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29
Jul

HTC U11 review: More than just gimmicks


Even die-hard fans have been ready to write off HTC for years now, and I can’t blame them. The company’s phones have fluctuated between greatness and mediocrity while its competitors have improved by leaps and bounds. So, what’s a company in a kind of existential peril supposed to do? Well, making a phone like the new U11, for starters. It’s shiny, laden with gimmicks, and — spoiler alert — the whole thing falls short of perfect for a few reasons. Even so, HTC has gotten enough right in this ostentatious package that you should definitely start (or re-start) paying attention.

Hardware and design

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Chris Velazco/Engadget

With the U Ultra, HTC overhauled the design of its high-end smartphones. Forget those sturdy metal unibodies: from now on, it’s all about lots of sparkly, pretty glass.

The back of the U11, in particular, is sure to grab attention — HTC calls the finish “3D liquid glass” and it was crafted to catch light in unexpected ways. The Solar Red model is only really “red” sometimes. Under the right light, the phone turns bright gold and it’s pretty trippy. Even better, all of the edges just sort of melt into each other — no rough seams in sight. This shock of color is enough to make the phone’s face, with its 5.5-inch Super LCD5 screen and big black bezels a little underwhelming.

Phones swathed in glass can be tricky, though. I couldn’t put the U11 down on the arm of my couch without it skittering to the floor. You can forget about taking calls with your phone wedged between your neck and shoulder, too, unless you’ve got sandpaper shoulder pads. Glass also cracks more easily than metal. While we were shooting our review video, the U11 tipped over from its standing position and smacked into our glass studio table. Countless phones have done this over the years and they were never worse for it — the U11 is the first that cracked.

There’s a fast, accurate fingerprint sensor below the screen, wedged between two capacitive navigation keys. The headphone jack is over, so you’ll use the USB C port on the bottom for charging and audio playback. In the SIM tray, you’ll find a spot for a MicroSD card to supplement the 64GB of onboard storage.

You can’t see them, but the U11 also has multiple pressure sensors baked into its sides. We’ll dig into Edge Sense a little later, but you can squeeze the phone to trigger predefined actions like launching the camera. Plus the whole thing is IP67 water resistant, which means it’ll handle dips in up to 1 meter of water for around 30 minutes.

Display and sound

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Chris Velazco/Engadget

The U11’s screen is good, but pretty standard. We’re working with a 5.5-inch Super LCD 5 at Quad HD. That works out to a density of about 534 pixels per inch. Colors aren’t quite as vivid as on an AMOLED display, but solid clarity and color reproduction put it in the same ballpark as its rivals. I only wish the screen was a little brighter. It’s a little dimmer than the Galaxy S8 and iPhone 7 Plus, making it tougher to read under harsh daylight.

The U11’s speakers, on the other hand, are very, very good. It’s been a long time since HTC’s BoomSound heyday, but the U11 is louder and clearer than any other smartphone I’ve tested recently. In fact, while I was testing the speakers at the office, I had to deal with more than the usual amount of stink-eye from non-Engadgeteers because of the volume. (To my knowledge, no HR claims have been filed.) You’ll need more oomph for, a party, but the U11’s built-in sound system is good enough for gathering people around a YouTube video.

Without a headphone jack, you’ll need to use Bluetooth cans or HTC’s pack-in USonic Type-C earbuds. They’re a little too heavy on the bass for me, but they’re comfortable and offer a more welcome surprise: active noise cancellation. Even better, they don’t need batteries since the earbuds draw power from the phone. While handy, these pack-ins are nowhere as good as isolating noise as, say, a pair of Bose QC35s. The U11 can also tailor the way the phone plays audio through those earbuds. Each audio profile is specifically tuned for your ears, and mine made my music sound noticeably crisper and brighter — good stuff.

Software

When the company launched the 10, it also revealed an approach to Android that felt cleaner and fresher than before — Sense UI’s visual noise was dialed down and extraneous apps were killed in favor of Google’s own. These were steps in a positive direction and led to a mostly uncluttered version of Android 7.1 Nougat for the U11. In general, it runs very, very well, but it feels a little stale when compared to updated interfaces from rivals like Samsung.

Rather than revamp the interface, HTC focused its efforts elsewhere. The U11 comes with support for three — three! — virtual assistants right out of the box, which is a little insane. Most of you are probably familiar with Google Assistant, and it works the way it always does: either long-press the Home button or get its attention with “OK, Google,” then fire off a request.

HTC’s Sense Companion is much less vocal, offering up notifications and reminders based on what it knows about you and your environment instead. Is it going to rain? It will suggest you pack an umbrella. Once it gets late in the day, it’ll tell you how many steps you’ve taken and even remind you to charge your phone when it knows you have plans later. Essentially, HTC’s assistant tries to stay subtle while being proactive — it’s meant to slide into your life when you need it and disappear when you don’t. In general Sense Companion plays it safe by only occasionally surfacing notifications. I would’ve preferred it to be a little more in-my-face and but there isn’t a way to make the Companion offer handy tips more regularly.

Then there’s the newcomer, Alexa. Amazon’s voice interface is available on a few smartphones right now, but the U11 is the first to give it a proper home. You just say “Alexa” and she’ll spring to life. The U11 lacks the Echo’s far-field voice recognition, so it occasionally takes a couple tries to rouse it. Other than that, it’s the same solid performer you expect. Alexa has access to all the skills I’ve enabled on my home Echo, and the U11’s great speakers mean audiobooks and music from Amazon come through loud and clear. In fact, Alexa’s only true failing is that when she can’t tell what you’re saying, the app window and screen stay active until you dismiss the app or try again. If you’re not paying close attention, a failed Alexa conversation could leave the U11’s display lit up, burning precious battery.

Edge Sense

Don’t forget that you can squeeze this phone to make it do things. For all the hype, Edge Sense is very simple. The best way to think of it is as an invisible convenience key with two settings: a squeeze performs one action, and a squeeze-and-hold performs another.

Getting Edge Sense up is simple: just clench your way through a demo. You’ll have to enable the advanced mode to get access to the squeeze-and-hold gesture, though, for reasons beyond comprehension. By default, the squeeze action is set to launch the camera, with a second squeeze snapping a photo once everything is in position. Thankfully, none of those actions are set in stone. Rather than launching the camera, you can set a squeeze to launch an app, take a screenshot, toggle the flashlight and even fire up the mobile hotspot.

Frankly, I kind of hated it at first because I couldn’t consistently get my squeeze pressure right. Things changed once I dialed down the amount of pressure needed — lighter grips meant less time wondering why things weren’t working properly. (This also means Edge Sense is easier to trigger by accident, but I don’t mind.) Now I instinctively squeeze the U11 every time I need to grab a quick photo and get a little frustrated when other phones don’t work the same way. Granted, Edge Sense doesn’t do anything that a dedicated button couldn’t, and it’s easily disabled for anyone who doesn’t want it. It’s handy, but it’s no game-changer.

Camera

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Chris Velazco/Engadget

When I reviewed the U Ultra earlier this year, I was let down by its camera. Not because it was bad, mind you, but HTC’s cameras still hadn’t caught up to the competition. Well, this year is different: the U11’s 12-megapixel camera is a highly capable all-around shooter, with image quality in the same league as Samsung’s. My test shots consistently came through with lots of detail and accurate colors, save for a few cases where outdoor shots where the green looked a touch bluer than expected.

Other than the occasional color temperature issues, the U11 has been an excellent everyday shooter. It’s fast to focus thanks to an SLR-style dual-pixel system, and the near-instantaneous HDR Auto turned multiple shots into a single vibrant photo with ease. This kind of algorithmic enhancement helped Google’s Pixel capture excellent photos, and it’s doing great work here too. There’s a hint of shutter lag after you snap a photo though, so keep that in mind when you’re trying to capture subjects in motion.

The U11’s camera is also surprisingly good in low light thanks to its wide aperture (f/1.7) and improved 5-axis optical image stabilization. Before taking the camera through its paces, I was a little concerned because the pixels on the 12-megapixel sensor are smaller than in HTC’s other UltraPixel cameras. I shouldn’t have been: dark photos came through crisper than expected, though you’ll still find your share of grain. That said, I still think the S8s have a slight edge over the U11.

Videos shot with the U11’s main camera were similarly impressive, especially at 4K. There’s hardly any distortion and the level of clarity puts the U11 right up there with the best of them. Given the phone’s attention to sound quality, the inclusion of a 3D audio recording mode makes sense. It’s meant to make videos sounds more immersive, and it does to an extent — just make sure you’re wearing headphones or all nuance is lost.

Meanwhile, the front-facing camera actually shoots at a higher 16MP resolution, and with a wide-angle lens, it’s capable of some seriously nice selfies. The relatively wide f/2.0 aperture also means the sensor gets to suck up more light — I only needed the screen flash in near-pitch black situations.

Performance and battery

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Chris Velazco/Engadget

The U11 uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chipsets paired with 4GB of RAM and the Adreno 540 GPU. You know, just like basically everyone else. Still, there’s no denying that the 835 delivers some serious horsepower The U11 feels fast whether you’re jumping between multiple apps or plowing through beautiful games like Afterpulse and Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Hardly anything I threw at the U11 over the course of a week gave it pause. There’s a rare stutter, but the U11 is one of the most consistently snappy smartphones I’ve tested this year.

Battery life, however, was just average. Like the U Ultra before it, the U11 packs a 3,000mAh battery. But, this time it’s paired with a more powerful processor and a smaller screen. This balancing act of components worked out better than expected. In our video rundown test, the U11 looped an HD clip for just north of 13 hours before it finally needed a recharge. That’s much better than the U Ultra’s 11-odd hours, and in line with the Galaxy S8. The S8 Plus and the OnePlus 5 are still the phones to beat, though: they both lasted for a little over 15 hours before giving up the ghost.

When it comes actual use, expect to get just over a day on a single charge, and closer to a day and a half if you actually put your phone down once in a while. Again, this is average for this year’s flagships. People’s charging habits seem to be changing though, so the inclusion of Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3 tech is handy (if not quite as fast as the newer QuickCharge 4 stuff). Using the included power adapter and cable, the U11 went from bone-dry to 90 percent full in a little over an hour.

The competition

The U11 is a very strong option for smartphone shoppers, but don’t forget about all the other great devices released this year. Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are arguably at the top of the pack — they both have gorgeous “Infinity” displays, not to mention excellent cameras and similarly impressive performance. The S8 Plus is the better choice thanks to its significantly bigger battery, and its larger size is mitigated by Samsung’s brilliant, bezel-less design. That said, you’ll have to deal with a highly customized software experience.

If you’re looking for pure horsepower on a budget, the OnePlus 5 is also worth looking at. It uses the same Snapdragon 835 chipset as other 2017 flagships, but pairs it with 6GB of RAM for truly stunning performance. Despite being slightly smaller and lighter than the U11, the OnePlus also contains a bigger, 3,300mAh battery which lasted noticeably longer in our rundown tests. Then again, the U11 has a much better camera and offers more in terms of software creature comforts than the mostly-stock OnePlus 5.

Wrap-up

HTC didn’t get everything right with the U11, but it nailed a whole lot more than I ever expected it to. That’s a big deal. After the mess that was the U Ultra, I was honestly unsure whether the company would ever drag itself out of its doldrums. The U11 is proof that, yes, there is still hope for this company. While gimmicks like Edge Sense and the stylishly fragile glass back make the U11 seem too eager to be different, underneath all that is a very good, very fast phone that’s worthy of your attention.

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29
Jul

Learn how to install Linux on a Chromebook with our simple guide


If you’re a tinkerer and like to really squeeze efficiency from your machines, you can get a lot of mileage from installing Linux on a Chromebook. It provides greater control over your system and access to an array of useful applications that aren’t available in Chrome OS yet. Thankfully, we’ve done the hard work of learning how to install Linux on a Chromebook, and broken it down into the steps below.

Note: Switching your Chromebook over to developer mode may void your software or hardware warranty, so make sure to check with your manufacturer before getting started. A restored image will take your system back to a brand-new state, but you never know what the manufacturer might see if you have to send it in for repairs.

If that isn’t an appealing option, or you aren’t feeling adventurous, you can also install Android apps on your Chromebook to add functionality without upsetting the manufacturer. Those with more ambition can even install Windows on a Chromebook, but the process is far more complicated. Either way, read on for further details.

Step 1: Back up your junk!

One of the best features of Chrome OS is that a lot of your data is saved to Google Drive, rather than locally. It’s especially convenient for you right now, because step two is going to erase all of the local data on your Chromebook. If you have any files you don’t want to lose, back them up to the cloud, or to another computer, for the time being. Zipping up groups of files can help you put them back where they’re meant to be after the installation.

You’ll also want to be prepared with a recovery image, just in case something goes wrong. You can download software directly from Google that makes this process easy, and then all you need is a flash drive or SD card, depending on your Chromebook’s connectivity.

Step 2: Developers, developers, developers

Now that you backed up all of your data and are ready to wipe your system completely and start over — don’t worry, it will automatically install Chrome OS — you can put your system into developer mode. There used to be a complicated series of hidden switches for this, but it’s now part of the Chrome OS firmware and it couldn’t be easier.

With your device on, hold down the Escape and Refresh keys, then press the power button. When your Chromebook turns back on, you’ll be in recovery mode, with the screen telling you to insert a recovery disc. You’ll come back here if something goes wrong, but for now, hold CTRL and press the “D” key to bring up the OS verification menu.

You have two options here, the first being that you can hit the spacebar to wuss out, remove yourself from the menu, and pretend you never wanted Linux to begin with. The second option is to hit the Enter key, which will delete all of the local data on your Chromebook and boot you into developer mode. After a few moments, it will let you know that you’re now in developer mode, and then reboot the system to a fresh install of Chrome OS. Fill out all of your information like you normally would, and continue until you’re looking at the Chrome OS desktop.

Step 3: Don’t eat this Crouton

Dealing with Linux kernels and shell scripts can be intimidating and messy if you aren’t familiar with Unix, but that’s OK because David Schneider, a hardware engineer at Google, has made it relatively painless. Through a bundle of scripts he calls Crouton — an acronym for ChRomium Os Universal chrooT envirONment… sort of —  all you have to do is use one command with a few parameters to get Linux up and running. The Crouton GitHub page features a download link for the software, as well as detailed instructions, troubleshooting tips, and forums that discuss issues and tricks for making everything run smoothly.

Download the Crouton file, which should automatically save to your Downloads folder. If you want some added functionality, like a unified clipboard between Chrome OS and Linux, you can also install the Crouton Clipboard extension, but it isn’t necessary.

Step 4: Roll your sleeves up and pull on a root

You might not know it, but Chrome actually has a terminal of its own, called crosh (ChRome OS developer Shell), that gives you access to settings that aren’t normally available, and lets you control files and programs in much the same way you would a Linux shell.

The easiest way to access the terminal is to hold the CTRL and ALT keys, then press “T,” which will open a Chrome window or tab with some text and a place to enter commands. Once you have this window open, type in “shell” without quotation marks to enter the true UNIX command line, where we’ll access the core at the center of your Chromebook and Chrome OS.

It’s from this command line that we’ll run Crouton, the program that will download and install any of a number of Linux distributions. For this guide we chose XFCE, namely because it’s lightweight and functional, which is perfect for preserving the long battery life and portability of a Chromebook.

Step 5: Where’d my icons go?

Paste the following command into your command line: “sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -t xfce”. If you installed the aforementioned Chrome extension, you’ll also want to change the command so it says “xfce,extension” at the end.

Hit Enter and wait as your system pulls the necessary information and begins setting up your chroot. Don’t be surprised if this takes a bit of time, or if you see lots of text on the command line. More importantly, don’t interfere with this process.

Step 6: Babysitting the process

If you’ve ever installed an operating system before, you know that it needs time to itself to unpack data and configure system files, but it needs your input from time to time. A Linux installation is no different, so you’ll have to respond to a few prompts during the setup process.

If you used the most basic installation option, it will just ask you for a username (lowercase letters, numbers, and dashes) and a password. Before you go and type in the same password as your Gmail account or the one you use for every other site, it’s important to note that your whole system, not just the Linux half, is protected by that password, so if someone guesses it and gets into the Linux shell, they have the potential to access your Google account and its data. You should choose a strong password regardless. Type it in again to confirm — Note: The cursor doesn’t move when you enter a password in Unix — and hit Enter to finish installation.

Step 7: It’s in the computer

Your secondary operating system is now installed! To access it, simply return to the shell — where it should have deposited you after install — and enter the following command: “sudo enter-chroot startxfce4”.

The screen will then go black for a minute and boot into the Linux desktop. If you aren’t familiar with Linux, keep in mind that it takes a bit more effort than Windows or MacOS, especially the first time you boot it up.

Step 8: Live free

There are lots of advantages to installing Linux on your system, but there are a few that are particularly relevant to Chrome OS users. The following programs provide functionality that your Chromebook can handle but don’t fall within the Chrome OS ecosystem, or provide functionality you wouldn’t have if you were using your Chromebook offline.

Steam: Valve’s digital storefront and its surrounding community are awesome, and, thankfully, you can use your Chromebook to play whatever games in your library natively support Linux. If you have a desktop machine somewhere in your house that you usually use to play games, you can also play those games on your Chromebook. Simply log into Steam with the same account on both your Chromebook and your desktop to set up the connection, which will render games and stream the video output over your local network.

VLC: When it comes to media players it’s hard to beat VideoLAN Client, which supports dozens of audio and video formats, as well as a bevy of useful features for network streaming and playback. It couldn’t be easier to install — it even comes packaged with some larger distributions — and is open-source, if you want to try your hand at compiling the software yourself.

GIMP: Chromebooks don’t have a real version of Photoshop to run, though, browser-based options like Pixlr serve as basic alternatives. If you need something a little more robust, the Gnu Image Manipulation Project (GIMP) is a free piece of image-editing software that provides a large number of tools typically reserved for competing software. Moreover, the active user base is constantly working to help solve problems and develop new tools and features.

Skype: Because Chromebooks are easy to take with you on the go, Skype is a great choice for staying in touch. Most modern laptops have webcams and microphones built in, too, so you can videochat from anywhere you have an internet connection. If you can’t convince your friends to switch to Google Hangouts, at least you’ll have another option for managing your long-distance relationships and web friends.

Updated 7/28/2017: Minor edits to copy. 




29
Jul

Here’s how to use Do Not Disturb mode in Android


Our smartphones command our attention several times every day. Some people even check their phones in the middle of the night. Why do we allow this endless torrent of incoming notifications, which are often unimportant, or worse, email spam, to interrupt us? If you can’t resist that blinking LED or that buzzing in your pocket, then you need to get to grips with the Do Not Disturb mode in Android.

Don’t let your smartphone addiction win. Set some ground rules with your phone and ensure that it doesn’t bother you in meetings, at the cinema, or when you’re catching forty winks. Let’s look at how to use Android’s Do Not Disturb mode.

Note: You might find some slight differences in the menu options from phone to phone, depending on the manufacturer, but Do Not Disturb mode is baked into stock Android now, so it should be present on every Android handset.

How to use Do Not Disturb Mode in Android

The fastest way to turn on Do Not Disturb mode is to swipe down from the top of your screen to open the notification shade and tap on the Do Not Disturb icon. On most phones running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or later, you’ll get a menu with three options:

  • Total silence: Nothing will interrupt you.
  • Alarms only: Any alarms you have set can disturb you.
  • Priority only: Alarms can get through, but you can customize exactly what else should and shouldn’t disturb you.

Underneath that, you will see the option to specify how long Do Not Disturb mode should be active. You can set it to an hour to cover a meeting you’re going into, specify a time when it should turn off, or tell it stay on until you turn it off again yourself.

Setting Priority Notifications in Do Not Disturb

If you want to use the Priority only option, then you must define what a priority notification is.

  • Go to Settings > Sound & notification > Do not disturb and tap Priority only allows. If you have a Samsung Galaxy phone, then it’s Settings > Sounds and vibration > Do not disturb > Allow exceptions > Custom.
  • You can choose Reminders, Events, approved contacts, messages or calls from specific contacts, or repeat callers who call twice within 15 minutes.

Setting Automatic rules in Do Not Disturb

You can have Do Not Disturb mode turn on automatically, based on an event or time, by setting some rules.

  • Go to Settings > Sound & notification > Do not disturb and tap Automatic rules. If you have a Samsung Galaxy phone, then it’s Settings > Sounds and vibration > Do not disturb > Enable as scheduled.
  • Tap on Add rule, and decide whether you want it to be triggered by a specific time, or by an event.
  • Pick a name for the rule and then specify the triggers.
  • For time based rules, you can choose days of the week, and specify start and end times. This means you can set one bedtime rule for during the week and another for the weekend.
  • For event based rules you’ll need to specify a calendar to link up and then you can have Do Not Disturb turn on automatically when you have an event, like a meeting. You can even specify that it only works for meetings you’ve replied Yes to. Note: Unfortunately, event based rules are not offered on Samsung Galaxy phones.




29
Jul

Please stop playing Pokémon Go in cemeteries


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Imagine for a moment you are out visiting a family member who has recently passed.

You smile for a moment as a cherished memory flutters by. A tear falls from your face as the hole this person has left in your life swells a little larger than usual. Just as you go to kneel down and straighten the floral arrangement next to the tombstone, this peaceful resting place is interrupted by the last thing you imagine hearing right now.

HELL yes. I caught the Lugia!

Turning and facing the interruption, you see 18 adults with a handful of children next to over a dozen cars. These people are playing a game in the cemetery, standing in a cluster right next to a row of someone else’s family members. A minute or two passes, and this caravan of noisy people roll out together in hunt of the next place to play the game.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a hypothetical. It’s happening all over right now, and in my personal opinion, it’s something that should stop.

We do not consider playing “Pokemon Go” to be appropriate decorum on the grounds of ANC. We ask all visitors to refrain from such activity.

— Arlington Cemetery (@ArlingtonNatl) July 12, 2016

Niantic is no stranger to this particular topic. People have been playing in “off limits” places since the first day of Ingress, including someone getting caught setting up a portal on the 50-yard line of a big football stadium. We’ve seen warning messages about playing these games where there are rules prohibiting you being there, but a cemetery during the day is frequently not on that list. The gates are open, the Gyms are lit, and occasionally there are raid events that randomly appear in these locations.

Over this last weekend, I saw upwards of 80 people playing at the same time.

Why is this all of a sudden such a big problem? Coupled with the the Year 2 update with Raids, the folks who attended Pokémon Go Fest unlocked the new Legendary Pokémon. These creatures are bigger than the other raid events by far, and they’re much harder to catch. This means people are gathering in large groups again for the first time since the start of the game last year. The launch of these elite Pokémon includes a warning to play with at least 19 other people when attempting the Raid, and in many areas multiple groups are running at the same time. Over this last weekend, I saw upwards of 80 people playing at the same time in areas that really weren’t built to hold that many people or that many vehicles.

It’s not hard to understand why this is a problem for cemeteries. Not only is it widely considered disrespectful to be playing a video game where others are in mourning, but the insane increase in vehicle traffic actually interferes with people coming to the cemetery for its intended purpose. If the Pokemon Gym is in an area far away from the parking lot, you frequently see massive lines of cars on the roads of the cemetery, which are frequently not wide enough to really do that while normal cemetery operations are underway.

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While this irritates me personally, especially when the local Facebook groups for Pokémon Go in my area try to avoid the conversation by only giving an address instead of the name of the Gym when trying to rally people to a Raid, there are some who suggest this behavior is the natural evolution of how people have always used cemeteries. From Keith Eggener speaking with The Atlantic:

They were quite important spaces for recreation as well. Keep in mind, the great rural cemeteries were built at a time when there weren’t public parks, or art museums, or botanical gardens in American cities. You suddenly had large pieces of ground, filled with beautiful sculptures and horticultural art. People flocked to cemeteries for picnics, for hunting and shooting and carriage racing. These places became so popular that not only were guidebooks issued to guide visitors, but also all kinds of rules were posted.

Its fantastic that so many people are outside, interacting with new people, and getting exercise with this game as a foil. The only problem I have with this mentality is how much extra work it puts on cemetery operators, which is an extension of a larger issue in general with the way Niantic is able to shirk responsibility for the way its users behave when playing this game. There’s a tool for unregistering your business or landmark as a PokeStop or Gym, but it’s not an instant process and puts all of the onus on the people who didn’t ask for this in the first place. The same could be said for creating new rules and putting them on new signs and then enforcing these rules inside a cemetery. It’s not that the idea is without merit, it’s just a lot to ask of people who probably have no idea what a Pokémon is to begin with.

In my opinion, Niantic should exempt cemeteries from these Raid events with an opt-in option for maintainers of these facilities. Until something like that happens, it’s up to you as the players of this game to take up a little personal responsibility and go hunting for your Legendary Pokémon elsewhere.

Pokémon Go

  • Pokémon Go Game Guide!
  • Pokémon Go Gen 2 FAQ
  • Pokémon Go tips and tricks
  • How to deal with GPS errors in-game
  • How to play without killing your battery
  • Join our Pokémon Go forums!

29
Jul

Best Car Mounts for Google Pixel


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What’s the best car mount for Google Pixel?

The Google Pixel and Pixel XL are gorgeous and you’re going to want to hold onto them all the time, but that’s just plain unsafe when you’re driving — and depending where you live, it’s often illegal! You need to pick up a great car mount, and we have some favorites to share with you!

  • Spigen Air Vent Magnetic Car Mount
  • Nite Ize Steelie
  • Anker CD Slot Magnetic Universal Phone Holder
  • Kenu Airframe Plus Portable Car Mount
  • Ram mount
  • Spigen Style Ring

Spigen Air Vent Magnetic Car Mount

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Spigen makes a lot of really ingeniously designed smartphone accessories, and their Air Vent Magnetic Car Mount is as convenient as it gets. The mount itself quickly and securely clips onto an air vent on the dash.

As the name suggests, this mount secures using magnets. That will require you to attach a metal plate to the back of your phone, or better yet to your Pixel’s case. Once installed, all you have to do is hold your phone close to the mount and it pops right on. With no clips or holsters to deal with, you can easily grab your phone with one hand as you leave the car. You can also take the Spigen clip with you and use it as a portable kickstand which holds your phone at the perfect angle for hands-free viewing.

But for all the positives, there are some drawbacks to this design. Adhering the metal plate on the back of your phone may interfere with the way you grip your phone, or leave scratches on the metal. If keeping your Pixel in pristine condition is important to you, you may want to look elsewhere, or slap the metal plate on the inside of a thin case so you can quickly pop your phone out.

Snag it for around $8.

See at Amazon

Nite Ize Steelie

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This is definitely the coolest mount on this list. The Steelie is a two-piece mounting system wherein a circular magnet adheres to the back of your Pixel and a spherical magnetic base adheres to your car’s dashboard or console.

Hop in the car, and your phone mounts in a snap. This is about as minimalist as it gets in terms of car mounts. Making sharp turns and hitting potholes? No worries: The magnet is super strong and the magnetic ball moves with your phone to prevent it from falling off.

If you want a mounting system that nigh unnoticeable, the Nite Ize Steelie is your slick solution for around $20.

See at Amazon

Kenu Airframe Plus Portable Car Mount+

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Minimalism and simplicity are important features for a lot of people. The Kenu Airframe Plus+ is a simple car mount that’s slim enough to comfortably fit in your pocket, but still secures your phone by clipping to an air vent.

There’s really not too much to this one — no suction cups, adhesives or adjustable arms — so there’s less places for this mount to break or fail. The clip is able to mount to any vent type, whether they be horizontal, vertical, angled or circular. It’s so portable that you can take it with you and also use it as a kickstand. Simply slip a business card or something of a similar size in the clip on the back and it will stand on its own.

Versatile, simple and portable — what more could you want? Grab it for around $30.

See at Amazon

Ram Mount

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The Ram Mount is an adjustable crade-style mount that holds onto your Pixel or Pixel XL with four arms. It adheres to your dashboard or console via a suction cup and is adjustable via its ball socket, which allows you to orient your phone any way you want it.

The holder is spring-loaded, so you can just slide your Pixel in and away you go. It’s made of a high-strength composite, aluminum, and stainless steel, so it’s durable and strong, sturdily securing your phone. It’s a little on the expensive side, at $50, but it’s worth it.

See at Amazon

Spigen Style Ring

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The Spigen Style Ring is one of those accessories that seems a bit weird when you’re looking at it in the box, but is a true game changer once you’ve become accustomed to all the ways it makes using your phone easier — and that includes its function as a car mount.

The Style Ring sticks to the back of your phone or a case with adhesive (don’t worry, it won’t leave marks or residue on your phone) with a 360-degree swiveling ring that’s the star of the show. Slip a finger through it and you no longer need to death grip your phone while walking down the street or when reading your phone in bed, or set it up as a kickstand for hands-free viewing.

But back to the car mount feature. Arguably the most convenient feature is the little black hook that comes with the Style Ring, which simply attaches anywhere on your dash and allows you to seamlessly attach your phone with the Style Ring so you can use your phone for navigation, playing music, place hands-free phone calls and more. When you arrive at your destination, simply pop the phone off the mount hook and you’re on your way! There’s no complex rig to install and the hook mount is barely noticeable on your dash.

Our very own CrackBerry Kevin is a huge fan of the Style Ring, so check out his video if you need more convincing. It’s available in five different color options so you should be able to find that matches your phone’s color. You can pick one up for $14.

See at Amazon

How do you drive with your Pixel?

Did we miss your favorite car mount on our list? Leave us a comment below!

Updated July 2017: Removed Anker’s discontinued CD slot mount.

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29
Jul

Who needs friends when robots are this sociable?


Nearly every step wrought havoc upon the prototype walker’s frame. Designed to activate landmines in the most direct means possible, the EOD robot was nevertheless persistent enough to pick itself back up after each explosion and hobble forth in search of more damage. It continued on until it could barely crawl, its broken metal belly scraping across the scorched earth as it dragged itself by a single remaining limb. The scene proved to be too much for those in attendance. The colonel in charge of the demonstration quickly put an end to the macabre display, reportedly unable to stand the scene before him. “This test, he charged, was inhumane,” according to the Washington Post.

But how can this be? This was a machine, a mechanical device explicitly built to be blown up in a human’s stead. We don’t mourn the loss of toasters or coffeemakers beyond the inconvenience of their absence, so why should a gangly robotic hexapod generate any more consternation than a freshly squashed bug? It comes down, in part, to the mind’s habit of anthropomorphizing inanimate objects. And it’s this mental quirk that could be exactly what humanity needs to climb out of the uncanny valley and begin making emotional connections with the robots around us.

These sorts of emotional connections come more easily in military applications, where soldiers’ lives depend on these devices working as they should. “They would say they were angry when a robot became disabled because it is an important tool, but then they would add ‘poor little guy,’ or they’d say they had a funeral for it,” Dr. Julie Carpenter of the University of Washington wrote in 2013. “These robots are critical tools they maintain, rely on, and use daily. They are also tools that happen to move around and act as a stand-in for a team member, keeping Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel at a safer distance from harm.”AFGHANISTAN/

A US Army specialist sends an EOD robot towards an IED (Afghanistan, 2010) – Image: Reuters

“They were very clear it was a tool, but at the same time, patterns in their responses indicated they sometimes interacted with the robots in ways similar to a human or pet,” Carpenter continues. These behaviors included naming the robots. And while the 22 soldiers that Carpenter interviewed for her study asserted that the destruction of these machines did not influence their decision-making, they did reportedly experience a range of emotion from anger and frustration to outright sadness. These military machines have very real value as their continued operation saves lives. But what about robots like the Anki Cozmo or the Sony AIBO, gadgets that serve the sole purpose of being sociable?

Dr. Kate Darling, a research specialist at the MIT Media Lab, defined a social robot as a “physically embodied, autonomous agent that communicates and interacts with humans on a social level.” These robots “communicate through social cues, display adaptive learning behavior, and mimic various emotional states,” which help them instigate far stronger emotional bonds from their users than non-social devices.

The reason behind this, Darling argued, is due to three factors: physicality, perceived autonomous movement and social behavior. Humans tend to gravitate toward physical objects versus visual representations like drawings or digital renderings. If that physical object is capable of moving on its own in a way that humans can’t fully anticipate, we’re more likely to interpret those motions as “intent” — even if it’s just your Roomba banging against walls or getting stuck under the couch again. However if the physical, self-propelled device is designed to trigger specific social cues, such as Buddy’s large and expressive eyes, the effect on the user is even stronger because it mimics “cues that we automatically, even subconsciously associate with certain states of mind or feelings,” Darling wrote.

“[What] we’re seeing is that people treat Cozmo more like a pet, not in all aspects yet but in some very fundamental ways,” explained Hanns Tappeiner, president and co-founder of Anki. “We definitely knew people were playing with Cozmo one-on-one but what we learned [since the robot’s launch last October] is they also actually play with it around the dinner table almost like what you would do with a puppy.”

These anthropomorphic tendencies enable social robots to manipulate their users to a certain degree. But rather than demand to be “fed” and “played with” like Tamagotchi, the ’90’s popular digital pets, used to, social robots today are proving to be effective surrogates in both education and health care. Zorabots, which is based on the NAO robotic platform from Softbank, help motivate senior citizens to complete their therapeutic exercises while the seal-shaped Paro robot serves as a stand-in for living pets for dementia patients.

“Some people are nervous about the fact that we’re giving robots to old people because they think that we’re replacing human care with technology.” Darling told Engadget. “I’m not concerned in this case because I think that here, clearly, the robot is an animal therapy replacement and it works really, really well. It gives people that sense of nurturing something that they don’t normally get to have because their life has been reduced to being cared for by others.”

But don’t expect robotics manufacturers to build human stand-ins any time soon. “It’s too difficult to create a perfect human replica that behaves enough like a human that it doesn’t disappoint your expectations when you interact with it,” Darling argued. Instead, “we’re going to see a lot of robots that draw more on animation techniques to mimic characters that we see as lifelike but that aren’t trying to imitate something intimately familiar.”

These emotional connections can become so strong that even simulated violence against their robotic companions triggers an overwhelming defensive response. Darling dubbed this sort of unidirectional attachment “the caregiver effect”. Essentially, the robot’s lifelike movements and visual cues cause people to emotionally project onto them, creating a sense of responsibility to provide the care and support that the robot appears to “need.”

Although this effect can help people remain socially and emotionally engaged when they wouldn’t otherwise, it can lead to deleterious effects as well. As Darling pointed out, this emotional connection could be leveraged by companies to extort money from their customers. Want the robotic pet that you’ve spent the last four years bonding with to keep working? Then you’d better pony up an extra $700 for this critical OS update.

“I’m a little bit worried about the seductive power of social robots in manipulating people” – Dr. Kate Darling, MIT Media Lab

Social robots, especially those that requires an internet connection to the company’s server to drive their AI algorithms, may also pose serious privacy risks moving forward. We’ve already seen such problems arise within the current generation of social robots.

In 2015, Mattel’s WiFi-enabled Hello Barbie (and her IoT Dream Home) raised the ire of privacy advocates after the company disclosed that it recorded and analyzed the conversations kids had with the doll. What happens when Hello Barbie starts telling your kids what brands of shoes or cereal they should ask you to buy? This is just a part of the larger data collection and retention issues. News that Roombas map the interior layout of houses as they sweep has generated significant online blowback for iRobot, the device’s manufacturer.

However, Darling believes that the issue can addressed through policy regulation. “We need more general consumer protection laws, she said. “We all have an incentive to want the Roomba to collect certain data because it makes the Roomba more useful. But this data being collected and ultimately sold is the tradeoff for that. I think we do need some protection because people are going to continue to opt in to this technology that provide such great services at the cost of their privacy.”

Despite these potential pitfalls, the trend toward social robotics shows little sign of slowing as robots (social or otherwise) become more ubiquitous in our homes and workplaces. “Given the oftentimes positive effect of adding social aspects to robots in getting people to like them or want to engage with them,” Darling said. “We’re going to be adding social technology to a lot of robots that are in shared places, like the guard robot that fell into the fountain.”

Tappeiner agreed. “We really strongly believe that personality and character will be found in [domestic robots] and is actually going to completely redefine how we interact with technology.” For example, Tappeiner points out that you can yell and abuse digital assistants like Siri or Cortana as much as you like without any sort of repercussion, social or otherwise. “But if you are mean to Cozmo, he’s going to get upset,” Tappeiner said.

That sort of feedback will be essential to teaching humans to live harmoniously with their mechanical companions. Having AI stand up for itself is crucial. “That’s going to be very important for people — not just for kids but for people overall — to figure out how to deal with technology.”

29
Jul

HomePod Firmware Reveals Further Details on Apple’s Smart Speaker


Yesterday, Apple pushed out firmware for its $349 HomePod smart speaker ahead of the device’s launch in December, and developer Steve Troughton-Smith has been sharing some interesting tidbits online that he managed to unearth in the code.

Bearing the name “AudioAccessory1,1”, the firmware reveals that the HomePod runs a full iOS stack – essentially like an iPhone without a screen – and relies on a shell app called “SoundBoard” to integrate with the device’s hardware.

Looks like the ‘shell’ app on HomePod is called SoundBoard. It runs a full iOS stack, unsurprisingly. Its apps are prefixed with ‘Air’ pic.twitter.com/IPFF0vV3UT

— Steve T-S (@stroughtonsmith) July 28, 2017

Troughton-Smith said that HomePod apps are prefixed with “Air” in the firmware, but that there currently appears to be no provision for third-party apps or extensions in the OS shell.

In addition to revealing that the device will include Accessibility features like VoiceOver, Troughton-Smith also found references to an LED matrix, possibly relating to the area on the top of the speaker that with the right density could display shapes and/or symbols.

Plus and minus symbols and a Siri button are known to be on the top of the device, so the existence of an LED matrix could potentially present additional information to the user, such as icons or a graphic equalizer.

So the #HomePod probably has a screen like this. If it’s the right density could easily show basic things like temperature & weather icons pic.twitter.com/l5f16EkddV

— Alan Miller (@rosewoodat5th) July 28, 2017

Oddly enough, the developer also found that the HomePod is identified as an iPhone SE in the iTunes Store.

Apple is sure to make further changes to the software that runs the audio speaker before it ships in December, so we’ll likely have to wait until then for the full lowdown on its functionality. In the meantime, you can learn more about the device by checking out the MacRumors HomePod roundup.

Related Roundup: HomePod
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29
Jul

The Morning After: Weekend Edition


Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

Welcome to the weekend. We’ll take a look back at some of the big stories from earlier this week and Friday’s big news including Model 3 deliveries and the conclusion of #FontGate.

That’s 30 out of the 400,000+ already pre-ordered.Elon Musk makes his first Model 3 delivery

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Last night Tesla hosted a launch event for the Model 3, as it delivered the first round of production vehicles. The (more) mainstream option in its electric vehicle lineup finally has official specs, and according to Musk, production will ramp up sharply from here. If you missed the stream last night, just check out the quick 15-minute unveiling video right here.

And we got in one!Riding in Tesla’s new Model 3

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Andrew Tarantola took a spin in the highly-anticipated sedan, finding similarities to the Model S in how roomy it is, and because of how much torque is available right off of the line. Still, its lack of a traditional instrument cluster will take some getting used to, now that all of the information is relegated to a center-mounted touchscreen control panel.

What happens when art, paradoxically, is too fragile to be seen? The unending fight to preserve ‘The Last Supper’

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Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper is a particularly tragic example of man’s impermanence. And the fight to save it has been laden with controversy, particularly in the modern era, as corporate sponsorship and claims to technology have muddied the waters of an already sensitive subject. The latest attempt to stave off its inevitable deterioration comes in the form of a state-of-the-art air-filtration system, which will be active by 2019.

After the Chicago Fest, we get it.Niantic abruptly delays several Pokémon Go events in Europe

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Given how poorly things went a week ago in Chicago, maybe it was inevitable that the next few Pokémon Go IRL events would be delayed or canceled. Niantic pushed back events in Copenhagen, Prague, Stockholm and Amsterdam from their announced dates in the next two weeks until unspecified days in the fall. Other, later events in Japan and Europe are still supposed to happen, but apparently this is needed to “guarantee the best possible gameplay experience.”

Anime, UK game shows and gods at war.What we’ve been watching in July

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In the latest installment of our IRL series, Engadget editors explain what they’ve been watching lately. This time around that includes a deep dive back into anime both new (Shirobako) and old (Cowboy Bebop), the near-future tale Robot & Frank and Starz’ Neal Gaiman adaptation American Gods.

But wait, there’s more…

  • Pakistan’s Prime Minister resigns following Fontgate scandal
  • Hands-on with Waze for Android Auto
  • The iPod was my last physical connection to music — and now it’s gone
  • Elon Musk’s Boring elevator.
  • USB 3.2 doubles your connection speeds with the same port

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.

29
Jul

Recommended Reading: Trent Reznor on Beats, Apple Music and more


In Conversation:
Trent Reznor

David Marchese,
Vulture

Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor helped craft Beats Music, the streaming service that would eventually become Apple Music after the tech giant purchased the popular headphone brand. On the heels of NIN’s most recent EP release, Add Violence, the musician sat down with Vulture to chat about a range of topics. Among other things, Reznor talks Beats, Apple Music, streaming, his new music and lessons learned.

Fascinating Algorithm: Dan Tepfer’s Player Piano Is His Composing Partner
Nate Chinen, NPR

This short piece from NPR offers a quick look at jazz musician and composer Dan Tepfer, with work including improvisational algorithms.

Meet Mia Ash, the Fake Woman Iranian Hackers Used to Lure Victims
Andy Greenberg, Wired

The story of how Iranian hackers created the persona of a 30-year-old British woman for the sole purpose of espionage and data destruction.

The Future of Police Robots Began Last Year — Where Is It Now?
Kate Knibbs, The Ringer

A year has passed since Dallas Police used a robot in a sniper situation and The Ringer offers a look at what has happened since.

29
Jul

I took a ride in Tesla’s new Model 3


After celebrating the delivery of its first 30 Model 3’s to eagerly awaiting pre-order customers, Tesla invited attendees at Friday night’s event to take a spin in the brand new vehicles. So of course, we took them up on the offer.

Watch a Tesla Model 3 vs. Volvo S60 side-pole impact test pic.twitter.com/dXBQkstrdo

— Tesla (@TeslaMotors) July 29, 2017

Tesla bills the Model 3 as a slightly smaller (not to mention significantly less expensive) version of the Model S. For the most part, that analogy rings true. The interior of the Model 3 is well appointed with leather seats, power everything and most of the same electronic gadgets that the Model S offers. Despite being a few inches shorter than the S, the Model 3 does not skimp on the legroom. I stand over six feet tall and didn’t feel the least bit cramped in the 3’s backseat.

Tesla Model 3 Delivery Event

The Model 3 does have a smaller battery pack than the S so don’t expect to engage Ludicrous mode (which it does not offer yet) and go blowing Lambos off the line. But while the 3 won’t suck the fillings out of your teeth with its speed, the car is by no means a no slouch in the acceleration department. You still have access to every horse the electric drivetrain can muster every time you step on the “gas” pedal.

I took a ride in the $35,000 base model which boasts a 220 mile range and 5.6 second 0-60. If you opt for the Long Range edition (a $9,000 battery option), that figure drops to just over 5 seconds and extends its drive time to a whopping 310 miles. That means with the bigger battery, you can theoretically get from San Diego, California to Scottsdale, Arizona in a single charge.

Of course, why would you push your luck when the Model 3 is fully compatible with Tesla’s network of Supercharger stations. However, unlike the Model S and X, Model 3 owners won’t have unlimited to the charger stations and will have to pay a small fee each time they’re plugged in.

Overall though, this is a pretty sweet whip for $35,000. For that price, you could get a BMW 2 series or a Mercedes CLA, but why deal with the hassle of gas? The Model 3 may sacrifice a bit of the overwhelming performance of the S (looking at you P100D Ludicrous Mode) but it offers a far more responsible and reasonable driving experience in its place.

A look inside Model 3 pic.twitter.com/hIhAZn4Sdj

— Tesla (@TeslaMotors) July 29, 2017

My only real qualm with the 3 is that the speedo and the rest of the rest of the instrument cluster are located on the upper left corner of the center console control panel, requiring you to take your eyes off the road every time want to see how fast you’re going. Still, while the Roadster put Tesla on the map, the Model 3 really feels like the car that will bring electric vehicles as a whole into the mainstream.

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