 hours, 12.75 hours and 3.75 hours of battery life. A 15-inch MacBook Pro ranged from 18.5 hours to 8 hours of battery life.
When Consumer Reports tried the test with Chrome rather than Safari, it found consistently high battery life. “For this exercise, we ran two trials on each of the laptops, and found battery life to be consistently high on all six runs,” the report said. Consumer Reports did not think it was enough data to draw a conclusion, though they also point out their test results only take default browsers into consideration.
Critics, like iMore’s Rene Ritchie, argue that inconsistent test results require more testing to ferret out whether the issue is easily fixable, like a Safari glitch. Consumer Reports noted in its report that if Apple issues a software update that it claims will fix battery life inconsistency, they will conduct fresh tests.
Related Roundup: MacBook Pro
Buyer’s Guide: MacBook Pro (Buy Now)
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Two years ago, Virgin Galactic’s first SpaceShipTwo tragically crashed during a test flight, killing one pilot and severely injuring the other. The company unveiled its successor back in February, the VSS Unity, which has additional safety features to prevent another crash. It completed its first glide test two weeks ago, gathering precious data about how the reusable craft behaves in the air, and just performed a second unpowered flight to round out the year.
Virgin Galactic president Mike Moses said in October that they would need to hit all their test objectives before progressing to powered flight, which could take between 8 and 15 total staged glides. Assuming no other delays, Unity could move on to rocket-propelled tests sometime in 2017.
There’s still too much testing for Virgin Galactic to state when they’ll begin commercial flights, or even an outline schedule for future tests. Despite the program’s delays, the company claims that it has about 700 customers who have signed up for a flight on SpaceShipTwo.
VSS Unity’s second glide flight test occurred yesterday. Here she is gliding home. Thanks to our pilots & crew & you all for cheering us on. pic.twitter.com/L5zzSyDAUS
— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) December 23, 2016
The LG G5 received the repair-friendly score of 8/10.
The LG G5 may not have garnered the lion’s share of love from critics (or sales) in 2016, but it is the easiest phone to repair.
People who are good at the business of taking things apart and putting them back together again — iFixit — gave the G5 a repairability score of 8 on a 10 point scale in their 2016 roundup. They cite the removable back and battery and modular components — the circuit boards inside and not the outer modules in this case — as the reason why it’s so easy to take the phone apart.
Things like standard screws and easy-to-remove screens also garner points in the judging, while excessive adhesive, soldered components and “complex opening procedures” make the process more difficult and result in a lower score.
The full results for 2016 were (in order):
- LG G5 (8/10)
- Pixel and Pixel XL (7/10)
- iPhone 7 and 7 plus (7/10)
- iPhone SE (6/10)
- Galaxy Note 7 (4/10)
- Galaxy S7 and S7 edge (3/10)
We won’t suggest you take your phone apart and try any repairs yourself unless you know what you’re doing, but if you have a G5 it’s going to be a lot easier to do.
- LG G5 review
- LG 360 CAM review
- LG G5 complete specs
- LG’s G5 Friends modules are a neat idea, but they won’t matter
- LG G5 Hi-Fi Plus w/ B&O
- Join the LG G5 discussion
Super Mario Run released for iOS recently and was a massive success, so it’s no surprise to learn Nintendo has more mobile games in the works.
Super Mario Run racked up 40 million downloads in its first four days – beating the instant success of Pokemon Go from this past summer. It officially topped 50 million downloads as of Friday and is more than likely generating tonnes of revenue for Nintendo, especially considering the title costs $9.99 to fully unlock and play. App Annie said Super Mario Run’s revenue estimates are in the $14 million range for its first three days.
Now, Nintendo has said it is keen to release two to three new mobile games every year starting in 2017. According to a new interview (via MacWorld) with Tatsumi Kimishima, Nintendo’s president, Nintendo already has a couple games on the roadmap for next year: Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem. Those two are in addition to the Android version of Super Mario Run, which released in December for iOS devices only.
Keep in mind Niantic’s Pokemon Go launched this past summer and was massively hyped. While it’s not exclusive to iPhones and iPads (it launched cross-platform), it is available across the globe and hit 30 million downloads in two weeks. And it’s free to play, though there are in-app purchases.
- Super Mario Run: How to play
- Super Mario Run: Tips and tricks
- Super Mario Run cannot be played offline, the non-mobile mobile game
- Pokemon Go is coming to Apple Watch by end of 2016
- Pokemon Go for Apple Watch: How to play and when can you get it?
Kimishima also said he believes Super Mario Run will eventually reach 100 million downloads.
Tesla’s latest firmware update comes with more than just bug fixes — there are a pair of fun surprises just in time for the holidays hidden in there as well.
Model X owners can activate a secret light show that transforms the SUV into a four-wheeled disco ball. To activate it, you simply press the Tesla icon at the top of the screen for 5 seconds and then enter “Holiday” in the passcode screen that pops up. Once you exit the vehicle and lock the doors, the X will set off its exterior lights while playing music.
Both Model X and Model S owners can try the other hidden feature. Just enter “Mars” into the navigation’s destination zip code field and it will replace your local map with one from the surface of the Red Planet. As you drive, the surface map will pan accordingly but, alas, you’ll never actually get any closer to Mars that way. You’d need a spaceship for that.