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Your smartphone is the key to democracy

Get involved and stay informed. The device that’s already in your pocket is all you need.


Here’s the deal: You won’t enact change by simply posting news articles to Facebook and arguing with people on Twitter. That’s a waste of time. Instead, your best bet is to stay informed and encourage others to do the same. That’s incredibly easy to do with the smartphone you’re already equipped with.

It doesn’t matter which way you lean. The technology in your hand is constantly connected, so unless you’re living life in Airplane Mode, get yourself set up with the apps mentioned here and start paying attention to what’s happening to the world you live in.

Set up a news ticker


I don’t have much room on my 32GB Pixel XL — app sizes have really increased these days, haven’t they? — so I typically only have one news-centric app on me. Google News and Weather was revamped a while ago and it’s still my go-to for checking up on the day’s events. I like that I can choose my news sources, both by region and by source. And if I’m having a particularly busy day at work, the important news notifications keep me up to par on, you know, disasters. Like tornadoes.

Download Google News and Weather (free)

Stay privy to what’s going down


Countable is the only other app I allow to ping me as often as it does because there are things happening that I should know about. Those things — house and senate bills, to be specific — are voted on by people we’ve elected. You can tell them what you think about things with Countable, as well as dive into both sides of the argument. There’s also a sharing option if you want to rally friends to contact Congress, too.

Download Countable (free)

Tune in


Commuting to and from work can be a great time to edify yourself of global affairs? I use TuneIn to catch radio broadcasts from around my state, around the country, and around the world. I’ll tune in to WNYC to get a glimpse at what’s happening on the opposite coast and, since I’m bilingual, I’ll tune in to Romanian radio to hear what the pundits are chattering about overseas. TuneIn isn’t just for radio stations, either. You can also use it to listen to podcasts or books on tape.

Download TuneIn (free)

Your turn

How do you stay in the know with what’s happening in the world? Do you have any apps or services you like to use that keep you connected to what’s going on outside of your daily bubble? Let us know!


Surgical robot makes highly precise eye injection possible

For the first time ever, a team of eye surgeons were able to inject a thrombolytic drug directly into a patient’s retinal vein to dissolve a blood clot. It was a success despite the fact that the vein is as thin as human hair thanks to a surgical robot developed by researchers from KU Leuven, a university in Belgium. The condition they treated is called retinal vein occlusion, and it leads to reduced eyesight and blindness. At the moment, doctors can only suppress its effects with monthly eye injections, because the retinal vein itself is only around 0.1 millimeter wide. It’s just much too thin for manual injections when the drug has to be administered for 10 minutes straight.

Professor Peter Stalmans, an eye surgeon at University Hospitals Leuven, said:

“The current treatment for retinal vein occlusion costs society €32.000 per eye. This is a high price tag, considering that you’re only treating the side effects and that there is little more you can do than avoid reducing eyesight. The robotic device finally enables us to treat the cause of the thrombosis in the retina. I look forward to what is next: if we succeed, we will literally be able to make blind people see again.”

To address the issue, the researchers created a robot that can help a surgeon insert the needle precisely and then hold it perfectly still. They also designed the 0.03 millimeter needle, which is three times thinner than human hair, needed to inject the drug into the tiny vein. According to the university, the method successfully dissolved the blood clot and the patient is now doing well.

However, it’ll take some time before everyone else who has the condition can go through the same treatment: the surgery was merely part of the first phase of the method’s clinical trial. The surgeons have to replicate the procedure’s success on other patients and then study its effects in the trial’s second phase.

Source: KU Leuven


The Morning After: Weekend Edition

Letter from the Editor

A week into the Trump administration, and it seems that many of the president’s actions are courting disaster — at least if you’re a fan of open government or the environment. Meanwhile, Samsung appears to have recovered from its self-created catastrophe known as the Note 7. Chris Velazco recounted the sequence of events that led to the company’s apology for its flaming devices and — given this week’s glowing quarterly earnings report — painted a surprisingly rosy picture for the firm moving forward.

It seems that Sony could take some notes from Samsung’s focus on making amends to consumers. Sean Buckley isn’t a fan of the PlayStation Store’s wallet payment system and its five dollar minimum charge. So, this week he gave Sony some very pointed advice on how it should better serve its customers.

And finally, while Samsung’s future was looking good for the first time in months, Christopher Trout went to the Adult Entertainment Expo to see an X-rated hologram and discover what’s next for porn. What he found was an industry in the midst of a comeback, powered by VR and mobile livestreaming.

Michael Gorman

‘Just get in and drive’2017 Chevy Bolt review


After getting behind the wheel of GM’s new EV, Roberto Baldwin declares it “regardless of drivetrain… a wonderful four-door hatchback.” It’s spacious, nimble and — with a price under $30k after tax credits — affordable. He logged about 216 real-world miles on a charge, compared to the 238-mile range, while zipping around Bay Area highways. Sure, you could wait for a Model 3, but the Bolt is rolling out right now.

Can a machine really be as powerful as a human brain?The Future IRL: Our Jetsons future has arrived


On our debut episode of The Future IRL, host Kerry Davis shows how fictional scenarios from The Jetsons and 2001: A Space Odyssey are coming true right now with self-driving cars and AI. New episodes are coming twice every month, we hope you enjoy the ride.

It nearly lives up to the originalDell XPS 13 2-in-1 review


Dell’s bezel-starved XPS lineup has long been a leader in the laptop PC market, and now it has a convertible version. It turns out the 2-in-1 edition doesn’t lose much by swapping in the new hinge, although you may have to trade a few points in benchmarks for extra flexibility. It also loses old-school USB ports but its keyboard is still comfortable and the touchpad is among the best Devindra’s experienced on a Windows laptop.

Dong Nguyen returns‘Flappy Bird’ creator releases a new game: ‘Ninja Spinki Challenges!!’


In 2013, Dong Nguyen’s frustrating indie title Flappy Bird shot up app store charts before he pulled it. Now, the developer is back with his eighth game that spreads its familiar 8-bit art style across six minigames. The ad-supported games are available for free now on Android and iOS.

It’s real.Google, Facebook react to Trump’s immigration executive order


Friday evening, Donald Trump signed an executive order ostensibly aimed at fighting terrorism. Referencing 9/11 repeatedly, it put a 90-day ban on immigration for citizens of seven Muslim nations — and failed to include any countries the hijackers actually came from. It’s being implemented as you read this, potentially cutting off US residents who hold H-1B visas or green cards from those countries who are currently outside the US.

Sundar Pichai sent an internal memo recalling affected Google employees, while Mark Zuckerberg publicly expressed his “concern” over the move. The situation is still developing, and we will update over the weekend as more information becomes available.

But wait, there’s more…

  • First hydrogen metal created on Earth draws critical doubt
  • Amazon pushes Star Trek future with new Alexa wake word: Computer
  • The Engadget Podcast Ep 26: The Sounds of Science
  • Right to Repair bills introduced in five states
  • D-Wave has its first customer for a $15 million quantum computer
  • Why is Sprint throwing a reported $200 million at Tidal?
  • Square Enix is making an ‘Avengers’ game for Marvel

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.


Google reacts to Trump immigration order by recalling staff

The President’s latest executive order could spell bad news for the tech industry that’s known for hiring overseas talents under a working visa. In fact, Google chief Sundar Pichai has just issued a memo to employees overseas, urging them to fly back to the US ASAP or risk not being able to get into the country at all. “It’s painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues,” he wrote in the memo. According to Bloomberg, the employees in question work in the US but are abroad either on business or for a vacation. A lot of them tried to get back into the country before the President signed on the dotted line, but not everyone made it back in time.

Trump’s executive order bans almost all citizens from Iran, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from entering the US for 90 days. The administration considers the first three to be sponsors of terrorism, while the last three are “countries of concern.” It will spend the next 90 days assessing whether their governments are asking enough info from visa applicants to give the US enough background data to assess whether they pose a terrorism risk.

New York Daily News reported that green card and valid visa holders were already blocked from boarding flights to the US as soon as a few hours after the order was signed. Since the Google employees from those countries are definitely at risk of being blocked from flying back, the tech titan asked them to reach out to the company’s security, travel, and immigration teams for assistance. “No one is really sure whether a green card holder from these seven countries can return to the US now,” immigration lawyer Ava Benach told Bloomberg. “It’s fairly clear that an H-1B visa holder can’t.”

Besides Pichai, Mark Zuckerberg also reacted to the immigration order, speaking out against “expanding the focus of law enforcement beyond people who are real threats.” As for Google, a spokesperson said the company is concerned that the order “could impose restrictions on Googlers and their families” and that it could “create barriers to bringing great talent to the US.” It promises to continue airing its views so that they reach the right leaders in Washington and elsewhere.

Source: Bloomberg


Google Arts & Culture iOS App Showcases Chinese New Year Exhibition ‘Arts of the New Moon’

Today marks the beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year, and to celebrate the Year of the Rooster, Google has teamed up with 12 museums from Beijing to Washington to create a new online exhibition that can be visited through the Google Arts & Culture iOS app.

Across Asia and around the world, families are coming together, houses and neighborhoods are being dressed up in red and traditional lanterns are being hung. If you’re still wondering about what the fireworks are all about, Google Arts & Culture is here to help you learn more about this centuries-old tradition.

Titled ‘Arts of the New Moon’, the exhibition features rich video and interactive graphics to showcase a range of arts and crafts connected to the ancient tradition, taking in ancient calligraphy, contemporary painting, performing arts, woodblock prints, and more.

The app includes Google Cardboard-compatible VR portals to explore iconic places, like the Ge Garden in Yangzhou and the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in Japan. Elsewhere, users can follow the zodiac animals across 1,000 years of art history, and kids can play New Year-themed games starring the Red Rooster.

Also to be found are interesting facts about the Lunar New Year, with a special lesson on how to give and accept a traditional red envelope.

The Google Arts & Culture app is a free download for iPhone and iPad available on the App Store. [Direct Link]

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Apple iPhone 8 rumors and news

Apple’s iPhone 7S isn’t due until September, meaning the next top-of-the-line iPhone — reportedly called the iPhone 8 — isn’t supposed to arrive until 2017. But that hasn’t stopped legions of fans from fervently speculating.

It’ll reportedly launch alongside two cheaper, smaller iPhone models called the iPhone 7S and iPhone 7S Plus. However, it’s unclear if all three models will actually launch in September 2017, or what the naming conventions will be.

More: iPhone 7S and 7S Plus news and rumors

Here’s what we’ve learned so far about the iPhone 8.

 Battery: Wireless charging

Apple has long been rumored to be working on wireless charging for a future version of the iPhone, and while Energous CEO Steve Rizzone has hinted in the past that it has inked a deal with “one of the largest consumer electronic companies in the world,” a new investors note from Copperfield Research suggests that on the contrary Apple has no plans to use Energous’ WattUp wireless charging solution. What will it use instead? Its own self-built tech, apparently.

Copperfield Research came to the conclusion by studying patents filed by Apple between 2013 and now, many of which could be related to an in-house inductive charging solution — rather than a radio wave wireless charging option. Not only that, but a patent from 2011 sees Apple calling radio charging “very inefficient” and “not practical.” Of course, things may have changed between now and then, and the patent was filed before Apple signed its deal with Energous.

The news would make sense considering previous rumors — Energous has signed a deal with Dialog Semiconductor to supply hardware components. However, Apple is known to also be working with a company called Lite-On Semiconductor, a deal rumored to be for the hardware behind wireless charging.

In other words, there are a number of possibilities here — Apple could be working with two hardware providers for wireless charging, or it could only be working with Lite-On for its in-house tech.


Amazing LG Watch Style picture leak reveals Android Wear’s next smartwatch darling

LG could be preparing to launch two new smartwatches in partnership with Google, called the LG Watch Style and the LG Watch Sport. 

The names of these devices were first revealed by Evan Blass, who has now followed-up the name with high-quality images of LG Watch Style via his @evleaks Twitter account.

LG Watch Style, in silver (top) and rose gold (bottom)

— Evan Blass (@evleaks) January 28, 2017

The images of the LG Watch Style match those previously shared by Techno Buffalo, giving us some confidence that these are indeed genuine.

The LG Watch Style appears to take a fashion approach to Android Wear, in counterpart to a chunkier Watch Sport which is equipped with more sensors, like GPS and heart rate monitor.

  • LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style: Release date, rumours and specs

The slick design of the LG Watch Style clearly shows of the button which is rumoured to work as a digital crown like the Apple Watch. The rear of the watch is free from connections, suggesting it used inductive charging and there appear to be quick release catches on the strap, so changes should be swift.

Previous rumours have suggested that the LG Watch Style would carry a 1.2-inch 360 x 360 pixel resolution display and that it would be launched alongside Google’s announcement of the release of Android Wear 2.0.

Certainly the LG Watch Style looks to offer a more fashionable and higher quality design than LG’s last fashion attempt, the LG Watch Urbane. 

The LG Watch Style is rumoured to be launched on 9 February 2017.


Facebook is helping Chrome, Firefox to speed up the web

Why it matters to you

Inefficient web and mobile browsers can drain a device’s battery and clog storage. Facebook’s efforts to help improve its site’s interactions with Chrome and Firefox is helping change that.

Over the past two years, Facebook’s cooperation with browser vendors Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox has dramatically improved web page reload speeds, according to the company.

Working closely with the browsers to squash bugs in the browser caching technique — temporary storage for files downloaded to your computer or mobile device, including html files, CSS style sheets, images, and JavaScript scripts, and other media content — Facebook reduced its page reload times on Chrome by 28 percent.

More: Chrome browser will be able to handle FLAC lossless audio in next release

As Google’s senior software engineer Takashi Toyoshima notes in his blog post, page validation requests between browsers and web servers can cause serious performance issues on mobile devices, such as battery drain.

At the onset of its research, Facebook found that Chrome was sending page validation requests at three times the rate of other browsers. Although this process didn’t result in any additional data being transferred to the user’s device, it was deemed a futile technique that was bogging down page refresh times. Once Chrome simplified its reload behavior to only validate the main resource on a page, it resulted in 60 percent less validation requests.

“Every time a user logged in to Facebook the [Chrome] browser ignored its cache and revalidated all the previously downloaded resources,” said Facebook Code team members Ben Maurer and Nate Schloss in a blog post.

Referring to the broader impact of the change on websites, Toyoshima said: “We hope this faster reload will come in handy whenever you want to get the latest content on your favorite website or quickly recover from a flaky connection in the subway.”

Testing out the change on mobile with a 3G connection, the Chrome team found that the reload rate was 1.6 seconds faster across all websites.

Similarly, Firefox implemented a cache-control feature on the most recent version of its browser on the back of a Facebook proposal. The change saw a reload generate just 25 network requests from a Facebook page, which can typically contain around 150 different resources. According to Patrick McManus, principal engineer at Mozilla Firefox, the change cut page reloading times in half.

McManus adds that other developers are adopting the feature too, with the BBC revealing that page refresh times have improved by 50 percent. Facebook claims that the research conducted with Chrome and Firefox “highlights how web browsers can, and do, work with web developers to make the web better for everyone.”


Facebook is testing its Slideshow musical video tool on Android

Why it matters to you

Slideshow, which gives you another way to share your photos and videos to Facebook, could be closer than ever to landing on Android

Facebook could finally be bringing its Slideshow feature — which groups together recently uploaded media, such as images and video clips, into a musical video —  to Android.

Launched on iOS in June of last year, Slideshow automatically assembles five or more photos and videos into a mini-movie. Users then select a theme for the clip, and add or remove content to further personalize it. Once you’re happy with your Slideshow, you can give it a title and share it on Facebook. The social network currently has a similar function within its Moments app, which lets you add a snippet from the company’s personal collection of music to your existing images and videos.

The feature has been spotted by some (but not all) Android users, indicating that it is being tested on the operating software, reports Android Police. As with iOS, Slideshow is being offered within the status bar just above the “tag friends” function, and alongside the other options, such as the ability to upload regular photos or videos, tag friends, and go live. Selecting it brings up a gallery of recent media, allowing you to make your selections.

Related: Tumblr’s zany new stickers and filters are everything you’d expect from the platform

In May, Facebook confirmed to Digital Trends that Slideshow was being tested in Australia with real tracks, thanks to a partnership with record label Warner Music: “Slideshows are a new way for people to share photos and videos in a creative and succinct way. To date, we’ve been using Facebook-owned music to accompany these slideshows, we will now be testing the use of a limited amount of music from Warner Music Group as soundtrack options.”

Outside of Australia, the feature still only includes the pre-existing instrumental tracks also available on the Moments app.

It is unclear at this stage which territories Facebook is testing Slideshow in. Seeing as it’s been kicking around on its iOS app for around seven months now, don’t be surprised if it makes its official Android debut soon.

Updated on 01-27-2016 by Saqib Shah: Added news of Slideshow test on Android


‘Fully loaded’ Kodi box seller pleads not guilty

Whether the makers of Kodi (by now you should know that’s the new name for what used to be XBMC) like it or (definitely) do not, people have built businesses around preloading their software on players like a Fire TV stick and advertising it as an avenue for watching pirated video streams. Over in the UK, the authorities raided Brian Thompson’s Cut Price Tomo TV’s and have charged him with two offenses under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act. Now, as TorrentFreak explains, the court will decide what role Thompson played in any potential copyright infringement by the people who purchased the devices.

Source: TorrentFreak, BBC