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5
Apr

BT Ultra HD YouView review: 4K entertainment, but in limited supply


BT was the first television provider in the UK to take a step into the future of entertainment, launching its own Ultra HD 4K service. It started, appropriately, with BT Sport Ultra HD, before expanding into other 4K content from streaming providers, like Netflix.

BT’s Ultra HD offering means you need a new set-top box, the DTR-T4000, but it also needs to you to have the company’s Infinity broadband to complete the package and bring you super-sharp TV. 

The Ultra HD service has recently seen an update, bringing a new user interface for BT TV users, as BT looks to remain competitive against Sky Q, Virgin Media and the growing omnipotence of smart TVs.

  • How to watch 4K Ultra HD content on TV and online

BT Ultra HD review: DTR-T4000 set-top box

  • Humax-made set-top box
  • 4K HDMI, optical, Ethernet
  • Antenna passthrough

Starting with the box, the T4000 is the hardware you’ll need get to BT’s 4K service. Of course, you’ll need a television that supports 4K too, and since launch these have dropped in price, added HDR and generally got better and better.

There’s a wide range of 4K (or UHD) TVs available, but some of the early or cheaper sets don’t have the full range of compatibility, so it’s worth checking in advance of spending any money. For those who are technically minded, you’ll need HDCP2.2 compliance and HDMI 2.0 to support the 2160p50 resolution to get the full experience of BT’s service. HDCP is like a digital handshake, incorporated to protect broadcast material.

The DTR-T4000 is the same design as the previous BT YouView box, so it’s nice and compact measuring 237 x 152 x 43mm. It’s designed to fit in with BT’s other devices, but wears a new Ultra HD badge on the front, just so you don’t forget you’ve got a super-charged box. The new interface lands on the same box, so although the on-screen experience is changing, the hardware is not.

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In terms of connectivity, it’s a conventional arrangement of HDMI to connect to your TV, Ethernet to hook-up to your router (there’s no Wi-Fi on board), RF passthrough for the aerial you’ll need to receive Freeview HD, as well as optical should you wish connect the audio to a separate receiver or existing system that won’t accommodate the HDMI. There’s also a USB connection, which we’ve used to power Google Chromecast, but otherwise serves no customer purpose.

Gone from the rear is the Scart and Composite options because, let’s face it, if you’re getting this 4K-capable box then you’re not going to be using those legacy connections. Whereas the T2100 (the “normal” set-top box) needs to cater for all users, the T4000 is only for those looking for the latest technology.

One of the recent additions for BT TV has been the move to support Dolby Atmos. This is rather rarer and again you’ll need a system that supports this audio format. Dolby Atmos support is again starting with sport, giving you an immersive stadium experience when watching at home.

  • Football in 4K and Dolby Atmos, is there anything better?

The remote and the top controls are the same as the previous T2100 box, because it’s the same YouView system underneath that works in exactly the same way, as are the status lights you get glowing from the front to tell you when it’s awake, recording and so on, although there has been a slight refresh to the remote to make the BT Player button purple and changing the buttons to a slightly more clicky feel.

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There’s a cooling fan in the rear, although usually it isn’t loud enough to disturb our watching, but we’ve sometimes found after it has been on a long time and is recording and viewing, the combination of fan and disc whirring might become noticable. We’ve found the remote to be responsive as it was on the previous box – so really good – and there’s 1TB of storage available, so you can store a lot of content. Naturally, if you’re recording 4K content, you’ll get through it a lot faster than regular HD.

BT says that you’ll get 600 hours of SD recording, 250 hours of HD recording, or 60 hours of UHD 4K content. In reality, it will be a mixture of all content types, but you can see how quickly it could fill as more 4K content becomes available, but that hasn’t happened and 4K content is still rather scarce.

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BT Ultra HD review: Channels

  • BT Sport Ultra HD
  • ESPN, AMC
  • Free to view channels
  • Additional channels to buy

The real meat of any 4K sandwich is content. You’ll have heard the argument that there’s no real 4K content out there apart from what you can stream from YouTube, Netflix or Amazon. BT launched BT Sport Ultra HD, the UK’s first UHD 4K TV channel and it was a year before Sky joined the party offering 4K content, with Virgin Media catching-up a little later.

We mentioned before that you’ll have to hook up to your router and that’s because this channel – like the other BT Sport channels – isn’t broadcast over the air, it’s broadcast down the wire. It’s an IP channel, arriving via your broadband connection, hence the need for a wired connection to your router and good, fast, broadband. That’s the same as Sky Q whose 4K content also arrives by wire.

We tried passing the Ethernet connection through PowerLine adapters, and although you can view the HD channels, the Ultra HD channel wouldn’t play. There is, fortunately, a long Ethernet cable in the box for you to run to your router, but it does use a lot of bandwidth and you’ll probably notice other internet tasks slowing down when you’re watching BT Sport Ultra HD. For that reason, BT advises that you don’t leave it sitting on that channel when you’re not using it.

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BT Sport Ultra HD is the only 4K channel there is and unfortunately BT Sport Ultra HD doesn’t broadcast all the time: it’s the preserve of sporting events. We’ve watched Premier League football, as well as the Moto GP and some squash in 4K, but the vast majority of the time it’s showing looping trailers for the service and little else.

The final point on the BT Sport Ultra channel is you have to pay to be on the Entertainment Ultra HD service, and that will cost £15 a month (on top of other package costs, like line rental and BT Infinity costs). That’s not just for BT Sport Ultra HD, because you get more in the package, including 50 premium channels, 13 of which are in HD.

Still, you’re paying a premium for that sport, so you have to be a mega sport fan for this to be of interest. If you are, then you’ll also get the regular BT Sport HD channels, ESPN and BT Sport Europe, and BT has the rights to a hefty slice of sports content, including a lot of football and rugby, so there’s plenty to keep you entertained.

It’s worth noting, however, that BT Ultra HD doesn’t have exclusive content – it’s also shown in HD on BT’s other sports channels. So you’re literally paying extra for the extra resolution.

Beyond this, BT’s Ultra HD service seems to have stalled slightly. The initial excitement around 4K has slightly abated and apart from BT Sport, you’re looking at streaming services like Netflix and little else that embraces the highest resolution.

BT Sport Ultra HD review: Can you see the difference?

We can definitely can see the difference between the Ultra HD 4K channel and the HD equivalent. As 4K is four times the resolution of regular HD there’s a lot more detail, and it’s delivered at 50fps using 10-bit colour sampling rather than the regular 8-bit you’ll get for HD.

Compared to the BT Sport HD, BT Sport Ultra HD is noticeably better looking. It delivers on that promise of offering more detail and we love the fact that you can sit or stand close to your TV and enjoy that detail. That’s part of the impetus behind 4K: it will let you have a bigger TV in a smaller room and you’ll have the resolution to keep things looking sharp.

The Moto GP was noticeably sharper from the overview cameras and watching the bikes snake through the corners is an absolute joy. However, soaking up the crisp and punchy views is set into contrast by the on-bike cameras. Yes, we all know that those small live cameras in F1 or Moto GP are shaky, break up and don’t offer great quality, but the switch from crystal clear to generally poor is a real jolt. There’s also a difference in other areas: Craig Doyle’s commentary in the Moto GP paddock was set in contrast to visual overlays showing ranking. The former is fairly soft, where the latter is incredibly sharp.

We still have this reservation that 4K UHD TV will be at its best when its delivering a wider range of content. Yes, we love sport, and watching Premier League matches that are so much more vibrant and detailed is exciting, but we’re still left begging for more content.

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BT Ultra HD review: Netflix 4K

An update following launch added Netflix 4K, or Netflix Ultra HD to the offering, meaning you’ll be able to access higher definition content, such as Iron Fist or Narcos. Currently Netflix 4K is available on some 4K televisions, as well as devices like the Xbox One S or PS4 Pro, but inclusion here sees it totally integrated with the rest of the YouView service and no need to switch to another box to watch your Netflix content.

You will need a Netflix subscription however and it will need to be the 4K subscription, costing you £8.99 a month, on top of what you’re already paying for your BT services. If you’re a TV fan, there’s a good chance you already pay a Netflix subscription and the additional few pounds a month to unlock to top resolutions won’t be much of a hardship.

The incorporation of Netflix on the 4K service here is the same as it is on BT’s other YouView boxes. Although you have Netflix in the Players and Apps section, it’s also fully searchable through the same search system as the rest of YouView. That makes finding content even faster. If you’re feeling festive and want to watch Home Alone, search will show you the viewing options across your box, rather than searching each content source individually.

It’s a shame that Amazon Video isn’t also included, as the selection of Ultra HD content there is excellent too, but the universal truth remains, that BT hasn’t expanded its content offering for Ultra HD subscribers.

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BT Ultra HD review: YouView at its heart

We’ve long been fans of YouView. It’s an excellent system that offers a clear electronic programme guide (EPG) and makes it really easy to find content with search across all the different content options. This is where the system has evolved recently, shifting to an HTML5 platform with aim of making it more dynamic and faster to operate. That’s also brought about a range of changes to the layout and visual design.

Gone are the solid dark tones in place of overlays, and the new YouView menu gives you access to Players and Apps more readily, with thumbnails showing you what’s on across a range of different channels at a glance.

One tap of the YouView button pops this new menu up, giving access to Guide, Players & Apps. MyTV, BT Player and Settings. Scrolling down again takes you to the full EPG guide. What’s obviously changed in this latest version is more pronounced BT branding, with the company getting a BT TV logo in the top left corner, and YouView branding relegated to bottom right.

Things are much faster, even if the move to offer an icon-based settings menu doesn’t really look like a step forward. It’s probably designed to be easier for customers, but we prefer the text-based version there was before. 

It’s still very much about that EPG though, being able to scroll back and forth thorough the week and see what you’ve missed, set recordings for the things you want, or press play on content you’ve missed to instantly swing into the catch-up service for that channel. This is where live TV watchers will spend the most time and it’s here that YouView really works the best.

BT has also extended this into an app experience. You’ve been able to link a YouView app to your box for some time, but this has expanded through the BT TV app that not only gives you the programme guide, but lets you watch some live TV, lets you watch subscription services on catch-up, like AMC, record future programmes and in some cases (All4 and My5) lets you jump over to catch-up apps on your phone to watch programmes you’ve missed.

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BT Ultra HD review: Apps and services

One of the big elements of YouView is the integration of catch-up services. Where some smart TVs and set-top boxes don’t offer a full range of UK channel catch-up, YouView does and has done for years. That means you have BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4 and Demand 5 from the off, along with some other services, like UKTV, which includes the channel Dave.

Then there are subscription services, like Now TV, as well as BT’s on-demand offering (all in Full HD rather than 4K), and Netflix 4K. Another advantage of the BT box offering streaming services like Netflix is that the streaming data isn’t deducted from any monthly data limit you might have, as it’s covered by the fee you’re paying for BT TV. On the other hand, streaming through a smart TV smart app would see that data counted.

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As we said before, BT’s inclusion of everything into YouView’s search feature really offers premium service here, helping you find viewing options across a range of content sources. 

BT hopes, of course, that you’ll buy content directly from the BT TV Player, which has a range of the latest content available for you, with the costs going straight onto your bill. That’s great if you want to watch a movie on demand with minimal fuss, but can soon get expensive if you want to binge watch the latest blockbuster series.

Verdict

BT made a step into the future with the launch of its Ultra HD TV service in 2015. It stole a lead from Sky and Virgin Media, but still only offering the one part-time sport channel as its unique 4K offering hasn’t really continued that momentum. A new interface brings a faster box, but this is very much about watching broadcast TV, having the integrated and dynamic system that YouView offers, with an Ultra HD twist for sport fans, with added bonus of Dolby Atmos too.

Netflix is the only other bastion of top-quality content, with BT’s own BT Player lacking next-gen content, and Netflix is hardly unique: a Chromecast Ultra would do just as much, but your smart TV probably already has that app. We’re left wishing that BT and YouView had moved forward to embrace other sources, like Amazon Video, to serve a wider platter of 4K treats.

At its heart, this is still a great system for those who want to browse the regular broadcast channels, record or catch-up. But with Freeview Play strengthening its offering and getting integrated into more televisions, BT TV still feels like it needs to be offering more to broaden its appeal.

First published in December 2015.

Alternatives to consider…

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Sky Q

Sky’s comprehensive reworking of its system resulted in Sky Q, now offering Ultra HD/4K content. Sky Q is very much focused around a model of recording content, with lots of tuners, allowing multiple channel streaming and playback in different locations around the house, if you have the mini boxes to extend it. There’s 4K on offer for TV shows and movies, although you have to download and play, rather than stream. There’s also 4K sport, like F1, which looks great. There’s no Netflix or other services, it’s very much about Sky’s content, through Sky’s subscriptions, which can be expensive.

Read the full review: Sky Q review

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Virgin TV V6 review

Virgin Media’s TiVo has evolved into the V6, a newly-equipped box that’s 4K compatible, although it lacks 4K content to serve you, apart from Netflix 4K. There’s a lot of clever stuff on offer and plenty of other content. TiVo offers some charming recording features and there’s support for multiroom too, but the interface does look a little dated, even if it is nice and fast.

Read the full review: Virgin TV V6 review

5
Apr

Alcatel crams four cameras in a phone because two isn’t enough


Remember the good old days, when having a camera on your phone was considered cutting-edge technology? These days, most smartphones rock two cameras, and an increasing number are sporting two on the back and one up front, bringing the total to three. Apparently, that isn’t enough. At least, not according to Alcatel. The affordable phone maker is selling a phone with four cameras — two on the back and two in front — called the Flash.

Both the front and back systems on the Flash feature one color and one monochrome sensor with f/2.0 apertures, and are accompanied by dual-tone flash bulbs. The rear setup uses two 13-megapixel sensors, while the pair on the other side are 8-MP and 5-MP. With what the company calls Super Selfie Mode, you can choose to blur out the background or foreground of your pictures and selfies, or leave everything in focus.

Plenty of other phones on the market already offer dual cameras on the rear to create an artificial depth of field effect, but none so far pack a two-lens setup on both the front and back. With this setup, you can snap selfies with the pleasing bokeh effect. No longer will you have to suffer the humiliation of having to ask people to help you take a picture with the rear camera just so you can achieve the DSLR-esque look.

To be fair, the Huawei P10 already has a similar feature. Its single front camera can take selfies with a soft focus effect thanks to the company’s clever software. But with dedicated hardware, the Flash might achieve a more accurate result than the P10’s sometimes finicky system.

For now, it’s not clear how much the Flash will cost or if it will come to the US. The Alcatel site that lists the phone appears to be specific to Saudi Arabia. We’ve reached out to Alcatel for more details on the phone’s specs and availability, and have yet to get more information. In the meantime, as you wait to find out exactly when you can buy the Flash, you can distract yourself with the mesmerizing lights on this other Alcatel phone, which is studded with LEDs.

Via: The Verge

Source: Alcatel

5
Apr

Invisible infrared light reveals a hidden Alaska


Infrared photography isn’t just for soldiers or police, it also gives photographers a tool for capturing what is normally unseen. A strong case in point is photographer, artist and Tron title designer GMUNK, aka Bradley G. Munkowitz. He trekked to Alaska’s Tracy Arm Fjord last summer with a modified Fujifilm X-T1 IR full-spectrum camera in hand, transforming the already-dramatic landscape into a psychedelic exoplanet.

“InfraMunk vs Tracy Arm Fjord” was shot from a small boat that plied the 30-mile-long, ice-covered inlet on Alaska’s west coast, adjacent to northern British Columbia. His X-T1 IR’s infrared capability was further enhanced with LifePixel “Super-Color” Infrared filters and vintage, manual-focus Nikon lenses. The results, he said were “some fiercely psychedelic and experimental palettes that portrayed the scenery in an entirely new light.”

Because foliage reflects infrared light much like snow reflects visible light, trees, grass and plants tend to turn a white or pink color. At the same time, the spectrum can cut through haze and turn water a profoundly dark hue, yielding ghostly, extrawordly scenes.

One of the most famous purveyors of the craft, Richard Mosse, won the Deutsche Börse 2014 prize for his infrared series on the horrific war in Eastern Congo, shot on military-grade infrared film. “Infrared light is reflected off the chlorophyll in healthy green … [helping the military] identify the enemy hidden in the landscape,” he said in a Frieze documentary. The strange, disorienting beauty of infrared, he says, gets viewers to “think about the act of perception and how this imagery is produced and consumed.”

You could say the same thing about GMUNK’s Tracy Arm Fjord landscapes. We’re inured to rugged landscapes rendered in the visible spectrum, so his infrared images force us to look at them in another way. Depending on how the photos are treated, they can make angular cliff faces look even more unforgiving, or turn a forest scene into a fluffy dreamscape.

Though mostly used for landscape photography, IR “turns skin tones milky smooth and can see through sunglasses,” Pixsy notes. If you’re thinking of trying it out, it says you’ll need to experiment a lot so you can spot scenes that work well in IR. “Since you are photographing a light spectrum that you can’t see, check the LCD often.”

Via: DesignBoom

Source: GMUNK

5
Apr

GoPro’s $100 accessory puts Karma’s gimbal (almost) anywhere


When GoPro launched Karma at the end of the last year, company CEO Nick Woodman was keen to point out that it’s “So much more than a drone.” That statement was mostly referring to the bundled handheld grip, which uses the stabilizer from the quadcopter, bringing smooth video to ground-based activities as well. Now, there’s a new member of the Karma family, with the self-explanatory name of “Karma Grip Extension Cable.” The accessory (pictured on the left, above) brings the gimbal’s video-smoothing skills to even more points of view. Albeit at a price.

The Karma Grip already comes with a mounting ring that makes it wearable, as you can attach it to any existing mount (more or less) in your collection. That said, as the Karma grip is about the size of a standard flashlight, it isn’t ideal for wearing on helmets or perching on handlebars. With the new extension cable, you can slip the grip part in a pocket or backpack and just mount the gimbal and camera (and the three inch-ish connector) on the aforementioned helmets and handlebars (and beyond).

If you look at the photo above though, you’ll note that there’s a coiled tether between the connection plugs. It’s extendable, but it’s also pretty tight. Tight enough that the distance between your helmet and your pocket is probably too far to be comfortable. GoPro tells me that the cable is designed to be rugged, and good enough to deliver the power required for the gimbal.

Even without the grip, the gimbal and the part it slides into are still a touch bigger than many other wearable gimbals on the market (of which, there are a few,) and most don’t need wires for power, putting the batteries in the gimbal instead. For GoPro’s part, if you ignore the tether, the gimbal doesn’t have the cheap look that most of the others do, and definitely feels more robust than any I’ve used to date.

Then, there’s the price. The extension cable is pretty much just that, a cable. Two connectors (one for the grip, one for the gimbal) and a cable between them. For this GoPro wants $100, once it goes on sale this Sunday. When bought without the drone, the handheld Karma Grip is $300, and that includes: The detachable grip, the actual gimbal (the part with the motors), a harness for your camera and all the cables and mount ring you need to get going — plus a snazzy case. Asking another $100 for the cable seems a little out of balance with the value proposition GoPro was going for with its modular kit at launch.

That said, while technically GoPro is a camera company, it’s also a master marketing company. Watch the video below, and you’ll see the new extension cable being used in a manner of exciting activities, all being recorded with stability that GoPro users have been dreaming of for years. (The Hero 5 Black comes with built-in stabilization, but it’s not a patch on the gimbal.)

If you’ve ever tried wearing a GoPro attached to a chest strap, you’ll know that the footage gets shaky, fast. I tried to record several runs when I was training for a marathon a couple of years ago, and most of the footage was useless. While wearing this, I can instantly see the difference that it makes. There’s still movement, but it’s way less, resulting in much more usable video. I can imagine there are people much more adventurous than I that would appreciate the added flexibility the accessory brings, after all, one cable could be the difference between decent footage, or total garbage. Though likewise, the tethered design will not suit a number of activities or mount locations at all.

Along with the new extension cable, GoPro’s also releasing new firmware for the Hero 5 Black and Hero 5 Session that adds new languages for voice control: Korean, Russian and Portuguese. GoPro said there would be more language support in the pipeline, and it’s coming good on that promise. Hero 5 Black owners will also get a few new features, such as the ability to pull stills from a multi-shot series and new Protune modes. The Session also gets a new 4K/24fps video mode, and a bump in field of view options when shooting at 1080p.

5
Apr

The full extent of Windows 10’s data sharing is slightly alarming


Microsoft has repeatedly sworn that Windows 10 doesn’t violate your privacy, but you’ve had to take its word on that when it hasn’t outlined exactly what data it shares from your PC. At last, though, it’s coming clean — the company has started publishing a complete list of the diagnostic info it collects at the Basic level, and has posted a thorough summary of what it obtains at the Full level. While Microsoft already gave you a good sense of what to expect if you went with Full, the summary is much more thorough… and a little concerning given that it’s the default level with a new Windows 10 installation.

For example, Windows collects a surprising amount of info about your media playback. It’s not tracking what you’re playing, but it will check how long you spent reading a Windows Store book, and will scoop up internet links if there’s an error with online video. And when Microsoft says it looks at “browsing history and search terms,” we now know just what it means — that includes text you type in the address bar and Cortana searches. When you search for local files, Windows will collect the kind of search you performed, the number of items your query turned up and the name of app you use to open a file from that search. It looks like Microsoft is steering clear of collecting particularly sensitive info, but there are incentives to choose Basic if you’re privacy-minded.

With this in mind, Microsoft says it’s promising to “refine” its data collection over time based on feedback. In the future, it’ll also share how Windows 10 meets European data protection rules.

To some extent, the newfound transparency is a response to governments worried that Windows 10 is intruding on your privacy. French regulators believe the software’s data collection goes too far by tracking non-essential info like app running times, while the EU is concerned that improvements in the Creators Update aren’t good enough. A detailed explanation won’t necessarily change officials’ minds, but it might clear the air and make sure that any objections are based on what Microsoft is actually doing, not sensationalist stories.

Via: The Verge

Source: Windows Experience Blog, Windows IT Center (1), (2)

5
Apr

Waze’s traffic data could help emergency services save lives


Soon, Waze data will not only help drivers avoid accidents, but help emergency responders identify them as they happen. The Google-owned navigation service has partnered with the European Emergency Number Association (EENA) to anonymously share data that will help police, ambulance and fire services detect and respond to incidents in real-time, potentially saving lives in the process.

The process is simple: as soon as European users notify Waze about an accident, emergency services will receive a notification in their system. They can then choose to provide data to other Waze users in the area, which might include additional details of the accident and potential delays. Response teams can also call on Waze’s real-time traffic data to plan the most effective route, especially if roads in the affected area are blocked.

“Waze has always been about connecting people with each other to improve the quality of their driving experience,” said Adam Fried, Waze’s Head of Global Partnerships. “We are excited to expand this community to emergency first-responders and see how Waze data can help them optimise their route planning and contribute to public safety.”

Waze has announced a number of similar partnerships over the past couple of years. It’s working with the city of Boston to deliver information on expected road closures from travel authorities while feeding city’s Traffic Management center with data that helps adjust signals at intersections to improve the flow of traffic. Other cities involved in the pilot include Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona, Jakarta and Tel Aviv.

With representatives from over 1,200 emergency services across 80 countries, the EENA can make very good use of Waze’s data. The organization has already partnered with DJI to supply “carefully selected” teams of European pilots with Phantom and Inspire drones, helping first responders to react quickly to risky incidents.

Source: EENA

5
Apr

Deliveroo builds its own kitchens to help restaurants expand


Deliveroo’s food delivery services are convenient provided your favourite restaurant is signed up and willing to cover your post code. All too often, you’ll open the app only to find that what you really want to eat isn’t available. Deliveroo’s solution is ‘Editions,’ a network of small, delivery-only kitchens that can help restaurants to reach more people. Following a trial in London, the company is rolling out the concept nationwide. Thirty Editions will be available at launch, covering 200 restaurants and, Deliveroo claims, creating more than 1,000 jobs in the process.

The chefs will still be employed by their respective restaurants. Deliveroo’s main contribution is a software platform which will track customer demand in different areas. Using this data, it’ll pick the restaurants that it believes have the best chance of being successful in any given area, and then provide the necessary infrastructure — the kitchen, its fleet of couriers, and a slither of marketing — to get their businesses started. For restaurants, it should be a way of minimising the risk normally associated with setting up a new location. They will, of course, be tied to the Deliveroo platform, but in return they get access to the app’s user base.

Deliveroo operates in more than 140 cities spread across 12 countries. The company want to expand ‘Editions’ to another five countries later this year, but has refrained from explaining which markets and when. The concept is certainly novel, and could serve as a unique differentiator against Deliveroo’s competition, which includes UberEats, Amazon Prime Now and Just Eat. “This is the biggest development in the market since Deliveroo first launched,” Will Shu, chief executive of Deliveroo said.

5
Apr

YouTube’s live TV service is here


Google announced YouTube TV at the end of February, and today the live TV streaming service is ready to launch. It’s available today on your phone and computer in five markets: New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia. If you hadn’t heard yet, the $35 monthly service offers live streams from all four major broadcast networks (CBS, Fox, NBC and ABC) and a host of other networks like ESPN, FX, the CW and many others. All told, YouTube TV is launching with 39 stations, but 10 more (including AMC, IFC and BBC America) will arrive soon.

At launch, you’ll use either the new YouTube TV app (for iOS or Android) or the web-based interface to access the new service. Ironically, the only way to get YouTube TV onto an actual TV set is with a Chromecast — there aren’t apps for the Apple TV or other set-top boxes or consoles yet. Google says they’ll come, but for now the website and app will be the primary way to interact with YouTube TV.

We’ll have a more extensive walkthrough of the new service right now, but for starters there are a few things it does very well. YouTube TV is very fast at getting you into live TV — when you’re browsing things to watch, live previews start almost immediately. It’s not entirely necessary to get a preview of what’s on the channel, but it’s a very engaging feature that can also keep you from clicking through to something that’s on commercial break.

Another noteworthy feature is how many channels offer on-demand movie libraries. While finding large libraries of TV shows that are available on demand isn’t easy, there are a bunch of movies from networks like FX, Syfy and Showtime (the latter channel is only available as a paid add-on, though). You can add these films to your library and watch them any time, though you might have to deal with some ads or see a movie that has been edited in some way from the original version. Still, the amount of films that you can just jump right into is impressive.

The UI is also pretty well done, particularly the “live” section of the app. There, you can vertically scroll through a list of channels and see everything that’s playing right at that moment. The top-most program in the list goes live with a video preview, and as you scroll down that’ll dynamically update if you want a preview of what’s on. When I first started using the app, I found this to be the best place to go to find programs to start watching and adding to my library. Before long I had a half-dozen shows and a handful of movies saved or set to be recorded.

We’ll have more to say about the service soon — but if you want to try it yourself, grab YouTube TV from your app store of choice or go to tv.youtube.com. You’ll have to live in one of those five metro areas, though. Google’s offering a free month trial, and you can also get a free Chromecast with your first month’s payment. There are a handful of services like YouTube TV already out there, but Google’s offering probably worth a look if you need live TV but don’t want to pay the cable company.

5
Apr

SpaceX releases video of its historic reused rocket landing


SpaceX made history last week when it successfully relaunched a previously-used rocket back into orbit (recovering the $6 million nosecone was just gravy). That rocket body could potentially be used yet again, given how spryly it set down on its drone barge, the Of Course I Still Love You, after delivering its SES-10 vehicle payload, if the company’s Instagram post from Wednesday is any indication.

Falcon 9 landing on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship after delivering SES-10 into orbit.

A post shared by SpaceX (@spacex) on Apr 4, 2017 at 7:16pm PDT

This marks the sixth successful landing by the Falcon 9 rocket. The company had suffered a significant setback last September when one of its rockets suffered a critical failure and exploded on the launchpad, a misstep that cost SpaceX $50 million for the lost payload alone. However, the company recovered, regained its space launch credentials and rebooted its launch schedule earlier this year. SpaceX has since promised to execute launches every two weeks and will reportedly attempt to land the Falcon Heavy’s upper stage later this year.

Source: SpaceX (Instagram)

5
Apr

AT&T Unlimited Plus Data Plan Now Includes Free HBO Subscription


Thanks to AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, customers on the network’s Unlimited Plus data plan will now have the chance to watch HBO programming at no additional cost. Beginning tomorrow, April 6, customers on Unlimited Plus data plans who already subscribe to HBO through AT&T video services like DirecTV, DirecTV Now, or U-Verse TV, will no longer have to pay for the premium channel.

For the same customers on Unlimited Plus and one of AT&T’s video services who don’t have HBO, they’ll be able to automatically receive access to the premium network as well. Lastly, for cord-cutters without a cable package who subscribe to Unlimited Plus, AT&T is offering HBO content either through DirecTV Now or HBO GO apps. Pricing on Unlimited Plus remains the same at $90/month for one line and $145/month for two lines, with additional lines added at the cost of $20 per new line.

Unlimited data plans have come back in full force this year, with new options from all four major carriers launching within a week of one another.

“People who want the best in entertainment want HBO. This latest unlimited wireless plan shows AT&T continuing to innovate and give customers what they desire,” said Bernadette Aulestia, executive vice president of Global Distribution, HBO. “When consumers see HBO as part of an entertainment package, they know they are getting the valued benefit of some of the greatest original programming and most recent Hollywood movies.”

AT&T is also offering Unlimited Plus users a $25 monthly video credit that can be used on its range of video services as long as they remain on the wireless plan. The monthly credit starts within three bill cycles, while the free HBO credit starts within two bill cycles.

In related premium channel news, cord-cutting service Sling TV recently added Showtime into its lineup at the additional cost of $10 per month for Sling TV users. The channels include Showtime, Showtime 2, Showtime Beyond, and more, and includes all of Showtime’s original series like Homeland, Shameless, and the upcoming reboot of Twin Peaks.

Tags: AT&T, HBO
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