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10
Feb

Whisper – Share Secrets, Speak Your Mind, Stay Anonymous ( Review)


Oscar Wilde once said “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” If you have ever wanted to see this statement in action, look no further than the Whisper app. Whisper allows you to post messages completely anonymously into a sea of other anonymous people both nearby and worldwide. It’s an intriguing concept for sure, but does it deliver a worthwhile experience? Let’s dive in.

Developer: WhisperText LLC
Price: Free
Download: Google Play/iOS

Posts range from funny to sweet, sad to enraged. Almost anything goes.Posts range from funny to sweet, sad to enraged. Almost anything goes.

The Setup

Whisper has you set up a profile when you first begin. Now, this is unlike any other profile setup I’ve seen before because it’s 4 questions long.

Username
Gender
Age Range
Location

Location is set by location services on your phone. Usernames have no restrictions, even allowing you to keep it blank, and multiple people are allowed to use the same username, so in my attempt to stay anonymous, my use of the username “anonymous” completely blends in with the hundreds of others who use it too. Gender is optional, age range is optional. Location I have heard can be disabled but I couldn’t find a way, so I simply denied it permission to location services so my location is just set as “somewhere”. Jumping into settings allows you to set notifications preferences. That’s all there is to it. No pictures to set, you’re not locked into giving your e-mail address, and your username or any settings can be changed on a whim.

Everything is locked down with a secret pin, which when entered takes you to...Everything is locked down with a secret pin, which when entered takes you to…

Overview

The app starts off with a “Most Popular” page, which is a great jumping off point. All posts that make it to this main page have hundreds of thousands of likes and comments. Posts here range from posts that will make you lose faith in humanity and redeem your faith again, stories of random acts of kindness to love lost, and everything in between. One swipe to the left will show you various groups based on both location and general interests where people can make posts about specific subjects. If your location is set, one swipe to the right of the main screen will let you see all posts that are nearby your location starting with the most recent. Finally, there is an “All” option to the right of local that, as you guessed it, shows all posts from everywhere.

Writing posts is not only easy, but it’s kind of fun too. Hitting the big + button near the bottom of the screen brings up a text box that lets you write your post. Once you write something, Whisper then reads your post and searches for a background picture or short looping video that matches your post. In my experience, the words that it picks to search for pictures with isn’t always the subject of the post, so sometimes the pictures it tries to have you pick from are a little random, but there is a place for you to enter your own search terms and select from a large library, or you can upload your own images. All your posts are saved on the app so you can look at all you’ve posted but it’s all locked under a pin that you set so everything is secure from private eyes, even if they have your phone.

...all my private chats!…all my private chats!

Being Social

There’s a chat built right into the app so you are able to either reply directly to posts or if things are going to become more personal (or intimate) you are able to start one on one chats with people. It’s in these chats that your gender and age are revealed if set, so that’s something to keep in mind if you’re worried about people knowing this information. There are an equal number of users that reveal info and that keep it all private so it’s easy.

The Ugly

There are loads of posts by guys who only want to chat with women (which is fine), some who want to only dirty chat with women (which is a little creepy), and some who want to cheat on their spouses and/or pay for pictures and sexual acts (eww). Obviously, these kinds of things all depend on which direction your moral compass points, but for me personal, I was not at all a fan of these posts. Fortunately, there are about a hundred posts for every one or two of these, but with dedicated groups for these posts, they definitely do exist.

A Soft Spot for People

With the ability to be anonymous, you get people posting some of their darkest secrets and insecurities. Occationally you’ll run across a post discussing issues such as suicide. Obviously this is a very serious issue, and the team at Whisper handles this like a champ. If a post could be considered of a deeply depressed or suicidal in tone, the app will direct people to a collection of people to listen or professional help. I’ve run across several posts where people have thanked Whisper for reaching out and have credited the app with saving their lives because they were very serious about their intentions and being able to get the help they need changed their lives. It’s a brilliant feature and has literally changed lives.

Conclusion

I’ve been a user of Whisper for about 6 months now, and I’ve got to admit that it’s quite the guilty pleasure for me. You’ll find posts that are happy, sad, angry, excited, and everything in between. Set your options just right and post literally anything on your mind. It can be a lot of fun and a liberating experience where you can be free to speak your mind about anything to anyone on there. I highly recommend this app as one to at least play with for a week, and you might find that it becomes a daily addiction.

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10
Feb

Hackers tweak NES Classic Edition to play games from other consoles


Why it matters to you

Thanks to unofficial modifications, the NES Classic Edition is being transformed into a highly capable retro gaming console.

It didn’t take long for people to start tinkering with Nintendo’s NES Classic Edition, which launched in North America in November 2016. Just a few days after its release, the system was modified to run a custom version of Ubuntu, and in January its library was unofficially expanded. Now, the console isn’t even limited to games that were released for the NES.

Hackers have been able to force the NES Classic Edition to run RetroArch, a program that can be used to emulate several classic consoles. With the help of RetroArch, a modified NES Classic Edition can run Game Boy, Super Nintendo, and Sega Genesis games, according to a report from Nintendo Life.

The legal status of this project is questionable, given that the system would be running ROMs rather than officially sanctioned rereleases of classic titles. Still, the prospect of a miniature NES that can run such a wide gamut of retro games will be very attractive to many gamers.

More: No need to reset: NES Classic Edition hack adds home screen shortcut

The hack may detract from the system’s crisp, clean user interface, and some games show occasional signs of slowdown, but it’s still a very impressive modification. Of course, you could yield a similar end product with a Raspberry Pi and a little elbow grease.

In December 2016, a trademark application prompted speculation that Nintendo might be preparing to release an SNES Classic Edition. This project demonstrates that it would be relatively straightforward to create such a device — but it also casts some doubt on whether Nintendo will pursue a follow-up to its NES rerelease.

The fact that hackers are already capable of modifying the NES Classic Edition to such extremes may dissuade Nintendo from releasing similar products in the future. With access to Game Boy, SNES, and Genesis games, the system can be transformed into a full-fledged super-emulator — and the company will be eager to distance itself from piracy, especially with the its Virtual Console set to be relaunched for the Switch over the coming months.

10
Feb

T-Mobile just made your Valentine’s Day a lot better with free Papa John’s pizza


Why it matters to you

T-Mobile Tuesdays are one of the Un-carrier’s most popular programs, and now they’ll be even more beloved with the addition of some cheese and pepperoni.

T-Mobile knows that the way to your heart is through pizza. Forget better service, faster connectivity, or anything else you might expect from a mobile service provider — just hear the word “pepperoni” and you’ll know where your loyalties lie. On Friday, the Un-carrier announced that beginning on February 14, you’ll be able to get a free large or pan single-topping pizza from Papa John’s — but you’ll have to keep checking your app to see which Tuesday is your lucky day.

“While the carriers love to inflict pain on their customers, we just plain love our customers. And, we know they love pizza — a LOT! So, when I saw that Valentine’s Day fell on a Tuesday, I knew we had to go big,” said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. “We’re throwing a pizza party all month long and giving away tons of free pizza. Why? Because ‘thank you for being a T-Mobile customer.’ That’s why!”

More: T-Mobile is gaining on Verizon when it comes to 4G availability, study finds

This actually isn’t the first time T-Mobile has offered free pies to eager customers. Last summer, the service provider received “overwhelming” customer demand for their offer, so of course, they’re bringing it back. When you open your T-Mobile Tuesday app and see free pizza, simply claim it on Tuesday, and then choose any day of the week to actually place the order online.

“At Papa John’s we pride ourselves on cooking up a better pizza and also a better customer experience,” said Steve Ritchie, president and chief operating officer of Papa John’s. “We are excited to welcome T-Mobile fans to the Papa John’s pizza family.”

T-Mobile’s Tuesday program has proven wildly popular since it first launched last year, and the app has been downloaded more than 11 million times. In fact, the Un-carrier says, more than 6.2 million customers have accepted over 30 million gifts on Tuesdays including free movies, gas discounts, free Lyft rides, and food.

Download for iOS Download for Android

10
Feb

Family of five? Sprint offers unlimited talk, text, and data for $90 a month


Why it matters to you

Sprint’s has a unique deal among the large mobile carriers when it comes to unlimited data.

Sprint is gaining on its big three competitors and now, it’s looking to make up even more ground with an impressive deal involving unlimited data. On Friday, the mobile service provider announced that new customers can get unlimited data, talk, and text for $50 a month for the first line, and add up to four more lines for just $40 more. That means you could get up to five lines of unlimited data, talk, and text for $90 a month — really, the more the merrier.

“Sprint understands the value of unlimited data to our customers,” said Roger Solé, Sprint chief marketing officer. “Customers do more with their phones every day and they want to use them without limits. With our new offer, you can sign up for a plan that allows you to surf and stream all you want and not worry about overage fees and charges. So why not use your wireless device to its full potential to enjoy things you love like Snapchat, social media, Twitter, watching video, texting and calling — all on our highly reliable network.”

More: Sprint switched LTE Advanced on for the iPhone 7, Galaxy S7, and more

To take advantage of the offer, customers need only to sign up for the plan with Sprint via AutoPay and decide whether it’s just one line they want, or the whole family they need to connect. Given that a couple of Verizon’s competitors don’t offer an unlimited plan, this may be a pretty good ploy to get folks to switch.

Verizon, after all, has no unlimited option and is cutting off some of its grandfathered customers. AT&T only offers unlimited data for customers who sign up for DirectTV or U-verse TV with a minimum of $50 a month, Sprint points out. That means that you could actually end up saving up to $180 a month if you switch from AT&T to Sprint with this new plan.

Even T-Mobile can’t keep up price-wise, as Sprint notes that an unlimited plan for a family of five would be $90 cheaper per month than it would be with the Un-carrier.

Of course, this promotion has an expiration date, so Sprint is urging interested parties to act soon by heading to a local retail location.

See more at Sprint

10
Feb

Touch-enabled smart cases could come to iPhone, if Apple patent bears out


Why it matters to you

Apple’s latest tech could add a whole new degree of usefulness to some of the company’s most popular products … if it ever comes to fruition.

Imagine if a case actually didn’t only protect your phone, but enhanced your ability to use it? That’s the thinking behind an Apple patent for a smart case made of a “quantum tunneling material” that could actually extend touch-sensitivity to the back of a phone. The application, published Thursday by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, according to Patently Apple, details how the technology could be applied to the iPhone and Apple Watch, and even to accessories like EarPods.

The phrase “quantum tunneling material” sounds complicated, but is in fact relatively simple to understand. Typically, an electrical charge can’t travel well through the types of materials used for phone cases, like silicone or leather. As a result, outfitting those surfaces with touch controls is quite difficult, because capacitive touch relies on changes in electrical charge to work.

More: Patent shows 3D camera tech that could make its way to iPhone 8

What Apple has supposedly discovered, however, is that if a touch-sensitive conductive surface is placed within an insulating material, and that insulating material is deformed under pressure from the user, that deformation could trigger an electrical response in the conductive panel. Those two elements sandwiched together, in layman’s terms, is a quantum tunneling material.

In the patent diagrams, Apple depicts a wide range of uses for this technology; for one, smart cases with areas that respond to multitouch gestures. The figures show a case drawing energy from an iPhone through a Lightning connector, though advancements in wireless charging technology could hopefully one day curb that limitation.

Potentially more promising is Apple’s idea for how the technology could interface with its smartwatch. The band could itself become a quantum tunneling material, which would pose an even greater benefit to a watch compared to a phone, as interaction with watches is usually confined to the small space of a screen. The patent would greatly expand that surface area, and the unique form of a band could make gestures like scrolling or adjusting volume much more intuitive while eliminating the need for physical buttons — something Apple has been trying to do across all its devices.

Finally, the company goes on to show how quantum tunneling materials could also enhance the experience of using EarPods. The technology would ideally make the cord itself touch-sensitive for playback controls. While it’s somewhat ironic that Apple would attempt to innovate in the area of headphone cables at the very same time it is trying to cut them out of our lives entirely, this particular example would transform an everyday annoyance into a functional asset.

Patently Apple notes that this particular application was filed in the third quarter of 2015, and, like all patents, is not indicative of any surefire features coming to your next iPhone. However, this appears to be one of Apple’s most useful and innovative ideas in recent memory, and we hope to see it come to fruition down the line.

10
Feb

Touch-enabled smart cases could come to iPhone, if Apple patent bears out


Why it matters to you

Apple’s latest tech could add a whole new degree of usefulness to some of the company’s most popular products … if it ever comes to fruition.

Imagine if a case actually didn’t only protect your phone, but enhanced your ability to use it? That’s the thinking behind an Apple patent for a smart case made of a “quantum tunneling material” that could actually extend touch-sensitivity to the back of a phone. The application, published Thursday by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, according to Patently Apple, details how the technology could be applied to the iPhone and Apple Watch, and even to accessories like EarPods.

The phrase “quantum tunneling material” sounds complicated, but is in fact relatively simple to understand. Typically, an electrical charge can’t travel well through the types of materials used for phone cases, like silicone or leather. As a result, outfitting those surfaces with touch controls is quite difficult, because capacitive touch relies on changes in electrical charge to work.

More: Patent shows 3D camera tech that could make its way to iPhone 8

What Apple has supposedly discovered, however, is that if a touch-sensitive conductive surface is placed within an insulating material, and that insulating material is deformed under pressure from the user, that deformation could trigger an electrical response in the conductive panel. Those two elements sandwiched together, in layman’s terms, is a quantum tunneling material.

In the patent diagrams, Apple depicts a wide range of uses for this technology; for one, smart cases with areas that respond to multitouch gestures. The figures show a case drawing energy from an iPhone through a Lightning connector, though advancements in wireless charging technology could hopefully one day curb that limitation.

Potentially more promising is Apple’s idea for how the technology could interface with its smartwatch. The band could itself become a quantum tunneling material, which would pose an even greater benefit to a watch compared to a phone, as interaction with watches is usually confined to the small space of a screen. The patent would greatly expand that surface area, and the unique form of a band could make gestures like scrolling or adjusting volume much more intuitive while eliminating the need for physical buttons — something Apple has been trying to do across all its devices.

Finally, the company goes on to show how quantum tunneling materials could also enhance the experience of using EarPods. The technology would ideally make the cord itself touch-sensitive for playback controls. While it’s somewhat ironic that Apple would attempt to innovate in the area of headphone cables at the very same time it is trying to cut them out of our lives entirely, this particular example would transform an everyday annoyance into a functional asset.

Patently Apple notes that this particular application was filed in the third quarter of 2015, and, like all patents, is not indicative of any surefire features coming to your next iPhone. However, this appears to be one of Apple’s most useful and innovative ideas in recent memory, and we hope to see it come to fruition down the line.

10
Feb

Stanford archaeologists re-created a 5,000-year-old Chinese beer recipe


Why it matters to you

Recreating a recipe for 5,000-year-old Chinese beer can help reveal details about the ancient world. And get you hella drunk.

Beer takes around two weeks to brew, and can last in a fridge for anywhere up to two years. So how do you think 5,000-year-old beer would taste? Stanford archaeologists are giving us the opportunity to find out.

In a new piece of research, students from Stanford Archaeology Center have brewed up a fresh batch of millennia-old alcohol, under the careful eye of archaeologist Professor Li Liu. Liu, along with doctoral candidate Jiajing Wang and other experts, found the recipe by analyzing the inner walls of pottery pieces excavated in northeast China.

More: ‘Fitbit of alcohol’ will tell you when you’ve had too much to drink

Recreating it involves using ancient brewing techniques invented by early human civilizations.

“The beer we discovered at the site of Mijiaya was a multi-ingredient brew,” Wang told Digital Trends. “It was made of broomcorn millet, barley, Job’s tears and some kinds of tubers. We suggest that barley was initially introduced to the Central Plain for alcohol production rather than as a staple food.”

Not the most typical place to find a beer recipe, perhaps.

Jiajing Wang

The beer itself looks and tastes a whole lot more like sweet porridge than today’s clear bitters, but it’s a fascinating insight into a society that, in some ways, is so far removed from our own. (And in other, alcohol-downing ways appears incredibly similar!)

“Modern beer usually relies on barley as a single ingredient,” Wang continued. “This beer was a mix of a variety of starchy plants. We also suspect that the Mijiaya beer might not have the level of clarity like the modern ones.”

So will you and I get to try ancient Chinese beer, even if we can’t get accepted into Stanford? Maybe.

“Collaborating with Shaanxi Institute of Archaeology in China, we are planning recreate Mijiaya beer,” Wang said. “But I will not be the person who sells this. This is a project to be done by private brewing companies.”

10
Feb

Giant drone racing is here, and it’s just as awesome as it sounds


Why it matters to you

Everyone wants to create the next Formula 1. This Australian startup thinks the answer may be giant drones.

If you’ve ever flown a drone in a public area, you’ll know that doing so often attracts one or two interested parties in the form of people stopping to see what you’re doing. But drone flights aren’t yet playing to packed stadiums full of cheering fans. One possible explanation? Because they’re not freaking giant UAVs competing in hair-raising races.

That could change if Chris Ballard has his way.

The Australian founder of Freedom Class Giant Drone Racing, Ballard is the founder of a startup that’s designing, building and testing giant racing drones for what he believes may well be the next mainstream motorsport.

“What we’re looking to achieve is the Formula 1 of the drone-racing world,” he told Digital Trends. “It was very apparent to us early on that regular drone racing may be great for the pilots, but given [the drones’] small size it’s not good for spectators. You can’t see them when they’re zooming around a race course at 100km/h.”

More: Hone your drone skills with a touch of Tron in this quadcopter arena

That’s where the idea for the massive drones comes into play, but Ballard is convinced the idea has a lot more going for it than simply big UAVs.

“We’re not restricted by the traditions of motorsport, where you’re racing around a track that’s already been designed,” he continued. “With drone racing, the sky’s to limit. Literally. You can go ahead and create entirely digital courses for these things to race around. You can come up with concepts that weren’t previously possible for Formula 1 or any other type of motorsport.”

Another exciting selling point of drone racing is just how accessible it is to participants. Anyone can be a fan of Formula 1, but it takes a certain type of person to be able to compete at it. Not so with drone racing. “It’s a sport that can be inclusive of everyone,” Ballard continued. “You can be small or large, male or female, in a wheelchair — whoever you are you can still compete and have an equal chance at becoming a world champion. That’s one of the things I find so exciting about it. It really captures a market between gaming e-sports and real-life sports. It’s a unique crossover to be able to combine both of those worlds.”

So does that make Chris Ballard the Bernie Ecclestone of giant drone racing? Maybe, but it’s not going to be without its challenges. A big one is safety, which Ballard described as his “primary focus.”

“You can’t just scale up a mini drone to our size and hope for the best,” he said. “We’re dealing with about 800 percent more power than an average mini-drone. That’s a massive amount of electricity that will quite easily melt a large array of electronics.”

Ballard also isn’t the only person responsible for Freedom Class’ success. There are half a dozen other members of the team, who have collectively invested hundreds of hours of their personal time to get the project to where it is today.

More: PiBorg’s Raspberry Pi racecars are build by you, powered by AI

At present, the team has built initial prototypes of the aircraft they plan to use. The next step is to move onto new models, which will be more aerodynamic, as well as capable of achieving the kind of speeds necessary for drone racing. “We’re also implementing more systems to make it much more friendly toward racing in multiple aircraft environments,” Ballard said.

Following this, an inaugural race is planned for later this year, after which the hope is to create an international world series to bring the cutting-edge motorsport to audiences around the globe.

In other words, keep watching the skies!

10
Feb

Skylanders skips a 2017 console release, refocuses on mobile instead


Why it matters to you

Activision is left with few options for its own toys-to-life series after the recent cancellation of Disney Infinity, and a scaled-back approach is all but necessary at this point.

nintendo-switch-topic-banner-280x75.png

Activision’s toys-to-life Skylanders series will skip an annual console release for the first time in franchise history as its developers shift their efforts toward mobile gaming and expanded content for last year’s Skylanders Imaginators.

News of a scaled-back release schedule for Skylanders arrives in the wake of a major shake-up at Disney Interactive Studios in 2016, which led to the cancellation of the thematically similar Disney Infinity series and the closure of its creator Avalanche Software.

More: Infinity proves fleeting as Disney exits console game publishing, shutters developer

The Skylanders series launched in 2011 with the release of Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure across multiple console platforms. The original game in the series served up kid-friendly, action-adventure gameplay powered by a lineup of collectible toys. An included “Portal of Power” peripheral scans Skylanders figures and summon them as in-game playable characters via NFC technology, allowing players to save their progress and use powered-up characters in subsequent series entries.

After the success of the original Skylanders, the series adopted an annual release schedule that continued through 2016, producing follow-ups like Skylanders Giants, Skylanders Swap Force, and Skylanders Trap Team. Each game in the series introduced new gameplay gimmicks that required players to purchase additional toys in order to get the most from the experience, and dedicated fans now maintain large collections of character figurines.

More: ‘Skylanders: Imaginators’ Hands-On

The toys-to-life market cooled significantly in recent years, leading to disappointing sales for 2016’s Skylanders Imaginators. During an investor call this week, Activision revealed that it has no plans to produce a Skylanders sequel for consoles in 2017, and will instead continue to support Skylanders Imaginators with the release of additional characters and level packs at retail.

Activision assures that the Skylanders series isn’t over, however. A port of Skylanders Imaginators will be available for the Nintendo Switch when the console launches on March 3, and fans can expect an all-new sequel to hit mobile platforms later this year.

10
Feb

Xiaomi reportedly building its own processors to break away from Qualcomm


Why it matters to you

More competition in the processor market is a good thing — and it means that chips could get faster and cheaper.

Many of the major smartphone manufacturers have developed quite a dependence on Qualcomm over the years, but new reports indicate that yet another manufacturer is looking to begin building its own chips so it can move away from Qualcomm. That manufacturer is Xiaomi, and it follows in the footsteps of the likes of Apple, Samsung, and Huawei, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

According to the report, Xiaomi is actually well into development of its own chip, which it calls Pinecone, and it could be released “within a month.” If the timing proves to be accurate, Pinecone could be the processor used in the Xiaomi Mi 6, which is expected to be released at some point in March.

More: Cuteness overload: Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 4X dedicated to virtual idol Hatsune Miku

The news isn’t totally surprising. Xiaomi is using a company called Beijing Pinecone Electronics for its chip development, and the company paid $15 million for a mobile processor company called Datang, which it acquired from Leadcore Technology in 2015.

These days, almost every device manufacturer that isn’t Apple, Samsung, or Huawei relies on Qualcomm for their high-end processors. Sometimes, that presents issues. For example, the Snapdragon 810 got a little hotter than usual, and most manufacturers were left with few alternatives. Even Samsung, which has its Exynos chip division, still uses Qualcomm chips a lot of the time.

Sometimes, supply is also an issue. Samsung is one of the major manufacturers of Qualcomm’s chips, and is expected to be the only company with access to the Snapdragon 835 for quite some time — leaving other manufacturers without Qualcomm’s flagship processor option for a while.

It will be interesting to see how Xiaomi’s processor efforts affect its business model. The company has so far struggled to launch as a real competitor in the West, despite making headlines with devices like the Xiaomi Mi Mix.

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