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Watch DirecTV’s streaming service on your Roku device

Cable cord cutters, take note: AT&T’s live TV streaming service, DirecTV Now, is available on select Roku models starting today. The service will work on nearly every Roku device out there — 4K Roku TVs, as well as the Ultra, Premiere+, Premiere, Express+, Express, Streaming Stick model 3600R and the Rokus 4, 3 and 2 (model 4210). To access DirecTV Now on a Roku, new customers can sign up for the service from a computer, tablet or smartphone and then download the channel from Roku’s store onto their device.

DirecTV Now, which launched on November 30 to lukewarm reviews, is AT&T’s competitor to services such as Sling TV and PlayStation Vue. The lack of Roku support for DirecTV Now was surprising, given that it works on pretty much every other device, including the Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast on Android in addition to web access and mobile apps.

New subscribers can test out the service with a free one-month trial, after which they will be billed a minimum of $35/month for service. The pricing tiers range from $35/month for 60+ channels to 120+ channels for $70/month. If you’re looking for a commitment-free service to replace your cable subscription and have a Roku, DirecTV Now just became a little more attractive.

Source: Roku Stream Blog


NVIDIA aims to build better robots with the Isaac Initiative

NVIDIA wants robots everywhere. Following in the heels of its Jetson TX2 hardware for robots and drones, NVIDIA announced the Isaac Initiative at Computex today, a new platform focused on accelerating development for a wide variety mechanical devices. Named after author Isaac Asimov, it brings together the Jetson TX2 with the company’s APIs for perceiving and moving around environments (the Astro AV Stack); the “Isaac Training Lab” for teaching machines in photorealistic, simulated environments; and a collection of open source platforms for things like rolling robots and drones.

The plan, according to NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang, is to make it easier for developers to build robots. And a big part of that is having robots train themselves. During his Computex keynote, he showed off how a program taught itself to play hockey in the virtualized Isaac lab. By running several instances of the program at once, and only keeping the versions of it that got better at hockey, he was able to train something that could easily make goals. That was also true when it came to playing golf — the program went from not knowing how to hold the golf club, to scoring hole-in-ones without any human intervention.

Based on that demo alone, the Isaac Training Lab is shaping up to be the most intriguing part of the new platform. It’s an offshoot of NVIDIA’s Project Holodeck, but instead of having humans training in a virtual environment, it’s meant for robot software. The Lab is photorealistic and obeys the laws of physics, which is important for translating what a program learns into the real world when it’s powering a physical robot. It’s all fairly basic looking at the moment, but NVIDIA might be on to something. While it’s possible to manually program robots to do your bidding, it’s far simpler if they could train themselves and get better over time.

NVIDIA’s first clients for the Isaac Initiative include Toyota, which is using it for service robots, and drone maker Teal. Much like the company’s forays into AI and self-driving, the Isaac Initiative isn’t something that will directly impact consumers anytime soon, but it paves the way for NVIDIA to be an essential part of a robot-powered future.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from Computex 2017!


Apple’s Domination of Component Supply Chain Said to Be Constraining Nintendo Switch Production

A new article by The Wall Street Journal today has taken a look into the increased pressure put on suppliers of NAND flash memory units, as well as other smartphone components, and how Apple might be indirectly affecting the supply of the Nintendo Switch. According to people in the industry, smartphone makers — namely Apple — and their increasing ramp-up on component manufacturing for high-end devices have led to dwindling supplies of Nintendo Switch.

Specifically, Nintendo is lacking components related to NAND flash-memory chips, liquid-crystal displays, and the motors used in the Switch’s HD Rumble feature. NAND memory chip supplies are said to be placed mainly upon the shoulders of Toshiba’s struggling NAND chip unit, which is still up for sale despite legal troubles that have plagued the company over the past few weeks. In April, Apple was rumored to be looking into spending several billion for a “substantial stake” in Toshiba’s NAND chip unit.

Apple’s manufacturing ramp-up on the upcoming “iPhone 8” is said to be behind some of the supply chain constraints faced by Nintendo, as well as ongoing demand for the iPhone 7. Currently, Apple manufactures iPhone 7 with an LCD display and various internal sizes of NAND memory. The Nintendo Switch has a multi-touch LCD display and 32GB of internal memory.

People in the industry say the rapid expansion of web-based services for corporations has driven demand for computer servers that use flash memory. Continued demand for Apple’s iPhone 7 and a 10th anniversary model of the iPhone expected later this year are also keeping parts makers at full capacity, helping power Japan’s economy to its longest growth streak since 2006.

“Demand for our NAND flash memory has been overwhelmingly greater than supply, and the situation is likely to stay for the rest of this year,” said a spokeswoman at Toshiba Corp.

For Nintendo, the company has said it hopes to make as many as 20 million Switch units by the end of its financial year, in March 2018. Thanks to supply constraints, the actual sales target of the year is 10 million units, although “strong demand suggests it can sell many more – if it can make them.” In its first month on the market, Nintendo sold 2.74 million Switch units.

Analysts watching the supply chain said that Nintendo’s rivals “offer better terms” than the video game company, and that smartphone makers like Apple specifically “issue larger orders than Nintendo.” This leads to manufacturers giving preference to companies other than Nintendo, and subsequent shortages for its products. Increased spending to secure more parts at a faster rate for the Switch isn’t a possibility for Nintendo, as president Tatsumi Kimishima doesn’t want the console’s $299 retail price to increase.

Tags: Nintendo, Nintendo Switch
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Intel’s Upcoming Coffee Lake Processors Up to 30% Faster Than Kaby Lake Chips Coming to Mac Notebooks

Intel today said one of its eighth-generation “Coffee Lake” processors delivered more than a 30 percent performance boost over an equivalent seventh-generation “Kaby Lake” processor in recent testing. Both generations of chips are suitable for Apple notebooks, such as the 12-inch MacBook and MacBook Pro.

“We will have more to say about the 8th Gen Intel Core processor in the future but it’s exciting to share that in the latest testing, we’re seeing a performance improvement of more than 30 percent over the 7th Gen Intel Core processor,” said Gregory Bryant, a senior executive at Intel.

Using the benchmark tool SYSmark 2014 v1.5 on Windows 10, Intel compared an unreleased Core i7 quad-core processor with an unspecified base clock speed, and Turbo Boost up to 4GHz, against its Core i7-7500U dual-core processor with a base clock speed of 2.7GHz and Turbo Boost up to 3.5GHz.

Both are 15W chips, creating the possibility of a quad-core 13-inch MacBook Pro with Coffee Lake in the future.

Intel aims to make its Coffee Lake lineup available to computer makers in the second half of this year, and the eighth-generation processors should provide the usual benefits of faster performance and longer battery life in future Macs.

Apple has yet to update its Mac lineup with Kaby Lake processors in the first place, but the company reportedly plans to announce new 12-inch MacBook and MacBook Pro models equipped with the seventh-generation chips at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference next week.

It’s still too early to say when we’ll see the first Mac with Coffee Lake, but it likely won’t be until at least late 2017 or early 2018 given Intel’s roadmap.

Earlier this year, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said Apple plans to launch a nondescript “15-inch MacBook” with 32GB of desktop-class RAM. He said the notebook will enter mass production in the early September quarter, but it’s uncertain if Coffee Lake processors will be readily available by then.

Intel today also unveiled its Core X-series processor family for desktop computers, ranging from quad-core options to the high-end Core i9 Extreme Edition with 18 cores. The processors, codenamed “Basin Falls,” are “coming soon.” More details and tech specs are listed in this fact sheet and slideshow.

Apple has promised to release a high-end iMac for professional users later this year, and Intel’s new Core X-series processors appear to be appropriate for the desktop computer if the company wishes to use them. However, a rumor points towards Apple using Intel’s Xeon E3 processors for at least some of the new iMacs.

Apple’s current Mac lineup uses a mix of Intel’s older Haswell, Broadwell, Skylake, and Ivy Bridge processors. Coffee Lake will be an iteration of Kaby Lake, based on a 14nm process, and it’s not to be confused with Intel’s upcoming “Cannonlake” processors based on an all-new 10nm process.

Related Roundups: iMac, Mac mini, MacBook Pro, MacBook
Tags: Intel, Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake
Buyer’s Guide: iMac (Don’t Buy), Mac Mini (Don’t Buy), MacBook Pro (Caution), MacBook (Don’t Buy)
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North Korean Company Ignores Apple Trademarks and Launches Tablet Called ‘Ryonghung iPad’

North Korea technology company Ryonghung has recently released a new tablet using the trademarked name of Apple’s popular device, the iPad. The company’s tablet is called the “Ryonghung iPad” and lets users read the news, work on documents, and perform other actions across more than 40 different pre-installed apps (via Gizmodo).

Tech specs for the Ryonghung iPad detail a device with 1GB RAM, an 8GB hard disk, a quad-core 1.2GHz processor, HDMI compatibility, a keyboard, and “network connection” capabilities. The advertising material details a few apps as well, relating to programs like a calculator, a health encyclopedia, a medical app, and an agricultural program.

As NK News pointed out, the heavy use of “iPad” in the device’s marketing material violates Apple’s trademarks.

A North Korean company is advertising a domestic tablet computer under the copyrighted name of one of Apple Inc.’s flagship products – the “iPad” – the DPRK’s latest edition of Foreign Trade magazine shows. The term “iPad” is registered as an Apple trademark on its website and while there are occasions when the company’s terms can be used, these generally need Apple’s authorization.

A different version of the Ryonghung iPad first appeared in North Korea in 2013, although then it lacked the “iPad” moniker and was called the “Ryonghung-trademarked tablet computer” by the media. North Korean versions of Apple devices have been seen in the past, with a computer bearing resemblance to the iMac showing up at a trade fair in Pyongyang in 2015. Created by a company called Blue Sky, the computer was an all-in-one device with an aluminum finish, black bezels, and white keyboard and mouse accessories.

Similarly, in 2014 reports surfaced of North Korea’s “Red Star” Linux operating system and its overall resemblance to OS X at the time. The Red Star OS included a similar dock, wallpapers, tool bar, and more visual similarities to Apple’s MacBook and iMac computer operating system. However, the Ryonghung iPad appears to be the first device launched out of North Korea that directly uses Apple branding.

Apple was asked if it would enter a trademark dispute with the North Korea-based company over the iPad brand, but a representative of the Cupertino company has yet to respond.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.
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Apple Seeds Second Beta of iOS 10.3.3 to Developers

Apple today seeded the second beta of an upcoming iOS 10.3.3 update to developers, two weeks after seeding the first beta and a little over two weeks following the release of iOS 10.3.2, a minor bug fix update.

Registered developers can download iOS 10.3.3 beta 2 from the Apple Developer Center or over-the-air with the proper configuration profile is installed.

No significant features or notable bug fixes were found in the first beta, suggesting iOS 10.3.3, like iOS 10.3.2, is an update that’s minor in scale and designed to introduce security improvements and address bugs. It does introduce new wallpapers for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, though.

iOS 10.3.3 could be one of the last updates to iOS 10, as Apple is beginning to shift its focus to iOS 11. iOS 11 will make its debut at the upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference, which kicks off on June 5. iOS 11 will be in testing for several months before seeing a fall public release.

Related Roundup: iOS 10
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Apple Seeds Second Beta of tvOS 10.2.2 to Developers

Apple today seeded the second beta of an upcoming tvOS 10.2.2 update to developers for testing purposes, two weeks after releasing the first beta of tvOS 10.2.2 and a little over two weeks after releasing tvOS 10.2.1, a minor bug fix update.

tvOS 10.2.2 is available for the fourth-generation Apple TV. Registered developers can download the update by connecting the Apple TV to a computer with a USB-C cable and installing the beta software using iTunes.

Due to the installation requirements, tvOS betas are only available for developers, so tvOS 10.2.2 will not be publicly available until the final version of the software is released.

No major feature changes or bug fixes were discovered in the first beta of tvOS 10.2.2, and it appears to focus on minor under-the-hood improvements.

tvOS 10 will soon be followed by a new version of tvOS, which Apple is expected to introduce at its Worldwide Developers Conference on June 5.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 10
Buyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Don’t Buy)
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Apple Seeds Second Beta of macOS Sierra 10.12.6 to Developers

Apple today seeded the second beta of an upcoming macOS Sierra 10.12.6 update to developers, two weeks after seeding the first 10.12.6 beta and a little over two weeks after introducing macOS Sierra 10.12.5, a minor bug fix update.

macOS Sierra 10.12.6 can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center or through the Software Update mechanism in the Mac App Store.

No significant features or notable bug fixes were found in the first macOS Sierra 10.12.6 beta, and because Apple does not provide beta release notes, we may not know what’s included in the update until it sees a public release.

macOS Sierra 10.12.6 is likely to be one of the final updates to the Sierra operating system as Apple transitions to macOS 10.13, which will be introduced at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

Related Roundup: macOS Sierra
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Apple Seeds Second Beta of watchOS 3.2.3 to Developers

Apple today seeded the second beta of an upcoming watchOS 3.2.3 update to developers for testing purposes, two weeks after seeding the first watchOS 3.2.3 beta and a little over two weeks after releasing watchOS 3.2.2, a minor bug fix update.

Registered developers can download the watchOS 3.2.3 update through the Apple Watch app on the iPhone by going to General –> Software Update. For the beta to be installed, the Apple Watch needs to have 50 percent battery, it must be placed on the charger, and it has to be in range of the iPhone.

Apple only provides watchOS betas to developers because there’s no way to downgrade software on an Apple Watch. Non-developers will need to wait for the public release to get the update.

No notable features or bug fixes were discovered in the first beta of watchOS 3.2.3, suggesting the update focuses primarily on under-the-hood improvements.

watchOS 3.2.3 is likely to be one of the last updates to the watchOS 3 operating system, as Apple is expected to introduce a new version of watchOS at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch Series 2, watchOS 3
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
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Essential Phone: Everything you need to know

Why it matters to you

When the co-creator of Android backs a new phone, we need to sit up and pay attention.

Have you heard of Andy Rubin? He’s the co-creator of Android, the smartphone operating system that powers 2 billion devices around the world. Now, since leaving Google several years ago, he’s backing a new project to make a smartphone. It’s called the Essential Phone, and it unsurprisingly operates Android; but that’s probably the only unsurprising thing about it. Here’s all the essentials about the Essential.

The Essential Phone

The Xiaomi Mi Mix started the bezel-less screen trend rolling, before it was picked up by LG, Samsung, and others; but the Essential Phone may have the most impressive bezel-less screen we’ve seen on a smartphone yet. The screen extends almost to the bottom of the phone, where it does meet a thin bezel, and all the way to the top. Unusually, the selfie cam is in the center and the screen curves around it, making it a striking visual feature.

The display measures 5.7 inches and has a 2560 x 1312 pixel resolution, with a 19:10 aspect ratio. Samsung and LG have chosen the 18:9 aspect ratio for the Galaxy S8 and LG G6. We also know a Snapdragon 835 processor with 4GB of RAM powers the device, and 128GB internal storage is on hand for media. There are two camera lenses on the back, a 13-megapixel color lens and a second monochrome lens, repeating a setup we’ve seen, and loved, on the Huawei P9, P10, and Mate 9. It’s not clear whether it will create the blurred bokeh background effect, or only enhance low-light performance. The selfie camera has 8 megapixels and can record video at 4K resolution.

A fingerprint sensor is on the back, plus there is a power button and volume controls on the right hand side, and a 3040mAh battery with fast-charging keeps the phone powered up. Other specifications include Bluetooth 5.0, a USB Type-C port, and a wide range of international 4G LTE band support. The phone weighs less than 185 grams, and is 7.8mm thick.

Made of titanium and ceramic material, and Gorilla Glass 5 over the screen, the Essential Phone is supposed to be tough enough to survive a few falls, but we don’t know if it has water resistance to make it truly tough. Like some other major phone releases recently, the Essential Phone doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone socket, but an adapter dongle is expected to come in the box. Android Nougat 7.1.1 is installed as the operating system.

Essential accessories

The dongle joins a Moto Mod-style range of modular accessories for the Essential Phone, which attach using magnetic pins on the device’s back. There are two modules known at the moment: A 360-degree camera, and a dock that will charge the phone.

The “world’s smallest” 360-degree camera

The camera accessory, which Essential claims is the “world’s smallest,” attaches to magnets at the top of the phone’s body, allowing it to poke its head over the top of the phone. It weighs just 35 grams, and has two 12-megapixel lenses that can shoot 4K resolution, 30fps video and four microphones capture sound in 3D. Support for live streaming will be included, too.

Essential Home

Essential will also release a speaker with a voice assistant for the home — Essential Home — along the same lines as Amazon’s Echo and Google Home. The main difference is the Essential Home has a circular screen, showing exactly what it’s doing, along with other pertinent information.

Essential Home’s round “auto-display” can be activated with a tap, a glance, or a question. Just like Amazon’s Echo speakers, Microsoft’s Cortana Assistant, and Google Home, it lets you control music, set timers, and more. And when it ships later this year, it’ll work with smart home platforms like SmartThings, HomeKit, and Nest.

Essential Home runs a new piece of software called Ambient OS, which puts the emphasis on privacy rather than cloud operation, and offers greater user control. Here, it wants to make suggestions on actions, rather than learning your behavior and automatically carrying tasks out.

Release and price

The Essential Phone and its accessories will be sold in the United States initially. The release date hasn’t been officially announced, but we do know the phone will cost $700, and that you’ll need to reserve one through Essential’s own website for now. It states you’re taking a place in a queue, so you’ll need to act fast if you want one quickly. The 360-degree camera will cost $200 separately, but only $50 when purchased with the phone.

Any deals with carriers or retailers haven’t been announced at the time of writing, or how long it will be before the phone and its accessories will ship. We’ll keep you updated here, and further news is expected to come very soon.

Article originally published in April 2017. Andy Boxall contributed to this report. Updated on 05-30-2017 by Kyle Wiggers: Added information about Essential Home and 360-degree cam accessory. 

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