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21
Sep

Microsoft may open its first UK store in London’s Oxford Circus


After years of rumours and speculation, Microsoft might finally be ready to open its first retail store in the UK. Retail Week reports that the company is in advanced talks with The Crown Estate (the commercial business that controls land and holdings belonging to the royal family) to move into 255-259 Regent Street in London’s lucrative Oxford Circus shopping district.

The move would see Microsoft set up shop in the unit currently occupied by United Colours of Benetton. It’s an extremely popular shopping area that is well-served by the Oxford Circus Tube station and hosts flagship stores for big brands like Nike and H&M. Also, just 250 feet down the road lies Apple’s recently-redesigned Regent Street store.

Retail Week suggests that while the talks for a 10-year lease are “very advanced” and could be completed “in the coming weeks,” the deal could still fall through. Should everything go smoothly, Microsoft’s new London store would be its first in Europe, adding to 106 US stores, 8 Canadian outlets and one in Australia and Puerto Rico respectively.

Source: Retail Week

21
Sep

‘Doom’ for the Nintendo Switch feels exactly like it’s supposed to


When Nintendo announced the launch of the Switch by using footage from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, it was a surprise — but a reasonable one. Bethesda’s open-world adventure game was beloved, but old enough that a port to Nintendo’s new console seemed entirely reasonable. When the company announced that it was bringing the upcoming Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and last year’s Doom reboot to the Nintendo Switch, however, it gave us pause. Those games were made for more powerful platforms, like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It sounded ambitious, but if the early build I played of Doom is anything to go by, they might actually pull this off.

To start, Doom on the Nintendo Switch feels identical to Doom on other platforms. The same fast-paced, demonic shooter action that embodied the spirit of the classic game is there, and it still feels great. Sprinting through corridors of the UAC facility or performing stylistic “execution” glory kills on the spawn of hell is as satisfying as ever. The controls feel right. The complete experience translates. Still, the question that hung in everyone’s mind during the game’s announcement is the same one that lingered as I played through Bethesda’s portable Doom demo: Can the Nintendo Switch really handle this game?

At first blush, the answer seems to be yes. But the details of that answer were harder to make out. Bethesda only let us try the game in Switch’s handheld and tabletop modes, limiting our view of the port to the console’s 6.2-inch 720p display. Scaled down to that screen, the game looked pretty sharp — but behind the glare of the glossy display, it was hard to see what compromises might have been made. I spent half of my demo time staring at rocks on the surface of mars, trying to determine how that texture might look if it were scaled up on my 40-inch TV at home.

To the game’s credit, it looked good during the limited demo. I played through the first level of Doom without noticing any hiccups or slowdowns. At worst, the game seemed to have notably long load times and a little bit less anti-aliasing than its full-console counterparts — but without the advantage of seeing the Switch docked in console mode, it was hard to say for sure. Either way, it was a pretty early demo of the game. The full game is playable, but when I noticed a dip in framerate during some of arcade-mode’s later levels, staff on hand told me that most of the game hasn’t been optimized for Switch just yet.

Doom on Nintendo Switch is promising. It shows that with enough work from a dedicated developer, current-gen games can make their way to the hybrid portable. It’s also a strong show of support for the console from Bethesda — one of the biggest third-party developers in the industry. It’s still too early to say how good the port will be, but what we’ve seen so far is a good start. Hopefully, Bethesda can stick the landing and offer Switch owners a Doom experience that looks good from every angle — handheld mode, tabletop mode and of course, console mode.

21
Sep

iOS 11 forces Uber to loosen its location tracking


Uber has followed through on its promise to restore your ability to block the app from tracking your location even when you’re not using it. More precisely, it had no choice but to do so, at least for iPhones and iPads. The latest version of Apple’s mobile platform gives you the power to prevent apps from accessing location data when they’re not active. That’s why Uber has brought back an option marked “While Using the App” under its location settings, and you’ll get it back even if you haven’t updated to iOS 11 yet.

Good: with iOS 11, Uber had to support Location Services that monitor location only when using the app

(This: https://t.co/SSf501S81d) pic.twitter.com/Oa7M0QXR3I

— Federico Viticci (@viticci) September 20, 2017

If you’ll recall, the ride-hailing firm got a lot of flak for removing that option and forcing users to choose between “Always” and “Never.” The former gives the app permission to track your location even when you’re not using it, while the latter switches off location tracking altogether. However, switching off tracking makes the app lot hard to use, since it won’t save the addresses of places you frequently visit.

While Uber rolled out those changes in December, company security chief John Sullivan said Uber never actually implemented always-on location tracking for iOS. Still, by giving you the power to block it, you can ensure your own privacy.

Via: The Verge

Source: Federico Viticci (Twitter)

21
Sep

Google Assistant is definitely part of Bose’s new QC35 headphones


Last week, we reported that Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II Bluetooth headphones might include Google Assistant. Now, it’s confirmed. Bose has revealed that this pair of QC headphones is the first to have a Google Assistant integration. They retail for $350, the same price as the regular QC35 model.

In order to use Google Assistant, just press the “Action” button on the QC35 headphones. You can then talk to it, the same way you would on your phone. You can hear incoming messages, calendar appointments and more. Google Assistant can also control music, skipping tracks and switching playlists. Google also says that the music experience will improve the more you use it, presumably as it adjusts to your tastes and preferences.

Google Assistant will also read you the news — the handy command “Play the news” will get you the headlines from whatever your preferred news source is. Use Google Assistant to place a call and you won’t have to futz with dialing on your phone.

The headphones also include noise cancellation with three different settings you can control via the Bose Connect App. If you don’t use Google Assistant, you can also change the settings of the Action button so that it controls noise cancellation instead of the virtual assistant. The headphones come in black and silver, and Google Assistant integration will be available in the US, Australia, Canada, Germany, France and the UK.

Bose also announced the SoundSport Free earphones, which are wire-free earbuds that are optimized for exercise. They use proprietary tips to keep them comfortable in your ears for hours, are water and sweat resistant and are designed to maintain a strong and reliable Bluetooth connection, even when your phone is far away. Their battery provides 5 hours of listening time, but their carrying case doubles as a charger that can provide an additional 10 hours of battery life. You can pick up a pair for $250 when they ship next month, but they’re up for pre-order now.

Source: Google, Bose

21
Sep

Mercedes is building smarter headlights for its cars of the future


In a dark garage at the Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, a flat gray S-Class illuminates a white screen at the end of long hall. The headlights blast on and while the light is bright, it’s not that impressive. Then Stefan Toepfer, electronic and software developer for exterior lighting taps on his tablet and a series of black moving squares appear within the lit area. It takes a moment before I realize that these dark areas represent cars that in the real world wouldn’t get blinded by the Mercedes’ high beams. It’s a great way to see more at night without endangering other drivers. And it gets better.

By adding what’s essentially a digital projector to headlights, Mercedes was able to control how and where light is thrown. The company’s Digital Light system not only can brighten the road ahead without blinding other drivers, but it can project information directly onto the road. It’s sort of like a heads-up display (HUD) for asphalt.

During the demonstration after the Frankfurt auto show Toepfer explained that the car’s sensors and software can determine when and where to illuminate based on road conditions and traffic. The system uses a high-resolution lighting module with three high-powered LED. Those lights are focused on a DLP chip with a million micro-mirrors that have two positions: on or off. With all those tiny mirrors, Mercedes was able to produce far crisper images than the 84 LEDs found in the current S-Class headlamp. The system has a high enough resolution you could play a movie (although in black and white) with it like a personal drive in theatre.

The result is the ability to project information directly on the road ahead of the car. Right now, Mercedes is researching exactly what kind of data should be shared with the driver. Toepfer notes that it doesn’t make sense to just replicate what’s found in the car’s traditional HUD: speed, directions, et cetera. One thing that does make sense is projecting lines of light that guide the driver in circumstances where the roadway might be narrow or not in line with the road markings like in construction zones.

Actually, even before it reaches this point, it can project the symbol for an upcoming construction zone on to the road to alert the driver that things are about to get wonky. The system can also show the driver the optimal following distance between them the car ahead of them. That’s helpful for serial tailgaters trying to be better drivers.

Digital Light could also warn of pedestrians the driver doesn’t see with a projected alert, while also highlighting them. In addition it could use the car’s onboard mapping service to alert the driver that an unexpected stop sign or other road warning is coming up after a blind curve.

All of this early-stage technology isn’t without its issues. A patchwork of regulations in the countries and states the cars are sold in could hamper the feature. The United States has been particularly unwelcoming of new forms of lighting technology in cars. Similar technologies from Audi and Mercedes are still not allowed on vehicles sold in the US. The government needs to see a life-saving benefit before it takes chances on how headlights are allowed to work.

One thing that Mercedes showed during the demo was a projected crosswalk for pedestrians. It could potentially let folks know that the driver and car see them and they are fine to cross the street. But as Toepfer pointed out during the demo, what happens when another car is coming in the other direction? Will they obey the projected crosswalk? These are some of the issues the company is trying to tackle while also fine-tuning the technology.

While the US determines if these types of lighting systems are truly beneficial, Mercedes will continue to research DLP on a car. The Digital Light system is still a prototype and the automaker is quick to point out that as of right now, they have no plans to add it to any of their vehicles.

Your next S-Class probably won’t have a high resolution headlight system but there’s the chance the one after that could be ready to illuminate the world in a way that actually helps you drive better. For now, all that tech will be sitting in a car, parked in a dark garage, in Germany.

21
Sep

Apple Pay Coming to Nearly 1,700 ALDI Grocery Stores Across United States


ALDI today announced it will now accept all forms of contactless payments, including Apple Pay, at all of its nearly 1,700 stores in the United States.

Shoppers can pay for their groceries by tapping their contactless-enabled bank card, smartphone or other wearable device on a payment terminal. Contactless payments are safe and secure, and have the same protection as making a payment with your PIN.

Some other grocery stores that accept Apple Pay in the United States include select Giant Food, Wegmans, BI-LO, Food Lion, Save Mart, Shop ‘n Save, Trader Joe’s, Winn-Dixie, Whole Foods, and United Supermarkets locations.

Apple’s financial chief Luca Maestri recently said Apple Pay is by far the number one NFC-based payment service on mobile devices, with nearly 90 percent of all transactions globally—three out of four happen outside the United States.

Related Roundup: Apple Pay
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21
Sep

Saudi Arabia Lifts Ban on FaceTime and Other Video/Voice Calling Apps


Saudi Arabia today lifted a ban on services that provide access to calling someone over the internet, part of government efforts attempting to attract more business to the country. This means that “all online voice and video call services,” including Apple’s FaceTime, Microsoft’s Skype, and Facebook’s WhatsApp, opened up for user access last night at midnight (via Reuters).

These apps and services previously faced harsh regulations in Saudi Arabia with a ban that began in 2013, due to the government’s wariness over secure internet communication. Now, users in the country will be able to FaceTime friends and family members, with the Saudi information ministry stating this should help “kick-start” the country’s economy after recently being hit by low oil prices.

Saudi Arabia will lift a ban on internet phone calls, a government spokesman said, part of efforts to attract more business to the country. All online voice and video call services such as Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s WhatsApp that satisfy regulatory requirements will become accessible at midnight (2100 GMT), Adel Abu Hameed, spokesman for the telecoms regulator CITC said on Twitter on Wednesday.

“Digital transformation is one of the key kick-starters for the Saudi economy, as it will incentivise the growth of internet-based businesses, especially in the media and entertainment industries,” a statement from the information ministry said. “Access to VoIP (voice over internet protocol) will reduce operational costs and spur digital entrepreneurship – that’s why it is such an important step in the Kingdom’s internet regulation,” it said.

The Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission also published a press release [Google Translate] on the ban’s lifting.

According to a tipster’s email this morning, because iPhones sold in Saudi Arabia have had FaceTime completely blocked in the past, these devices will need some kind of carrier update in order to enable the feature. In response, local carriers are reportedly saying that this update is Apple’s responsibility, so it’s unclear when such an update will occur.

Tags: FaceTime, Saudi Arabia
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21
Sep

Angela Ahrendts Climbs to Thirteenth Spot in Fortune’s ‘Most Powerful Women’ List for 2017


Apple’s senior vice president of retail stores, Angela Ahrendts, has climbed to grab the 13th spot on Fortune’s “Most Powerful Women” list for 2017. In 2015 Ahrendts took the 16th spot, and in 2016 she rose to the 14th spot.

The top 5 women on the list this year are Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO, #5), Abigail Johnson (Fidelity Investments CEO, #4), Marillyn Hewson (Lockheed Martin President and CEO, #3), Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo CEO, #2), and Mary Barra (General Motors CEO, #1).

Fortune’s list includes a brief summary of Ahrendts’ latest accomplishments at Apple:

Since being persuaded by Tim Cook to join Apple in 2014 (she previously led British fashion brand Burberry), Ahrendts has been heads down on the tech behemoth’s largest store redesign in 15 years. In May the company launched its long-awaited “Today at Apple” initiative, which seeks to supplement public education through free courses on everything from coding to music production to photography. Apple’s highest-ranking woman, she oversees 60,000 retail employees and is responsible for the in-store experiences of a more than a million daily customers. Research firm eMarketer estimates that the combined revenue from in-store and online sales is nearly $50 billion. Ahrendts was the second executive after Cook—and the only woman—to take the stage at September’s keynote, where she spoke at length about Apple’s “town squares”—the new moniker for its retail stores.

Ahrendts joined Apple from Burberry in the spring of 2014, when she said she’d bring a personal touch to Apple’s retail management. Three years later she has spearheaded the launch of Apple’s next-generation retail store design and “Today at Apple” classes worldwide.

Last week, Ahrendts also appeared on stage during Apple’s iPhone X keynote event, where she went into detail about new and upcoming Apple Town Square locations in Chicago, Paris, and Milan.

For more information on Fortune’s ranking, the site has published a few articles today: explaining the list’s continued importance, highlighting the newcomers, and pointing out those who have dropped off the list this year.

Tags: Angela Ahrendts, fortune.com, Apple retail
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21
Sep

FedEx estimates ransomware attack cost $300 million


FedEx acquired Dutch shipper TNT Express last year for $4.8 billion, well before the NotPetya ransomware ran wild on TNT’s systems June 27th, disrupting much of its shipping operation. Like the earlier WannaCry outbreak, NotPetya used a Windows exploit stripped from an NSA leak to spread across networks. According to FedEx, even though its services and critical systems have been restored, “TNT Express volume, revenue and profit still remain below previous levels.” That adds up to a $300 million hit on its operating results, and the company raised the estimate of integrating TNT’s systems with its own by $75 million over previous estimates.

Source: FedEx

21
Sep

SEC suspects hackers used stolen insider info for trading


US Securities and Exchange Commission chief Jay Clayton has made a couple of security-related revelations in his recently published “Statement on Cybersecurity.” He admitted that an attacker infiltrated the agency’s EDGAR database in 2016 by exploiting a software vulnerability to gain access to non-public info. SEC patched the flaw as soon as it was discovered, but it found out just last month that the attackers may have used the insider information they stole to profit from financial trades.

See, EDGAR is an automated system that processes forms and other paperwork submitted by companies. Since SEC’s role is to protect and regulate the country’s stock and options exchanges, the documents it processes typically contain sensitive info that an unscrupulous individual can profit from. Clayton says authorities are still investigating the issue, but the commission believes the hackers didn’t gain unauthorized access to personally identifiable information or anything that can jeopardize its operations.

As Reuters said, the event shines a spotlight on SEC’s shortcomings when it comes to security. In July, the Government Accountability Office published a report revealing that SEC doesn’t always fully encrypt sensitive info and uses unsupported software. It also hasn’t fully implemented a system to detect intruders and doesn’t always configure its firewalls properly, which are definitely a cause for concern, since Clayton made cybersecurity his priority. Nevertheless, Clayton reiterated in his statement, that he aims to “promote effective cybersecurity practices within the Commission itself and with respect to the markets and market participants it oversees.”

Source: Reuters, US Securities and Exchange Commission

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