I’m flying high above the San Francisco Bay, maybe 150 feet in the air. I look down and start gliding toward a dilapidated skate park below. Once I’m near the ground I pull my nose up and look level with the horizon. Spotting two trees, I race toward them, pass between them, then turn on a dime, skirting some shipping containers on my left. It’s like every dream I’ve ever had about flying, but faster.
It’s also not a dream. I take off a pair of video goggles, and I see the shipping containers come into focus, this time directly in front of me, as my eyes adjust to the sunlight. This is my third “First Person View” flight with the Draco drone, and it’s more exciting every time.
I’ve been espousing the virtues of FPV drone flying to anyone who will listen for about two years now. There’s something addictive about the virtual sense of flying. It’s not just the live video feed from the drone into your eyes — it’s the connection between your hands on the controller and the maneuvers you make. It’s not unlike the difference between being a passenger or driver of a car. Many consumer drones, like DJI’s Phantom or Mavic, work with FPV goggles but you don’t really know FPV until you’ve flown something going 70 miles an hour. The Draco is the hot rod to DJI’s family sedan.
The first time I saw the Draco was at CES earlier this year. At its simplest, the proposition is a ready-to-fly racing drone, with a crystal-clear digital video feed. To understand why that matters you have to know two things. One, racing drones are typically hand-built requiring electronics skills (and time). Two, most FPV systems (transmitter/receiver and video goggles) use analog radio. Analog works fine, but the image quality isn’t great. Draco is ready to fly out of the box and uses a digital system to beam video through to your goggles (though it can work with analog if you want).
Originally, UVify was going to release two separate drones — depending on which video system you wanted — but in the end decided to make the Draco modular. This means if you buy the analog version today (Draco SD), you can upgrade it to digital at a later date. But ready-to-fly racing doesn’t come cheap. The SD model is already $699; going digital costs an extra $200 (though the HD version is currently on sale for $799).
This is not throwaway money, but flying the Draco is just so much fun that it’s hard to explain in words alone. The first time I took it out for a spin, I was surprised at how quickly I picked it up — which is rare for a relative newbie and a racing drone. Broadly speaking, a DJI Phantom is like driving an automatic: take your hands off the sticks, and it stays right where it is. Racing quads are more like Formula 1 cars, incredibly sensitive, and if you let go of the controls, well, it’ll just fall out of the sky. The Draco has something resembling a “beginner” mode, but it still handles like a wild animal compared to a drone you might buy at Target.
That said, even on my first outing, I was able to exhaust two batteries without crashing it. I flew cautiously, but after a few minutes, I had the basics down. But it wasn’t long before an on-screen alert in my goggles was nagging me to land. That’s a universal downside of racing drones: the pitiful battery life. The Draco’s last about seven minutes at a modest pace, but that can drop to half as much if you go full throttle the whole time (and if you do, you’ve obviously done this before).
UVify isn’t the first to offer a plug-and-play entry into racing drones. The Falcore by Connex has been around for a while and, on the surface of it, offers a similar experience. Except, I’ve flown the Falcore, and though it’s also a good introduction to racing-style drones, it’s simply not as nimble or elegant as Draco. Falcore glides through the air like it’s on ice; the Draco feels tight, agile and more race-ready.
You might not see too many Dracos on the starting line at race events just yet, though. Generally speaking, being able to build your own allows for a custom ride that suits your needs and style. Plus, drone racing generally hasn’t yet made the switch to digital. That said, UVify is already taking podium positions, with team pilot Trevor Christianson (The Viking) bagging 1st in “freestyle” at the Fat Shark Frenzie in Canada. The team has also been invited to Austria for Red Bull’s Dr.one event this weekend.
There is one advantage with the Falcore: Its maker Connex is the same company that pretty much sells the de facto digital FPV kit for drones. Even UVify needs a Connex receiver for the Draco, which is another $250. Falcore costs $699 and comes with everything but the goggles.
And that’s another thing. There are FPV video goggles out there in every price bracket, but to get the 720p HD experience I enjoyed, you’ll need something with HDMI input. Fat Shark is the go-to brand, and it makes many pairs with HDMI, but the forthcoming Base HD model is made specifically for digital video. With its superior display technology, it’ll cost you another $350 if you don’t already have a set lying around.
I would definitely recommend that you do go with something like the Base HD for your goggles. Half of the magic with the Draco is the quality of the image. I spent an afternoon with friends flying a number of analog drones (including the Teal), and the difference in quality is considerable.
With the Draco, San Francisco’s sky was beamed into my eyes in the rich, bright blue it deserved, while individual blades of grass disappeared beneath the drone in glorious HD as if I were flying over a turfed treadmill. When I then switched to the Teal’s analog video feed, things looked grainy and washed out.
If you want a ready-to-go racing drone with an (analog) FPV camera, you can pick up something like the Vortex 250 for about $350 — almost half the price of the SD Draco. The Vortex batteries will also cost you around $30. The Draco’s cost more than twice that at $149 a pair. That’s quite a price difference, and some might argue something like the Vortex is closer to what most racing pilots use.
All in all, the Draco will cost you north of $1,300 if you want the same HD experience I had, including all the connections and the Base HD goggles. That’s a chunk of change, so what’s the real benefit? For one, it’s truly ready-to-fly (even the Vortex can need a little wrangling to get up in the air). It’s also somewhat easy to repair if a motor goes. UVify sells spare arms that you just snap in/out ($110 for two). Lastly, the digital video feed just magnifies the FPV experience, and that makes it so much more thrilling to use.
If you’re already into racing drones, the Draco might be a harder sell. But if you’re curious, and want minimal fuss to get up in the air, Draco makes a lot of sense — as long as your budget allows. For my part, as a casual flyer who really just wants the thrills and spills of high-speed FPV, Draco is a high-grade solution to getting that fix, but gosh what a fun one it is.
At one of its Ignite sessions yesterday, a Microsoft spokesman disclosed that the LTE Surface Pro would be available for purchase starting December 1st, according to Neowin. We’ve reached out to Microsoft for confirmation and will update this post with any additional details they provide.
Back in May, the company announced the Surface Pro at an event in Shanghai. They promised that an LTE Advanced Radio would be available later this year. Neowin suspects that the LTE model will be officially announced next month in London, at the Future Decoded event.
Last week, a retailer in the UK began offering preorders for the device; Twitter user @RevellC first saw the listing. According to the retailer, as well as Neowin, consumers will only be able to purchase the device with a Core i5 processor. There will also reportedly be two options, a 4 GB RAM/128 GB storage and 8GB RAM/256 GB storage. Hopefully, we’ll see if these rumors are accurate soon enough.
Source: Neowin (1), Misco, Neowin (2)
Google Slides is about to make it easier if you want to whip together a polished presentation in a hurry. The productivity tool now supports add-ons that let you quickly drop in content without having to hunt for it in a separate website. You can add stock photos from Adobe, Shutterstock or Unsplash, for example. And if you want to customize things, there’s now an Apps Script that lets you automatically fetch data and otherwise spare you from repetitive tasks.
Not that you’ll necessarily have to implement a script. You now have the option of linking slides in different presentations to keep information synchronized between them. If a colleague has your company’s latest customer stats in their slides, it’ll automatically show up in your own work.
Other upgrades? There’s now integration between Keep and Slides, so you can drag your rough ideas into your deck to make them a reality. You can also insert diagrams, choose a grid view to see your slides as thumbnails and skip slides in a presentation without deleting them. All told, you may produce slicker-looking presentations with considerably less work.
Amazon hasn’t said anything about it publicly, but today at 1:30PM ET the company is expected to unveil a variety of new products to expand the Echo and Alexa family. The timing makes sense — with the holidays coming up, having fresh hardware to offer customers is a logical move. And there have been a number of rumors swirling about what we might see lately. Chief among those is new Fire TV hardware that doubles as an Alexa-enabled speaker. Basically, it sounds like a combo of the Fire TV and Echo Dot, which would provide a way to refresh your streaming video box while also adding Alexa functionality to your living room.
A second, more modest Fire TV would be more akin to Google’s Chromecast Ultra. It looks like a dongle you hang off of your HDMI port to stream video in 4K resolution. It’ll certainly be more affordable, as well. Amazon already has a small dongle-like piece of hardware in the existing Fire TV Stick, but it doesn’t support 4K playback.
Another product that’s a much more of a longshot is a pair of Alexa-enabled “smart glasses” — like Google Glass, but without a screen and with a much more subtle, standard design that is said to resemble a normal pair of eyeglasses. There hasn’t been much of a consumer market for such a device, though many companies appeared to be scared away after Glass was such a notable flop.
Finally, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman expects to see an updated Echo speaker that sounds significantly better than the existing model. That would be key to compete with Apple’s HomePod, which sounds great but doesn’t have nearly the voice-activated ecosystem that the Echo and Alexa currently provide. With this new speaker, you’d theoretically not have to choice between the Echo’s proven voice smarts and the HomePod’s excellent audio quality. Gurman also believes that Amazon is working on a home security system to compete with Nest Secure, which was just announced last week.
Both the Fire TV streaming box and Echo speaker (in black only) are currently unavailable on Amazon. That might not mean anything, but it could also be a hint that these products are about to be replaced. Either way, we’ll have the news for you this afternoon — Amazon isn’t offering a livestream of the event, but we’ll be at the company’s headquarters to deliver all the details.
There’s been another delay in the plan to clean up the Fukushima nuclear plant. The Japan Times reported today that the country’s government approved another revision to the cleanup schedule that will push removal of radioactive fuel rods from reactor Units 1 and 2 three years further down the road. This latest delay, which is due to newly uncovered damage in the storage pools, means that the cleanup is now six years behind schedule.
Along with developing a safe plan for removing radioactive fuel rods and melted fuel, even just getting a good look at the state of the reactor units has proven to be pretty difficult. In February, it took just two hours for extremely high radiation levels in the reactor’s Unit 2 to destroy a robot sent in to clear debris and locate melted fuel. A second robot sent in a few days later also failed, though it was unclear whether that was due to radiation or the debris. In July, another robot fared a little better, snapping pictures of some melted fuel below Unit 3.
While fuel rod removal in Units 1 and 2 is now scheduled for 2023, debris removal in those units is still planned to begin in 2021. Unit 3 rod removal is expected to take two years to complete and is still scheduled to begin in 2018, though Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings — the plant operator — then has another major issue to deal with. It still doesn’t know what it’s going to do with all of the radioactive waste that starts to come out of the plant next year during cleanup. Decommissioning is expected to take 30 to 40 years to complete.
Source: The Japan Times, Associated Press
Once you subscribe to DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket package, usually you’re locked in. According to their support site, no cancellations are allowed once the regular football season starts. But in an unprecedented move, The Wall Street Journal reports the satellite broadcaster is offering refunds to fans — a $280 value — if the reason for cancellation is players choosing to kneel during the national anthem, protesting injustices against people of color in the US.
The policy here isn’t clear: The Wall Street Journal reported that the representatives they talked to had various interpretations of how the refunds actually work. It’s possible that it’s a full refund; it also could be prorated for the remainder of the season. The policy could also only apply to certain subscribers or plans. Yet more representatives said that there was no refund policy at all. We’ve reached out to DirecTV for clarification.
However, some subscribers have confirmed that they have received refunds for their subscriptions. Chris Baker, one such customer, told The Wall Street Journal that the representative he spoke to “insinuated there was a high volume of calls calling into cancel.”
On Friday, the president stated during a speech that players should be fired for kneeling during the National Anthem. The NFL has so far been supportive of players’ right to express their opinions, but it’s unclear whether they’ll maintain that position once it starts affecting the sport’s revenue.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
Delta announced today that starting October 1st, it will offer free WhatsApp messaging on all of its Gogo-enabled flights, making it the first airline to offer free access to the messaging service. Facebook Messenger and iMessage will also be supported and all three messaging services will be accessible in flight through the airline’s WiFi portal page.
Delta has been testing out a number of other services aimed at streamlining the flight experience and reducing hassle. These include kiosks that let you video chat with an airline rep, replacing boarding passes with fingerprints and using face scans to check baggage. Delta also began rolling out RFID tags for luggage tracking and a map that allows customers to see exactly where their baggage is and where it has been.
While some of those programs — like the biometric identification — might not be everyone’s cup of tea, pretty much anyone can get behind free in-flight messaging. There is a caveat, customers will only be able to send texts, not video or photos. Delta’s chief marketing officer, Tim Mapes, said in a statement, “Even the most seasoned travellers can find themselves mid-air and caught out by a last-minute cancellation or arrangement. Rather than having to count down the hours until landing, Delta customers can continue socialising or working with the tap of a smartphone and enjoy peace of mind at every stage of the flight.”
Fix Incoming for Google Drive Issue Preventing Many File Types From Opening in Apple’s Files App [Updated]
Since the Google Drive app for iOS was updated earlier this month, several iPhone and iPad users have been unable to open Microsoft Word documents and many other file types in Apple’s Files app for iOS 11 or iCloud Drive app for iOS 10.
Instead, when users with the Google Drive app installed attempt to open a DOCX file in the Files or iCloud Drive apps, for example, the Google Drive app automatically opens and displays a prompt to save the file.
MacRumors has been able to duplicate the issue, which is likely a Google Drive problem rather than a Files or iCloud Drive one.
The only solution to the problem for now appears to be uninstalling the Google Drive app. Google has yet to comment on the matter, but it will presumably have to release another update to the Google Drive app to fix this issue.
Update: The issue appears to be the result of Google registering for the “public.data” UTI and setting its handler rank to “owner.” Then, the latest update to Google Drive seemingly added open-in-place support for “public.data,” which is all data types, and became the default opener for many other file types.
the default opener for every file format who’s owner does not support open in-place.
— Ian McDowell (@ian_mcdowell) September 25, 2017
A source familiar with the matter informed MacRumors that Google is aware of the issue and working on a fix.
Tags: Microsoft, Microsoft Office, iCloud Drive, Google Drive, Files
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Apple executives Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, formerly of Sony Television, have spent the last few weeks visiting agents and studio executives in Hollywood, spearheading Apple’s ongoing attempts to land “big, smart, splashy dramas” in the vein of Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad. In a new profile on Apple’s ambitions by The Hollywood Reporter, multiple studio chiefs are said to be sending Apple spec scripts and packaged projects as potential options for its big break into the premium TV show space.
Apple is reportedly not interested in spending money at the scale of a rival like Netflix (around $6 billion each year on original content), but multiple reports over the past few months have shown the company’s gaining interest in both original “prestige” TV content and major film distribution deals, and that momentum has only picked up in recent weeks.
In recent weeks, Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, poached from Sony Television in June to spearhead Apple’s content acquisitions and video strategy, have been spotted all over town making their pitch to agents and studio executives. One studio chief says, “Who wouldn’t want to be the ‘Mad Men’ or ‘House of Cards’ on Apple?”
“There’s this sense of, ‘It’s the most innovative company in the world, of course you want to have a show there,’ ” says UTA TV head Matt Rice, whose agency, like many of its peers, has inundated the industry’s hottest new entrant with spec scripts and packaged projects. Apple, which is famously secretive about its plans, declined to comment for this story.
Apple’s newly leased property at the iconic California production site, The Culver Studios, is said to have helped the company “leap-frog” much of the Hollywood competition, with a handful of agents commenting that any project they would take to Netflix or HBO is also being delivered to Apple as well. Apple’s so-called “overnight status” as a major player in the business is said to be due to the company’s built-in branding, as well as its deep pockets of cash reserves that could be tapped into for the TV drama push.
Some projects have already been lost by Apple’s content team, however, including an origin series for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest focused on Nurse Ratched, created by Ryan Murphy and starring Sarah Paulson. Netflix eventually outbid both Apple and Hulu for the show, as well as the ongoing streaming rights for Murphy’s American Horror Story anthology series (with new episodes also streamable on Hulu).
Apple is still being “deluged with nearly every script in town,” but sources said that Van Amburg, Erlicht, and the rest of Apple’s team have passed on most of them, in attempts to keep Apple’s penchant for quality alive in its TV shows as well. The team has bids out on a few projects, however, including a reboot of Steve Spielberg’s 1980 anthology series Amazing Stories, and a morning show drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.
Other potential partners with Apple include Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, Ron Moore, Ryan Coogler, Mike Schur, and more, who have all been approached by Apple’s team recently in some form. The ultimate question, according to talent agency ICM Partners, is finding out where — and how — these shows will be streamed.
Still, the lack of clarity has left at least a few, including ICM Partners managing director Chris Silbermann, asking tough questions. “Jamie and Zack are good guys, and they’ve done business with all of us for decades, and it’s Apple, so everybody will sell there,” he says. “That being said, they need to articulate to the creative community and the industry at large their marketing, release and distribution strategy. Simply, what does it mean to be an Apple show?”
Check out The Hollywood Reporter’s full article on Apple’s TV strategy right here.
Tag: Apple’s Hollywood ambitions
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Apple this morning launched a revamped and redesigned Privacy website designed to make its privacy policies more accessible to consumers.
The new site better outlines how Apple’s commitment to privacy benefits users through concrete examples of features like Apple Pay and an iPhone’s passcode, and it explains how Apple uses encryption, Differential Privacy, and strict app guidelines to protect users.
Apple has a section on the new privacy site that cover all of its apps and features, including iMessage, Apple Pay, Health, Analytics, Safari, iCloud, CarPlay, Education, Photos, Siri, Apple Music, News, Maps, and more.
It’s incredibly detailed and explains the security measures and privacy features built into each and every feature.
There’s also a new feature on how to secure devices with a passcode and Touch ID, and how to keep your Apple ID safe with a strong password, two-factor authentication, and an awareness of scams and phishing attempts. It explains how these features work, and beyond that, why customers should want to use them.
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