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7
Feb

Phil Spencer: Xbox 360 backward compatibility on Windows possible, but unlikely


Why it matters to you

The addition of Xbox 360 backward compatibility to Windows 10 could expand many PC gamers’ libraries for free.

At E3 2015, Microsoft dropped news that select Xbox 360 games would be playable on the Xbox One via backward compatibility. Since then, the library of supported games has swelled to over 300, and players are eager to see this kind of functionality introduced elsewhere in the company’s gaming empire.

Yesterday, Xbox head Phil Spencer was responding to queries on Twitter when he was asked whether backward compatibility for Xbox 360 games was ever likely to make its way to Windows 10. He responded with a realistic assessment of the work involved, but indicated that such a project wasn’t outside the realm of possibility.

Spencer stated that the difficult part of bringing Xbox 360 backward compatibility to Windows 10 would be the wide range of different hardware set-ups implemented by users. The Xbox One is a standardized system, meaning that engineers know what kind of horsepower they have to play with, but PCs can vary wildly from one build to another.

More: Microsoft’s unified Windows 10 user interface could be code-named Andromeda

Games added to the Xbox One’s library of compatible Xbox 360 titles are tested extensively to ensure that the experience is just as good on newer hardware as it was in the past. As a result, players can expect a certain standard of performance, and Microsoft wouldn’t be able to offer that standard consistently on such a broad range of hardware.

Having stated the reasons why backward compatibility was unlikely to make its way to Windows 10, Spencer offered a hint of encouragement, according to a report from Gamespot. He said “never say never,” indicating that this long shot project might yet come to fruition, even if the chances are slim.

Offering up even a portion of the formidable Xbox 360 library could be a boost to Microsoft’s ongoing effort to carve out its own slice of the PC gaming market. However, management will no doubt want to consider whether the resources necessary to implement backward compatibility on Windows 10 could be better spent elsewhere.

7
Feb

Police use pacemaker data to charge Ohio man with arson and fraud


Why it matters to you

Police obtaining data from a pacemaker raises questions about how secure the information contained within medical devices can be.

A man in Ohio was arrested and charged with arson and insurance fraud after police looked at medical data on his pacemaker. The case has raised some serious privacy concerns around medical devices, their data, and who can access it.

Ross Compton has been accused of starting a fire at his house, which caused $400,000 in damages, in September. According to police, Compton’s statements were inconsistent with evidence from the incident.

The man had claimed that once he had noticed the fire, he gathered some of his belongings, exited through a window, and brought these belongings to his car. However, a cardiologist reviewed data from Compton’s pacemaker and said that, given his significant heart conditions, it was “highly improbable” that the 59-year-old was physically able to do all of these things as he claimed.

Compton has an artificial heart implant with a pacemaker. Local outlet Journal-News reports that the police obtained a search warrant to access the data stored on the pacemaker. The data, including heart rate and cardiac rhythm, was analyzed for their activity during and after the fire.

More: ‘Fatal’ security bugs discovered in defibrillators and medical implants

Court papers state that with Compton’s extensive heart problems it would not have been likely that was able to “collect, pack and remove the number of items from the house, exit his bedroom window and carry numerous large and heavy items to the front of his residence during the short period of time he has indicated due to his medical conditions.”

The case has raised concerns over data privacy, especially sensitive medical data. Stephanie Lacambra, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told SC Magazine that people should not have to choose between health and privacy when it comes to devices like pacemakers.

“We as a society value our rights to maintain privacy over personal and medical information, and compelling citizens to turn over protected health data to law enforcement erodes those rights,” she said.

7
Feb

Outdoor Tech announces two new wireless headphones built to survive the elements


We all love music. Whether indoors or out, there is a perfect song that captures the moment just right. Inside, we have high-quality speakers and headphones to listen to, but outside you can’t guarantee they will be safe. But southern California-based Outdoor Tech specializes in Bluetooth audio accessories that can withstand the exposure.

The company announced two new Bluetooth headphones at CES 2017 to complement what is already available. For those looking for a budget or a small form factor, check out the new Tags 2.0 earbuds. If a premium sound is more important, than the Rhinos over-the-ear are a better way to go.

More: Controlling the sound between wireless earbuds makes all the difference

What stands out about the Rhinos outdoor headphones is the robust design that can take a beating. Not only can they survive a fall, but they are IPX6 water resistant too. While this doesn’t mean you should be dunking these in the river, they are built to withstand powerful water jets. So even if you encounter Bigfoot with a super soaker, your Rhinos will be safe.

Like many other Bluetooth headsets, these feature a built-in microphone and external controls. You can adjust the volume, skip tracks, play, pause, and answer phone calls. By downloading the Outdoor Tech app, the Rhinos can essentially become a set of walkie talkies. Anyone else with a set of Rhinos and the app can join in on the conversation.

A full charge will grant you about eight hours of playtime. To help you realize when the battery is going low, the battery level is displayed on your iOS device.

The Tags 2.0 were also built to last. These wireless earbuds are IPX4 water resistant, meaning the sweatiest of ears or a splash of water should do no harm. With a battery life of 4.5 hours on full volume, even the most metal listeners should be happy.

Both models will be made available mid-2017. The over-the-ear Rhinos will retail for $130 and are now available on Kickstarter for $90, while the Tags 2.0 earbuds will be sold at $40.

7
Feb

Expect massive mobile data traffic growth from 2016 to 2021, Cisco says


Why it matters to you

Mobile devices will soon use more data than ever before, according to researchers at Cisco, but can current infrastructure keep up with ever-increasing demand?

It’s no surprise that demand for internet connectivity’s growing. Tech experts warned in 2015 that the country would face a shortage of approved wireless spectrum — the slice of frequencies over which data, calls, and texts are transmitted — in the next three years, and usage has only accelerated since. According to Cisco’s Mobile Visual Networking Index forecast, global mobile traffic is expected to grow by 39 times its current volume by 2021.

That’s thanks to an increasing number of mobile phone users, high-speed networks, internet of things products, and mobile video. According to Cisco, global mobile data traffic is expected to reach 587 exabytes annually by 2021 — up from 87 exabytes in 2016, and about 122 times more than all global mobile traffic generated in 2011. It’s equivalent to 131 trillion images, or roughly 13 trillion YouTube clips.

More: FCC says streaming deals from AT&T and Verizon violate net neutrality

The Middle East and Africa are expected to see substantial growth. Cisco projects 12-fold growth in mobile data traffic, while the Asia-Pacific region will see seven-fold growth. Latin America, Western Europe, Central Europe, and Eastern Europe are forecast to have six-fold growth, and North America will have five-fold growth.

Cisco predicts that mobile data traffic will grow to represent 20 percent of the world’s internet traffic in 2021, largely as a result of steady device sales. There will be an estimated 12 billion mobile devices in use compared to 8 billion last year, the firm says, and smartphones will make up for more than 50 percent of global device traffic and connections. India’s expected to contribute significantly — it’ll exhibit double-digit growth over the next two years.

That’s a reversal of a recent trend. According to market researchers at Gartner, smartphone sales growth fell under 10 percent as a result of shipment slowdowns in China and North America. Worldwide sales amounted to 7 percent, or about 1.5 billion units.

More: Gartner: The era of double-digit smartphone growth is over

Mobile-based live video is expected to represent an outsize portion of that data — live-streaming apps will use as much as 2.02 exabytes (2.2 billion gigabytes) by 2021 up from 52 petabytes (52 billion gigabytes) of data in 2016. But interestingly, despite concerted efforts in live video by networks like Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, and YouTube, it’ll only represent a tiny slice of overall mobile traffic — around 5 percent.

In 2021, Cisco predicts that 78 percent of all mobile traffic will be video transmissions in 2021. In 2016, that number was 60 percent.

And traffic’s expected to be delivered at faster rates than ever before. As much as 56 percent of all mobile devices will use 4G or faster mobile data connectivity by 2021, compared to 26 percent in 2016. And 5G will account for 1.5 percent of total mobile data traffic by 2021, and generate 4.7 times more traffic than the average 4G connection.

7
Feb

Apple’s long-delayed BeatsX wireless headphones will be released February 10


Why it matters to you

If you’ve been holding out for a tougher to lose alternative to Apple’s AirPods, the BeatsX wireless earphones are finally almost here.

Last year was a rough one for Apple when it came to headphones. Its own true wireless headphones, the AirPods, were originally scheduled to ship in October, but only became available for purchase in December. That same day, another audio product from the company — the BeatsX wireless earphones — had its release pushed back to February 2017. Fortunately, Apple has held to its word, and the headphones will arrive later this week.

Alongside the launch of the iPhone 7, the first not to include a headphone jack, Apple announced a total of four wireless headphone options: the AirPods, and three Beats-branded products, all of which are powered by its W1 chip. The two other Beats products announced — the Solo3 and the Powerbeats3 — shipped in 2016.

More: Apple announces three new pairs of Beats headphones, all using its W1 chip

It seemed that the headphones’ release was imminent when models began showing up in various Apple stores, but as of this morning, the product page for the BeatsX still simply reads that the headphones are coming in February 2017. The official release date was instead revealed by the official Beats By Dre Twitter account via a tweet containing a short video clip and the words “available Feb. 10.”

Apple has yet to confirm the reason behind the delay of its AirPods or the BeatsX, but the fact that both products use the W1 chip could have something to do with the delay — but it wouldn’t explain why the Solo3 and Powerbeats3, also powered by the W1 chip, have launched without issue.

Unlike those headphones, which recharge via Micro USB, the BeatsX use a Lightning port to recharge. The BeatsX also feature a Fast Fuel feature that promises users two hours of playback from a five-minute charge. This also may have had something to do with the delay, but for now, we have no way of knowing what the culprit is.

Once the BeatsX are available, they will retail for $150. If you’d rather opt for something else, the Beats Powerbeats3 sell for $200, while Apple’s AirPods sell for $160.

Story originally published on December 16, 2016. Updated by Kris Wouk on 02-07-2017: Edited to add the official release information for the Beats X. 

7
Feb

YouTube begins rolling out live-streaming via app, starting with creators


Why it matters to you

YouTube is one of the largest video platforms on the internet, and you’ll soon be able to broadcast live via the app.

YouTube has featured live-streaming on its desktop site since 2011, but the company is finally ready to take on Facebook Live by bringing the feature to smartphones.

You won’t be able to broadcast to the world yet, though — the feature is going live for YouTube creators with more than 10,000 subscribers first. It will roll out to everyone “soon.” YouTube announced the feature was heading to mobile last summer at VidCon.

More: Using nothing but YouTube tutorials, woman built house from the ground up

The good news is that you don’t need to download a separate app to go live — it’s built right into the YouTube app. The Live button will sit at the top of the app, and once you tap it you can write a title, take a picture for the thumbnail, and start streaming.

“Streamed videos will have all the same features as regular YouTube videos,” the company writes in a blog post. “They can be searched for, found via recommendations or playlists, and protected from unauthorized use. Our mobile live-streaming uses YouTube’s rock-solid infrastructure, meaning it’ll be fast and reliable, just the YouTube you know and love.”

YouTube says it worked with creators to refine the experience — for example, live chat is slowed down when a stream is getting a high number of messages in a short span of time. There’s also Super Chat, which allows viewers to pin highlighted messages briefly to get the streamer’s attention for up to five hours — this is a paid feature, and the more you pay the longer your message stays at the top of the chat.

More: With support for 360-degree YouTube videos, PlayStation VR lets you see more

The live-stream’s user interface isn’t too different from Periscope, but the feature finally puts Google and YouTube toe-to-toe with Facebook and Twitter. Again, it’s only rolling out to creators right now but we’ll keep you updated when there’s a wider release.

7
Feb

25 impressive cases and covers for iPad Air 2 and iPad Air


The iPad Air 2 (the sixth iPad) is unbelievably skinny. We’re talking about 6.1mm, which makes it easy to handle for such a big tablet, but you have to worry about durability. You can add a flourish of personal style to Apple’s minimalist design, choose functional elements to enhance your daily use, and make sure it’s safe when you sling it in your bag; all it takes is the right case. Here are some of our favorite iPad Air 2 cases. We also have some of the best iPad Air cases available.

More: iPad Air 2 review, our favorite iPad styli.

OtterBox Defender Series Case ($60)

OtterBox Defender Series Case

Trusty three-layer protection ensures that your iPad Air 2 can take a tumble or a knock and keep right on going. This is a fairly chunky case, but it provides all round protection, with a built-in screen protector and port covers. You might struggle with some cables, but there are accurate openings for the Touch ID, camera, and the Apple logo on the back. You also get a shield layer that clips over the front when you’re not using the iPad, and it doubles as a stand, so you can prop your iPad Air 2 at a comfortable angle for watching movies or typing.

Available at:

Amazon

New Trent Gladius Case ($26)

New Trent Gladius Case

The obvious star of the show here is the 360-degree rotating leather hand strap, which makes holding your iPad Air or Air 2 a breeze. This rugged case also provides good drop protection. The hard-shell interior is surrounded by rubber and there’s a built-in screen protector. Underneath the strap, there’s a metal arm that can fold out to act as sturdy stand. The cut-outs are all accurate, providing easy access to the camera and Touch ID, and there are durable button covers for the controls.

Available at:

Amazon

Twelve South BookBook Case ($65)

Twelve South BookBook Case

You can disguise your iPad as an old book with this stylish case from Twelve South. These genuine leather cases look just like vintage tomes. Each case is distressed to create an aged aesthetic that brings some unique character. Two zippers with leather tags allow you to securely close your iPad inside. Open the case, and you’ll find a leather frame to hold your iPad snug and secure, along with a dark, soft, suede interior that prevents scratches. The interior leather sleeve that holds your iPad can be partially detached via two stud closures, so you can prop the case open and use it as a stand in a viewing or typing position. Although there’s no camera cut-out in the book, the leather sleeve has one, so you can pop the closures open and snap a shot without having to fully remove the iPad.

Available at:

Amazon Twelve South

Incipio ClamCase + ($130)

Incipio ClamCase +

Acquired by Incipio in 2015, ClamCase has been making premium keyboard cases for the iPad for years now. The ClamCase + converts your iPad into a laptop, combining an aluminum keyboard with backlit island keys, and a polycarbonate cover that protects the tablet. The hinge rotates through 360 degrees, so you can actually fold the iPad back and the keys are automatically turned off. You can also use this case as a stand to prop the iPad at any angle you desire. The keyboard pairs easily via Bluetooth, and it’s roomy and comfortable to type on, with some handy special function keys for things like media controls and Siri. There’s a standard Micro USB port for recharging, but you can expect around a month of use before you need to plug it in. It’s heavy at around 660g, and the back-lit keys really eat into the battery life when turned on, but it’s the perfect choice if you want a decent keyboard and solid protection for your iPad Air 2.

Available at:

Incipio

Booqpad Case ($60)

Booqpad

Versatility is the major draw for this folio case. You’ve got a standard polycarbonate shell that attaches to a folio cover using magnets, so it can be attached and detached quickly and easily. The folio cover acts as a multi-position stand and it even comes with a pad of paper. The exterior is polyurethane with a textured finish and the inner lining is nubuck. In addition to the notebook, there are slots for cards. This case also comes with a screen protector.

Available at:

Amazon Booq

7
Feb

Belkin Car Vent Mount: Our first take


Unless you’re one of the lucky few who have an Apple CarPlay, or Android Auto equipped vehicle, you probably rely on a car mount to keep your phone viewable without having to glance dangerously at your cupholder, or worse yet, at the passenger seat. This probably explains why a search on Amazon for “car phone mount” reveals a staggering 671,621 results. One of the most popular types is the vent mount. They’re small, effortless to install, and nearly universally compatible.

Belkin just released a new version of its $25 Car Vent Mount, and we took it for a spin to see if it could improve upon this simple notion.

Mounting frustration

The list of considerations for a car vent mount is pretty short. It should be able to grab your car’s vent blades without damaging them, be able to accommodate your phone (with or without a case), hold it securely in place while you drive, and be easy to get your phone in and out of — preferably with just one hand. One of our favorites, the $20 Kenu Airframe (or the larger $30 Airframe+), ticks all of these boxes, and looks good doing it.

The Car Vent Mount’s rotation mechanism is like butter, letting you effortlessly switch between vertical and horizontal orientations.

Belkin’s version manages to nail the first three, but its beefier construction and more prominent phone placement makes for an awkward experience getting a phone in and out of its jaws. The best part about the new Belkin Car Vent Mount is its generous bite, which can expand up to 3.5 inches — more than enough to accommodate a large 5.5-inch screen phone like the Google Pixel XL, either naked or with a basic case, though it will struggle with a serious case like the Otterbox Defender, at 3.76 inches.

The clamp arms are oversized, with firm rubber padding, which provide excellent grip. The mount’s back surface is equally spacious, giving a solid resting place, and the continuation of the rubber material helps dampen vibrations and protect a phone’s finish from scratches.

Smooth operator

Belkin bumps up the fit and finish on the new version — the previous model’s sharp edges have been given a makeover and are now rounded, smooth and virtually seamless. Speaking of smooth, the Car Vent Mount’s rotation mechanism is like butter, letting you effortlessly switch between vertical and horizontal orientations, or anything in between, with far less of the clicking around we’ve come to expect from the Airframe.

belkin car vent mount first impressionsSimon Cohen/Digital Trends

belkin car vent mount first impressionsSimon Cohen/Digital Trends

belkin car vent mount first impressionsSimon Cohen/Digital Trends

belkin car vent mount first impressionsSimon Cohen/Digital Trends

We’re in two minds about the Belkin Car Vent Mount’s integrated cable management, which basically amounts to two small rubber grooves on either side of the mount’s axle. It certainly works, and kept our Amazon Basics Lightning cable from dropping to the floor when not plugged in. But it also meant that the cable was perpetually in the way of the gear selector and console buttons when the phone wasn’t in the mount. For some, this may be an important feature, but we don’t think it’s especially helpful.

One of the clever design features of the Kenu Airframe is its two sizes of vent grips contained in a single mounting point. Between the two options, you’re bound to find one that works with your car’s vent system. The Belkin on the on the other hand, only has a single grip, with a small pair of perpendicular grooves to allow for any closely mounted cross vanes. That said, that one grip is well built, with thick rubber prongs.

Can we get a hand?

But despite the well built vent grip, its hold on our Lexus’s single horizontal vent fin just wasn’t strong enough to allow an easy, one-handed insertion of either an iPhone 6, or a Google Pixel XL. In fact, even using two hands proved tricky. We think there were several factors that contributed to our problems with the Belkin.

More: Bluejay is the world’s first in-car ‘smart mount’ for all intelligent devices

First, to be fair, our test car’s vent has no cross vanes, and runs parallel to the direction the Car Vent Mount’s jaws. So there was no way it could stop itself from being tugged sideways when we tried to insert the phone.

Second, the mechanism that controls how the jaws open requires a good deal of force. Belkin has used a combination of springs and rack and pinion gearing to get the clamp arms to open and close simultaneously. This means that if you slide the phone into one side, you have to do so with enough force to overcome the resistance of its own spring, plus the one on the other arm, plus the added friction of the gear system. There is a sweet spot where — at just the right angle and placement of the phone as it goes in — it can be done without ripping the mount right off the vent, but it’s not easy to find or repeat.

The difficulty of getting a phone into the mount will become a daily frustration that isn’t worth it

Third, the challenge of the required force might not have been so hard if it weren’t for the fact that the mount itself sits two centimeters proud of the vent. This distance creates a natural pivot point, causing the mount to roll onto the side of the arm that is being pushed. It’s exacerbated by the mount’s rounded shape on the back — another reason why maybe those cable grooves aren’t such a good idea.

The Kenu Airframe, thanks to its much flatter profile and lower force single spring arm, has always managed to stay put as phones are inserted and removed.

Conclusion

The new Belkin Car Vent Mount is well priced, has top-notch materials and securely holds even large phones in place, but the difficulty of getting a phone into the mount will become a daily frustration that isn’t worth it. For a few dollars more, the Kenu Airframe+ will be a better choice for most people, despite its lack of cable management.

Highs

  • Quality materials
  • Holds phones firmly

Lows

  • Jaws require effort to open
  • Difficult one-handed operation
7
Feb

Logitech’s ZeroTouch smart car mount now brings Alexa along for the ride


Why it matters to you

Now you can use Alexa to lock your house’s doors, turn on the lights, and change the thermostat — among other things — right from the driver’s seat.

For years, Google, Apple, and most recently Amazon have attempted to integrate their services into new cars, with varying degrees of success. While the likes of Android Auto and CarPlay certainly provide a safe and convenient way for drivers to interact with their smartphones behind the wheel, they’re locked to specific makes and models. Unless you own a car made in the last several years, or the manufacturer of your vehicle has been considerate enough to release a software update, chances are you’re missing out.

For this reason, some companies have tried to deliver a similar experience on the road while bypassing automakers’ infotainment systems completely. In the fall, Google released an update to Android Auto that transformed it into a standalone app, so the same user interface that was previously locked to a car’s touchscreen was available directly on phones. Meanwhile, Logitech released a smart, Bluetooth-enabled mount called ZeroTouch that promised hands-free, eyes-free voice control for sending texts, navigation, and music playback through Spotify.

More: iOS in your dashboard: Here’s everything you need to know about Apple CarPlay

Today, Logitech has announced that ZeroTouch is becoming even smarter with the addition of Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant. Now, the same commands and requests many drivers might already use at home with their Echo devices are available in the car. Alexa is available to all users through an update to the ZeroTouch app.

Logitech says anything Alexa can do elsewhere, it can do through ZeroTouch — and that includes controlling smart home devices. The only difference in functionality is the way Alexa is invoked. Rather than with a wake word, drivers wave a hand in front of their device to call upon the personal assistant — the same way ZeroTouch operated before the update.

It’s important to note that ZeroTouch is only compatible with Android devices, and that Alexa won’t be able to control the vehicle the same way it can when integrated directly with a car’s infotainment system. Ford, Volkswagen, and Hyundai have all confirmed upcoming vehicles will feature Amazon’s technology, and in those instances, Alexa will be able to do much more, like lock and unlock car doors, start and stop the engine, and order supplies for your vehicle.

As for the mount itself, it comes in two flavors — a vent clip, which retails for $60, and another featuring a suction cup, which can be fitted to the windshield or dashboard, and retails for $80. Both use magnets to attach themselves to smartphones, and have internal batteries designed to last for two years.

7
Feb

FBI will stop accepting Freedom of Information Act requests via email March 1


Why it matters to you

Changes made by the FBI will apparently put some limits on submitting Freedom of Information Act requests, at least temporarily.

The Freedom of Information Act is a federal law that allows people in the United States to access unreleased documents and information held by the government. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is set to make some changes to the way FOIA requests are submitted at the beginning of March.

Starting next month, the FBI will no longer accept FOIA requests that are submitted by email. Instead, requests will have to be sent via fax or standard mail, or submitted via an online portal.

More: Google must give the FBI emails stored in foreign servers, judge rules

“The FBI’s eFOIA portal was designed and developed to be the FBI’s primary means for receiving FOIA and Privacy Act requests,” reads a statement sent to Digital Trends via email. “The portal provides the FBI with an automated process for the receipt and opening of requests, replacing the current manual process and substantially reducing the time it takes to receive and open each electronic request received. Given the FBI’s high volume of requests, this will significantly increase efficiency.”

The online portal may seem like a fine replacement for email submissions, but it’s subject to its own caveats. Users are expected to agree to terms of service, and submit personal information including their physical address and a phone number. Furthermore, the portal will only accept a certain number of requests each day.

The FBI isn’t alone in compelling people to use outdated methods to submit their requests. The Central Intelligence Agency only accepts requests that are sent by fax, while the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency similarly dropped support for email submissions in favor of faxed documents.

The decision to end support for requests sent by email has already been subjected to criticism. Some opponents are arguing that the change is a transparent attempt to make it harder for people to pursue FOIA requests, while others are concentrating on the exact terms of the new arrangement.

Originally, the terms of service attached to the new online portal stated that users are limited to one request per day, and one request per submission, and that users need to state whether their request is being made from the United States or another country. These parameters aren’t laid out in FOIA legislation, so it’s being asserted that their enforcement is another way to dissuade people from making requests.

However, in its statement issued to Digital Trends, the FBI confirmed that these terms will be updated once the policy takes effect on March 1. The revised policy will allow for an unlimited number of requests, with no restrictions on the amount submitted by any one individual.

Updated on 02/07/2017 by Brad Jones: Added official FBI statement and official clarification regarding terms of service.

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