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9
Mar

Review roundup: Nvidia retains gaming crown with GTX 1080 Ti, but it’s spendy


Why it matters to you

If you have deep pockets, the GTX 1080 Ti offers the purest 4K gaming graphics card money can buy.

Nvidia has once again recaptured the graphics performance crown from — itself, with the release of the GTX 1080 Ti. A monstrously powerful, single graphics processor (GPU) card, the 1080 Ti eclipses the previous powerhouse, the Pascal Titan X, and comes in cheaper, too, but it’s still a $700 graphics card, which means very few will ever own one.

Much as AMD’s Ryzen CPUs have the potential to force Intel to innovate and be a bit more consumer friendly with its pricing, many hope that AMD’s upcoming Vega GPU can do the same for Nvidia. However until that happens in the second quarter of this year, Nvidia is the king of the hill once again, and even if it hasn’t innovated much with the 1080 Ti, it’s still the biggest and baddest card out there.

More: Asus gears up to sell three graphics cards based on the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti

The GTX 1080 Ti comes in with similar specifications to the Pascal Titan X, with slightly less memory (11GB of GDDR5X vs 12GB) but higher clock speeds. That means that it’s able to achieve a few extra points and frames per second in most benchmarks, especially at higher resolutions. It makes a bigger leapfrog over the slightly more mainstream GTX 1080, but though ArsTechnica is happy to recommend it for that fact, it’s not sure if the price hike is worth it.

“The GTX 1080 Ti is good value when compared to a Titan X, but its performance increase over the GTX 1080 (30 percent) doesn’t quite match the price increase (40 percent),” reviewer Mark Walton said.

Part of that improvement comes from the GTX 1080 Ti using second-generation GDDR5X memory, which Anandtech goes into more detail on. This is part of why it’s happy to claim that, “NVIDIA is finally reaching the point where they can offer no-compromises 4K gaming,” which is a sentiment echoed by a number of reviewers.

The GTX 1080 Ti can do 4K, with everything on Ultra, with just about every game.

Eurogamer said much the same in its review of the new card, though also paid special attention to its redesigned cooler. While the GTX 1080 Ti will launch in the typical Nvidia “Founder’s Edition,” it has seen some redesign.

“[The] redesigned cooling set-up […] sees airflow improve by 2x compared to the Titan.” It goes on to say that, “The new cooling arrangement certainly pays off, with 1080 Ti able to stay cooler under load, significantly so when pushing beyond factory clocks.”

More: AMD’s upcoming Vega-based graphics cards will be called Radeon RX Vega

When it comes to overclocking, KitGuru was able to add an extra 150Mhz to the core and 200Mhz (effective) to the memory, while Trusted Reviews was able to hit close to 2GHz for some stable benchmark loops. It did however highlight that it draws more than 70w more power than the GTX 1080, and so it warned that, “This could be all the difference for those with builds that have 500W power supplies.”

Others however, ignored such problems, suggesting that anyone spending $700-plus on a graphics card isn’t going to be concerned by the constraints of a 500w PSU. PC Gamer’s coverage laments the fact that you can buy an entirely reasonable, budget gaming system for under $700, but suggests that “If you’re a computing/gaming enthusiast with deep pockets, the GTX 1080 Ti is now the card to get.”

But that’s only for now. Alongside the sentiment that the GTX 1080 Ti is now the card to beat when it comes to top-tier performance, most sites seemed to agree that a strong showing from AMD later this year could quickly change that. As Tom’s Hardware puts it at the end of its glowing review of the new Nvidia card, “It’s hard for us to imagine a scenario where Radeon RX Vega delivers notably better performance per dollar than what we just tested. But we invite AMD to prove us wrong. Really. AMD, please.”

The Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti launches on March 10, with the $700 Founder’s Edition version. Expect third-party partner versions of the card to show up in the coming weeks.

9
Mar

Uber prohibits future use of Greyball for avoiding law enforcement personnel


Why it matters to you

Uber allegedly skirting law enforcement is another troubling issue for a company that has seen its share of legal trouble.

U.S. city and international authorities allege Uber has been systematically using a software tool called “Greyball” to elude law enforcement in areas where the ride-sharing service has been banned, according to The New York Times.  Uber recently posted an explanation of its uses of “greyballing” in the company’s online newsroom defending the tool and announcing a review of past use.

Greyball is part of a larger program — violation of terms of service (VTOS) — the company uses to detect people it believes are misusing or targeting Uber’s ridesharing service. In Uber’s post, the company’s Chief Security Office Joe Sullivan wrote that greyballing is used to hide the regular Uber app screen from individual users in order to test new features by employees, for marketing promotions, to prevent fraud, protect drivers from physical harm, and “to deter riders using the app in violation of our terms of service.”

More: Uber does a U-turn and applies for a California self-driving permit

Stating that Greyball was approved by the legal team as early as 2014 and is used primarily outside the United States, The New York Times attributed its information about the program to four current and former Uber employees, who showed documentation about the program and how it was used.

According to the report, this is how Greyball allegedly worked: When Uber went into new markets where the service was not approved or where local regulators specifically did not allow the company to operate, Uber employees would locate areas where law enforcement officers would gather as well as specific people opening the Uber app to determine if they were associated with law enforcement. What Uber allegedly wanted to avoid was having drivers pick up law enforcement officers who would impound the vehicles and issue tickets to the drivers.

With the gathered information, Uber’s software could use geofencing to detect when calls came from areas where there were many law enforcement personnel. Identified individual callers were also detected. In either case, rather than seeing the normal Uber map, the callers would see “ghost cars” that didn’t really exist or get a message that no cars were available.

Prior to Uber being legally available in Portland, Oregon, mayor Ted Wheeler said,  “I am very concerned that Uber may have purposefully worked to thwart the city’s job to protect the public.”

The New York Times cited Dutch European Parliament member Marietje Schaake stating she had “written to the European Commission asking, among other things, if it planned to investigate the legality of Greyball.”

In the Uber Newsroom blog, Sullivan announced a review of the ways Greyball has been used. “In addition, we are expressly prohibiting its use to target action by local regulators going forward,” Sullivan wrote. “Given the way our systems are configured, it will take some time to ensure this prohibition is fully enforced. We’ve had a number of organizations reach out for information and we will be working to respond to their inquiries once we have finished our review.”

9
Mar

New smartphone company Maze’s first device will have a bezel-less screen


Why it matters to you

True bezel-less screens on smartphones are the future, and a new company is about to make its mark by introducing one.

The Xiaomi Mi Mix is one of the most striking smartphones we’ve seen in the last year or so, breaking from design convention and including technology we expect to see more of in the future. However, it’s not the only one looking to make a splash with an edge-to-edge display on a cutting-edge smartphone. Step forward, industry newcomer Maze, which has started teasing a phone called the Alpha.

We don’t know much about it at the moment, but we’re told the screen will stretch from edge to edge, and cover the majority of the front panel. It’s set to measure either 5.5 or 6 inches, and feature an AMOLED panel with Gorilla Glass 4 protecting it. The resolution isn’t known, but we’d expect it to be 1920 x 1080 pixels at the least.

More: We’ve seen the future of smartphones, and it’s really exciting

The teaser image shows a super thin bezel around the top and sides of the Alpha, much like the Mi Mix, and a view of the rear reveals a dual-lens camera next to a flash. No specifications for the camera are available, but we do know the sensors will come from Sony. Maze will use Android 7.0 Nougat as the Alpha’s operating system. We’re hoping it won’t have a heavy user interface over the top, and remain close to Google’s standard software. Maze is targeting Europe with the Alpha, and so far hasn’t mentioned releasing it in the United States, or how much the Alpha will end up costing.

How long will we have to wait to see the Alpha? Surprisingly, not that long. Maze intends to have the phone on sale in April. That’s not a final date, and because this is a new phone from a new company, it may end up changing. There’s considerable muscle behind the project though, with Maze being part of a larger corporation based in Shenzhen, China, with more than 850 employees, an 80-person strong research and development team, and partnerships with everyone from Qualcomm and Samsung to Japan Display and MediaTek. We’re looking forward to hearing more.

Let’s just hope the Alpha ends up being less of a slippery little devil than the Mi Mix.

9
Mar

Google’s next-gen reCAPTCHA test will disappear if it concludes you’re human


Why it matters to you

ReCAPTCHA tests — those internet fill-in-the-blanks that require you to transcribe blurry letters — are going the way of the dodo.

If you’ve ever submitted a form on the internet (and who hasn’t?), chances are you’ve had to transcribe a series of blurry letters and digits to a blank box. It’s a form of challenge-response testing called CAPTCHAs (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart), and it’s designed to prevent clever ‘bots from hammering websites with nonsense data. One of the most widely adopted forms is Google’s reCAPTCHA, which displays as many as 100 million tests every day. But starting on Thursday, the search giant is getting rid of ’em.

Google is introducing “invisible reCAPTCHAs,” or CAPTCHAs that automatically disappear when a human user is detected. Form fillers that trip Google’s Advanced Risk Analysis algorithms will still have to solve the CAPTCHA test, but most users won’t see it at all.

More: Robots have learned to read, so Google has killed CAPTCHAs

That’s apparently thanks to “advanced analysis techniques” that consider a user’s “entire engagement” with CAPTCHA and “evaluate a broad range of cues.” It’s more than a one-time deal — Google says it “actively consider[s] a user’s engagement with the CAPTCHA — before, during, and after — to determine whether that user is a human.”

Google acquired reCAPTCHA from a team at Carnegie Mellon University’s main Pittsburgh campus, and since then, it has made it free. That has helped it grow into one of the most widely used CAPTCHA providers in the world, and the anti-spam test of choice for Facebook, TicketMaster, Twitter, 4chan, CNN.com, StumbleUpon, Craigslist, and tens of thousands of others.

Google has used the results of reCAPTCHAs for social good. As part of the project, it has digitized more than 13 million articles from The New York Times dating from 1851 to the present day, and transcribed tomes too illegible to be scanned by computers. The results of reCAPTCHA tests have helped to translate books into different languages, verified the characters of street addresses in Google’s Street View mapping service, and supplied researchers with data for “next-generation Artificial Intelligence.”

More: Prove you’re human by identifying gibberish words, because computers suck at that

In 2014, Google began to replace the reCAPTCHA system with a simpler alternative called No CAPTCHA ReCAPTCHA: A checkbox saying “I’m not a robot.” Using a system of clues such as cookies — small pieces of data sent from a website and stored on a user’s computer by the user’s web browser — and mouse movements, the improved reCAPTCHA was able to distinguish non-human users from ‘bots almost instantaneously.

Now, reCAPTCHA won’t even ask you to lift a finger. And that’s probably a good thing — a researcher recently demonstrated a flaw that taps Google’s own services to bypass reCAPTCHA’s encryption.

9
Mar

Google says some Pixels have defective microphones and need to be replaced under warranty


Some Google Pixel and Pixel XL units have been affected by a microphone hardware issue. This is what you need to do.

Google can’t seem to figure out its Pixel problem. Not only does the best phone of 2016 (and beyond) have some major inventory problems, but when it’s not working properly, it’s really not working properly. Take the latest issue the company is dealing with. Since the phone’s release, an increasing number of people have been complaining about the microphone issues — one day it will be able to make calls and record audio, the next day, nothing.

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Turns out that in “under 1% of devices,” a tiny crack in the solder connecting the audio codec chip to the main motherboard causes the phone to lose audio processing abilities. More frustrating is that, according to Google employee Brian Rakowski, some users were intermittently getting microphone use back, since the solder, depending on whether conditions and the severity of the crack, would occasionally re-establish a connection.

Based on temperature changes or the way you hold the phone, the connection may be temporarily restored and the problems may go away. This is especially frustrating as a user because, just when you think you’ve got it fixed, the problem randomly comes back. We believe this problem is occurring << 1% of phones and often happens after a few months of use (it could be triggered by dropping the phone that may not cause any visible external damage).

Rakowski also says that a very small number of units just have defective microphones. Either way, the phone needs to be replaced under warranty, either by Google or the carrier/retailer from which it was purchased. Google says it is honoring all warranty claims for this particular problem.

The Google employee goes on to reassure users that all Pixels sold after January won’t have the audio disconnection issue because the solder has been reinforced during manufacturing.

Does your Pixel have this issue, or have you experienced any other hardware-related problems that needed to be fixed under warranty?

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9
Mar

Snapseed: Everything you need to know about Google’s photo editing powerhouse


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Snapseed’s professional quality editing tools let you fix your photos on the go.

We are in a time when taking photos at the spur of the moment is easier than ever. With a smartphone in your pocket, you can snap photos practically anywhere you are, so long as your phone has battery life. However, not every photo turns out the way you want it to, and you can’t really go back and recreate an image after the moment has passed. That’s where the magic of photo editing with Snapseed pops up. This app will let you correct tone, adjust angles, tweak white balance, and so much more. If you’re not acquainted with Snapseed it can be a lot to take in. That’s why we’ve got details on the many awesome features contained here.

Tutorials

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If you aren’t already a regular user of Photoshop, Lightroom, or other intensive photo editing programs, then everything included in Snapseed will definitely be overwhelming. So if you’re just starting out, you’ll want to look near the bottom of the screen for the insights tab. Tap on it and it will open a page that lets you scroll through a variety of tutorials. Each tutorial will allow you to edit a photo in order to achieve a specific look, whether it’s a type of lens blur, or seventies style photo fade.

Each tutorial includes step by step instructions, along with an estimate of how long it will take to get the effect you are striving for. The directions are first broken into simple steps then explained in detail complete with screenshots to help you learn the app layout. There are over two dozen different tutorials to help get you started with the basics of Snapseed, as well as grasp more complicated concepts.

Tools

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One of the biggest features contained within Snapseed is its suite of tools. These allow you to tweak specific parts of your photos, such as white balance, tone, and perspective. Snapseed includes 12 different tools for you to use, and all of them are quite easy to implement. All that you need to do is tap on the tool that you want for your image, and then use the slider bar to adjust how you want your photo to look. Once you have gotten the effect that you want, all you need to do is tap the checkmark to save your progress on the edit.

The suite of tools at your disposal are nothing to be scoffed at. They are set up in a way that is easy to find and select the right tool for the job. Even after you have applied a tool, if you don’t like the changes that have been made, you can undo your last edit. If you decide after undoing a specific edit that you did like it, it’s easy to redo the action at the tap of a button. You can also view your edits, which lets you see all of the effects and filters that you have used.

Filters

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Anyone who has used Instagram before is familiar with filters. These are specific effects that are settled over your photo to give it a particular look, without needing to manually edit every inch of the photo. Snapseed delivers 13 different filters to use and these vary from Lens Blurs and Glamour Glow, to Grunge or Black and White. Each filter has its own set of effects that will modify your photo. However that doesn’t mean that you won’t have control over how those filters look on your photo.

Each filter has its own setting of modifications that you have control over. At the top of the screen is a slider bar that will let you adjust how the filter settles over your photo. At the bottom of your screen are the different options for the filter. These tend to be small variants on the white balance, and look of each filter. This means that there are tons of options within each filter to allow you to fine tune the way that everything looks.

Sharing your photos

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Saving and sharing the photos that you have edited is also exceedingly easy with Snapseed. At the top of the main screen, there is a download icon. If you tap on this you’ll be able to save, share, or export your edits. Tap share to open up the share menu with all available social media apps. This means that you can apply professional edits to your favorite selfie, and then upload it to Instagram, or any other social media that you have installed on your phone. You can also share directly to a messenger client if you want someone in particular to see your photos.

Make every photo awesome

Snapseed is brimming with great features that give you access to a creative suite of editing software for true control over all of your favorite photos. Whether you just need to adjust the white balance, or you’re looking to do more in depth edits, Snapseed can easily handle it. As you learn how to master the app, getting the exact look that you want will be easier than ever. Have you ever used Snapseed? Got any awesome tips we haven’t mentioned here? Be sure to drop us a line in the comments below and tell us about it!

Download: Snapseed (Free)

9
Mar

Gboard adds emoji and GIF suggestions, in-line Google Translate and new themes


Google’s (still oddly named) Gboard keyboard is getting even smarter.

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The whole idea of Gboard is offering you access to tons of intelligence and Google services anywhere a keyboard is displayed, and today’s updates show the real power of this platform. With the latest update on Android, Gboard can now auto-suggest both emoji and GIFs while you type, letting you insert either based on the context of what you’re typing — in the case of emoji, with a tap you can replace the words with the emoji directly. GIFs can be inserted into apps like Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Hangouts and Allo.

Showing even more of Google’s muscle, you can also now use Google Translate directly in the keyboard — just tap the “G” button, select the incoming and outgoing languages, and type. Your output will automatically be sent in the new language right into your chat app, or anywhere else you want to call up a keyboard.

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A bit further down the feature list, but still important, is the addition of new themes to customize Gboard and a smoother interface transition from voice to touch typing. Add in the expansion of all of these features to some right-to-left languages like Arabic, Hebrew and Farsi, and so many more people will get extra value out of Gboard with a single app update.

The new update is rolling out in the Google Play Store right now. So get ready to explore some new Gboard features in the next couple of days.

9
Mar

Galaxy S8 FCC listings suggest unlocked phones might come sooner than later


FCC listings for the Samsung Galaxy S8 confirm full support for U.S. carriers, and hint at an earlier release of the unlocked model.

We’re still a few weeks out from Samsung’s official event to unveil the Galaxy S8 and S8+ to the world, but more and more details are continuing to leak out.

The latest comes from Droid Life, who tracked down the FCC filings for Samsung devices under model numbers SM-G950 and SM-G955 — the Galaxy S8 and S8+ respectively. Also found were model numbers SM-G950U and SM-G955U, with the “U” representing the unlocked variant of the new phone.

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This chart above shows all the different wireless carrier bands that the S8 and S8+ plus will support and it would appear that the phones will work with all US carriers. Of specific interest are the LTE bands, which include 2, 4, 5, 12, 13, 17, 25, 26, 30, 41, and 66. For more information on what all that means, you can learn which radio bands each carrier supports here.

While support for all the major carriers is great, the most interesting thing to note here is the filings for the unlocked variants of the S8 and S8+. For last year’s flagship, Samsung held off on releasing an unlocked version of the Galaxy S7 until June — months after the initial release of the carrier-locked phones.

This is purely speculation, but could Samsung be planning to release the unlocked variant of the Galaxy S8 and S8+ at launch alongside the carrier-locked versions? We’ve never been fans of the bloatware and delayed updates linked to carrier-locked phones, so we’d be pleasantly surprised if Samsung decides to mixes things up this year.

Either way, we’re loving following all these little leaks of info ahead of the launch event!

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus

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9
Mar

Make a Samsung Galaxy S6 your next phone for just $265


Our friends at Thrifter are back again, this time scoring you a Galaxy S6 at a huge discount.

Samsung’s Galaxy S6 may not be the latest or greatest option from the company, but at just $264.99 it is hard to pass up. Through a trusted eBay seller you can pick up a Verizon or AT&T variant of the 64GB Galaxy S6 in your choice of white, gold, or black at a huge discount. Whether you are looking for a great backup phone or something new for the kids, the Galaxy S6 still has a very capable camera and with 64GB of internal storage you’ll be able to load it up with music and videos without worrying.

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Considering the Galaxy S6 has glass on both the front and back of it, you may want to consider ordering a protective case for it to avoid it getting damaged easily. There is only a limited quantity of these remaining, so be sure to grab one now if you are interested.

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For more great deals on tech, gadgets, home goods and more, be sure to check out our friends at Thrifter now!

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9
Mar

Hey look — Facebook Messenger is now copying Snapchat, too


If Snapchat does it, you can sure bet Facebook’s apps will do it.

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Facebook-owned Instagram has not-so-subtly followed in Snapchat’s path for many of its recent feature additions, and now Facebook’s own Messenger app is doing the same. With the announcement of the “Messenger Day” feature, Facebook Messenger is going straight after Snapchat Stories as well.

The writing was on the wall since Messenger added quick access to a camera interface late in 2016, but with this latest update it isn’t just for single photos and videos. Messenger Day lets you chronicle your day in order from start to finish, creating a timeline of photos and videos augmented with plenty of filters and stickers along the way.

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You can add to your Day feed explicitly from the main Messenger interface, or choose things from your group chats to include. You can delete individual items if you need, and can of course control who can see your Day timeline, restricting to specific groups or leaving it wide open for everyone. Everything that lands in Messenger Day will be deleted after 24 hours, though, so Facebook is hoping there won’t be much incentive to hold back from sharing.

The Messenger Day feature is hitting all Facebook Messenger users now, and if you’re already using the massively popular chat app you may give it a try. If not, the rest of Messengers features will continue to live on just as they did.

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