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8
Jul

Recommended Reading: Rebooting a hero in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’


‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’
Is One of the Best Superhero
Movies in Years

Christopher Orr,
The Atlantic

Well folks, the time has come. The team-up between Sony and Marvel for the third different take on Spider-Man debuted this week. So far, the reviews are mostly positive, noting that the duo created a compelling story line for Peter Parker with Tom Holland that establishes the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Don’t take my word for it, The Atlantic has a full review (yep, spoilers) with all the details.

Winamp’s Woes: How the Greatest MP3 Player Undid Itself
Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica

Winamp was the go-to MP3 player for a lot of people, but its glory didn’t last. Ars Technica takes a look at what went wrong.

DJI Is Locking Down Its Drones Against a Growing Army of DIY Hackers
Ben Sullivan, Motherboard

A deep dive on how DJI is policing modifications to its products that bypass flight restrictions and limits on both speed and altitude.

Science on Trial
Mallory Locklear, The Outline

Bad science and shoddy expert witnesses continue to send innocent people to jail for crimes they didn’t commit.

What Football Will Look Like in the Future
Jon Bois, SB Nation

Jon Bois of “Breaking Madden” fame is back. And he made a thing. It’s ridiculous.

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8
Jul

Game on with the best Android game controllers for smartphones and tablets


Long gone are the days when Tetris clones, Farmville knock-offs, and Pac-Man lookalikes populated much of Android’s burgeoning Google Play Store. Now, Google’s operating system boasts a diverse games library that rivals that of some home consoles. Geometry Wars 3, Minecraft, Hearthstone, and remastered titles from the Grand Theft Auto collections are the cream of the current mix’s crop — a list that seems to grow longer every day. But if you game on your phone, you may need one of the best Android game controllers.

Not all titles work equally well with touchscreens. Few AAA Android games actually require third-party peripherals, but remastered titles like Tomb Raider and Geometry Wars 3 — which were designed with a controller in mind — respond much better to physical buttons. As anyone who’s roamed the streets of Vice City or the hallways of Croft Manor can tell you, analog joysticks, D-pads, buttons, and triggers deliver infinitely more precision than big, meaty fingers on greasy smartphone glass.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of third-party Android gaming peripherals to choose from. Depending on your price range and preferences, you can pick up a model that will serve you well for years to come, or one that you’ll feel perfectly fine stuffing into a backpack or shoulder bag. Here’s our list of the best Android game controllers for tablets and smartphones.

A note about controller compatibility

Before you choose a controller to use with your Android smartphone or tablet, it’s important to know about the compatibility issues you might encounter.

Android devices running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (or Android 3.2 Honeycomb) or newer support game controllers natively. You aren’t necessarily out of luck if you’re stuck on older software — most controllers will pair to older Android devices — but you can expect them to work unpredictably, unreliably, and sometimes not at all.

Even if your device runs a newer version of Android, it’s not always smooth sailing — some games don’t take advantage of Android’s controller API, and so don’t respond properly to gamepads. But luckily, there’s a workaround in the form of Tincore Keymapper, a third-party app that lets you remap the functions of keys, buttons, and more. Note that you’ll need a rooted device to take full advantage.

Moga Hero Power Controller ($25)

The Moga Hero Power might not be the cheapest of Android game controllers, but it cuts few corners. The full-sized controller boasts a curved, ergonomic design that’s dimpled and textured — giving you a solid grip that doesn’t feel as flimsy as some of the competition.

The button layout is a typical dual analog configuration: On the front is a start button, a select button, and two sticks, one of which is positioned higher than the other to make room for a four-way directional pad. On the right are four action buttons in a diamond layout, and on the back are two shoulder buttons and two triggers.

Perhaps the Moga Hero Power’s greatest asset is an integrated 2,200mAh battery, which connects to your phone via Micro USB cable and charges it while you play. It’s not unique in this regard, but it has the largest battery of any Android game controller we’ve seen — and that’s good news for your phone’s battery life.

Other value adds include the Moga Hero Power’s fold-out hinge stand, which secures your phone in place while you’re gaming, and a convenient four-light LED light that indicates when the controller’s battery is getting low.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Pyrus Telescopic Controller ($27)

The Pyrus Telescopic controller isn’t your average Android game controller. Unlike the all-in-one, console-style solutions that try desperately to stuff every button, trigger, and joystick onto a single peripheral, the Pyrus Telescopic ships in two pieces: One that affixes to the left-hand side of your phone, and one that attaches to the right-hand side — both in landscape orientation. The result looks something like an oversized Nintendo Switch.

The Pyrus Telescopic might have a comparatively small surface area, but doesn’t skimp when it comes to inputs. The two-piece controller packs a start and select button, two joysticks (one on either side), a four-direction D-Pad, and four action buttons. Flat bumper and trigger buttons sit around back adjacent to a Micro USB charging port.

The Pyrus Telescopic’s slider mechanism fits snugly around phones up to 6.1 inches in size, and its 350mAh battery lasts up to eight hours on a charge when paired to a device via Bluetooth. But one of the Pyrus Telescopic’s nicest features is its built-in mode switching: With a single button toggle, you can swap button configurations between a gamepad mode, a keyboard mode, and an arcade mode.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

8Bitdo Zero ($17)

If the 8Bitdo Zero looks familiar, that’s because it’s a not-so-subtle homage to controllers of the Super Nintendo era. But that’s not a knock against it. The 8Bitdo Zero absolutely nails the retro aesthetic with a matte grey finish and stylish protective case, and packs all the programmable buttons you could possibly want in retro arcade Android titles.

It’s not for everyone, though. The 8Bitdo Zero is a little on the small (it fits on a keychain) and light (just 18 grams) side, and packs just a handful of buttons, including a four-way directional pad, a start and select button, four action buttons, and two trigger buttons.

But there’s more to it than meets the eye. The 8Bitdo ships with a snap-on bracket that attaches easily to most Android and iOS devices, and a 180mAh built-in battery that lasts a whopping 18 hours on a single charge.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

iPega PG-9017S ($17)

To say the iPega PG-9017S has an unconventional design is putting it mildly, but that works to its advantage. The wider-than-average base and narrow bezels let it accommodate Android tablets up to 10 inches in size, and its 380mAh battery charges plugged-in devices between gaming sessions. It pairs via Bluetooth up to 26 feet away. A special battery-saving mode, which flips on when the controller’s not in use, delivers up to 100 hours of standby time (or 2 hours of active playtime).

The iPega’s button layout isn’t for everyone. Its two parallel joysticks are short and nub-shaped. The four-way directional pad is flush with the controller’s casing. And the iPega also lacks shoulder buttons — short of the controller’s two trigger buttons, there’s nothing on the back.

But the iPega has another thing going for it: Price. If you can put up with its compromises, it’s hard to go wrong for $16.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

SteelSeries Stratus XL ($50)

The SteelSeries Stratus XL, the larger variant of the firm’s Stratus series, boasts a plethora of buttons and features. Here, you’ll find twin joysticks with textured surfaces, a four-way directional pad, four action buttons, a four-LED array, triggers and shoulder buttons, and three front-facing buttons that can be mapped to Android’s home and back buttons.

But it’s not perfect. The Stratus XL doesn’t have a built-in stand — you’ll have to find a wall to prop your phone against. And it lacks a rechargeable battery. But it does support Bluetooth pairing, and it makes up for the battery gaffe with power efficiency — two AA batteries deliver up to 40 hours of gaming, according to Stratus.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Matricom G-Pad XYBA ($22)

The Matricom G-Pad XYBA may not be as stylish as its competitors, but it checks most other boxes. It’s highly configurable, widely compatible, and lasts hours on a single charge.

The Matricom’s buttons include two joysticks in parallel (a la Sony’s DualShock layout), and a four-way directional bad in the left-hand corner. Filling out the controller’s right and center are four action buttons, including a start button, select button, power button, and an LED power button. Two bumper buttons and two triggers round things out.

Somewhat uniquely, the Matricom features feedback motors that pulse in response to what’s happening on screen. If there’s a major downside, it’s the lack of smartphone stand — there’s no easy way to prop up your smartphone while you’re using the Matricom controller. But considering the price to performance ratio here, that’s a relatively minor setback.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Razer Serval ($37)

It’s not too surprising that Razer, the pedigreed brand behind high-end RGB keyboards and gaming laptops, makes a pretty decent Android controller. It’s called the Serval, and it boasts a uniquely textured grip designed to keep it from flying out of your hands during intense gaming sessions.

The Serval’s button layout is conventional, in a word. Situated on the left is a joystick and a directional pad, and on the right-hand side is a secondary joystick and four action buttons. Two shoulder buttons and two trigger buttons occupy the back, along with two programmable front-facing buttons and physical back and home buttons that correspond to Android’s software navigation buttons.

The Serval doesn’t have a rechargeable battery — it takes double AAs. But it does have an adjustable smartphone clip and both a wireless (via Bluetooth) and wired (via Micro USB) mode. And unlike most other Android controllers on our list, it remembers up to four unique device configurations, making pairing it to multiple smartphones a breeze.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Satechi Bluetooth Wireless Gamepad ($30)

Satechi’s Android game controller may not win points for its utilitarian, nondescript design. But it’s one of the cheaper Android controllers out there.

The Satechi’s button configuration consists of 14 buttons total, laid out like an Xbox controller. The joysticks are offset — the one on the left is positioned higher than the one on the right — and the controller’s four right-hand action buttons feature fonts and colors pretty much identical to the Xbox 360’s. But thoughtful touches like dedicated mode buttons and a spring-loaded phone grip elevate the Satechi above the level of mere copycat.

One shortcoming is the internal battery, which at 220mAh is a little on the small side. But Satechi claims that with the controller’s battery-saving mode enabled, it can last more than ten hours on standby.

Buy one now from:

Amazon




8
Jul

Here’s how to uninstall Windows 10 and revert to an older version


Windows 10 has been a critical success since its release, but if you need, or want, to install an older version of Windows, it’s easy to uninstall Windows 10 and roll it back to whichever version you prefer. Unfortunately, there’s no automatic system for older versions — you’ll have to back up your files, track down some installation media, and find your software key to get back to your “old” computer.

Though the guide below is written with rolling back to Windows 8.1 in mind, the basic steps work for any Windows operating system going as far back as Windows XP, though we don’t recommend going that far back, as Microsoft ended support for it. However, be aware that new computers, particularly tablets, may contain components that weren’t manufactured when older Windows versions like Windows 7 and Windows Vista were being sold. That being the case, the manufacturer of your computer and/or the OEM supplier that created the parts may not have working drivers available for the older version of Windows.

There are two distinct methods for those looking to uninstall Windows 10. If you upgraded from Windows 7 or 8.1 within the last 30 days, there’s a simpler method of rolling back that takes very little effort, and doesn’t delete your files, which you can read about on the second page of this post. Most users will need to actually install an older version of Windows, or switch to Linux, in order to uninstall Windows 10 without leaving behind a blank hard drive.

What you will need

Before beginning anything else, back up your important computer files to a separate location. An external drive or a cloud storage service is fine, so long as it’s physically disconnected from the Windows computer you’ll be working on. Unfortunately, Windows can’t preserve programs or settings when flashing to an older version (only a newer one), so you’ll also want to get installation media for any crucial programs, especially those that require serial numbers. It’s also worth noting that Microsoft doesn’t support Windows 8 anymore, only Windows 8.1, as it was part of an automatic update cycle.

It’s also a good idea to download drivers for your computer’s various components before you begin the installation process. This will make it easier to get everything up and running if Windows doesn’t automatically select the appropriate drivers. Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and graphics drivers in particular can make the setup process much easier. Store these drivers on a USB thumb drive for easy access once Windows is finished installing.

THANAWAT TEAWPIYAKUL/Shutterstock

Next, get installation media for Windows itself. For Windows 8.1, Microsoft provides a download service that allows you to send the installation files to a new DVD, or even use a flash drive. If you’re installing an older version of Windows, you’ll need the original disc (and possibly an external CD or DVD burner, if your newer laptop doesn’t have a disc drive). Alternatively, you can create a bootable USB drive with a Windows ISO.

You’ll also need the Windows product key for whichever version you chose — this is the 25-digit code that came with your Windows retail box or purchase receipt from Microsoft, or is located somewhere on your computer’s case.

A note on Windows 7

While it may be starting to show its age, Windows 7 is still of occasional utility among power users looking to replicate or fix old software, or people who are just stuck in their ways. Windows 7 can’t upgrade, install, or keep files when installed on a system already running Windows 10, so a fresh install is the only way to achieve such a goal. Our guide to installing Windows 7 has all the links, detailed instructions, and a few caveats about using older operating systems that may help you troubleshoot esoteric issues. The Windows 8 process is much easier.

Setting Up Windows 8.1

Once you’ve finished backing up your files and programs, remove all other external storage drives, cards, or discs, and insert the Windows installation disc or drive. Restart your computer and boot it from that drive. This usually requires either entering a keyboard command to open the boot menu, or entering the BIOS (or UEFI on newer laptops and tablets) and manually selecting the drive. For discs, select your CD or DVD drive. For thumb drives, select “USB” or “USB-HDD.”

Michael Crider/Digital Trends

The Windows setup process will begin. For Windows 8.1, the first screen lets you select your language, location, and keyboard localization. Click “Next,” then “Install now.” Wait for the setup process to initiate.

Installation

Click “I accept the license terms,” then “Next” on the license screen. The next screen has two options, “Upgrade” and “Custom.” Click on “Custom” — the Windows 8.1 installation system cannot upgrade from a newer version of Windows to an older one.

On this screen you’ll have to select the installation drive or partition. If your computer has only one hard drive or SSD, then this is the largest partition available. You have two options here: Click the drive and then click “next” to preserve old Windows files in a folder in the new installation. This is useful as a secondary backup method, but it will not preserve installed programs, and there may be compatibility or permission issues with accessing the old files. Generally it’s better to start fresh by formatting the install drive: Do this by clicking “Format,” then “OK.” Wait for the primary drive to be formatted, then click “Next.”

On the next screen, the setup program will copy the Windows files from your installation media to your computer and begin installing the operating system itself. This may take quite some time, so if you’ve got something else to do for thirty minutes to an hour, it’s fine to leave your computer alone, so long as it’s plugged in or has plenty of battery power left. Keep an eye on the screen and return when the process is finished. Your computer may restart on its own.

After a few minutes you should see Windows 8.1 begin its first bootup process. Here you’ll select a few settings and personal touches. Just follow the on-screen instructions, entering your username and password where prompted. Click “Finish.”

Running Windows

Now you should be running Windows 8.1, fresh and clean. If any of your computer’s components aren’t working, use the drivers that you downloaded during the setup section of this guide. Install the Ethernet or Wi-Fi driver, and you can use an Internet connection to get everything else you’ll need. Move any backup files back onto your computer and reinstall any necessary software from the Internet or the original media.

Once you’ve got your files and programs set up, use Windows update to download any necessary updates to Windows or your device drivers.

If you’ve installed Windows 10 within the last 30 days, it’s even easier to go back to the way things were.

8
Jul

Take a weekend flight over GTA V’s Los Santos with these 4K screenshots


Rockstar’s latest addition to its car-stealing open-world franchise, GTA V, may have been on the market for a few years, but it’s still a gold standard for optimization and graphical fidelity. As these 4K GTA V screenshots demonstrate, there’s still a good reason for that. Though some spots may be starting to show their age, there’s plenty to appreciate, especially with the resolution cranked up to a full 3,840 x 2,160. Click the photos in the gallery above to see them in full detail.

A big part of that immersion is Rockstar’s attention to detail. Despite a massive world with lots to see, the game’s designers and artists somehow found the time to flesh out every building, park, and intersection with the sort of oddities and under-the-radar additions that make the city of Los Santos feel as real as Los Angeles.

As our PC performance guide also pointed out, that level of detail doesn’t stop when you leave the city. The foliage and grass detail is the single largest contributor to poor performance, and turning it up to Ultra can render even the most powerful PC into a smoldering pile of parts.

So of course, we downloaded this perennial favorite to our test rig and cranked the settings up at full 4K. Our test rig is powered by an Intel Core i7-6950X with 16GB of RAM, and a Zotac GTX 1080 Ti AMP! edition with 11GB of video memory. Even our system wasn’t capable of producing consistently high frame rates at these settings, but it did give us chance to nab some beautiful screenshots of our 4K flyover.

Ok, we admit, we used a cheat code to score these sweet screenshots. The code BARNSTORM, which you can input by pressing the ~ key on PC, will spawn in a fixed wing stunt plane that makes these flyovers easy, even if you aren’t a particularly skilled pilot who keeps crashing into buildings.

We also made use of Rockstar’s built-in cinematic camera by pressing “R” while flying. While this wasn’t particularly conducive to our flying skills, it does rotate through a nice selection of more dramatic camera angles than you could achieve simply by rotating or zooming out the standard camera orientation.




8
Jul

How to use Alexa and Google Home to make your home safe and sound


As Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Home continue to battle it out for consumer dollars, it looks like the next skirmish is going to be over security and how to keep your home safe using smart-home technology. Amazon is ahead in this respect simply because the Echo, Dot, and Tap have been on the market longer than the Home, but both companies are quickly bringing on new partners, applications, and products in an effort to capture as much of this market as possible — one that is predicted by some to be a billion dollar enterprise by 2020.The simple question is, which smart speaker system is better at providing home security? The answer, however, is complicated because there are many factors and products involved in home security. The main factors are access, locks, monitored security systems, cameras, and accessibility. But either can help give you a bit of peace of mind when it comes to keeping your home secure.

Let’s look closer at some of the ways users are creating DIY security solutions using their smart speakers.

Security begins at home

One of the most important factors to consider is that your home is only as secure as your smart speaker system. If the device can be compromised, it won’t matter how many locks or cameras your home has, because an enterprising intruder could just turn them off. Security experts recommend keeping all your devices updated in terms of software and patches, as well as being cautious of what you allow your smart speaker to access. It’s also important to set up security within your smartphone device, because a stolen phone could quickly turn into a security risk for everything attached to your smart home hub. With the new Amazon Echo Show, you’ll also want to keep in mind that, in addition to the microphone, it has a camera, so you’ll want to think about who you add to the drop-in list, which lets people use the device as a video intercom.

Locks and security systems

The most basic tools in home security are locks and comprehensive security systems, and this is where Google and Amazon are still fairly different in terms of their offerings.

Technically, the Echo is currently ahead of the game in terms of the security products that can integrate with the speaker. Scout was the first home-security system to integrate with the Echo, with SmartThings quickly following. At CES 2017, ADT announced that its Pulse security ecosystem will now support the Echo and like-minded Dot. The system also already works with the professionally monitored Vivint security system and the Alarm.com skill, and Amazon recently announced voice control over the Schlage Connect Touchscreen Deadbolt.

The Home is quickly catching up in terms of integration, however, given the August Smart Lock and the Kwikset Convert both boast integration with Google’s smart speaker. There are also some users who believe that Google Assistant’s ability to better analyze speech and participate in contextual conversations may give it the edge over Alexa.

Eyes on the prize

Voice assistants and security cameras aren’t all that compatible, unless you simply want to turn them on or off with a simple command. The Google Home can control your Nest thermostat, but it isn’t compatible with the company’s cameras yet. The Amazon Echo Show lets you view some cameras’ and video doorbells’ footage from its 7-inch touchscreen, so you don’t need to pull out your phone to check on the baby or see who’s at the front door.

IFTTT to the rescue

For advanced users, it’s worth taking the time to understand and utilize a technology called IFTTT. The acronym stands for “If This, Then That.” Using useful tools called applets, smart speaker owners can trigger smart-home devices using various voice commands. The tricky part is that users need to say the commands correctly. With the right trigger phrase, users can turn on lights, trigger a siren, and lock smart locks in concert. The Home can utilize IFTTT applets to control useful apps such as Tasker and AutoVoice, while Amazon can access the Echo’s IFTTT channel and connect Alexa to devices like the iSmart Alarm System. Based on the devices you have, you can search for existing applets or create your own.

Calling for help

By far, the most significant race between Amazon and Google in terms of security is the ability for the smart speakers to make emergency phone calls. In 2016, a British Echo owner showed the device was pretty useless if you say someone’s broken in and you need help. There’s a workaround for Alexa with a free skill called “My Buddy.” It allows users to trigger a phone call to one of five designated numbers using the phrase, “Alexa, Ask My Buddy to Send Help,” but that’s not going to help a visitor who’s unfamiliar with your device. Alexa does make calls, but it won’t connect you to anyone who doesn’t have their own device or the app, including your local emergency officials.

Google Home works differently, in that in can call any number in the U.S. or Canada for free. This means you could ask it to call a loved one in an emergency situation and hopefully reach them on their cell phone, but it’s not clear if you’ll be able to reach 911 with the Home.

Home security is driving the adoption of smart technology

In the company’s annual smart home survey, Lowe’s recently confirmed that 62 percent of adults believe security is one of the most beneficial reasons to own smart-home devices. Smart speakers aren’t exactly a guarantee that your home will be safer, but they can act as a tool in your security arsenal. And they’ll continue to get smarter. Though you likely won’t want your voice assistant interrupting your conversation to tell you the weather, it would be nice to have it issue an alert if the smart smoke detector goes off.




8
Jul

Amazon Prime members can grab Dash Buttons for $1 and still get a $5 credit for a limited time


Our friends at Thrifter are back again, this time with a way to grab Dash Buttons for just $1!

Amazon’s Dash Buttons are an extremely easy way to reorder the supplies that you use the most in your house, and thanks to Amazon’s upcoming Prime Day, members can grab select ones for $0.99. Normally the buttons cost $4.99 each, and then you receive a $4.99 credit after using it for the first time, but right now you can pick up a discounted one and still get the same credit. That means that you’ll effectively make $4 on each button that you buy and use (limit of 3), so be sure to check them all out.

dash-button-test.jpg?itok=bj06LzxS

Purchase each button separately and choose No-Rush Shipping at checkout to receive a free $1 digital credit with each one you buy. If you aren’t already a member of Amazon’s Prime service, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial to take advantage of this offer and others. Some of the discounted Dash Buttons include:

  • Household and Office
  • Beverage & Grocery
  • Health, Beauty & Apparel
  • Kids, Baby & Pets
  • Music, Sports & Outdoors
  • Amazon Exclusives & More

These discounted prices will run until Tuesday, July 11. If you want to get really crazy with it, you can even reprogram the Dash Buttons to do other tasks, so be sure to check that out as well.

See at Amazon

Prime Day 2017 is coming! Follow along with our live blog to discover the best deals first!

8
Jul

Have you ever ruined a phone? [Roundtable]


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The Android Central editors take their turn telling you about that one time (or those many times) they ruined a phone.

It’s happened to everyone, and it’s almost always in slow motion — at least that’s how the brain retains it. A slip, a knock, a jolt — whatever verb is appropriate, the end result is the same: a phone, lying on the floor, your heart somewhere in your throat. You pick it up to examine the damage. Dented. Cracked. Smashed. Doesn’t matter the adjective, it’s still your phone, in a heap.

Andrew Martonik

moto-x-2014-wood-back.jpg?itok=g-3VIGpB

It seems amazing considering the number of phones I’ve used, but I really can’t recall a time I completely ruined a phone.

My Moto X Pure Edition, with its beautiful walnut back, took a really bad drop onto concrete just a couple months into using it that completely smashed one corner and bent the metal frame enough to pop the wood back up … but the screen was actually okay and the phone was usable so I couldn’t call it ruined.

It still hurt so so bad to pick up that beautiful phone (one of Motorola’s best designs, I have to say) and see the corner was in such bad shape and the wood back irreparably damaged. But I should consider myself lucky that I haven’t ever completely broken a phone to the point where I was unable to keep using it.

Daniel Bader

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My photo, my hands, old website

I have actually never broken or ruined a phone, at least not without external forces at play. I was once showing a brand new review unit of the Samsung Galaxy S Glide (a rebadged version of T-Mobile’s Galaxy S Relay) to a friend and the moment she took it in her hand it slipped and crashed to the floor in dramatic fashion. It was raining at the time, too, and the glass screen completely shattered, sending small shards all over what was, despite the tumultuous weather, a very busy patio.

I had to return the review unit, dead as the Harlem Shake, to the PR agency that had let me borrow it (I was very new to the industry at the time and didn’t have much cache with the representatives) and my point of contact was not very happy. While they eventually got over it — mistakes happen to the best of us, after all — I was henceforth known as “the phone breaker” and teased relentlessly every time a new Samsung phone was released.

Oh, the good ol’ days.

Ara Wagoner

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I’ve never destroyed a phone myself. I had a phone short out on me the night before I started a new job, but I didn’t electroshock it or throw it in the tub or anything.

The closest I ever came to wrecking a phone was two years ago on my birthday. My Moto X was getting a little full so I’d plugged it into my computer to more quickly delete some stuff off of it. Long story short, I deleted like half the system, but the half that remained let me get to the Settings and factory reset it, so that was at best a morning’s annoyance rather than a true wreckage. Happy birthday to me…

Jen Karner

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I am Queen Butterfingers, dropper of all things breakable, she who will destroy a phone without even realizing she has done it. Meaning, of course, that I have demolished more than one phone by accident. There have been incidents with my phone jumping into toilets, and out of pockets to ruin screens on concrete.

My absolute worst run was the summer of 2015 as I was just starting to write for Android Central. Over the course of four weeks, I destroyed three different LG G3’s by dropping them. One fell between the slats of my porch, and hit those slats hard enough to make the entire screen shatter. The next came five days later when I was trying to take a picture of a phone, and it fell out of my hand and bounced down cement steps. The last one in this horrible triad happened when a friend surprised me, I jumped, and the phone went flying into a fountain at the mall. It not only got soaked, but the screen cracked in about seven places.

I did say I was great at accidentally killing phones, didn’t I?

Harish Jonnalagadda

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To date, I wrecked three phones — the Galaxy A7 2016, OnePlus 3, and the OnePlus 3T. I was out shooting images for the Galaxy A7 review last year, starting out with the back of the device. I turned the phone around to take a few photos of the front, put it back in my pocket, and came back home to realize that the back was cracked. I can only assume I placed the phone down too hard on the ledge.

The OnePlus 3 and 3T were both straightforward. Both devices tumbled out of my hand onto the pavement, with the OnePlus 3 picking up a spiderweb of cracks over the entire surface of the screen from a single point of impact. The OnePlus 3T, meanwhile, fell two feet onto a cobblestone, but the phone fell face-first, hitting the right corner of the display and shattering the panel. Considering how clumsy I am, it’s surprising I haven’t destroyed more phones.

Alex Dobie

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I’ve been really, really lucky when it comes to the destruction of phones. I’ve used a lot of non-waterproof phones out in the rain (it rains a lot in England) without breaking anything. Nevertheless, I still value the peace of mind you get from knowing a phone is water-resistant.

The most catastrophic drops happened a few years ago — again, mostly luck, I think, that nothing more recent has taken a similar tumble. First was an LG Optimus 3D, onto hard concrete, which survived. Then a Sony (Ericsson) Xperia Arc, onto jagged rocks, which also survived. Then a Galaxy S4 onto a hardwood floor (when I was wiping fingerprint smudges off the back, amusingly) — the removable, replaceable plastic back panel saved my bacon.

Oh, and there was the back of a Nexus 4 that cracked from the removal of a Dbrand skin. Go figure.

The only device I’ve ever smashed completely was an Xperia Z3 Compact, which slid its way off a couch arm and landed on the display — a short fall, but enough to kill it. Fortunately (again, my luck) there were reports online of Z3 screens cracking spontaneously around that time, and Sony, without asking me how it had smashed, replaced my display for free.

Jerry Hildenbrand

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Yep. But only a bunch of times. 🙂

I have a bad habit of taking phones apart. There’s no particular reason I have the urge (we leave teardown vids to iFixit because they’re pros and they can do it without drinking) but that urge is strong. I like to see what’s inside, and I look for anything cool or different a manufacturer is doing. Needless to say, a lot of times those phones don’t go back together the same way. I’ve mostly stopped doing this since the companies making phones think glue is a substitution for screws, but it still hurts thinking about the two Galaxy Nexus phones I absolutely ruined because I wanted a Texas Instruments part number.

I’ve busted a few by accident, too. I loved my Nexus S until I dropped it in the toilet. I loved the replacement until I did the very same thing in the very same toilet. I no longer set my phone on the edge of the sink so I did learn something. I ran over my Sony Xperia Z Ultra Google Play Edition with my wheelchair. 6.4 inches of glass stands no chance against a fat guy and his wheels. Most recently, I dropped my V20 and busted the camera glass and am looking all over for a true OEM replacement part. I get clumsy like anyone else from time to time.

I won’t mention the time my wife dropped her Galaxy S5 from the New River Gorge bridge (“I’m going to get a picture of the bungee jumpers, hon”) because that would embarrass her.

8
Jul

Alexa notifies you when Amazon has shipped your package


You can add one more device to the pile of gadgets vying for your attention, now that Amazon has switched Alexa’s notifications on. The e-commerce titan first revealed that visual notifications were coming to its speakers on its developer site back in May. Now, the feature is live, though in very limited capacity. According to Fast Company and AFTVNews, it can only tell you about packages out for delivery at the moment. It doesn’t seem to be available for other Alexa skills yet, but hey, at least you can take the feature for a spin on Prime Day.

Amazon’s Alexa notifications are available for the Echo, the Echo Dot and the Echo Show. Based on the new help page published on the company’s website, the Echo and the Echo Dot’s light ring will display a pulsing yellow light when there’s a new notification, while the Echo Show will display a banner at the top of its screen. When you see them, just tell Alexa to read your notifications or ask the voice assistant “what did I miss?”

Eventually, your Amazon speakers will also be bugging you about other things, including weather updates from AccuWeather and new happenings from The Washington Post. You don’t have to deal with any of those if you don’t want to, though. The feature is opt in: you’ll have to enable it by going to Settings and toggling on Notifications under Accounts.

Via: Fast Company, AFTVnews

Source: Amazon

8
Jul

The Morning After: Weekend Edition


Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

Welcome to the weekend. Tesla’s building a big battery Down Under and it’s time to talk about what Jawbone’s demise means for wearables.

720s in 360ESPN’s X Games will stream live in VR on Samsung headsets

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Next week the X Games will livestream its first event in VR. Thanks to a partnership with Samsung you’ll only be able to watch it on a Gear VR headset. Feature segments and commentary will be spliced between coverage of three events — Skateboard Vert, BMX Street and Skateboard Street Amateurs — and broadcast in 48 countries.

A $50 million bet.Tesla is building world’s largest backup battery in Australia

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Tesla announced that it has a deal to back up Elon Musk’s boast that it can supply Australia with 100 megawatts of battery storage in 100 days. Musk claims this project “will be the highest power battery system in the world by a factor of three.” Plus, he promised that if Tesla can’t get the job done on time, then the system will be free.

Mind the gap.Jawbone’s demise heralds the end of the wearables industry

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Unlike software — which can be fixed months or even years after its original release — hardware is a trickier proposition. Flawed products and rapidly iterating competitors spelled doom for Jawbone’s wearable efforts, which will be a cautionary tale for others in the space.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.When tech nostalgia goes too far

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The NES Classic Edition, Stranger Things and the Twin Peaks reboot are examples of nostalgia products done right. Unfortunately, these ten things probably took our retro obsession a little too far.

Sleek, not slim.PlayStation Vue drops its cheapest packages, now starts at $40

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Slim PlayStation Vue bundles used to cut $10 off the standard price by opting out of local TV broadcasts. Now those options are gone for new customers and will fade out in three months for existing subscribers. As a result, the lowest price for Vue streaming has gone from $30 to $40 per month, but at least it has consistent pricing nationwide now.

But wait, there’s more…

  • Waymo narrows its patent infringement case against Uber
  • Bad Password: Hacking Team is back
  • Twitter left Rob Kardashian’s revenge porn live for 30 minutes
  • China’s ‘elevated’ bus was a scam after all
  • ‘Baby Driver’ is an ode to iPod nostalgia

The Morning After is a new daily newsletter from Engadget designed to help you fight off FOMO. Who knows what you’ll miss if you don’t subscribe.

8
Jul

The only way to stop another WannaCry is with regulations


It’s been one week since the newest (and therefore scariest) cyberattack, which caused pandemonium across Ukraine and Russia before spreading to other countries. But that came only a few weeks after the WannaCry ransomware targeted Windows XP machines worldwide, which infamously held data from the UK’s National Health Service hostage. You might think we’ve entered a new era of cyberattacks, one that could threaten all of the machines in your home and every internet-connected service you rely on.

The truth is much more boring: It’s what we’ve always dealt with. Sure, in a post-Stuxnet world, there are more countries than ever dabbling in cyberwarfare. But they’re generally relying on the same sort of software flaws hackers have been using for decades. If this is all old hat, though, why aren’t we getting better at preventing major cyberattacks? Simply put, there still isn’t enough motivation for organizations to step up their security practices — even in the midst of an avalanche of headline-grabbing attacks.

“The larger problem is you have to think about how to get people to do the basics — get them updating and using better authentication,” James Lewis, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Engadget. “I don’t think there’s enough of an incentive yet for the market to do this. And when the market isn’t doing it, you have to think of regulation.”

RIT01. Taipei (Taiwan), 12/05/2017.- A programer shows a sample of a ransomware cyberattack on a laptop in Taipei, Taiwan, 13 May, 2017. According to news reports, a 'WannaCry' ransomware cyber attack hits thousands of computers in 99 countries encrypting files from affected computer units and demanding 300 US dollars through bitcoin to decrypt the files. (Atentado, Estados Unidos) EFE/EPA/RITCHIE B. TONGO

After a series of cyberattacks targeted New York financial and insurance companies — including the 2015 Anthem breach, which exposed personal data of 78 million people — the state responded with one of the country’s first set of cybersecurity regulations. It requires that financial-service firms hire a chief information security officer (CISO) to manage and document their cybersecurity plans. Additionally, companies must notify New York’s Department of Financial Services of any breach attempts and ensure third-party firms that handle their data implement their own cybersecurity measures.

The New York regulations force potentially vulnerable companies to step up their efforts and accept accountability. Even with the looming threat of losing customer data, it’s difficult to make huge companies change their security behavior on their own. While it’s too early to tell if the regulations have actually helped stop any major attacks, the measures are at least more proactive than what organizations have done in the past. On the national front, Trump’s cybersecurity order doesn’t bring much to the table aside from more calls for surveillance.

“The economy would be better off if we could deregulate. That doesn’t work for cybersecurity,” Lewis said. “Companies hate regulation, I get it. But then you’re going to say, ‘Well, we’re giving up on public safety.’” He likens the current situation with how American car companies, in particular, Ford, were resistant to seat belts and other safety regulations in the 1960s. And that was despite widespread research that seat belts would save customers’ lives.

“Many of the temporary standards are unreasonable, arbitrary and technically unfeasible,” Henry Ford II, then-CEO of Ford, warned at the time. “If we can’t meet them when they are published, we’ll have to close down.”

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Vincent Mundy/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A darker possibility that could make security a priority is a massive cyberattack. While WannaCry came close, especially with its effect on the NHS, Lewis notes it really just exposed people who were slow to patching. There’s the potential for attacks to be even more aggressive and put even more lives in danger. While it would be nice to see extensive regulations pushing security initiatives, it’s not hard to imagine that many firms will resist any change until they’re forced to deal with serious consequences.

Following the WannaCry attacks, Microsoft’s legal head and president, Brad Smith, blamed the NSA and the US government for “stockpiling” the exploit behind it. That security flaw was discovered by the NSA but stolen earlier this year by hackers. And while Microsoft patched the issue once it was made aware, that didn’t help the millions of people running Windows XP and Windows Server 2012 who didn’t update. Some companies are stuck with XP because they rely on legacy software and, of course, some users just never get around to updating. XP is 16 years old, and Microsoft officially stopped supporting it in April 2014, so it’s surprising they patched it at all.

“We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world,” Smith wrote. “Repeatedly, exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage. An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the U.S. military having some of its tomahawk missiles stolen. And this most recent attack represents a completely unintended but disconcerting link between the two most serious forms of cybersecurity threats in the world today: nation-state action and organized criminal action.”

Lewis considers Microsoft’s appeal an attempt to pass the blame, but he notes that governments should be more transparent about their cybersecurity discussions. We’ve been hearing about talks occurring between the US, China and Russia during the past decade, but they haven’t been well-publicized. And while Microsoft’s Smith is calling for digital Geneva Conventions to get countries to agree to a certain set of cyberwarfare rules, Lewis doesn’t think there’s much incentive for a country like Russia to come to any agreement. “What’s a cyberattack? People can’t even agree on that,” Lewis said.

Because it will be incredibly difficult to force other countries to play fair when it comes to cyberwar, the need for regulation seems more pressing than ever. We can’t control what other people do, but we can at least prepare for potential attacks as best we can.

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