Why accept limits when limitless is an option? That appears to be the question Sprint is posing to Verizon customers as it offers a new deal to Big Red defectors (and everyone else) — if you make the switch to Sprint, you’ll be able to get unlimited data, talk, and text for $50 per month.
The more lines you add, in fact, the merrier, as Sprint will continue to slash the prices of an unlimited data plan as you continue to bring it new business. For two unlimited lines, you’ll pay $90 a month for both, and each additional line will cost you just $30.
Taking aim directly at Verizon’s new 5GB plan, Sprint is drawing attention to just how little 5GB might be for someone who uses their phone for Netflix viewing, Spotify streaming, and YouTube browsing. Indeed, the Kansas-based carrier notes, seven episodes of House of Cards on Netflix consumes 5GB of data, as Netflix eats up to 3GB per hour with HD viewing. 5GB only allows for around two hours a day per month to stream from Tidal, and YouTube requires around 1.5GB per hour. “I would use up my 5GB allotment in just under three and a half hours,” Sprint said.
More: How AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile are preparing for Super Bowl 51 crowds
If these stats around data usage concern you, you may want to check out Sprint’s full breakdown of just how much data you’re burning through with normal usage of your smartphone. One hour of web browsing, for example, is estimated to take up 50Mb.
Checking your email every day takes up 150Mb per month, whereas daily instant messaging on WhatsApp, Messenger, or a similar service requires 250Mb per day. Music streaming requires 100Mb per hour, and streaming a video gobbles up an impressive 1Gb per hour. So yeah — your data really isn’t going that far.
Of course, Sprint wants to keep you from carefully hoarding your data, but its deal is only good for four days, beginning January 27.
Why it matters to you
Your iPhone could soon get a whole lot smarter — but only if you allow Apple to collect and analyze more of your data.
Apple wants to take its artificial intelligence offerings to the next level. How is it going to do that? Well, the next version of iOS 10 will allow users to share their iCloud data with Apple to help improve Apple’s software products and to help make Siri smarter. The iOS 10.3 beta was released earlier this week and the consumer version will likely roll out in coming months.
Features like this obviously send off privacy alarm bells, but the fact is users have to opt into the new feature for data to be sent to Apple — it won’t be enabled by default. Not only that, but Apple says it will employ “privacy preserving techniques” in using the data — such as the “differential privacy” it showed off at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June.
More: Patent application suggests Apple might be eyeing the vaping industry
So what is this “differential privacy?” Well, it is basically a way to scramble user data so that it cannot be traced back to any particular user, after which data can be analyzed in bulk to look for trends — all without Apple knowing which data relates to you.
Google has remained a few steps ahead of Apple when it comes to artificial intelligence and developing machine learning software to implement into software services, but that is arguably because Apple prioritizes data privacy a little more than Google. Still, Apple’s hardware sales are gradually slowing, meaning there is more pressure on the company to develop more innovative software — which, these days, means having to make use of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Indeed, services like iMessage, Spotlight Search, and Notes already make use of new machine learning techniques. iMessage, for example, uses data from your keyboard to predict text and emojis, while Spotlight Search flags popular searches to better rank search results, and Notes, which is getting more interactive by underlining things like dates, which can send events to your calendar.
Apple’s journey into true artificial intelligence is slow, but it is steady and effective too. We’ll likely see a ton more artificial intelligence features in iOS 11 and beyond.
It’s more than a meme among update-seekers and auction snipers — it’s one of the most regular actions we take online, and whenever we refresh a page, our browser takes much the same steps it’s taken since the 90’s. And that’s not good, especially when we’re on the go with our Android phones on sometimes-flimsy data connections. The Chrome team is changing page reload behavior in Chrome to account both for our changes in computing and why we’re hitting F5 in the first place.
In an announcement on the Chromium blog, the team describes the burden traditional page refreshes can put on both the user’s connection and the page owner’s servers, leading to reloads crashing out or stalling, especially on mobile connections. In looking to fix this, Chrome first determined why we reload a page: either a broken page, or outdated content. Traditional reloads deal with the former, but not so much the latter.
Google claims the new behavior makes reloads 28% faster.
To improve the reload experience, especially in regards to stale and outdated content, Chrome is simplifying reload behavior to take advantage of cached resources, validating the main content on the page before continuing with a regular reload in order to cut down power and data usage, as well as speed reloads up.
Google claims the new behavior makes reloads 28% faster, citing a Facebook report that reports faster loads and 60% fewer static resource requests. Facebook’s report goes into far more detail about the nature of reloads and the benefits they saw from Chrome’s change without having to do anything to their code.
At the end of the day, this is great news for those of us who wear out our refresh keys making sure what we’re looking at is current and that no one’s scooped up all the tickets/eBay auctions/Steam codes we want.
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- Acer Chromebook 14 review
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Fitbit has bought Pebble and Vector; the world of smartwatches grows smaller each day. If you’re in the market for a smartwatch and not interested in a Fitbit, you’re lacking for options, but the good news is some of those options are good and reasonably priced. The Ticwatch 2 is a well-rounded smartwatch available for under $200. Does it do everything you want at that price point?
MrMobile is a wearable fanatic; while others decree the smartwatch dead, Michael Fisher extols their virtues and provides hope for the future, and wearable tech is the future (have no doubt). Click this video and venture down the smartwatch rabbit hole with MrMobile (it’s an Alice in Wonderland reference, right? And the hole was full of clocks and other assorted timepieces? Enh? Enh?!)
- Ticwatch 2 Active
- Ticwatch 2 Classic
Stay social, my friends
- The Web
Sprint has been on a subscriber push as of late.
You’ve no doubt seen the commercials recently, featuring Verizon’s old “Can You Hear Me Now” spokesman. Those ads have been a bit of a hard sell, but a new plan from Sprint is hoping to lure in more new subscribers: $50 a month for unlimited talk, text and data.
If you don’t have home internet, it’s quite easy to rack up a huge data bill without an unlimited plan, and if you’re only going to pay for mobile data, an unlimited plan is a must. Sprint’s $50 a month plan is downright thrifty for unlimited, but it, of course, comes with stipulations.
First off, it’s only available for new customers, and if you don’t have autopay set up, it’s an extra $5 a month. Sprint has also joined the “mobile optimized video” club of reducing video to 480p to help keep your data down, and can bump down your data speeds during heavy usage times and on congested cell towers, so if you live in a busy area, this might not be the plan for you.
If you live in an area with good Sprint coverage and are looking to switch, there are certainly worse plans out there. If, however, you live somewhere where that “1% reliability difference” matters, then it doesn’t matter how cheap the unlimited plan is. It’s still Sprint.
It was only a matter of time until Dell gave us a convertible spin on the XPS 13, our favorite Windows laptop for nearly two years running. While the original model is still ideal if you need a traditional laptop design, it falls short if you ever want more than just a clamshell. Enter the XPS 13 2-in-1, which has the same style and premium quality as its sibling, but with the added ability to transform into a tablet (and a few other things in between). It doesn’t revolutionize the world of convertible laptops, but it makes Dell’s high-end laptop lineup that much stronger.
It’s easy to mistake this new machine for the original XPS 13. They share the same overarching design: sleek metal cases, nearly bezel-less screens and an attractive carbon-fiber weave covering the keyboard deck and trackpad. While it would have been nice to see some dramatic changes, it’s nonetheless a handsome, premium-looking laptop. The XPS 13 2-in-1 also feels just as sturdy as its sibling; there’s no flex to the case around the keyboard or the screen. The one major difference is the convertible’s two prominent hinges, which prevent the display from sitting flush with the keyboard.
Those hinges make the convertible XPS 13 look a bit less refined than the original, but at least they’re put to good use: They allow the display to swing around 360 degrees. The XPS 13 2-in-1 can flip around in a “tent” formation, which is ideal for bingeing on Netflix in bed, and a “stand” mode, which puts the display facing toward you with the keyboard resting facedown. And, of course, moving the display all the way around turns the machine into a tablet (albeit a fairly hefty one). Thanks to the hinge design, I was able to smoothly transition the 2-in-1 among all of its different modes, and I was pleased to see that the display held steady at just about every angle. Sure, Dell is aping the convertible design that Lenovo pioneered with its Yoga line, but it’s hard to blame the company for copying when so many others are doing the same.
At 2.7 pounds, the 2-in-1 clocks in at around the same weight as the XPS 13. It feels substantial in your hand, but it’s also light enough to forget about in your bag. As a tablet, though, don’t expect to be holding it one-handed for too long. At least Dell made the convertible thinner: Its tapered chassis measures between 8mm and 13.7mm thick, whereas the XPS 13 measured between 9mm and 15mm. That’s not a huge difference, but it’s still noticeable.
As you can imagine, that small frame makes it a wonderfully portable computer. Thanks to its skinny bezels, it can fit into bags meant for 11-inch laptops. But, as usual, there’s a cost to being so thin. The XPS 13 2-in-1 doesn’t have room for full-size USB connections. Instead, it packs in two USB-C ports on each side, which can handle charging and external displays. One socket is also Thunderbolt 3.0 compatible, which makes it around eight times as fast as USB 3.0 for data transfer. Thankfully, Dell includes a dongle in the box to get your older devices connected to USB-C.
Aside from a connection for a laptop lock, there’s also a microSD card slot, a headphone jack and a useful battery life indicator. (It’s something I’d like to see in more laptops.) Once again, Dell chose to put a 720p webcam right below the screen — but at least it’s centered this time, instead of being shoved to one side. Your Skype calls won’t exactly be flattering in laptop mode when you have a camera pointing at you from that angle, but you can always opt to take video calls in the tent mode, which positions it above the display. The webcam also has infrared capabilities, but you won’t be able to use it to log in with your face via Windows Hello until later this year. For now, you can rely on the fingerprint sensor beside the touchpad, which performed reliably in my tests.
The XPS 13 2-in-1’s backlit keyboard is as comfortable as ever, offering a satisfying amount of travel with every key press. My typing speed was about on par with what I can achieve on my 13-inch MacBook Air and Lenovo’s recent ThinkPads: typically about 76 words per minute. I somewhat expected Dell to make the keyboard shallower to compensate for the slimmer case, but fortunately that wasn’t the case. Dell’s Precision Touchpad, a component actually built by Microsoft, was also among the best I’ve used on a Windows laptop. It had no trouble interpreting multi-finger gestures for scrolling around web pages and documents, and it handled typical mousing tasks well too.
Another feature worth mentioning (or, really, the lack of one): The XPS 13 2-in-1 has no fans. Instead, it relies on passive cooling and a very efficient processor to manage heat. Given that I struggle with my MacBook Air’s fans daily, it was honestly refreshing not to hear constant whirring whenever I started stressing the system. The computer definitely gets warm, especially on the bottom of its case, but it was never uncomfortably hot to hold in my lap. It seems like a small change at first, but I’d imagine plenty of consumers would be into owning a fanless laptop.
Dell delivers a gorgeous 13.3-inch screen with the 2-in-1. It keeps the “InfinityEdge” bezel from the XPS 13, which measures just 5.2mm thick. I tested out the 1080p version of the display, which was bold, colorful and relatively sharp. (I would have really liked to see the Quad HD+ version of the screen in action, though.) It was plenty bright indoors, and highly usable in direct sunlight.
Though it wasn’t as high-res as some other laptop screens I’ve seen lately, like Lenovo’s Quad HD OLED ThinkPad, the XPS 13 2-in-1’s panel was particularly impressive when streaming video and displaying digital comics. It was great for diving into Fiona Staples’ intricate artwork in the latest issues of Saga. And yes, you can bet that I made heavy use of the 2-in-1’s tent and tablet orientations for all of my testing. Given that many consumers would be interested in this computer for lounging around in bed and on the couch, it’s a good thing the screen can keep up with my endless media diet.
Performance and battery
In day-to-day use, the XPS 13 2-in-1 felt as zippy as most other ultraportables I’ve tested recently. I didn’t notice any speed issues, even as I had multiple browsers open with dozens of tabs, Slack, Spotify, Evernote and Paint.net all running at the same time. As the benchmarks below reveal, though, it’s actually a bit slower in both general performance and 3D graphics than the 2015-era XPS 13. That’s still a major accomplishment, since we typically expect much lower performance in fanless laptops (looking at you, MacBook). But we’re also seeing the slight limitations of Intel’s seventh-generation Y-series chips.
|Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (1.3GHz Core i7-7Y75, Intel HD 615)||4,401||3,823||E1,857 / P1,019 / X315||2,446||1.63 GB/s / 790 MB/s|
|Lenovo Yoga 910 (2.7GHz Core i7-7500U, Intel HD 620)||5,822||4,108||
E2,927 / P1,651 / X438
|3,869||1.59 GB/s / 313 MB/s|
|HP Spectre x360 (2016, 2.7GHz Core i7-7500U, Intel HD 620)||5,515||4,354||E2,656 / P1,720 / X444||3,743||1.76 GB/s / 579 MB/s|
|Microsoft Surface Book (2016, 2.6GHz Core i7-6600U, 2GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M)||5,452||4,041||E8,083 / P5,980 / X2,228||11,362||1.71 GB/s / 1.26 GB/s|
|ASUS ZenBook 3 (2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U, Intel HD 620)||5,448||3,911||E2,791 / P1,560||3,013||1.67 GB/s / 1.44 GB/s|
|HP Spectre 13 (2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520)||5,046||3,747||E2,790 / P1,630 / X375||3,810||1.61 GB/s / 307 MB/s|
|Dell XPS 13 (2.3GHz Core i5-6200U, Intel Graphics 520)||4,954||3,499||E2,610 / P1,531||3,335||1.6GB/s / 307 MB/s|
|Razer Blade Stealth (2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520)||5,131||3,445||E2,788 / P1,599 / X426||3,442||1.5 GB/s / 307 MB/s|
|Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (2.4GHz Core i5-6300U, Intel HD 520)||5,403||3,602||
E2,697/ P1,556/ X422
|3,614||1.6 GB/s / 529 MB/s|
Our review model is powered by a Core i7-7Y75 CPU running at 1.3GHz to 1.6GHz along with 8GB of RAM. The fact that it compares well with the XPS 13, which was powered by a faster i5-6200U chip the last time we benchmarked it, is impressive. Dell also implemented a dynamic power mode that pushes the 2-in-1’s hardware in short bursts. But really, if performance is your main concern, you’re better off looking at the refreshed XPS 13, or HP’s revamped Spectre x360, both of which support Intel’s faster U-series chips.
Honestly, though, if I had never seen the benchmarks, I probably wouldn’t have noticed the convertible’s slightly limited performance. It worked perfectly fine as a traditional laptop. In the tent and stand orientations, it had no trouble dealing with my constant swiping. Admittedly, the XPS 13 2-in-1 doesn’t exactly make for an ideal tablet, given that it’s almost three times heavier than most premium slates today. But I found the mode useful when I really wanted to dive into a long article or comic. I’d never suggest anyone buy a convertible laptop if they’re mainly interested in using it as a tablet. It’s more ideal if your needs tend to shift throughout the day.
Dell XPS 2-in-1
Lenovo Yoga 910
Surface Book with Performance Base (2016)
Apple MacBook Pro 2016 (13-inch, no Touch Bar)
HP Spectre x360 (13-inch, 2015)
Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display (13-inch, 2015)
Apple MacBook Pro 2016 (15-inch)
HP Spectre x360 15t
Apple MacBook Pro 2016 (13-inch, Touch Bar)
ASUS ZenBook 3
Apple MacBook (2016)
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
HP Spectre 13
Razer Blade Stealth (Spring 2016)
Razer Blade Stealth (Fall 2016)
Dell XPS 15 (2016)
5:25 (7:40 with the mobile charger)
Razer Blade Pro (2016)
ASUS ROG Strix GL502VS
The 2-in-1 typically lasted a full eight-hour workday, with around an hour of juice left to spare. In our battery test, which involves playing an HD video on loop until the computer dies, it lasted around eight and a half hours. That’s about an hour more than we saw with the original XPS 13, but it’s thoroughly bested by Lenovo’s Yoga 910, which lasted an impressive 16 hours and 13 minutes in our test, and the HP Spectre x360, which notched 13.5 hours.
The XPS 13 2-in-1 starts at $1,000 with a Y-series Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. But if you’re really considering it, I’d recommend stepping up to the $1,200 model with 8GB of RAM and a roomier 256GB SSD. You can also upgrade to a Quad HD+ display for another $250. Our review unit is valued at $1,300, but if money is no object, you can get a machine with 16GB of RAM for $1,400. And, at the very high end, you can get a Core i7 Y-series CPU and Quad HD+ display with either 8GB or 16GB of RAM for $1,700 or $1,800, respectively.
While Lenovo kicked off the trend of bendable laptops, plenty of PC manufacturers are now offering their own spin on the concept. Most recently, we looked at HP’s new Spectre x360, which came with a few improvements and a whole new set of compromises. Lenovo’s Yoga 910 is also a decent alternative, though it doesn’t have Thunderbolt-compatible USB-C ports. I was also wowed by Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Yoga, though its starting price of $1,682 puts it in an entirely different league (same with the recently refreshed Surface Book).
It’s worth considering if you need a convertible at all. If you just want a nice and light traditional laptop, there’s a plethora of options out there, including the standard XPS 13. And as I mentioned above, those machines will typically offer more speed for your dollar, not to mention better battery life.
Yes, we’ve seen convertible laptops like this, but none with Dell’s XPS styling. And, based on my conversations with potential PC buyers, that alone could be enough to tempt them away from rival machines. While Dell made some concessions with the XPS 13 2-in-1, I’m ultimately impressed that it managed to deliver a premium convertible laptop that mostly lives up to its beloved predecessor.
Photos by Shivani Khattar
The Environmental Protection Agency has lifted the freeze on grant money and contract operations that set off alarm bells in Congress earlier this week. Although the EPA will now be allowed to resume sending money to state-run environmental protection programs, the Trump Administration’s gag order will remain in place. The EPA’s official public-facing stance on climate change is also still flux.
As Republican state senator from Washington and acting EPA spokesman Doug Ericksen told USA Today, the grant freeze gave the new administration time to internally review the $3.8 billion in federal funding that the agency sends to states for cleanup and monitoring projects. “As of now, nothing has been delayed. Nothing has been cut. There was simply a pause and everything’s up and running,” Ericksen said, before explaining that there is another $100 million in grant money that is still under review.
The lack of transparency from the White House caused many employees at the EPA and state regulatory agencies to worry about impending job cuts, but Ericksen blamed the media for causing “undue consternation” and used the confusion to justify locking down the agency’s social media accounts after the fact. Ericksen also explained that he expects the EPA’s website will be updated to reflect the new administration’s stance on climate change once Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is confirmed as the agency’s new boss. During his confirmation hearings, Pruitt said he disagrees with Trump’s opinion that climate change is a Chinese hoax, but also would not say that he believes human activity is to blame for global warming.
Source: USA Today
A website that sold access to a database of more than 3 billion hacked accounts has suddenly vanished. LeakedSource had built a business on collecting and packaging information exposed through various data breaches. It gathered compromised account details and made it searchable so users could see which of their email addresses, phone numbers and passwords were vulnerable. The site was controversial, however, because anyone could pay for advanced search capabilities. LeakedSource said its mission was to educate people who might be affected, and pressure companies to disclose breaches. Critics argued, however, that it gave hackers the means to access innocent people’s accounts.
The circumstances surrounding the site’s disappearance are murky. A user going by “LTD” wrote in an online forum on Thursday: “LeakedSource is down forever and won’t be coming back. Owner raided early this morning. Wasn’t arrested, but all SSDs got taken, and LeakedSource servers got subpoena’d and placed under federal investigation. If somehow he recovers from this and launches LeakedSource again, then I’ll be wrong. But I am not wrong.” Such reports are currently unconfirmed, however.
LeakedSource has always maintained that the information in its database was already publicly accessible. “All we do is combine it in one easy to use location,” a spokesperson told Wired recently. Some suspect the team was encouraging the community to come forward with new data dumps, however. Troy Hunt, a security researcher that runs a similar service called Have I Been Pwned, writes on his blog: “There was a constant flow of data that wasn’t appearing anywhere else in the usual trading circles before first coming to air via their service. Speculation was rife that there was incentivisation occurring not just to provide data that had already been obtained, but to actively seek out new targets.”
Another point of controversy: the team decrypted passwords it had obtained through data dumps. Making your actual password searchable, rather than a scrambled set of characters, was obviously attractive to users. If one of your accounts was compromised, it meant you could see exactly which password was affected and change any accounts using the same character string. The practice meant the database was more valuable to hackers too, however. LeakedSource was arguably doing the heavy lifting, making it a cinch for hackers to set up a script and gain access to some of their victim’s other accounts.
LeakedSource was also valuable as a journalistic tool. In its relatively short life span (the site first gained traction in late 2015), the site provided access and context to data breaches at AdultFriendFinder, Myspace, Twitter and the Russian internet giant Rambler.ru.
The site’s closure, should it be permanent, will likely provoke a discussion around the ethics of hack disclosures. LeakedSource isn’t the only site where you can check to see if your personal information has been compromised. Have I Been Pwned, for instance, lets you easily check if you email address or username was ever exposed in a hack. Its creator, Hunt, takes a vastly different approach to LeakedSource though. The site “never makes any sensitive personally identifiable data available to anyone, not even the legitimate owners of the data.” Less valuable perhaps, but it stops sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.
Source: Troy Hunt
Apple published its first paper on AI last month and now the company is set to join five others in a newly-formed research group. The Partnership on AI announced today that Apple would become its sixth founding member, adding to a lineup that already touts Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM and Microsoft. The group was first formed last September as a means of supporting research, establishing ethical guidelines and promoting both transparency and privacy when it comes to AI studies.
In today’s announcement, the Partnership on AI explained that Apple has already been working with the group before it was made official last fall, but now the company is a full member alongside those other tech titans. Part of today’s news was also that the group selected its board of trustees that will oversee the initiative. In addition to each member company having a seat on the board, the Partnership on AI also included six independent members from other artificial intelligence organizations, universities and the ACLU. The board is scheduled to meet for the first in early February and we expect to bear more details shortly after.
Apple pledged to share some of its AI work in early December before publishing the aforementioned paper a few days later. The typically secretive company showed signs of opening up in the name of improving research efforts around machine learning. That was the latest in a string of recent AI-related moves for Apple as it acquired Seattle-based machine-learning company Turi back in August. In October, it hired Carnegie Mellon computer science professor Russ Salakhutdinov to lead its artificial intelligence research.
Source: Partnership on AI
Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Apple are all developing their voice assistants to be the perfect companions for our busy lives, helping us control our smart homes, buy things, summon Ubers, play funky music and find out what show that guy from that film is in. Nokia’s newly announced voice assistant, on the other hand, is strictly business — we’re talking the Nokia that specializes in network technologies here, not the Nokia brand of devices licensee HMD Global puts out. The Multi-purpose Intuitive Knowledge Assistant, or MIKA for short, is a voice assistant built specifically for telecoms engineers, quickly surfacing the information they need to fix network faults and such.
As Nokia so succinctly puts it, MIKA “will provide voice-dictated automated assistance to reduce time spent searching information resources, enabling operators to focus on key business tasks without being distracted by the complexities of multi-technology network environments.” In human-speak, MIKA will talk engineers through reconnecting the interlacing nodes with the transponder array to reconfigure spectrum when they’re a bit rusty in that procedure (yes, I made all that up). MIKA will also be able to recommend a course of action by remembering how familiar issues have been resolved in the past, since Nokia has some experience with network infrastructure.
Problems will hopefully arise less often thanks to another new Nokia technology, too. Also powered by the company’s AVA cloud platform — the grunt that puts MIKA on computers, smartphones and other devices — the Predictive Repair service can apparently foresee network faults up to two weeks in advance with 95 percent accuracy, further lightening the load on engineers.
There have been rumblings that Nokia was cooking up an AI helper, registering a trademark for one “Viki” bot earlier this year. There’s every chance the company is still developing a consumer-facing, less-specialized digital assistant under that name, but MIKA will still be Nokia’s first as it’s now available for telecoms providers to try out. It’s unlikely you or I will ever see it in action first-hand, of course, but when your 4G connection unexpectedly dies later this year, MIKA may well be on the case.