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14
Jan

ExpressVPN Router Review: Fixing the root of the problem


As someone who occasionally uses a VPN to change my location, I do find it a bit annoying when I have several devices that need to be connected. I have to set it up on each individual device, and that’s not to mention the fact that the VPN connection sometimes drops and I’m unaware of it.

This is why I was intrigued when I heard about a router that connected itself to the VPN service. Because the router directs traffic to my devices, it’s basically a “blanket” solution that results in just the router being connected, while all your connected devices are automatically routed through the VPN.

It’s actually quite a simple yet clever way to ensure that all of your devices remain connected to a VPN without worrying about connecting them individually. It’s also a very convenient solution considering the fact that some devices, like Apple TV, cannot connect to a VPN independently.

If you’re unsure about how a VPN works or what exactly it does, you can read our comprehensive guide on it here.

But before we go further into the VPN, let’s start by peeking at the hardware a little bit first.

Hardware

The router that ExpressVPN uses is a mid-range Linksys WRT1200AC. One of the more popular models, the device is flexible to the user’s needs and offers a wide range of features for any person.

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The general design of the Linksys is nothing radical, and is pretty much what one might think of when they think of a router. The main shell comprises of aluminium and immediately gives you a sense of a premium product.

It has two antennas on the back, one for 2.4gHz and another for 5gHz. The 5gHz frequency allows for faster broadcast times over shorter distances, as compared to the 2.4gHz which goes farther out but at a slower speed.

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I found the broadcast range acceptable and average – the 2.4gHz will go a lot farther than the 5gHz however, and I didn’t see too much difference in terms of speed. Although, you probably will if you have a fast enough internet line.

Inside the router, you’ll find a typical ARM-based dual-core processor that has 256MB DDR3 RAM, along with 128MB of flash storage. While the specs may sound dismal when compared to cellphones, it’s important to remember that routers need much less resources as compared to other devices.

In fact, the specs listed above are rather good for a router, and at no time whatsoever did I feel like the router couldn’t keep up while I was streaming or I had lots of devices connected at once.

In terms of connections and ports, the router has four Gigabit Ethernet LAN output ports and one Gigabit WAN (Internet) input port. It also features a USB 3.0 port and another port that can work as either a USB 2.0 or an eSATA, meaning that the router can host media and act as a server.

expressvpn routerThe LED lights that grace the front of the router that show Internet connections and WiFi status are also very comprehensive, to the point that you can customize them to go totally off regardless of activity or even change their colour depending of what’s happening. This is a very handy feature that I liked about the router as the LED’s are the main source of communication that you have with it.

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ExpressVPN uses this router to install their own software on it, allowing you to connect to their VPN through it.

ExpressVPN

This is where the router gets quite interesting. ExpressVPN has their own operating system for routers that can be flashed over the original software, sort of in the way that phone owners install CyanogenMod on their devices to extend its capabilities.

This software allows you to have the original features of the router – on top of a VPN.

After plugging the router in and logging into the router settings, I was immediately blown away at the presentation of ExpressVPN’s software – it was somewhat professional and gave a positive impression that ExpressVPN did the router properly.

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You might be wondering now about subscriptions and accounts and stuff – but don’t be frightened. Setup is straight forward.

Firstly, you need to sign up for ExpressVPN and choose from one of the packages- dependant on your needs, of course. Once that is done, you get a universal key that can be used on any device. Of course, because you have the ExpressVPN router, you only need to put it in once instead of entering into all your devices.

Once the key is entered, you can then choose your country and adjust a few other minor settings. Speaking from experience, ExpressVPN is one the VPN’s that offer the most amount of countries. Locations range from Kazakhstan to New York. This is definitely a strong point as a location closer to you results in faster speeds.

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You may see that there’s actually an update available – a good sign already that ExpressVPN continuously supports and updates it.

I found this entire setup process extremely easy to carry out. Almost everyone would be able to set it up at home.

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The rest of the router interface is easy to use. You’ll find settings where you’d expect them to be in the menu, and changing them is straightforward – no complicated terms or jargon to confuse you.

In terms of the actual VPN connection, I found it incredibly stable, but there is indeed a slight speed drop. This will ultimately depend a lot on your location and server, as previously discussed.

In the event that the VPN connection drops, all internet traffic is blocked until reconnection or manual override.

If there’s anywhere where the router could improve, I’d point out that some advanced software features would be appreciated. For example, QoS (Quality of service) ensures that the bandwidth gets shared equally and prevents users from hogging the network. It’s a setting that I could not find, and if it’s already implemented deep in the router, I could not adjust its settings.

That being said, the router does offer some nifty software features, like a real-time graph of network traffic.

In all, I found the VPN router a worthy device. It’s a simple idea that ExpressVPN turned into a powerful tool to ensure that your security and identity comes first. It’s one a a few in the market and it does the job perfectly.

The cheaper model (the one in this review) will set you back about $150, while the better models will obviously set you back more. There’s a comprehensive guide from ExpressVPN about purchasing a router over here.

The product used in this review was supplied by the manufacturer for purposes of a fair and honest review. We write and score our reviews independently of any kind of monetary or product compensation. If you have questions about our review or feel that we were at all unfair, we encourage you to leave a comment so we may engage you in discussion about it.

14
Jan

What is IMAX VR and where can I check it out?


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Where can I try out IMAX VR?

IMAX, the larger-than-life movie experience, has joined ranks with virtual reality to create a futuristic union of enormous fun. Here’s what you need to know and where you can try out IMAX VR for yourself.

Read more at VR Heads!

14
Jan

Sony’s new PlayStation headset is premium in name alone


There’s no shortage of gaming headsets on the market, and in an effort to distinguish themselves, manufacturers are turning to gimmicks to stand out from the competition. Sony, for example, has several PlayStation-branded pairs, and now it’s adding another to the mix, in hopes that 3D audio will be enough to earn your $150. After spending some time with the new PlayStation Platinum Wireless Headset, though, I’m not sure it deserves its asking price.

I came away unimpressed by the company’s last headset, the Gold Wireless, so I was hoping that a higher-end-sounding name would translate to better headphones. In terms of construction, the Platinum definitely feels more solid than its predecessor, but it isn’t quite as premium as the name suggests. For instance, the only non-plastic bit is a brushed aluminum band connecting the two arms. The only foam padding, meanwhile, is on the ear cups. And instead of offering cushioning on the headband, there’s a flexible rubber strap that’s supposed to stretch to accommodate your noggin.

My admittedly large head has never gotten along with this kind of padding design, and that’s true here as well. After 20 minutes, I was acutely aware of the rubber strap pressing against my skull. After 40 minutes, I couldn’t wait to take them off. That doesn’t bode well for a device you’re supposed to wear for extended periods of time. Of course, this is entirely subjective — if you have a smaller head than I do, you might not have this problem.

The ear cups are more comfortable. They fit well around my ears, and the padding was nice and plush. The attached arms fold up for easy storage, but when they’re closed they don’t lock in place, which allows them to wiggle around. Still, they’re better at staying closed than the flimsy Gold edition was.

At least setup is as simple as ever. Simply plug the wireless adapter into an open USB slot on your PS4 and that’s about it. It’s worth noting that while setting up the device using the Wireless Headset companion app, the Platinums were the only thing I could have plugged in. Leaving my PSVR connected via USB caused an issue with pairing the headset to my console. Same goes for wirelessly adding new audio presets. The latter is super-convenient, making swapping between presets a cinch. What’s more, there are two slots for different audio presets, and this time around both are customizable.

The thing is, in use, the presets really don’t sound too different from each other. I used the Uncharted 4 preset for a few games of Rocket League, for instance, and then swapped to the Last Guardian preset and couldn’t tell anything had changed.

But what about the 3D audio? As of now, the only non-VR game that supports it is last spring’s Uncharted 4. Sony promises the selection will expand over time. Naughty Dog’s audio design is always impeccable, but chances are you’ve already played through the game a few times by now and aren’t going to return. Turning it on, footsteps in the snow sounded a bit more nuanced against the wind snaking through a Scottish cave, and sounds like water drips were a touch more distinct.

There are some interesting reverb effects, and certain sounds have more space between them in the soundscape, but turning the effect on didn’t help much. In fact, the bass is a little deeper when that effect is turned off. This is likely the result of compression. When you turn the 3D audio switch on, the changes it makes are subtle and bring out nuances in the sound effects you otherwise wouldn’t hear. It’s like hitting the “Mega Bass” button on an old Sony Walkman, but doesn’t produce as stark a change.

Unlike traditional games, however, every PSVR title supports 3D audio. The thing is, you have to connect the Platinum to the PSVR’s in-line audio controller via an aux cable to use it. So it adds another cord to an already cluttered setup. Plugging in has another downside in addition to the inconvenience: The volume isn’t nearly as loud. You also lose onboard controls for changing volume and turning the 3D audio/virtual surround off.

As far as actual sound quality goes, I prefer Turtle Beach’s Stealth 350VR headset. It’s amplified (the Platinum isn’t when connected to PSVR), so the sound is not only louder, but richer as well. Also, it costs just $100, compared with $150 for the Platinum, and fits well over the virtual reality helmet. As for the Platinum, it’s pretty snug, but the PSVR’s headset helped keep the Platinum’s rubber strap from pushing against the top of my head.

As it stands, there’s no reason to buy the Platinum headset just yet. For $10 more, you can get the well-reviewed Astro A30, which, while it doesn’t support 3D audio, still sounds great, and you can use it with multiple consoles, not just the PlayStation 4. The Platinum is a definite step up from Sony’s Gold headset in terms of fit and finish, but the flagship feature — 3D audio — still doesn’t have wide enough games support to justify the price.

14
Jan

Recommended Reading: The Wii U wasn’t for everyone


The Wii U Was Great,
Just Not For Me

Luke Plunkett,
Kotaku

Before Nintendo revealed all the details about its upcoming Switch console, a lot of us took a moment to reflect on its predecessor: the Wii U. While the console offered compelling gamine experiences for some, it wasn’t for everyone. Kotaku discusses just that, including its appeal among younger players.

The Epic Story of O.J.: Made in America’s Creation
Angela Watercutter, Wired

Wired chronicles how it took two years to condense 800 hours of footage down to an eight-part mini series that’s still being talked about months after it aired.

How the Gurus Behind Disney’s MagicBand Are Remaking a $38B Cruise Giant
Cliff Kuang, Fast Company

The team that fundamentally changed how people navigate Disney parks have created a MagicBand-like device for Carnival Cruise Lines called the Ocean Medallion.

‘Final Fantasy 7:’ An Oral History
Matt Leone, Polygon

Polygon offers an inside look at the role-playing title with the unique perspectives from people who were there while it was being made. The title approaches its 20th anniversary and a remake for PS4 is on the way.

Trolls Decided I Was Taking Pictures of Rex Tillerson’s Notes. I Wasn’t Even There.
Doris Truong, Washington Post

As fake news continues to be an issue on the internet, people are routinely implicated for things they didn’t do just because they look like someone else. Here’s one story that shows how quickly these things can begin to snowball.

14
Jan

SpaceX’s comeback launch was a success


2016 was a fairly good year for SpaceX, with Elon Musk’s spaceflight company inching closer to developing a reusable rocket for missions. At least up until September, when a Falcon 9 rocket exploded during a pre-launch test on the pad at Cape Canaveral. The company quickly investigated and found that the craft’s liquid oxygen had leaked out of a tank, with the resulting friction causing ignition. At last, however, SpaceX is ready to turn a corner: the private outfit has returned to flight by launching a Falcon 9 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, delivering 10 Iridium Next satellites into orbit.

The launch also included a successful landing of the Falcon 9’s first stage aboard a SpaceX drone ship, Just Read the Instructions — the first time a rocket has landed on the vessel, in fact. While this isn’t the first-ever drone ship landing, it’s clearly another feather in Elon Musk’s cap.

Launch moving due to high winds and rains at Vandenberg. Other range conflicts this week results in next available launch date being Jan 14.

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 8, 2017

The company had planned to get back into the business of shooting things into space by December, but that date was pushed back to January. Between then and now, SpaceX has continued to test the safety of its setup and received reauthorization from the FAA. Unfortunately, poor weather had led to another postponement until today.

The launch is crucial to both Iridium and SpaceX, as you might guess. For Iridium, this is the first step toward completing a constellation of 70-plus satellites that will blanket the Earth with coverage. It’s arguably much more important for SpaceX, though. The September incident shook confidence in the company’s ability to reliably deliver payloads to space. This isn’t a guarantee that everything is back to normal (that will take months or even years), but it’s reassuring for satellite makers, NASA and other organizations that want to lean on SpaceX as a partner.

Jon Fingas contributed to this report.

Source: SpaceX

14
Jan

Olive & Dove RemoBell Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


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The Olive & Dove Remobell runs on 6 AA batteries.

Olive & Dove

If you’re intimidated by the prospect of installing a doorbell, you aren’t alone. Fortunately, startup Olive & Dove wants to help. Its $199 smart doorbell, RemoBell, relies exclusively on AA batteries. That means you can’t even hard-wire this thing if you wanted to — with RemoBell, it’s AAs or bust.

Check out its specs:

  • Requires 6 AA batteries
  • Wi-Fi-enabled
  • 720p HD video resolution
  • Infrared night vision
  • Heat-sensing motion detector
  • Push alerts
  • Two-way audio
  • 120-degree field of view

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19 outdoor cameras that take home security seriously

Other smart doorbells:

  • SkyBell downsizes the smart doorbell with Trim Plus
  • Yale’s new doorbell lets you see who’s at the door
  • This smart doorbell doesn’t have a security camera
  • Knock, knock: August’s Doorbell Cam helps you see who’s there
  • SkyBell’s HD door buzzer steals the show
  • Is Ring a better smart buzzer for your buck?
  • Pro version of the Ring Video Doorbell swaps flexibility for refinement
  • Doorbird brings facial recognition to your front door

RemoBell isn’t the first door buzzer to work over battery power, but it is the first HD video-streaming smart model I know of that opted for AAs over a rechargeable battery.

Olive & Dove says RemoBell should run for up to 4 months before needing a new set of batteries. While the reliance on batteries could be annoying if you don’t always have a stash of them on hand, it’s definitely faster than waiting for a rechargeable battery to charge fully. It also helps that AAs are easy to find, compared to Netgear’s indoor-outdoor Arlo camera, which relies on expensive and hard-to-find CR123 batteries.

I do question the 4-month battery life, particularly if the camera is located in a busy area, but RemoBell’s “heat-sensing” motion sensor is supposed to help limit alerts to people only. I’ve reached out to Olive & Dove for a review unit and hope to test out this functionality soon. The startup doesn’t mention any specific smart home integrations with RemoBell, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re added soon — a blog post on their site discusses the importance of the smart home and home security.

Olive & Dove hasn’t yet announced international availability, but the price converts to roughly £160 and AU$265 at the current exchange rate.

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14
Jan

12 iPhone reviews in 3 minutes for its 10th anniversary


The iPhone turned 10 on Monday, forever changing the course of smartphone history. But even game-changing devices, like humans, have good years and bad years. Remember antenna-gate? What about all of those dongles? And that time Apple tried to make the 5c happen. We’ve rounded up all our reviews (listed below) and also summed them up in one short video. Enjoy, and prepare to feel old: Remember when copy-and-paste on iOS was a big deal? Or when we thought the iPhone’s killer app would be making phone calls? Yeah.

  • The One That Started It All: the iPhone (parts 1, 2 and 3 — hey, we had a lot to say)
  • The One With The App Store: the iPhone 3G
  • The One That Looked Like The Last One: the iPhone 3GS
  • The One You Were Holding Wrong: the iPhone 4
  • The One That Made Siri a Thing: the iPhone 4S
  • The One With a Lightning Connector: the iPhone 5
  • The One In All the Colors: the iPhone 5c
  • The One With Touch ID: the iPhone 5S
  • The Ones That Went Big-Screen: the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus
  • The Ones With the Pressure-Sensitive Screens: the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus
  • The One Where Apple Decided People Like Small Phones After All: the iPhone SE
  • The One With No Headphone Jack: the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus
14
Jan

The Morning After: Weekend Edition


Letter from the Editor

Most tech companies shoot their proverbial wads at CES, showing off their finest wares for the coming year and beyond. Usually, this means that the second week in January is a peaceful time, meant for reflection upon the technological wonders seen in Las Vegas. Nintendo, however, is not most tech companies.

This week revealed much more about the company’s forthcoming next generation console, the Switch, which many on the Engadget staff have been eagerly awaiting. You’re not gonna believe this, but a good portion of the internet says that the price, at $300, is too high — despite the fact that its pricing is right in line with the console competition from Sony and Microsoft. Regardless, early returns on its innovative home/mobile console hybrid hardware design are good. And yes, there will be a new Zelda game available at launch in early March, with a brand new Mario game on sale before the end of the year.

Despite Nintendo’s dominance of this week’s news cycle, we did, in fact, do our regularly scheduled deeper thinking about what we saw at CES, too. Nick Summers was disappointed by Sony’s showing, while Roberto Baldwin explained how Faraday Future impressed the right people with the debut of its first production electric car. And, Devindra Hardawar detailed how one company (Amazon) ruled the biggest tech show on earth without even having an official presence at the show.

Pre-orders are openHands-on with the Nintendo Switch

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Now that we know everything about the Switch ($300, March 3rd, Zelda launch title), it’s time to grab those Joy-Cons and go to work. Ultimately, our editors were impressed, even if it “really just feels like Nintendo nailing what it tried and failed to accomplish with the Wii U.” We also have first-hand impressions of all the games on display and a 12-minute edit of the main presentation in case you missed it.

Stream starts at 12:34PM ETWatch the first SpaceX launch since September’s explosion

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Before the NFL playoff games start, keep an eye out for SpaceX’s return to the launchpad. In its first launch since a rocket blew up in September, the company is sending a Falcon 9 into Low Earth orbit to deliver 10 satellites for the Iridium Next communications network.

Too soon for a new Sidekick?Andy Rubin is building another phone

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The creator of Android is getting involved in mobile devices again. Bloomberg reports that Andy Rubin’s Essential Products Inc. is working on a “whole suite of connected products” and plans to launch a flagship smartphone later this year. Despite details of interesting bezel-less prototypes, it’s apparently “unclear” if they will use Android.

Wait, are wearables actually useful?Smartwatches can tell when you’re about to get sick

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Stanford researchers found that by monitoring signs like heart rate and skin temperature, wearable smart devices could detect oncoming illness up to three days in advance.

Drone downLily Drone is dead despite $34 million in pre-orders

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This week Lily Robotics announced it’s shutting down, despite taking $34 million in pre-orders for its crowdfunded drone. The company says the problem is that R&D costs cleaned it out, but that backers will get refunds. We’ll wait to see if that happens, especially since the SF DA is suing Lily for false advertising.

But wait, there’s more…

  • MIT’s 3D graphene is ten times stronger than steel and 95 percent less dense
  • Netflix’s ‘iBoy’ trailer introduces smartphone superpowers
  • Verizon takes aim at its “unlimited” data plan customers once more
  • The Engadget Podcast Ep 24: The Biggest Lie
  • ‘Final Fantasy XV’ out-of-bounds glitch reveals an unused open world

The Morning After is a new daily newsletter from Engadget designed to help you fight off FOMO. Who knows what you’ll miss if you don’t subscribe.

14
Jan

Open Whisper Systems defends Whatsapp against ‘backdoor’ claims


Last spring, Whatsapp announced that every message on its service is delivered with end-to-end encryption, meaning no one, not even Whatsapp, can tell what’s inside. Now, a report by The Guardian cites a security researcher claiming that its implementation is open to being backdoored or hijacked by government agencies. Whatsapp, and the people who helped design the implementation for its secure messaging, state this isn’t the case, and instead, reflects a user experience design decision that isn’t putting users at risk.

Whatsapp’s secure messaging was implemented with help from Open Whisper Systems — makers of the secure messaging app Signal — and on its blog, the company explains how things work. Based on its Signal Protocol (also used for encrypted messaging in Google’s Allo), each client is identified by a public key that’s shared with other people, and a private key on the device. Because people change phones, or uninstall and reinstall apps, the pair of keys can change. Users can ensure their communication is secure by checking the security code displayed on each end, if it matches, then they can be sure their messages aren’t subject to a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack by a third party.

The Guardian’s report is based on research by Tobias Belter. He claims that the server (potentially at the direction of a government agency) could generate a new key for one of the parties, and pretend to be them before the person on the other end is notified that something has changed. On the Signal app, this would cause an already sent message to fail, and the sender to be notified of a change before it could be attempted again. In Whatsapp, it displays a message that the key has changed, re-encrypts the message, and delivers it.

As Open Whisper Systems explains, this setup is better for Whatsapp’s large user base because it’s simpler for users. Also, since the server can’t know who has notifications turned on, it makes trying to exploit such a change risky because of potential detection. While it agrees that people could differ in opinion on the implementation, it disagrees that this could ever be described as a “backdoor,” which is what the article claims.

A number of security professionals have chimed in to agree, including Frederic Jacobs, who helped design the protocol being used. For users, the most responsible thing to do seems to be to turn on notifications, and check your security codes regularly.

It’s ridiculous that this is presented as a backdoor. If you don’t verify keys, authenticity of keys is not guaranteed. Well known fact.

— Frederic Jacobs (@FredericJacobs) January 13, 2017

Look, WhatsApp is a great choice for most. Turn on verify keys and don’t give your phone number to Facebook to protect metadata. -the end.

— Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) January 13, 2017

I’m very disappointed by the @Guardian reporting, and even more by the tech community for uncritically falling for their anti-Facebook bias.

— Filippo Valsorda (@FiloSottile) January 13, 2017

Source: Open Whisper Systems, Whatsapp FAQ

14
Jan

Lucasfilm says it has ‘no plans’ for a digital Carrie Fisher


Given the recent release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story featuring an actor who died in 1994, and the recent passing of actress Carrie Fisher, perhaps it was inevitable there would be rumors she would get the same treatment. Lucasfilm has responded to murmurings that it is in negotiation to use her likeness, telling fans of the franchise that “Lucasfilm has no plans to digitally recreate Carrie Fisher’s performance as Princess or General Leia Organa.”

The use of the technology introduces some new questions about whether it should be used, and if so, when, but there may not be easy answers. In this case, however, it appears that Fisher’s existing performances (and scenes already shot for the upcoming Episode VIII movie) will stand alone without any posthumous additions.

Source: Star Wars

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