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Facebook hopes to run ads in the middle of videos

You may soon have to get used to seeing promos when you’re watching certain videos on Facebook. Recode tipsters claim that the social network will start testing an ad format that runs in the middle of publishers’ videos, starting as soon as 20 seconds after the clip begins. This wouldn’t affect the homemade footage of your cousin’s wedding, to be clear — it’d be intended for pros who expect to make money. Facebook would mirror the revenue split that you see with YouTube, where creators get a 55 percent cut from ad sales.

The company isn’t commenting on the apparent leak, but it had talked about expanding mid-roll clips beyond live footage in early 2017.

You may not relish the thought of having to sit through even more ads, but this could be helpful in the long run. Publishers frequently limit their video selection on Facebook (or even avoid it altogether) because they make little if any profit. They’re allowed to create sponsored videos, but they can’t just inject ad spots and guarantee a relatively steady source of cash. If producers knew they could make an income from Facebook without special partnerships, you could see companies either posting more videos or, in some cases, posting videos for the first time.

And as Recode notes, mid-roll ads may sometimes increase the quality of the video you watch. That 20-second requirement would encourage publishers to create videos good enough to hold your attention for more than a brief moment. You won’t necessarily see hard-hitting documentaries in your news feed, but you might see fewer hit-and-run clips with no real substance.

Source: Recode


The best bathroom scales

By Melanie Pinola

This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a buyer’s guide to the best homewares. When readers choose to buy The Sweethome’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

After more than five months of researching and stepping on and off a dozen scales (a total of 29 hours and 464 weigh-ins), we found the EatSmart Precision CalPal to be the most accurate and precise basic digital bathroom scale with one of the easiest to read displays. If you’d like your scale to sync with your smartphone and estimate your body-fat percentage as well, the Withings Body is the best smart scale available today, with the best smartphone connectivity experience for both iOS and Android.

Who should buy this

We don’t recommend weighing yourself on 12 scales every day, but using one reliable scale regularly could keep you on track. Photo: Melanie Pinola

Just about everyone could benefit from a good bathroom scale. There’s a reason you’re weighed at every physical exam: Being over or under the healthy weight recommendations is linked to a greater risk for health problems. Significant weight changes can tip you off to health or lifestyle changes that need your attention. Even simply monitoring your weight could be beneficial in the long run: Several studies, including the one done at the comprehensive National Weight Control Registry, have found that one of the most common characteristics of people who lose weight and, most importantly, keep it off for years afterward is regular (at least weekly) weigh-ins. That number on the scale alone, however, isn’t something to obsess over, and is just one metric of many that can inform your understanding of your body.

How we picked and tested

The two most important qualities in a scale are accuracy (the scale correctly reads your exact weight changes) and precision (the scale gives the same reading if you do two or more readings in a row). First and foremost, you want to be able to trust the reading. Precision and accuracy, however, are things we could only measure ourselves through hands-on testing. To narrow down the vast universe of digital bathroom scales, we turned to a reader survey, expert recommendations, editorial and user reviews, and the scales’ price, design, and features. We also eliminated analog and mechanical scales from consideration.

Some scales have advanced features. When considering smart scales to test, we looked at the scale’s ability to track weight history, estimate body-fat percentage, and record weights for multiple people. All the smart scales we considered record your weight in their mobile apps and/or websites for months, making these scales the most user-friendly way to track your weight. For more on the features we looked for, see our full guide.

Our pick for basic scale

The EatSmart Precision CalPal was the most accurate of the six basic scales we tested and could detect when our tester held a 0.4 pound book in all but two of the rounds (within a 0.2 pound margin of error) when other similarly priced scales didn’t. The rest of the scales more often than not ignored that weight change. The EatSmart was also reassuringly precise for each test: When our tester weighed themselves three times in succession, the readings were always the same.

The EatSmart Precision CalPal has a comfortable platform and a display that won’t leave you squinting. Photo: Melanie Pinola

The EatSmart can save up to four user profiles. Once you save your information, the scale will remember you every time you weigh yourself and let you see your last weight with the “memory” button.

Although some people may not like the scale’s glass platform and curved sides that make it seem less sturdy and small, we appreciate that this scale looks nicer than others we tested. Despite the glass platform, this EatSmart maxes out at 440 pounds, far more than most scales’ limits of 400 or even 350 or 300 pounds. Whether you’re near this weight maximum or you want to weigh yourself with your luggage, capacity makes a difference. The scale also has a big, easy-to-read blue backlit display and, with a two-year warranty, double the typical warranty length of most bathroom scales.

The runner-up basic scale

If you want to save a few bucks, the Taylor Glass Digital CalMax is your next best bet. Manufactured by the same company, Taylor, the CalMax offers some features that are identical to those in the Precision CalPal, including 440-pound maximum weight measurement, 0.1-pound weight increments, and a 12-inch platform. But unlike the CalPal, the CalMax cannot recall the last weigh-in, does not have a backlit display, and uses a lithium battery instead of AAAs.

For some people the all-glass design of the EatSmart Precision CalPal can be off-putting. If you don’t like so much glass, note that the CalMax comes in two variants, one with see-through glass (pictured below) and the other with a silver backing that gives the appearance of being more solid from above.

The CalMax display is nearly identical to that of the CalPal except it has no backlight, which makes it difficult to read in low-light situations. Photo: Melanie Pinola

Functionally, in our tests the CalMax was just as precise as the CalPal and nearly as accurate (it didn’t detect weight changes of 0.4 pound in a couple of tests). If you can live without a backlit display and weight tracking, this model is a basic digital scale that’s more accurate than most. It also has an unusually long five-year warranty.

Our pick for smart scale

Smart or not, the Withings Body is one of the more pleasant scales to stand on, though you need to balance yourself properly on the scale to get your final reading (pictured above: the previous model, the Withings WS-50, which is outwardly identical). Photo: Melanie Pinola

If you want more than just your weight reading, want to track your weight via a mobile app or online interface, or simply want the most accurate bathroom scale available now, take a look at the Withings Body.

The Withings Body was the only scale in the group to detect a 0.2-pound weight difference on each test. Some scales accurately detected our tester’s weight change going from just them to them holding a 0.4-pound book, but when our tester switched in the heavier 0.6-pound weight (that is, going from an additional 0.4 pound to an additional 0.6 pound over original weight), those scales wouldn’t detect that. The Body was the only model that recognized each weight change every time.

It is a pricey scale, but you get a lot of features, including a reading for your body-fat percentage and heart-rate measurement, automatic data upload to the Withings app via Wi-Fi tracking for up to eight household members, and integration with Apple’s HealthKit as well as more than 60 other apps. And perhaps most important for a smart scale, you can store and share your data with your other devices and the cloud.

This guide may have been updated by The Sweethome. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from The Sweethome: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.


The iPhone’s legacy, 10 years later

January 9th, 2017 is a milestone day in the technology world: It’s the 10th anniversary of Apple’s iPhone. Yes, it’s been a full decade since Steve Jobs took to the stage and introduced the device that many credit with defining the modern smartphone. But was it an overnight revolution? Well, no. Despite all the initial hype, the iPhone actually represents a gradual reinvention strung across many years. It wasn’t the first out of the gate with many basic concepts, but its fresh approaches to those concepts helped smartphones escape their niche business-tool status and become the must-have companion devices they are now.

The most conspicuous improvement is the one that’s likely staring you in the face: the touchscreen. While touch-enabled phones were far from a novelty in 2007 (PalmOS and Windows Mobile had supported it for years), Apple was the first to implement a touchscreen you wanted to use. Most touch displays at the time were resistive (pressure-based), with all the precision and sensitivity of a billy club. Complex gestures were out of the question, and you frequently had to use a stylus with interfaces that simply weren’t meant for your fingers. It’s no wonder why many touch-capable phones at the time still had keyboards and directional pads. Why poke at the screen when it was less painful to tap buttons?

The iPhone’s capacitive screen and multi-finger touch interface were revelations in comparison. Not only could you ditch the pen — you could use intuitive gestures like flicks and pinches. You could focus on actually getting things done instead of fighting with controls. Even in 2007, it was clear to many that large capacitive touchscreens were the future. Most big phone makers started shifting away from resistive displays and physical buttons, and those that were slow to change (BlackBerry and Nokia in particular) wound up struggling. Apple definitely wasn’t alone in spurring the adoption of modern touch: Android helped it take off in a big way, particularly when the Motorola Droid arrived in 2009. The iPhone got the ball rolling, though, and it’s safe to say that the shift toward touch wouldn’t have happened so quickly without Apple’s help.

iPhone Goes On General Sale In Tokyo

It wasn’t just hardware that made a difference, as the iPhone was also crucial to jumpstarting the market for smartphone apps. Mobile software certainly existed before, but the industry was almost hostile to its very existence. You often had to ‘just know’ where to find apps, and those portals that existed either demanded exorbitant royalties from developers or were controlled by carriers eager to exclude apps that competed with their services. Even installation and updates were awkward. It wasn’t uncommon to find smartphone owners who’d never downloaded a third-party app. Why would they when they didn’t know where to go or what to do, and creators frequently shied away?

Enter Apple’s App Store, introduced alongside the iPhone 3G in 2008. It suddenly gave legions of smartphone owners easy access to third-party software. Moreover, the barriers to making and selling those apps were much lower — when there were straightforward tools, better royalties and millions of potential customers, even tiny teams could make blockbuster hits. Mobile apps quickly became much more popular, and in some cases vital. Would social services like Instagram and Snapchat be as big as they are today if the App Store hadn’t made their concepts practical? Would smart homes or wearables exist if you couldn’t easily get the apps that make them work? The app model that the iPhone pioneered made built-in software stores virtually mandatory on smartphones, and those handsets wouldn’t be as dominant as they are today if there weren’t an abundance of apps to fulfill tasks that would otherwise require a PC.

The iPhone hasn’t always changed the game quite so dramatically. In many cases, it was more about nudging technology forward just enough that it became popular. Take video chat, for instance. The concept certainly existed before FaceTime arrived with the iPhone 4 in 2010 (more than a few phones already had front-facing cameras), but it was Apple’s dead-simple approach that made the difference. If you had someone’s phone number, you could start a video call. There were no special carrier fees or complex video conferencing solutions to fight with. While FaceTime didn’t conquer the world the way the App Store or multi-touch screens did, it spurred demand for video chat services and served as the template for extra-simple apps like Google Duo.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs Unveils New iPhone At Developers Conference

You can even argue that some tech wouldn’t have gotten very far without an iPhone boost. Fingerprint readers are the classic examples. Before the iPhone 5s, fingerprint scanners on phones were frequently more trouble than they were worth (ahem, Motorola Atrix). Touch ID simplified it down to a quick and easy tap, and spawned the surge in fingerprint readers you’re seeing in everything from the latest Samsung Galaxy through to the Google Pixel. Recent efforts to get rid of passwords might not be as feasible if fingerprint readers still required multiple swipes.

Mobile payments got a similar bump. There’s no doubt that the iPhone was late to the tap-to-pay party when Google Wallet and other options were available years earlier, but Apple Pay was the first to really get some traction. It didn’t require carrier support, special apps or other convoluted terms — you just had to keep your thumb on your home button while buying your coffee. Android Pay and Samsung Pay certainly do some things better, but there’s little doubt where they got the basic idea for their fingerprint-based shopping.

And let’s not forget voice recognition. Although Google Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana have clear advantages, it was Siri on the iPhone 4S that kicked off the concept of a built-in AI-powered assistant. Before then, voice commands were primarily restricted to direct, robot-like instructions. The iPhone introduced plain-language questions, contextual answers and other concepts that many take for granted today.


To be sure, the iPhone has sometimes been (and occasionally, still is) on the trailing edge. It took until 2014 to get an iPhone larger than 4 inches, well after Steve Jobs was convinced nobody would buy one. You can’t use the near-field wireless for anything but payments. You also can’t add removable storage, swap your battery or get a greater-than-1080p screen. And of course, enthusiasts who insist on choice and customization still have a good reason to prefer Android or Windows 10 Mobile.

Even so, it’s evident that the iPhone has created a vast legacy over the past 10 years. One way or another, the smartphone in your pocket owes a small debt to what Apple has done, whether it’s the basic design or a feature you use every day. And the competitive landscape has forever changed. All the rival smartphone platforms from 2007 either died or lost most of their relevance, and you can trace their downfalls back to their inability to adapt to the iPhone’s breakthroughs in a timely way — even if Android was sometimes the one to sound the death knell. The next 10 years probably won’t be nearly as revolutionary given how mature the smartphone market is these days, but that doesn’t diminish the iPhone’s past accomplishments.

Image credits: Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images; David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Reuters/Maxim Zmeyev


Of course I took these eerily detailed 3D selfies at CES

I’ve taken, oh, I don’t know, about a million selfies in my life. I’ve even dabbled in 3D portraits. But I’ve never seen a three-dimensional capture of my face as realistic as the one generated by Bellus3D’s Face Camera at CES. The new device is slightly larger than a stick of gum, and houses two monochrome sensors and one that records color, meshing the information together for a highly detailed picture. The camera is still just a prototype, but when it’s available, it can be attached to your phone or tablet. The ring light that you see in the pictures was only included for the demo, and is not actually a part of the Face Camera, but you can easily attach one of your own.

Scanning my CES-beaten face was a simple 15-second process. I lined my face up with the onscreen outline, tapped the button to start recording, and turned my head to the left and right as a company rep kept an eye on the screen and told me when to turn back to the front. About 10 seconds later, a 3D map of my face appeared, and I could move around a virtual bulb to light up my visage from different angles. I was very impressed (and maybe even slightly embarrassed) by the level of detail in the portrait; all of my pores and acne scars were on display, as were the inevitable CES-induced dark circles under my eyes.

Why would anyone want such detailed pictures of themselves? As it happens, the applications are numerous. In addition to letting users çreate more realistic representations of themselves as gaming avatars or to use when shopping online for makeup and glasses, high-quality face scans can also enable more accurate authentication protocols for better security systems. Of course, there are other, naughtier, uses — as one of my colleagues pointed out — including making more lifelike dolls.

A hundred developer units of the camera will be available later this year, and the company tells Engadget that it expects to sell this for less than $1,000. It is not yet in talks with a major manufacturer to embed this technology in other devices, but the company says it hopes to eventually begin those discussions. Meanwhile, until the Face Camera becomes publicly available, we’ll have to resign ourselves to boring old 2D selfies.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2017.


Farewell, CES 2017!

That’s it! We spent all of last week in Las Vegas checking out what the world’s biggest companies and scrappiest startups had to offer. As you’d expect, the whole thing was equal parts exhausting and exhilarating, but now we’re (mostly) back home and ready to bring you a quick recap of the show’s biggest themes. Watch editor-in-chief Michael Gorman wax eloquent about Alexa and other voice interfaces taking over the world; TVs getting more exciting than ever; and the fascinating ways that cars and technology continue to collide. Enjoy the show, and seriously: Thank you for joining us on this wild ride.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2017.


Space Station gets its first African-American crew member

The International Space Station may be in its twilight years, but that isn’t precluding it from adding more to the history books. NASA has revealed that Jeanette Epps will be the first African-American ISS crew member when Expedition 56 reaches orbit in May 2018. It’ll be the Syracuse-born astronaut’s first spaceflight, but she has an extremely strong pedigree going in. On top of aerospace engineering and science degrees, she spent most of her pre-NASA career working as a CIA intelligence officer.

There has yet to be an African-American ISS mission commander, and the opportunity for that is limited given how few years the station has left without another extension. However, it’s still an important milestone. The ISS has long been a (partial) reflection of Earth’s cultural makeup, with visitors and crew members coming from the likes of Brazil, Japan and Malaysia in addition to spacefaring regulars such as the US and Russia. It’s only fitting that the US’ own crews eventually mirror the population you see back on terra firma.


Source: NASA


Apple Seeds Third Beta of iOS 10.2.1 to Developers

Apple today seeded the third beta of an upcoming iOS 10.2.1 update to developers, three weeks after seeding the second iOS 10.2.1 beta and nearly a month after releasing iOS 10.2, the second major update to the iOS 10 operating system.

Registered developers can download the third iOS 10.2.1 beta from the Apple Developer Center or over-the-air with the proper configuration profile installed.

It isn’t yet known what features are included in iOS 10.2.1, but as a minor 10.2.x update, it appears to focus on bug fixes and performance improvements rather than major outward-facing changes. No new features were discovered in the first two iOS 10.2.1 betas, but we’ll update this post if any changes are found in the third beta.

iOS 10.2.1 follows the release of iOS 10.2, a significant update that brought Unicode 9 emoji, a new TV app, Messages Screen Effects, Music improvements, and a whole slew of bug fixes.

Related Roundup: iOS 10
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Apple Seeds Second Beta of tvOS 10.1.1 to Developers

Apple today seeded the second beta of an upcoming tvOS 10.1.1 update to developers for testing purposes, almost four weeks after seeding the first tvOS 10.1.1 beta and nearly a month after releasing tvOS 10.1, the first major update to the tvOS 10 operating system.

Designed for the fourth-generation Apple TV, tvOS 10.1.1 beta can be obtained by connecting the Apple TV to a computer with a USB-C to USB-A cable, downloading and installing the software from a registered developer account via iTunes or Apple Configurator.

Once a beta profile has been installed on the device through iTunes, new beta updates will be available over the air.

We don’t yet know what features or changes are included in tvOS 10.1.1, but as a minor update, it’s likely to focus on bug fixes and other performance enhancements. No immediately visible changes or bug fixes were found in the first beta.

tvOS 10.1.1 follows tvOS 10.1, a significant update that introduced the new “TV” app, which serves as an Apple-designed television guide and TV watching hub.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 10
Buyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Don’t Buy)
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Apple Seeds Second Beta of watchOS 3.1.3 to Developers

Apple today seeded the second beta of an upcoming watchOS 3.1.3 update to developers for testing purposes, three weeks after releasing the first watchOS 3.1.3 beta and four months after the launch of watchOS 3.

watchOS 3.1.3 can be downloaded through the dedicated Apple Watch app on the iPhone by going to General –> Software Update. To install the update, the Apple Watch must have 50 percent battery, it must be placed on the charger, and it must be in range of the iPhone. watchOS 3.1.3 requires an iPhone running iOS 10 to install.

We don’t know yet what new features or bug fixes might be included in the watchOS 3.1.3 update, but no outward-facing changes were found in the first beta. watchOS betas are often rather minor in scale, focusing on small bug fixes and performance improvements rather than major interface changes.

The second watchOS 3.1.3 beta comes after Apple pulled the watchOS 3.1.1 release after it was found to be bricking some Apple Watch Series 2 devices. Apple has not re-released an updated version of watchOS 3.1.1 that fixes the bug, so many users are still running watchOS 3.1.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch Series 2, watchOS 3
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
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Apple Seeds Third Beta of macOS Sierra 10.12.3 to Developers

Apple today seeded the third beta of an upcoming macOS Sierra 10.12.3 update to developers, three weeks after seeding the second 10.12.3 beta and almost a month after releasing macOS Sierra 10.12.2, the second update to the macOS Sierra operating system.

The macOS Sierra 10.12.3 update is available for download through the Apple Developer Center or through the software update mechanism in the Mac App Store.

According to Apple’s release notes, the 10.12.3 update “improves the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac.” No specific changes, bug fixes, or feature additions were discovered in the first two betas, but we’ll update this post should any new features be found in the third beta.

Oftentimes, with bug fixes, it’s hard to tell what’s included until Apple supplies detailed release notes with a release. The previous update, macOS 10.12.2, introduced several important bug fixes to resolve battery life issues, fix graphics problems, and more.

Available since September, macOS Sierra is the latest Mac operating system. It includes Siri support, Apple Pay for the web, Universal Clipboard, Apple Watch auto unlocking, improved iCloud Drive integration, Picture-in-Picture multitasking, and dozens of smaller features that can be found in our macOS Sierra roundup.

Related Roundup: macOS Sierra
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