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1
May

Apple Seeds Fifth Beta of macOS Sierra 10.12.5 to Developers


Apple today seeded the fifth beta of an upcoming macOS Sierra 10.12.5 update to developers, one week after seeding the fourth beta and more than one month after releasing macOS Sierra 10.12.4, which introduced Night Shift for the Mac.

The fifth beta of macOS Sierra 10.12.5 can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center or through the Software Update mechanism in the Mac App Store.

According to the release notes accompanying the beta, the update “improves the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac.”

Apple’s release notes don’t often provide much insight into what’s included in new beta software, so we don’t know what features or bug fixes might be built into the 10.12.5 update.

No notable changes or major bug fixes were discovered in the first four betas, but should anything pop up in the fifth macOS Sierra 10.12.5 beta, we’ll update this post.

Related Roundup: macOS Sierra
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1
May

The natural gas you pass is being turned into natural gas you can use


Why it matters to you

Portland’s repurposing of our natural waste may point the way to a more sustainable future.

Portland, Oregon is turning what we flush down the toilet into something safe for the planet.

When it comes to renewable resources, we’re pretty good candidates ourselves, at least when it comes to the waste we produce. After all, with over seven billion of us on the planet, and all of us, you know, creating waste on a (hopefully) daily basis, we’ve got a lot of sewage to work with. And now, the Oregon city has found a way to do just that.

Just before Earth Day this year, the Portland Environmental Services announced a “groundbreaking project that will convert waste methane from the city’s sewage treatment process into renewable natural gas.” So yes, friends. Your gas is being converted into gas that you need.

The resulting fuel promises to be both clean and locally produced (in more ways than one), and will be sold in Portland and other areas as a replacement for diesel fuel in trucks. Apparently, this project will be hugely beneficial to our planet at large, as Portland promises that this repurposing of our natural waste ought to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 21,000 tons a year. Moreover, it’s projected to generate more than $3 million in revenue on an annual basis, and will replace 1.34 million gallons of diesel fuel (154 garbage trucks’ worth) with renewable gas.

“We are creating a triple-win for the public in terms of revenue, climate action, and cleaner air,” said Portland Commissioner Nick Fish. “The renewable natural gas we will produce is truly local and homegrown, a by-product of the waste from every Portland household that we can now repurpose.”

Portland hopes that by the end of the year, the fueling station will be finished and ready for use by Environmental Services and other city trucks. By the end of next year, Environmental Services thinks it can begin sending renewable natural gas into NW Natural’s network.

“Because our product is a renewable fuel and not a fossil fuel, it commands a five-to-ten times higher price on the renewable energy market,” said Environmental Services Director Mike Jordan. “Doing the right thing turns out to be a great deal.”




1
May

Ditch plastic bottles with this smartphone-activated water fountain


Why it matters to you

Bottled water may be convenient, but it’s harming the planet. Reefill wants to help with its smartphone-activated system of water fountains.

Bottled water may soon be a waste of the past — that is, if Reefill has its way. The New York City-based technology startup is taking advantage of your smartphone to help you save the planet with a system of phone-activated water refill stations. So as long as you have a reusable water bottle with you, you’ll be able to access unlimited cold, filtered tap water just about anywhere.

As it stands, Reefill can claim eight pilot stations in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. But a new Indiegogo campaign hopes to expand that presence to 100 locations across the city. The goal is simple: to help rid the United States’ most populous city of plastic water bottles.

Last year, the Reefill team notes, U.S. bottled water sales topped $21 billion, bringing in more revenue than the soda industry. And while it may be good for our waistlines that we’re choosing bottled water over sugary carbonated drinks, it’s not doing much for Mother Earth. The problem, of course, is that those of us who do opt to carry around our own reusable water containers often find ourselves at a loss when it comes to refills.

There aren’t all that many public water fountains — at least, those that dispense water that you’d actually want to drink. Reefill seeks to solve this problem by providing the public with a convenient water solution without waste and for a low cost.

To use Reefill, members are asked to pay $1.99 per month, which grants them unlimited access to all Reefill stations. Then, simply download the Reefill app (available on both Android and iPhone), and search the in-app map for the nearest station. Once users have arrived at the nearest fountain, they can activate the station using Bluetooth via the app, and fill up their bottles. The app also keeps tabs on how many bottles Reefill user have saved from the landfill, as well as how much money members are saving by opting out of buying bottled water.

“Reefill’s pilot program has been a huge success and we have gotten great feedback from our users who let us know that they are eager to see a citywide network,” said Reefill Co-founder and CEO Jason Pessel. “We are ready to make that a reality and help as many people as possible ditch bottled water.”




1
May

Ditch plastic bottles with this smartphone-activated water fountain


Why it matters to you

Bottled water may be convenient, but it’s harming the planet. Reefill wants to help with its smartphone-activated system of water fountains.

Bottled water may soon be a waste of the past — that is, if Reefill has its way. The New York City-based technology startup is taking advantage of your smartphone to help you save the planet with a system of phone-activated water refill stations. So as long as you have a reusable water bottle with you, you’ll be able to access unlimited cold, filtered tap water just about anywhere.

As it stands, Reefill can claim eight pilot stations in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. But a new Indiegogo campaign hopes to expand that presence to 100 locations across the city. The goal is simple: to help rid the United States’ most populous city of plastic water bottles.

Last year, the Reefill team notes, U.S. bottled water sales topped $21 billion, bringing in more revenue than the soda industry. And while it may be good for our waistlines that we’re choosing bottled water over sugary carbonated drinks, it’s not doing much for Mother Earth. The problem, of course, is that those of us who do opt to carry around our own reusable water containers often find ourselves at a loss when it comes to refills.

There aren’t all that many public water fountains — at least, those that dispense water that you’d actually want to drink. Reefill seeks to solve this problem by providing the public with a convenient water solution without waste and for a low cost.

To use Reefill, members are asked to pay $1.99 per month, which grants them unlimited access to all Reefill stations. Then, simply download the Reefill app (available on both Android and iPhone), and search the in-app map for the nearest station. Once users have arrived at the nearest fountain, they can activate the station using Bluetooth via the app, and fill up their bottles. The app also keeps tabs on how many bottles Reefill user have saved from the landfill, as well as how much money members are saving by opting out of buying bottled water.

“Reefill’s pilot program has been a huge success and we have gotten great feedback from our users who let us know that they are eager to see a citywide network,” said Reefill Co-founder and CEO Jason Pessel. “We are ready to make that a reality and help as many people as possible ditch bottled water.”




1
May

Apple’s cash reserves expected to reach a quarter of a trillion dollars


Why it matters to you

Apple has enough money in the bank to facilitate even the most outlandish research and development projects, but the avenues it will pursue remain to be seen.

On Tuesday, Apple will submit its earnings report for the second quarter of 2017, and the company is expected to announce that its cash reserves exceed $250 billion. This enormous amount of money serves as a very reassuring safety net, but it’s thought that the announcement may prompt calls for Apple to invest more of its available resources.

As of the time of writing, there’s no firm confirmation that this figure is accurate. However, given that the company reported cash reserves of $246.1 billion in December 2016, it certainly stands to reasons that another $4 billion could have been added to its coffers since then.

Apple may delay spending too much of its reserves to see whether or not President Donald Trump will follow through on campaign promises that would allow money being held overseas to be brought back to the United States at a reduced tax rate, according to a report from 9to5Mac.

Rumors often circulate about major acquisitions Apple could make by utilizing its considerable war chest. In late 2016, the company apparently considered buying Time Warner before it was eventually sold to Charter Communications, and there are persistent reports that it might make a play to purchase Netflix, in an attempt to bolster its entertainment portfolio.

Apple got into the habit of keeping healthy cash reserves under the leadership of Steve Jobs. During the 1990s, the company’s financial situation got into such dire straits that it took a $150 million investment from Microsoft to keep the ship afloat.

Today, Apple is obviously in a much more advantageous financial situation. However, its massive reserves will prompt big questions about whether the cash should be pumped into research and development, or returned to shareholders. With more than a quarter of a trillion dollars in the bank, it’s perhaps unsurprising to see the company investing heavily into what’s coming next.




1
May

Apple’s cash reserves expected to reach a quarter of a trillion dollars


Why it matters to you

Apple has enough money in the bank to facilitate even the most outlandish research and development projects, but the avenues it will pursue remain to be seen.

On Tuesday, Apple will submit its earnings report for the second quarter of 2017, and the company is expected to announce that its cash reserves exceed $250 billion. This enormous amount of money serves as a very reassuring safety net, but it’s thought that the announcement may prompt calls for Apple to invest more of its available resources.

As of the time of writing, there’s no firm confirmation that this figure is accurate. However, given that the company reported cash reserves of $246.1 billion in December 2016, it certainly stands to reasons that another $4 billion could have been added to its coffers since then.

Apple may delay spending too much of its reserves to see whether or not President Donald Trump will follow through on campaign promises that would allow money being held overseas to be brought back to the United States at a reduced tax rate, according to a report from 9to5Mac.

Rumors often circulate about major acquisitions Apple could make by utilizing its considerable war chest. In late 2016, the company apparently considered buying Time Warner before it was eventually sold to Charter Communications, and there are persistent reports that it might make a play to purchase Netflix, in an attempt to bolster its entertainment portfolio.

Apple got into the habit of keeping healthy cash reserves under the leadership of Steve Jobs. During the 1990s, the company’s financial situation got into such dire straits that it took a $150 million investment from Microsoft to keep the ship afloat.

Today, Apple is obviously in a much more advantageous financial situation. However, its massive reserves will prompt big questions about whether the cash should be pumped into research and development, or returned to shareholders. With more than a quarter of a trillion dollars in the bank, it’s perhaps unsurprising to see the company investing heavily into what’s coming next.




1
May

Samsung Z4 news and rumors


Why it matters to you

Samsung’s Z4 is the first to run Tizen 3.0, the latest version of Samsung’s proprietary operating system. Here’s everything we know.

Samsung’s Galaxy S8 may be the high-end smartphone to beat, but it isn’t exactly affordable. Luckily, the Seoul, South Korea-based smartphone maker is offering more than a few affordable alternatives to its flagship phone, and one — the Samsung Z4 — runs the latest version of the company’s homegrown Tizen operating system.

Here’s everything we know about the Samsung Z4.

Software

If rumors are to be believed, the Samsung Z4 will be the first phone to run Tizen 3.0.

Tizen, for the uninitiated, is Samsung’s open-source alternative to Android. It powers tens of million of the company’s smart TVs and Samsung Gear smartwatches.

The bulk of Tizen 3.0’s new features focus on performance. According early developer notes, the update packs Khornos’ Vulkan graphics API, which minimizes overhead and reduces CPU load, and the speedy open-source web runtime Crosswalk. There’s support for 64-bit Intel and ARM CPUs, too, which Samsung says should boost CPU-intensive apps like video editors and games.

That’s not all that’s new in Tizen 3.0. It supports multiple users on a single device, and voice commands via S Voice. And new recognition APIs support facial detection and image recognition.

Samsung’s also improved Tizen’s security features. Tizen 3.0 introduces a “new security model” that simplifies “policy management,” and an “anti-virus framework” and “privacy guard” that aim to ensure rogue applications don’t gain access to personal information.

That’s encouraging news in light of an April report that painted an unflattering picture of the operating system’s flaws. According to Motherboard, Tizen contains as many as 40 unknown bugs, or zero-days, that could allow a cyber criminal to hack devices without needing to physically access them. One vulnerability involving TizenStore, Tizen’s app store, could let a hacker pack malicious code in a software update.

In response to the report, Samsung said it was working on addressing the exploits. And based on what we’ve seen of Tizen 3.0, that certainly seems to be the case.

Specs

The Samsung Z4 won’t blow anyone away with its specifications. But for a budget phone bound for developing markets, they’re par for the course.

The Z4 reportedly packs a 5-inch HD (1,280 x 720 pixels) Super AMOLED screen powered by a quad-core 1.3 GHz processor and 1GB of RAM. There’s 8GB of onboard storage inside (expandable via MicroSD slot), and accouterments like Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, a 3.5mm audio jack, GPS, and a MicroUSB 2.0 slot.

An 8 MP rear camera and 5 MP front camera handle picture-taking duties, and a 2,050mAh battery supplies a full day of power.

Release date and price

Samsung has yet to announce pricing or availability for the Z4, but it likely won’t be expensive. The Samsung Z3, its predecessor, retails for the equivalent of $87 (5,590 rupees).

And likely won’t come to the U.S., either. Samsung currently sells Tizen smartphones in India, Russia, China, and other select markets.

Still, there’s a chance the Z4 will be different. We’ll keep our eyes peeled.




1
May

Cricket Wireless and GoPhone add new Samsung phones to their portfolios


Why it matters to you

If you’re in the market for a Samsung phone, you could do worse than to buy through Cricket Wireless and GoPhone.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 is one of the best phones we’ve reviewed this year, but let’s face it: It’s expensive. Some people really don’t need any more than something cheap and reliable to get them through the day, and that’s why AT&T sub-brands Cricket Wireless and GoPhone are giving them choices.

On Friday, Cricket Wireless added the Galaxy S8 and Samsung’s Galaxy Amp Prime 2 to its lineup, and GoPhone added the Galaxy Express 3.

The Galaxy S8 practically needs no introduction. It has a crisp, 6.2-inch Super AMOLED (2,960 x 1,440 pixels) curved edge-to-edge screen, Qualcomm’s bleeding-edge Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and a USB Type-C connector. Rounding out the internals is a 3,500mAh battery with support for high-speed charging; a dedicated button for Samsung’s Bixby, an AI-powered virtual assistant; Bluetooth 5 with support for simultaneous music streaming; and sensors like a fingerprint reader and iris scanner.

Samsung Galaxy S8.

The Galaxy S8 starts at $700 on Cricket Wireless.

The Galaxy Amp Prime 2 sits at the opposite end of the hardware spectrum. It packs 4.5-inch Super AMOLED (800 x 480 pixels) screen powered by Samsung’s quad-core Exynos 3 chip and 1GB of RAM. There’s 8GB of storage onboard (expandable via MicroSD card), two cameras (a 5MP rear and 2MP front), and a 2,050mAh battery and touch-sensitive control keys.

The Amp Prime 2 is $150 on Cricket Wireless.

If neither of those suite your fancy, there’s a third option: The Galaxy Express 3. It features a 4.5-inch Super AMOLED (800 x 480 pixels) screen and a Qualcomm’s entry-level Snapdragon 400 processor. There’s 1GB of RAM and a removable 2,000mAh battery in tow, 8GB of internal storage, and two cameras: A 5MP rear-facing model and 2MP selfie cam. Otherwise, you’ll find a pretty standard array of accouterments, including GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and a MicroUSB connector.

Samsung Amp Prime 2.

It’s free for GoPhone customers until June 22.

It’s not a bad time to hop on AT&T’s prepaid bandwagon. In March, GoPhone bumped its highest data allotment to 6GB (for $40 a month) and introduced and unlimited plan for $60 a month. And earlier this year, Cricket raised allotments for several of its plans: 3GB for $40 per month, 8GB for $50, and 12GB for $60.

It’s worth noting, of course, that both carriers impose restrictions that others don’t. GoPro caps unlimited plans at 3Mbps and video streaming to 1.5Mbps. Cricket, meanwhile, limits LTE and High Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) speeds to 8Mbps and 4Mbps, respectively.




1
May

Amazon is shutting down Underground app store, ‘Actually Free’ promotions


Why it matters to you

Amazon’s Actually Free program was unique among app stores, and unfortunately users will have to find another place to get apps at a reduced cost.

Amazon’s App Store has long been a destination for savvy Android users to find popular apps for free or at a reduced cost compared to Google’s Play Store. In its early days, Amazon’s marketplace would offer up a different free app every day. In 2015, the company discontinued that promotion, but in its place launched Amazon Underground — a separate app where developers could give away their software, and Amazon would reimburse them depending on the amount of time people spent using it.

Some of these apps were even listed as “actually free,” meaning everything from the initial download cost to in-app purchases was slashed — something you don’t often see in Google’s or Apple’s mobile storefront. Unfortunately, however, it appears Underground’s days are numbered. On Monday, the company announced plans to shutter the program.

If you’re a developer, May 31 will be the last day to submit your app or game to Underground. Amazon says that Underground will stay around exclusively for these apps until 2019, meaning you’ll still be able to snag them for free, updates will continue, and developers will keep receiving reimbursements for quite some time. However, new apps will stop appearing on the service after this month — so although Underground won’t completely end for another year and a half, it could lose its appeal much sooner than that.

If you’ve been accessing Underground via the regular Amazon App Store, that will no longer be possible after this summer. You’ll have to download the dedicated Underground app.

The loss of Underground is a significant blow to Amazon’s store, which doesn’t offer the breadth of content of Google’s platform and also needs to be sideloaded on devices other than the company’s own Fire tablets. Without it, there isn’t much to entice shoppers, and Amazon hasn’t mentioned any new program to take its place.

Thankfully, if you’re on the hunt for a new third-party storefront to get your apps for a reduced cost, Android has several alternatives, like GetJar and Slide Me. These may not offer the polish of Google’s or Amazon’s offerings, but they have their own perks — like higher developer revenues, in the case of Slide Me. You can read about our favorite alternative Android shopping destinations here.




1
May

Latest ZTE Axon 7 update brings a blue light filter, support for 256GB microSD cards


ZTE continues to improve the Axon 7’s functionality.

ZTE is rolling out an update to the Axon 7 that introduces several new features. Build B25 offers a Night Mode setting that acts as a blue light filter to prevent eye strain while viewing the screen at night. The latest build also includes fixes for Wi-Fi calling, as well as performance improvements, stability fixes, and support for 256GB microSD cards.

zte-axon-7-review-2.jpg?itok=rnoKwnKm

Here’s the official changelog:

  • Enables “Night Mode” setting
  • Supports 256GB microSD cards
  • Allows users to disable some stock apps
  • Optimizes the “Do Not Disturb” function
  • Fixes various Wi-Fi Calling issues
  • Improves device stability and security
  • Miscellaneous performance improvements and other fixes

ZTE recommends that you remove the SD card before installing the update. The OTA is rolling out now, and should be available to all users in the next 48 hours. The build doesn’t increment the Android version number — it’s still at Android 7.1.1 Nougat — but with ZTE’s release cadence, the Android 7.1.2 update shouldn’t be too far away now.

Already installed the update? How are you liking the changes?

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