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4
Apr

Apple confirms new iMacs are coming this year


Apple has taken the somewhat unusual step of pre-announcing some products that it’s working on, which includes a refreshed iMac desktop lineup that will ship later this year. 

  • Apple iMac with Retina 5K display (2017) review: Pixel-packed powerhouse

Speaking at a round table discussion, Phil Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of marketing said the company is going to think about the pro user when designing the new computer, too. 

“We’re going to begin making configurations of iMac specifically with the pro customer in mind”, he said, although just what constitutes a machine for pro users could be argued. Schiller didn’t give away what features the new iMac would come with, nor did he comment on speculation of an iMac Pro name.

But if you thought the idea of an iMac Pro would include a touchscreen for the first time, Schiller is more than happy to quash those dreams right away. He said: “Touch doesn’t even register on the list of things pro users are interested in talking about”.

“They’re interested in things like performance and storage and expandibility”. 

Microsoft clearly thinks differently, as it announced its iMac rival, the Surface Studio, towards the end of 2016. The Surface Studio features a huge 28in touchscreen which is on a hinge, and is targeted at designers, drawers and content creators.

  • Microsoft Surface Studio vs Apple iMac: What’s the difference?

The iMac is already a powerful machine, and has evolved from a consumer computer to one that is used by professionals worldwide. Craig Federighi, Apple’s Senior Vice President of software engineering said: “The original iMac you wouldn’t have thought of as remotely touching pro uses.”

“But today’s 5K iMac in its top configurations? It’s incredibly powerful. Tasks that previously would have required the Mac Pros of old are now being well addressed by today’s iMac.”

But even with the power the current iMacs already hold, that clearly hasn’t stopped Apple wanting to further enhance their capabilities. Apple didn’t give much away about the rest of the iMac lineup, though, instead choosing to focus solely on the pro edition. 

We expect the new iMac lineup to follow a similar design language to previous models, primarily an all-in-one design and no doubt slathers of aluminium. For now we can only speculate, as Apple remained tight-lipped. 

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4
Apr

Engadget giveaway: Win a Product Red edition iPhone 7 courtesy of Speck!


There’s been plenty of chatter lately about the new Product Red edition iPhone 7, which finally breaks free from the muted metallic lineup with its brilliantly colored exterior. From what I’ve seen around NYC, though, you’d be well advised to protect any new phone or suffer the all-too-ubiquitous cracked screen. Case and bag maker Speck has just the thing to protect and show off this brightly hued handset, its clear Presidio iPhone 7 case.

This protective shell cleared the 8-foot drop test with honors, offers scratch resistance and its custom-engineered material resists UV yellowing, since many users tend to walk around with their phones out and, you know, beach selfies. Speck has provided us with one of these enviable iPhone 7 handsets and a clear Presidio case to keep it safe for one lucky reader this week. You get up to three chances at winning this prize by entering in the Rafflecopter widget below. Don’t let that stop you from making a purchase, however, the Product Red edition profits go towards raising awareness and fighting HIV/AIDS.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • Entries are handled through the Rafflecopter widget above. Comments are no longer accepted as valid methods of entry. You may enter without any obligation to social media accounts, though we may offer them as opportunities for extra entries. Your email address is required so we can get in touch with you if you win, but it will not be given to third parties.
  • Contest is open to all residents of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Canada (excluding Quebec), 18 or older! Sorry, we don’t make this rule (we hate excluding anyone), so direct your anger at our lawyers and contest laws if you have to be mad.
  • Winners will be chosen randomly. One (1) winner will receive one (1) Special Edition Product Red Apple iPhone 7 and one (1) Speck Presidio clear iPhone case.
  • If you are chosen, you will be notified by email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen. Make sure that the account you use to enter the contest includes your real name and a contact email. We do not track any of this information for marketing or third-party purposes.
  • This unit is purely for promotional giveaway. Engadget and AOL are not held liable to honor warranties, exchanges or customer service.
  • The full list of rules, in all its legalese glory, can be found here.
  • Entries can be submitted until April 5th at 11:59PM ET. Good luck!
4
Apr

Samsung’s in-house OS is a security nightmare


Samsung’s Tizen platform might give the company the technological independence it wouldn’t have if it stuck to outside software like Android, but it’s apparently a security disaster. Researcher Amihai Neiderman tells Motherboard he has discovered 40 unpatched vulnerabilities in Samsung’s operating system, exposing many of its smartphones, smartwatches and TVs to remote attacks. Reportedly, it’s the “worst code” the expert has “ever seen” — it was designed by a team that had no real understanding of security concepts, and makes mistakes that virtually anyone else would avoid.

A key example is the Tizen Store. While the portal does authenticate to make sure that you’re only installing approved apps, there’s an exploit that lets you take control before authentication kicks in. Use that and you can send whatever malware you want to a device. Samsung is also inconsistent in its use of encryption, often foregoing that protection at the very moment it’s most needed. And did we mention that many of the flaws appear to have been introduced in the past 2 years, so they weren’t just inherited from legacy code?

Neiderman says he disclosed the flaws to Samsung months ago, but didn’t get more than an automated response until recently. The tech giant, meanwhile, says it’s “fully committed” to working with the researcher and points to its SmartTV Bug Bounty program as an example of efforts it takes to patch holes. Don’t be surprised if many of the immediate vulnerabilities are fixed before long. However, the findings suggest that the company also needs to rethink the very basics of Tizen’s security strategy if it’s going to keep you safe going forward.

Via: The Verge

Source: Motherboard

4
Apr

Mercedes and Bosch want you in a self-driving taxi ASAP


Mercedes parent Daimler has put aside its own project to develop a self-driving car and will now collaborate with automotive supplier Bosch. The two companies plan to deliver fully autonomous “level 5” tech by the “beginning of the next decade,” with a focus on city driving and autonomous car-sharing. “It will allow people to make the best possible use of their time in the vehicle and open up new mobility opportunities for people without a driver’s licenses,” Daimler said in a press release.

The company depicts the future in a fanciful image (above) with self-driving buses, a bicycle tower and its own crazy F015 self-driving car concept. Another (below) shows how you’ll call a vehicle via an Uber-style app, then be picked up and delivered to your destination without even seeing a human being (“my dream — fast transport without having to talk to people,” says my colleague).

Despite already being a leader in self-driving tech, Daimler teamed with Bosch to keep its place in the fast-moving a autonomous vehicle game. It figures working with Bosch “should ensure the earliest possible series introduction of the secure technology.” The goal is as little as three years out, but it’s roughly the same timeframe promised by Ford, BMW, GM, Waymo and others.

Mercedes-Benz - Daimler AG â Autonomes Fahren; Mobilität der Zukunft: Bosch und Daimler kooperieren beim vollautomatisierten und fahrerlosen Fahren // Mercedes-Benz - Daimler AG â autonomous driving; Future mobility: Bosch and Daimler join forces to work on fully automated, driverless driving

Consolidation elsewhere in the industry likely forced Daimler’s hand, too. For instance, Intel recently purchased former Tesla supplier MobilEye for $15.3 billion, while Bosch teamed with NVIDIA to develop its own tech. Other players include Silicon Valley firms like Google’s Waymo division and Intel, automakers including Ford, GM, Renault-Nissan and Tesla, and ride-sharing firms like Lyft and Uber. That’s not to mention individual suppliers like Velodyne, which makes the Lidar systems used by Waymo and others.

As USA Today noted last month, Navigant Research ranks Ford as the company with the best shot at releasing level 5, fully independent self-driving cars first. The automaker is closely followed by GM, Renault-Nissan and, yes, Daimler — before it even teamed with Bosch. Waymo, which was the first company to attempt a self-driving car, ranked seventh, Tesla 12th and Uber 16th.

The Uber finding seems reasonable, considering the trouble it’s had. However, a Tesla Model X has arguably done the most convincing autonomous demo, driving from an engineer’s home to Tesla’s head office, and parking, with no assistance at all.

There are currently, of course, zero robotic, human-free taxis on the road, and that won’t change until the tech is nearly perfect — something that could be harder than experts expect. Even by 2020, you likely won’t see cars zipping around with no one behind the wheel as depicted by Daimler — that’s when you’ll know the future has really arrived.

Source: Daimler

4
Apr

‘Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ makes open world games exciting again


At this point, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has become a video game phenomenon. Much has been said about how it’s a new take on the dusty old Zelda formula, or on how it represents a fresh direction for Nintendo in general, by buoying its new Switch console. But Breath of the Wild deserves just as much credit for how it subverts and reaffirms the power of the open world.

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There are two key hallmarks of the open world genre: There is a big map to freely traverse, and there’s a lot of stuff to do on that map. It’s a formula that’s been refined over the past few iterations of Grand Theft Auto, Assassin’s Creed, Elder Scrolls and Far Cry, among others of that ilk. Over time, these open worlds have become increasingly cluttered with gameplay to-dos: waypoints, mini-games, races, collectibles, camps to clear and chunks of the map to color in. The result is that they tend to blend together into a mélange of similar gameplay beats. The location itself ends up becoming secondary: Whether you’re in steampunk London or in GTA’s funhouse version of Hollywood, you’re basically chasing the same waypoints and obsessively collecting the same shiny thingies.

But Breath of the Wild dumps most of this typically calcified open world stuff, and replaces it with a different kind of video game pleasure: the joy of exploration. So much of Breath of the Wild is, for me, finding a route up a cliff face, or stopping to watch the sunrise, or just listening to the whistle of the wind and the scurry of critters in the brush.

Breath of the Wild sets the stage for this meditative experience first and foremost through its map. It’s clear and functional, complete with useful topographic rings (contrast that against, say, Horizon Zero Dawn’s colorful but unhelpful paint smear). The map is also, at first, blessedly free of icons; aside from the odd waypoint, the only markings on it are the ones you choose to put there yourself. (I should note that I’ve chosen to turn off the mini map.)

The seemingly minor decision to restrict what the map communicates — which at first feels like it’s grating against common practice — was a fundamentally crucial one that puts the player into the exploratory mindset. This is not a game where you chase a glowing chest icon. Instead, this is a game where you discover an interesting geographical feature on your map and then have to find a way to get there, only to discover it leads to a puzzle you can’t quite solve right now. So, you mark the location with a “star” to come back to later. After several hours of exploration, you’ve charted out a chunk of the world. Your map isn’t a long Ubisoft-style to-do list; instead it’s a record of where you’ve been, and a reminder of places to return.

Traversal is the key gameplay mechanic in Breath of the Wild -– even more so than the combat mechanic. The stamina wheel gamifies the traversal process: because stamina is a finite resource, the player is forced to plan a route and make decisions on the fly about how she is going to reach an interesting point she’s staked out on the map. The traversal mechanic also cleverly interacts with the robust weather, temperature and physics systems to both aid and undermine you. Oh, you can’t ascend this mountain anymore because it’s raining and now the surface is slippery. Maybe wait out the weather, or glide over to another peak to find a better route. Wait, you can catch an updraft from this side of the canyon and get yourself halfway there. This satisfying interlocking of mechanics and systems keep the focus of the game on the open world of Hyrule itself.

And what a world it is. All the clever maps and polished traversal mechanics would mean nothing, if it wasn’t a world worth exploring. But Hyrule is bristling with clever secrets and gems tucked away in the landscape. Nintendo has always been adept at this kind of touch — be it scattering heart pieces around in Ocarina of Time, one of its first major “open worlds”, or even just putting hidden blocks in Super Mario Bros. — but it’s on supercharge here in Breath of the Wild. There always seems to be another puzzle, another blastable wall, another village, or another Shrine just over the horizon.

Several other small, but crucial decisions keep the exploration engaging. The lilting, unobtrusive music is secondary to the soundscape of nature: the whistling wind and the occasional whip-poor-will take precedent over a manipulative orchestral score, enhancing the sense of place. Nintendo also made a smart decision to give many of the natural features formal names, visible once you’ve unlocked that section of the map. Even little copses have enticing names (like “Midla Woods” or “Bubinga Forest”), though they may not reward you with anything more significant than a Korok seed (Breath of the Wild’s sole version of the Ubisoft collectible). Sometimes, a forest might not have anything more notable than interesting bugs hidden under the brush — not unlike actual real-life forests.

Thematically, this creates a meditative feel to Breath of the Wild’s open world. Most open world games, because of how their map is designed and how their gameplay systems interlock, end up with a colonialist bent to them, with Mass Effect: Andromeda and Ghost Recon: Wildlands being two high-profile recent examples. In Wildlands, you’re stalking the landscape to hunt and kill the evil locals lurking behind the waypoints. In Andromeda, you’re harvesting resources from your maps to, literally, feed your colony. But there are very few of these exploitative metrics in Breath of the Wild; even after dozens of hours exploring Hyrule, all you’ve gained is knowledge of the land (and some critters in your pouch). Even the enemies, which are set up in the game’s fiction as demonic spirits, will respawn and repopulate. Hyrule is, ultimately, untamable. All you can manage to do is know it.

In this way, Breath of the Wild ends up sharing more with “walking simulator” games than with the likes of Far Cry. At times, it feels much like “Proteus”, an early walking simulator that leans heavily on discovery. The burgeoning walking sim genre receives a lot of flak from the wider gaming community, but if Breath of the Wild is placed in the pantheon of that genre– perhaps as its apogee — it reveals just how much zen-like wonderment these fantastic, impossible digital landscapes can provide.

Breath of the Wild is exactly the kind of “open world” that video games sorely need: an expansive, hand-crafted landscape there to be observed and discovered, rather than conquered.

4
Apr

Microsoft’s Sprinkles app is better at captioning selfies than you


Microsoft is surprisingly invested in making oddball camera apps for the iPhone. First, it launched a selfie-enhancing camera and then followed that up with Pix, a camera that uses AI to make sure you get the best pictures of other people you might be shooting. But now Microsoft has released its goofiest camera app yet: Sprinkles. In yet another example of a big tech company essentially ripping off Snapchat, Sprinkles lets you make your selfies more fabulous with captions and stickers. But it also mixes in Microsoft’s face detection software and AI learning for a few semi-unique features, as well.

Once you shoot a photo, Sprinkles will offer you a few suggestions based on what it sees in the picture. For selfies, it’ll offer you up some automatic “photo booth” style props using face detection. It can also guess your age, a trick that Microsoft’s been showing off for some time now. Other options include having it match your face with that of a celebrity or offering some default captions based on the content of the photo, your location or the day of the week (for some reason this app has a real beef with Tuesday). Some of the options are based on seeing a face, with captions to match.

If you want to get more custom, you can write your own captions; as expected, there are a handful of different fonts and colors you can use. You can also drop emoji and stickers into your photos. There’s a pretty detailed sticker search option that offers a few suggestions based on what’s popular and what it detects in your photo. Those suggestions don’t feel terribly relevant at first glance, though. Sprinkles identified one selfie I shot as a “close” photo (because it was close to my face) and the resulting suggestions for stickers and emoji were basically nonsense, including umbrella and mailbox emoji.

Still, this app is just meant for goofy fun so I’m not going to be too hard on it. Being able to swipe through some suggested edits for your pictures is definitely fun, although Microsoft will need to increase the variety it is showing off pretty quickly or else this app will be a one-trick pony. If you want to give it a shot yourself, it’s live in the App Store now.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: iTunes App Store

4
Apr

How BioWare will fix ‘Mass Effect: Andromeda’


The internet’s reaction to Mass Effect: Andromeda has been overwhelmingly negative. Whether the game’s pitiful user ratings on review sites are actually representative of what most players think is a question for another day, but it’s fair to say that the game had more than a few technical issues at launch.

Animation glitches, framerate drops and other bugs have marred the launch window, while general complaints about gameplay oddities have also been frequent. Things got so bad that BioWare promised an update on support last week. Today, we have the details on the patch, and planned future additions to the game.

Coming this Thursday is a patch that “addresses technical fixes” like crashes and improves peformance, and also adds the following tweaks to gameplay and systems:

  • Allowing you to skip ahead when travelling between planets in the galaxy map
  • Increasing the inventory limits
  • Improving the appearance of eyes for humans and asari characters
  • Decreasing the cost of remnant decryption keys and making them more accessible at merchants
  • Improving localized voice over lip sync
  • Fixing Ryder’s movements when running in a zig zag pattern
  • Improving matchmaking and latency in multiplayer

An exhaustive set of patch notes is available at BioWare’s site.

Following Thursday’s release, BioWare says it’ll roll out a number of additional patch to improve “several areas of the game. Those include a deeper character creation tool, fixes for character appearance and hair modelling, improved “male romance options for Scott Ryder” and better conversations with the trans character Hainly Abrams. That final update is welcome — Abrams’ dialog has been the source of criticism in recent weeks.

Those updates will also come with performance and stability fixes, and BioWare says it’s “looking at adding more cosmetic items to single player for free.”

The updates will hopefully go a way to improving the overall experience for fans of the series. Whether they’ll do enough to overcome the game’s structural and narrative shortcomings is another question.

4
Apr

Roadside assistance is T-Mobile’s latest connected car freebie


T-Mobile’s SyncUP Drive dongle has enabled drivers to add 4G LTE connectivity, vehicle diagnostics and GPS monitoring to their older cars since the service rolled out in November. Now, the carrier is adding another feature that should serve subscribers well in cases of emergency: free roadside assistance. T-Mobile has teamed up with AllState Motor Club Roadside Assistance to provide tows, jumps and tire changes via the SyncUP Drive app. In addition, the Uncarrier is also offering a new payment plan that lets you get the $150 Drive dongle for a downpayment of $48 and 24 monthly installments of $2. That is, if you sign up for a 2GB or higher data plan.

Of course, T-Mobile isn’t the only major network to offer a service for vehicles. AT&T and Verizon already have competing options that also plug into the onboard diagnostics port of compatible cars. But today’s announcement gives T-Mobile a slight edge over its rivals, with a service that could be truly useful to drivers in critical situations. Existing SyncUP users will have to update their apps to access the new service and enroll with AllState Motor Club before they can use it.

Source: T-Mobile

4
Apr

Alphabet bests Uber in self-driving car reliability


It’s no secret that Uber’s young self-driving car program still needs work, but how does it stack up next to efforts from others? Not so well, it seems. California’s Department of Motor Vehicles has published stats showing that Alphabet’s Waymo is well ahead of the pack. While Uber’s autonomous system disengages about once every mile, Waymo’s only requires human intervention once every 5,128 miles. Nissan’s system, meanwhile, disengages once every 146 miles.

While this sounds like a condemnation of Uber’s technological chops, it’s more a reflection of the vast experience gap between the two. The ridesharing company had just over 20,000 miles of autonomous driving under its belt before its cars were temporarily kicked out of California, while Waymo had over 635,000 miles… in 2016 alone. This doesn’t let Uber completely off the hook (Nissan’s better disengagement rate came after 4,099 miles), but it would have been hard-pressed to compete with Waymo when it had just a fraction of the self-driving time.

The difference helps provide some context behind Waymo’s lawsuit against Uber. If you believe the allegations, Uber was catching up by pilfering technology that had taken thousands of hours to perfect. Whether or not that’s true, the stats show that Uber has a long way to go before it fulfills its dream of running an entire fleet of driverless cars.

Via: The Guardian

Source: California DMV (1), (2)

4
Apr

Netflix reveals ‘The Defenders’ arrival in security footage


Netflix has a healthy roster of Marvel shows at the moment with the likes of Iron Fist, Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. Those worlds are about to be consolidated, as the titular characters are set to team up for Netflix’s The Defenders later this year. Today, we found out when exactly that’s going to happen thanks to a cryptic teaser video.

The 15-second clip was posted earlier today, but has since been removed (although it’s been re-uploaded by unofficial sources). The black and white video is stylized as elevator security footage and shows the four heroes just standing there. Aside from Jones noticing the camera and destroying it, not much happens in the video, but it’s the details that give us some real information.

The video ends with a timestamp of “08:18:20:07” displayed in the upper right corner, suggesting that the series will premiere on August 18th. That suspicion is confirmed by visiting http://23.253.120.81 (based on the IP address in the top left of the video). This takes you to a website for the fictional New York Bulletin, where Daredevil’s Karen Page works. At the very bottom of the page, the site’s footer confirms that all episodes of The Defenders will be available on Netflix beginning August 18th.

As we already know, this new series doesn’t mean the end of the shows it’s based on. Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said this past summer that after The Defenders, the existing Marvel shows and upcoming Daredevil spinoff The Punisher will get new episodes, likely in 2018 at the earliest.

Via: The A.V. Club

Source: YouTube

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