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17
Mar

Coffee Pot Terrarium is a challenging, gorgeous puzzler (review)


Overview:

Coffee Pot Terrarium is an oddly named, but very well polished puzzle game with beautiful visuals and simple gameplay.

Developer: Brothers Flint

Cost: $2.99

Impressions:

Coffee Pot Terrarium certainly doesn’t sound like the name of a turn-based puzzle game, but that’s exactly what it is. The game is very simple and offers a very zen-like look and feel. The visuals are minimal and stylized, and the music is very relaxing. All of this belies the challenge that the game poses in its levels.

There are no tutorials for this game, instead having you learn how the game works on the fly. Coffee Pot Terrarium is a turn-based game that requires careful planning to eliminate all the enemies on the board. You have a limited movement and attack range, similar to a game like Fire Emblem, and the placement of your character and close observation of the terrain is required to avoid accidental death. Rounds tend to only last a few minutes, but you’ll wind up repeating stages a few times each until you learn the tricks of the level.

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There are 21 levels total, across 7 environments that are all very appealing to look at, but the gameplay does get repetitive after a while, but no less difficult. I will say that the game has less replay value due to a lack of incentive, there’s no scoring methods or collectibles that would have compelled me to go back and try the levels again. The game could really use that to push it to the next level.

As it stands now, the game is very light on content for a three dollar game, but what it does have is very polished. The developers have done an excellent job of making the game look and sound good, and the controls are not frustrating to use for the most part, even for on-screen controls. The polish and challenge can make the price worth it if you are looking for a hard game that doesn’t take long to play.

Conclusion:

I’d have to say that of the games I’ve played on Android, Coffee Pot Terrarium is one of the nicest, most complete and challenging. The gameplay is smooth and addicting, and there are no microtransactions to be seen. The lack of replayability is disappointing but can be easily fixed by the developers in an update, and is probably the biggest complaint I had in my time playing. I’d recommend this game to anyone looking for a challenge in their Android gaming experience.

Download Coffee Pot Terrarium on the Google Play Store

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17
Mar

Google’s new JPEG encoder shrinks file sizes by up to 35 percent


Why it matters to you

Google’s new method of encoding JPEG files could help your web browser load pages significantly faster, without sacrificing image quality.

Google has unveiled a new open source algorithm that can dramatically reduce the size of JPEG images. Guetzil — named for the Swiss German term for a cookie — is a JPEG encoder that can reportedly produce high quality images with file sizes that are 35 percent smaller than the norm.

Like Google’s Zopfli algorithm for PNG and gzip files, Guetzil offers smaller file sizes without sacrificing compatibility with existing web browsers, image processing applications, or the JPEG standard. This sets the algorithm apart from other methods of reducing JPEG file sizes, like RNN-based image compression, RAISR, and WebP.

Guetzil works by focusing on the quantization stage of the compression process. It uses an advanced psychovisual model that attempts to strike a balance between small file sizes and image fidelity by honing in on the kind of details that the human eye is drawn to, according to a post published to the Google Research Blog.

More: Google’s new Brotli algorithm is about to supercharge web browsing

The downside to this methodology is that compression takes significantly longer than currently available methods. However, tests have found that people preferred images compressed using Guetzil to those encoded with libjpeg, even when the latter images were slightly larger. Google describes the slower compression process as a “worthy tradeoff.”

If Guetzil is broadly implemented, users could be able to enjoy a smoother, more responsive experience while browsing the internet. The smaller image sizes would help pages load faster, and could even allow users on a data plan to use less of their allocation loading images.

The researchers behind the project hope to see webmasters and graphic designers adopt the open-source algorithm. The team also suggests that the psychovisual approach adopted by the project will inspire further research into the way our eyes perceive compressed images and video.

17
Mar

Dallas says “ghost calls” to 911 from T-Mobile customers aren’t to blame for deaths


Why it matters to you

Our nation’s 911 emergency system is facing a slew of issues — not only a huge cyberattack, but also huge backlogs.

An enormous backlog of calls coming from T-Mobile customers in Dallas’ 911 center was thought to be the culprit behind a tragic death in the area, but now, it appears that the city no longer believes so-called “ghost calls” are to blame. This week, top executives from the Bellevue, Washington-based cellphone service provider paid a visit to the Texas metropolis to discuss why calls from T-Mobile customers have been flooding the emergency hotline. Last week, a child died after his babysitter’s repeated calls to 911 went unanswered. But it seems as though the issue has been tied to a “backlog of legitimate 911 calls, not ghost calls, which aren’t initiated by a person,” as per a new Wall Street Journal report.

The problem of ghost calls first emerged last fall. T-Mobile customers would call 911, but their phones would then repeatedly redial the number even after the original intended call had been completed. These “ghost” calls forced operators to call every single number back to ensure that the hangup wasn’t related to a real emergency, creating a huge backlog. According to Dallas spokeswoman Sana Syed, more than 400 calls ended up being placed on hold due to an influx in ghost calls on the Saturday when the 6-month-old boy lost his life.

More: Uncontrollable iPhone calls to 911 last fall could have been a huge cyberattack

This has become a recurring problem. Earlier this month, the city reported that another string of ghost calls caused more than 360 calls to be placed on hold, sometimes for up to 30 minutes. T-Mobile noted that Dallas is the only city in which this problem has been reported, and that its engineers will remain in the area until the issue is fully addressed.

Happily, it seems as though progress was made rather quickly. Beginning this weekend, Dallas plans to add a dozen additional call takers per day, and is also looking into technology upgrades. Further, T-Mobile says that it has made adjustments in its own network to ensure easy access to 911.

“T-Mobile committed resources in Dallas until we made progress, and they have kept their promise,” said City Manager T.C. Broadnax. “We want our citizens to know that their safety is our number one priority and they can count on us when they call 911.”

“I’m pleased that our staff and T-Mobile worked through the night and have determined some immediate technological upgrades that will better serve our citizens calling 911,” said Mayor Mike Rawlings. “I’m also encouraged that City Manager T.C. Broadnax has committed to increasing staffing and recommending any other budgetary enhancements to our 911 call center.”

Updated to reflect the city of Dallas’ latest conclusion that ghost calls were not to blame for 911 backlog. 

17
Mar

Next Asus tablet may offer 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, according to leaked specs


Why it matters to you

In the market for a new tablet? Depending on the price, this Asus tablet could be an excellent option.

Asus may be prepping a new Android tablet. A mysterious Asus-branded tablet was recently spotted on benchmarking service GFXBench, and it seemingly comes with some very interesting specs.

The device sports the latest and greatest version of Android, Nougat, along with an Imagination Technologies PowerVR Rogue GX6250 GPU, 64GB of storage, and 4GB of RAM. It also has a 7MP rear-facing camera and a 4.7MP front-facing camera. The display on the tablet sits at 9.6-inches, along with a resolution of 2048 x 1536. Last but not least is the processor, and while it is unnamed, it seems to be a dodeca-core chipset with a clock-speed of 2.1GHz.

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

It certainly seems like a nice tablet that will sit somewhere in the mid- to high-end range — so it won’t be as powerful as the top flagships of the year, but it’ll be somewhere right below. There’s no word yet as to when the tablet will be launched or what Asus is calling it, and as usual there’s always the possibility that the company will change the specs before it launches the device. As far as price goes, there’s nothing official just yet, but it should sit somewhere in the $300 to $400 range.

Asus is one of the shrinking list of manufacturers devoting quite a lot of time and energy into its tablet range — along with the likes of Samsung. The company recently unveiled an LTE-capable version of the ZenPad 3S 10, which boasted a Snapdragon 650 processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and a 9.7-inch display with a resolution of 2048 x 1536. All with a price tag of $405.

It’s likely we’ll hear more about this new Asus tablet throughout the coming months before its official launch, and we’ll update this article as we do.

17
Mar

Next Asus tablet may offer 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, according to leaked specs


Why it matters to you

In the market for a new tablet? Depending on the price, this Asus tablet could be an excellent option.

Asus may be prepping a new Android tablet. A mysterious Asus-branded tablet was recently spotted on benchmarking service GFXBench, and it seemingly comes with some very interesting specs.

The device sports the latest and greatest version of Android, Nougat, along with an Imagination Technologies PowerVR Rogue GX6250 GPU, 64GB of storage, and 4GB of RAM. It also has a 7MP rear-facing camera and a 4.7MP front-facing camera. The display on the tablet sits at 9.6-inches, along with a resolution of 2048 x 1536. Last but not least is the processor, and while it is unnamed, it seems to be a dodeca-core chipset with a clock-speed of 2.1GHz.

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

It certainly seems like a nice tablet that will sit somewhere in the mid- to high-end range — so it won’t be as powerful as the top flagships of the year, but it’ll be somewhere right below. There’s no word yet as to when the tablet will be launched or what Asus is calling it, and as usual there’s always the possibility that the company will change the specs before it launches the device. As far as price goes, there’s nothing official just yet, but it should sit somewhere in the $300 to $400 range.

Asus is one of the shrinking list of manufacturers devoting quite a lot of time and energy into its tablet range — along with the likes of Samsung. The company recently unveiled an LTE-capable version of the ZenPad 3S 10, which boasted a Snapdragon 650 processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and a 9.7-inch display with a resolution of 2048 x 1536. All with a price tag of $405.

It’s likely we’ll hear more about this new Asus tablet throughout the coming months before its official launch, and we’ll update this article as we do.

17
Mar

Netflix might explore mobile-specific cuts of movies, television shows


Why it matters to you

As more and more people take to their phones to watch Netflix, the company is looking to make content specific to that audience.

Netflix is considering making a special version of its shows just for the mobile generation. Earlier this week, Neil Hunt, Netflix chief product officer, said that the company might be exploring “mobile-specific cuts of its original movies and TV shows,” The Verge reported. This ought to appeal to the growing proportion of Netflix users who are consuming content primarily via their mobile devices.

“It’s not inconceivable that you could take a master [copy] and make a different cut for mobile,” Hunt said. And while Netflix hasn’t done this in the past, Hunt noted, “it’s something we will explore over the next few years.”

More: Netflix is replacing star ratings with a simple thumbs-up/thumbs-down system

This certainly wouldn’t be the first time a content provider looked to create a mobile-specific experience. The NBA last year debuted a new Mobile View to make watching basketball games on your handheld device much easier. In fact, in order to cater to their mobile fans, the NBA introduced a dedicated camera, cameraman, and mobile producer to all 29 NBA arenas.

According to Hunt, Netflix would look to create versions of their shows with scenes or shots that can be seen more easily with a smartphone, or on a smaller screen. And while Netflix is doing a lot with HDR technology, which promises a wider range of colors on television sets, Hunt noted that HDR isn’t only for viewing on the big screen. There’s plenty of room for innovation in that area on smartphones as well, he said.

While Netflix consumption happens mostly on TVs here in the U.S. and in Canada, Hunt noted that consumers in other parts of the world are using other devices. In fact, in Asian countries like India, Hunt says, “mobile screens are the majority consumption device.”

17
Mar

Snag this Dell Inspiron 15-inch 2-in-1 laptop for only $399 (20 percent off)


If you want the portability of a tablet but need the power of a laptop, 2-in-1 laptops are the way to go. They pack the power and performance of a PC but and are designed to fold backward and convert into a tablet. These convertible laptops range in price depending on features, but right now you can score a Dell i5368 Inspiron 2-in-1 15-inch laptop for only $400.

More: CES 2017 Proves 2-In-1S Are Becoming The New Normal

The Dell i5368 Inspiron 2-in-1 15-inch laptop comes complete with an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB RAM, 500 GB hard drive, and an LED touchscreen with 1080p resolution. With a 6th-generation Intel Core processor, web pages, games, applications, and more run side by side with impressive speed. You will also enjoy a longer than average battery life, allowing you to take the 2-in-1 laptop with you on the go, without constantly searching for a power outlet.

Thanks to a versatile 360-degree hinge, this Dell laptop features four different modes: laptop, tent, stand, and tablet. Go from typing to tapping seamlessly, taking advantage of the large 15.6-inch screen. The display allows for wide-angle-viewing and has a 1,920-by-1,080 resolution that provides both a crisp, detailed picture on-screen and clear viewing from any position. The LED screen displays premium picture quality Intel HD graphics card. In addition to top-notch picture quality, audio quality is also up to par. The machine boasts Waves MaxxAudio that delivers studio-quality sound including lower lows and higher highs.

Integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity ensure you can stay constantly connected. The Dual Band Wireless technology provides fast Wi-Fi across an extended range, to reduce buffering and allow you to enjoy surfing, streaming, or chatting throughout without disruption. The Wi-Fi also gives you faster downloads and longer range from your Wi-Fi router.

The Dell i5368 Inspiron 2-in-1 15-inch laptop regularly retails for $499 but is currently discounted to $399 on Walmart, providing 20 percent, or $100 in savings.

$399 on Walmart

17
Mar

Latest Microsoft Surface Book rumor says it won’t be a 2-in-1 machine


Why it matters to you

If you’ve been waiting impatiently for a Surface Book 2, then this rumor wants to squash your dreams.

One of the more pressing questions in PCs right now is what’s coming next in Microsoft’s Surface line. The Surface Studio was added in October 2016, and the Surface Book received its Performance Base refresh. But the Surface Pro 5 is highly anticipated, and a Surface Book 2 upgrade seems likely.

There’s a new rumor in town that suggests Microsoft will go in a completely different direction with its premier Windows 10 2-in-1, the Surface Book. Specifically, the rumor says that the company will abandon the 2-in-1 format altogether and make a traditional clamshell notebook instead, as Digitimes reports.

More: What will the Surface Pro 5 look like? Here are the rumors

According to “sources from the related upstream supply chain,” the newest Surface Book will be a lower-cost variant that will compete directly against traditional notebooks. In fact, according to the same sources, the new model is already in production and will be announced yet this March or April at the latest.

Rumors always abound when it comes to important products like Microsoft’s Surface line. Some rumors make more sense than others, and it’s easy to see why this particular rumor makes less. The alleged impetus behind such a decision is that Microsoft needs a lower-priced Surface Book to spur demand for today’s low-volume and pricey models, and that the Surface Book cuts into sales of the Surface Pro 4.

As long as we’re speculating, we need to consider that the ability to convert Surface devices from one format to another has been the line’s hallmark since the first Surface was introduced. Microsoft was concerned about the state of the touch-centric PC market and how well it highlighted its new Windows 8 operating system. Traditional Windows PCs were doing just fine given Intel’s Ultrabook initiative, and rather it was the lack of good machines to show off Windows 8 that Microsoft likely felt the need to address.

At the same time, Surface Pro 4 sales have been quite strong, and Microsoft demonstrated with the extremely expensive Surface Studio — which has also sold better than expected — that the company is both willing and able to sell at the very highest end. If Microsoft does something with pricing, it’s easier to predict that they’ll make the new Surface Book even more expensive. After all, its OEM partners are making better and better 2-in-1s that show off Windows 10’s capabilities, and Microsoft has less reason to compete directly with them.

Ultimately, if someone were placing a bet on a lower-priced Surface Book, then it may be more logical to assert that Microsoft would introduce a 360-degree convertible style machine. The high-tech muscle wire detachable mechanism and tablet-centric design probably add a bit to the price of today’s Surface Book, and lower-tech hinges and a more traditional design might be less expensive to produce.

But this is all speculation, of course. Only Microsoft knows what it’s planning to do with the Surface Book, and with the Surface Pro 4, for that matter. And so far, Microsoft isn’t talking.

17
Mar

Windows 7, 8.1 users with newer Intel, AMD CPUs will soon lose Windows Update


Why it matters to you

If you’re running an older version of Windows with a newer CPU, Microsoft is about to make it very difficult for you to avoid upgrading to Windows 10.

It seems that Microsoft is preparing to implement a new strategy to convince PC users with systems that utilize certain processors to upgrade to Windows 10. PCs running Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 that are fitted with newer CPUs will soon be unable to receive updates via Windows Update.

Confirmation that this previously announced policy will soon take effect came via an article recently published to Microsoft’s support website. The troubleshooting guide helps users respond to an error that reads, “Your PC uses a processor that isn’t supported on this version of Windows,” when they attempt to use Windows Update.

Intel’s Kaby Lake processors and AMD’s Ryzen line will be among the CPUs that require users to upgrade to Windows 10, according to a report from Ars Technica. When Microsoft first announced this policy, Skylake processors were also set to be affected, but the company changed its mind, making an announcement in August 2016.

More: AMD presses its advantage with affordable Ryzen 5 processors, available April 11

The only recourse given by the support article is to update the system to Windows 10. Microsoft is giving users a very clear decision to make; either upgrade to the latest version of Windows, or run the risk of falling behind on essential security updates.

Of course, support for both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 is going to be discontinued eventually — the former version is already in extended support, which means that it only receives security fixes. However, enforcing this policy demonstrates that Microsoft is prepared to be aggressive as it attempts to get as many Windows users as possible to upgrade to Windows 10.

The company’s previous methods of convincing users to make the jump have upset some, and this policy is sure to ruffle feathers as well. At present, there are reports that Windows Update is still functional for users working with older version of Windows and newer CPUs, but the fact that support documentation has already been published suggests that this new restriction will soon be enforced.

17
Mar

Angry customers file class-action suit against LG over G4, V10 bootloop issues


Why it matters to you

Lawsuits like this keep big tech companies in check. If you’ve experienced these bootloop issues, you’ll want LG to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

It looks like LG G4 and V10 users are taking their frustrations to the next level. LG has been suffering more than a few bootloop issues when it comes to the G4 and V10 over the past few months, and users of those devices who are dealing with those issues are now filing a class-action lawsuit.

The case was recently filed with the California federal court, and the plaintiffs claim that the G4 was acknowledged by LG as having “loose contact between components,” which is what caused the bootloop issues. Despite allegedly knowing, LG didn’t recall the device, nor did it stop production of the phone or fix the issue. That’s despite the fact that LG did acknowledge the problem and did offer replacements for a time. Those replacements, however, reportedly didn’t come with a fix, and eventually fell into the same issues.

More: Time for a replacement? Google Nexus 6P bootloop caused by hardware issue

So what’s the big deal with bootloops? When a phone enters a bootloop, it repeatedly restarts itself. According to the suit, the damages included things like loss of data — which can be a real pain when experienced. In terms of monetary value, the amount the plaintiffs are seeking will be “determined at trial,” but they’re also seeking a “comprehensive program to repair all LG phones containing the bootloop defect.” They’ll also seek that LG pay legal fees and costs.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen big issues as a result of bootloops — in fact, it’s not even the first time we’ve seen them from LG. The LG-built Google Nexus 5X was also victim of bootlooping issues, and last we heard LG was offering full refunds to users of the device — all of which were experiencing bootloop problems, rendering their devices unusable. It’s unknown exactly why LG didn’t offer the same refund to users of the G4 or V10 phones — it may have avoided the newly announced lawsuit had it done so.

It will be interesting to see how this case progresses, and we’ll update this article when we hear more.

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