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Surface Pro line untethers from Wi-Fi with new LTE Advanced model due in December

Why it matters to you

Microsoft is bringing LTE connectivity to the cream of its Surface crop and that should make it all the more versatile in a hotly competitive market.

Microsoft’s new addition to its line up of Surface Pro devices is looking to make itself less reliant on established Wi-Fi networks and hotspots, with the introduction of the LTE Advanced model. Set to begin shipping out to business customers in December, it will come with a Cat 9 modem for full access to LTE networks, while packing powerful hardware under the hood.

Announced at Microsoft’s Future Decoded show in London, the Surface Pro with LTE Advanced is part of an overall rethink of Microsoft’s product approach, which it claims is more targeted at the actual people who use its products. It’s looking to make them more mobile and part of that is helping to keep customers online wherever they are, hence the LTE support.

The Surface Pro LTE Advanced will come in two configurations: A Core i5 model with 8GB of RAM, and 256 GB of solid state storage (SSD), and a more affordable model with a Core i5 processor paired up with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, per MSPowerUser. Pricing will start at $1,450 and $1,150, respectively.

Both configurations will utilize a Qualcomm X16 Gigabit Class LTE modem, supporting speeds up to 450Mbps. It is said to be supportive of 20 cellular bands, so should help get users online just about anywhere in the world.

Microsoft claims this is the fastest LTE compatible laptop in its class, comparing it with its contemporary 12-inch and 13-inch model competitors.

Designed to round out its existing Surface offerings, the LTE sits alongside standout entries in the range like the 2017 Surface Pro, which we consider the best 2-in-1 available today. The Surface Pro 4 is no slouch either.

In its announcement of the device, Microsoft took the poetic route to suggest that the Surface Pro with Advanced LTE and indeed, the entire Surface range, is about inspiring people and helping them do the creative things they want to do.

“The Surface family has been designed to engage and inspire employees,” the statement reads. “To help people bring ideas to life. It’s why we do what we do, it’s what drives us because we believe your people are at the core of your business success. Your people and their ideas are your company’s most precious asset and this transformation starts with people.”

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BlackBerry Motion coming to Canada on November 10

BlackBerry’s latest smartphone is coming to Canada in less than two weeks!

I’ll admit it, I have a soft spot for BlackBerry. Growing up in Canada and watching the rise and fall of the company, it’s hard not to feel a bit nostalgic every time a new piece of hardware is announced. Sure, the oversight of that hardware is now performed by TCL Communications, and the software is Android, not BlackBerry 10, but it still says BlackBerry on the box. Got to count for something, right?


Anyway, BlackBerry Mobile’s latest phone, Motion, is coming to Canada on November 10 starting at $99 on a 2-year plan and $599 or so outright. That’s the upside — it’s cheaper than KEYone by $100 or so — and comes with a big 5.5-inch display, IP67 water and dust resistance, and a huge 4000mAh battery.

BlackBerry Motion specs

Here’s the pricing for each carrier in Canada:

  • Bell: $99 CAD on a 2 year premium plan; $599.00 CAD outright
  • TELUS: $100 CAD on a 2 year premium plan; $605.00 CAD outright
  • Koodo: $100 CAD on a Tab Large plan; $605.00 CAD outright
  • SaskTel: $99 CAD on a 2 year premium plan; $599.99 CAD outright

What’s clear is that the Motion isn’t getting as wide a release as the KEYone, largely because it’s not meant to serve the same market. Given its all-touch design, it’s not nearly as differentiated as the KEYone, but it’s also going to attract people looking for a rugged, secure, long-lasting Android phone that doesn’t cost $1000.

Are you interested in the BlackBerry Motion? We haven’t heard anything about U.S. availability just yet, but we’re hoping that changes in the near future.


Battery-free toothbrush is powered with a twist

Battery-powered toothbrushes are convenient if you don’t like brushing your teeth the old-fashioned way, but they have a catch: batteries. Typically, you either need to dock your brush (and remember to carry a charger with you on long trips) or toss disposables when they’re done. There might be a better way soon, though: Goodwell Co. is crowdfunding Be, which it bills as the first battery-free powered toothbrush. Twist the base twice and a kinetic energy storage mechanism will vibrate the brush head for up to 2 minutes, or just long enough for that dentist-recommended cleaning. You don’t have to connect to a charger, and you won’t contribute to landfills by chucking out batteries (the bristles are even biodegradable).

As you might surmise, there’s a catch: the brushes aren’t cheap. Early backers can get a starter kit for $49 (a brush, three head refills and a travel case), but there were only a few dozen left as of this writing — and there weren’t many more for the $89 cleaning kit or $96 two-pack, either. And you’ll have to wait until December 2018 even if you do get a pledge in. If Goodwell pulls this off, though, it’ll be no small feat — you’ll have a powered brush you can take on vacation knowing that it won’t conk out in mid-scrub.

Via: New Atlas

Source: Kickstarter


iPhone X Won’t Be Available to Walk-In Customers at Apple Stores in Belgium or France on Launch Day

Apple recently confirmed that the iPhone X will be available for walk-in customers to purchase at its retail stores when the device launches Friday, November 3, but that will not be the case in two European countries.

Due to anti-terrorism restrictions, Apple will not be selling the iPhone X to customers without a pre-order or pickup reservation in Belgium or France. The news was first reported by the Dutch-language blog One More Thing, and MacRumors has since received confirmation from a reliable source who asked not to be identified.

As best as we’re aware, Apple is simply complying with local laws and regulations discouraging large gatherings and queues in popular tourist areas, due to recent terrorist attacks in cities with Apple retail stores like Brussels and Paris.

Belgian and French customers can still pre-order the iPhone X on Apple’s website for in-store pickup or delivery, although shipping estimates have slipped to 5-6 weeks in both countries. Also, in Belgium at least, Apple will begin accepting reservations for in-store pickup on November 4 at 6:00 a.m. local time.

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

Related Roundup: iPhone XTags: France, Belgium, Apple retailBuyer’s Guide: iPhone X (Buy Now)
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Senators push legislation to protect election systems from hacks

Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) have put forward a bill that would protect America’s voting infrastructure from foreign interference. The Securing America’s Voting Equipment Act, or SAVE, is the newest attempt by the US to prevent elections from being compromised by foreign powers.

The law is designed to push the Director of National Intelligence to share out pieces of classified information with election officials in every state. Those officials would then be tasked with strengthening each state’s infrastructure and equipment against threats both foreign and domestic.

The legislation would also enable a hacking program and bug bounty that encouraged researchers and vendors to look for and close holes in critical software. Future elections would only be undertaken on devices that had been audited and passed fit for use according to certain criteria.

In addition, the bill would hand out grants to certain states to enable them to upgrade their hardware in an attempt to avoid future hacks. This would also be supported by the Department of Homeland Security which, in January of this year, marked election technology as “Critical Infrastructure.”

The move is likely to anger the same swing states that violently pushed back against having their voting machines protected in this manner. Last summer, key battlegrounds like Pennsylvania and Georgia rejected DHS’ overtures to protect their machinery against hacking.

That decision was described as a push back against “vast federal overreach,” by Georgia secretary of state Brian Kemp. Others, like UNC professor Zeynep Tufekci, said that the state’s equipment, which runs Windows 2000, was “more than a decade old” and “falling apart.”

As it transpired, officials believe that election hardware in 39 states was breached by Russian hackers, including voting systems, campaign finance and voter databases. Subsequently, a server that was related to a lawsuit against Georgia election officials was wiped, with Brian Kemp a named defendant.

A demonstration at this years DefCon revealed just how easy it is to breach a voting machine even for a novice hacker. If the SAFE act passes, and right now there’s no guarantee that it will, officials are going to have a lot of work to do to ensure the integrity of American democracy.

Via: Reuters

Source: Martin Heinrich


The checkout line’s death knell | The Future IRL

We’re all only about ten years away from sauntering into stores, grabbing whatever it is we want, then quick-stepping out like we stole it.

It’ll be possible because many shops will be ringed with machine vision-enabling cameras and sensors that keep tabs on what you take while inside and then charge it to the corresponding app as you leave. Analysts say the big shift is being ushered in by retailers trying to stave off the online shopping explosion. People tend to cite crowds and lines as reasons they avoid stores, so the hope is that tech will be the savior of the remaining brick and mortar mainstays. But while that checkout change might thrill some customers, it’ll also dramatically change employment for low-skilled retail jobs and comes with a host of privacy concerns.

“Consumers right now have been leaving stores, they’re shopping online a lot more,” said Yory Wurmser, a senior analyst at eMarketer. “And at the same time, the vast majority of shopping is still happening in stores, so there’s a need to stop hemorrhaging all this traffic.”

If machine vision checkout all seems too futurist to contemplate, there are already signs that the checkout lane change is headed our way. Online ordering juggernaut Amazon released a video last December of its surprise project, the Amazon Go store. In the video, beta-testing employees at the Seattle campus stroll inside a small grocery store, then let cameras, sensors, RFID tags and more work to associate people with their Amazon accounts. It charges the app as they walk back out.

The idea caught hold, but it’s also presumed to be quite expensive, since Amazon reportedly built sensors into the floor and walls to make the experience relatively seamless. Cheaper, “Amazon Lite” versions of this kind of tech are already popping up in various places around the world.

“We’re already seeing this in China,” said Brendan Miller, a principal analyst at Forrester. “There’s a lot of these mobile stores, the very small footprint like 200 or 300 square foot that are unattended. They’re almost like an unattended kiosk that people can walk through.”

“Too expensive to build” usually means an opportunity for a startup, which is exactly what’s happening at Standard Cognition’s Lab in Santa Clara, California. Its co-founders are working on an AI checkout system that aims to be sensor-free and rely on video cameras, only.

On the day I visited the mock convenience store, employees were training the machine vision AI for ‘density,’ to make sure the cameras can keep track of the individual people in a horde of holiday shoppers.

Founder and CEO Jordan Fisher, co-founder and COO Michael Suswal, brand new employee Jeff Hsu and I spent a few minutes huddled up together, weaving between each other and the store wall, before unraveling to see whether the AI kept track of us the whole time. An easy way to spot how it’s doing is by checking whether we all kept our assigned colors. Mine started as purple but swapped it with Suswal’s by the end of our faux shopping party. Its founders say these sorts of tests are great for the system because they spot things to adjust every time they let beta testers into the lab.

Here’s how the system works. Its proprietary AI system is built, in part, with TensorFlow, Google’s open-source AI kit. The lab has 20 cameras overhead, which are used to track people and products. Fisher says it first trains the AI on products with a two-minute long video capturing event they call the “SKU-dance.” Once an item is filmed from every possible angle, the AI will be able to identify it in the future.

Then, the cameras are trained to see when someone’s picked a known object up and track it from there. People are still being invited in to shop the shelves and track if the program can keep up, which is why I joined the density scrum.

Standard Cognition got its start in Y Combinator, and is now funded at $6 million a few months after graduating.

The total package is comprised of cameras, the AI program and a private offline server. Every camera requires a dedicated GPU on the backend server. The cost to put three or four cameras and an offline server into say, a 7-Eleven-sized building will be about $30,000. But the subscription service to monitor it all will cost more.

Its servers will be off the cloud for faster processing, and to avoid potential privacy concerns from actual customers. That’s also why they don’t use facial recognition technology.

But systems like these will be able to do more than just facilitate a painless check-out. One thing employees realized early on was that the ID capabilities meant they could offer inventory management in addition to payment. They also added a theft deterrent system, because the cameras can piece together how a shelf looked before you came by, to deduce whether something has been stolen.

So of course, I tested it. And while it definitely knew I put a package of Oreos underneath my sweater, it had no clue about my Coke nab, because I slid the bottle up my sleeve while it remained sitting on the shelf.

But as cost-efficient as a machine-vision only system would be, it also brings definite limitations in the kinds of stores it could actually be used in. Analyst Brendan Miller, Forrester, is quick to point out machine vision wouldn’t be as useful in telling different sizes of clothing apart.

“Imagine being in a department store, choosing jeans… and there are all these different sizes,” Miller said. “We know within a department store all that gets mixed together, and so having this kind of video technology, being able to identify the exact size and location of a specific jean in a messy shopping environment, it’s not quite there yet, but I think the technology could be augmented with things like RFID tags.”

The idea is that Standard Cognition will wrap this all up and offer a machine-vision checkout / inventory management / alarm system package. That’s because employees are also training the AI to spot medical emergencies, or whether someone has a weapon. The system could alert store managers to weapons or emergencies in milliseconds, because that’s how quickly it can recognize objects.

It will also land first in a very specific kind of store. It does best with consumer-packaged goods, those items that are already whole and ready to go. Determining weights of bulk items would be another level of complication waiting for them in a grocery store that the founders aren’t ready to tackle just yet.

“We’re still figuring that out. We’ve actually talked to quite a few different grocery stores, and each one kind of has a different preference for what they want that experience to be for the shoppers,” Fisher said.

From here, employees need even more data, the kind you only get in a true store environment. They are checking into San Francisco storefronts, but will likely fall back on using the lab location, since it’s so near Santa Clara University. They’ll ask for beta-testers to shop their wall of goods for real in about six months. The plan is to then mine that data like crazy, improve, then hopefully begin installing machine vision checkout in other stores in little more than a year.


Sony shows off ‘Doom VFR’ and the rest of the PSVR holiday lineup

While the gaming world’s eyes are all set upon the start of Paris Games Week, Sony demo’d a number of upcoming titles for the Playstation VR, many of which will be released in time for the holidays. Among the titles on display were marquee titles Doom VR, which can now be played with the system’s rifle-like Aim Controller and Skyrim VR, which has added a short-hop teleportation feature for quickly moving through Tamriel. We also took a look at League of War, a dual-screen tabletop war simulator that’s sure to be the life of your next LAN party; Farpoint’s newest expansion pack, a 1-on-1 (but with AI minions) battle arena; and Bravo Team, a Time Crisis-esque co-op combat shooter. Check out the video above for highlights and reactions to everything on display.

Follow all the latest news from Sony’s PlayStation event here!


Rylo’s 360-degree camera lets you decide what shots you want later

There are quite a few 360-degree cameras on the market now and they cover a range of needs. For professionals and major VR buffs, there’s the Samsung 360 Round and for more casual videographers there are a slew of options from companies like Ricoh Theta, Garmin and Samsung. But there’s now a growing market for those wanting to shoot high quality 360-degree video and decide later on during editing what images to focus on and what to cut out, minimizing how much effort is required during the actual video-capturing process. For that, there’s the GoPro Fusion, the Insta360 and, as of today, the Rylo.

Rylo has two 208-degree wide-angle lenses that capture your entire surroundings in 4K resolution. Its stabilization technology even allows you to carry the camera while shooting and still get a smooth image. To edit your video, plug it into your iPhone and use the companion app to easily find what frames you want to include in your HD video or alternatively, download the whole thing for a fully immersive 360-degree viewing experience. You can then easily post your videos on Instagram, Facebook or share them directly with others.

What is probably Rylo’s main attraction, however, is the freedom it allows users when it comes to shooting and editing video. Since it captures everything, users don’t have to worry about focusing on anything in particular while using the camera. Instead, Rylo’s software lets you figure that out later. You can simply swivel the view around until you find the direction you want included in your final video, but you can also pick points of interest that the camera will then automatically follow. For example, the Rylo cofounders showed the Verge that a video taken from the roof of a car while it drove across the Golden Gate Bridge could be directed to focus on one of the bridge’s arches. After setting it as a point of interest, the resulting video then smoothly tracked it as the car drove up to, underneath and past it.

Rylo is designed by engineers that worked on Apple’s cameras as well as the Instagram app Hyperlapse. The camera is available now and priced at $499, right in between the GoPro Fusion and Insta360, which are $700 and $300, respectively. As of now, it’s only available for iPhone, but an Android version of the app is in the works.

Source: Rylo


Netflix is reportedly developing a ‘House of Cards’ spinoff

In the wake of Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp’s allegations that Kevin Spacey assaulted him when Rapp was just fourteen years old, Netflix announced yesterday that the sixth season would be the last for its drama House of Cards. Now, Variety reports that Netflix is developing a spinoff of the political drama.

The idea that’s farthest along is a show that centers on Doug Stamper, a political aide played by actor Michael Kelly. Eric Roth, an executive producer on the first four seasons of House of Cards, is attached as the writer for the project, reports Variety. There are also two other spinoff ideas being explored, but details about these are in short supply.

There have been quite a few spinoffs of popular shows recently, from Game of Thrones’ multiple prequels to Better Caul Saul, Young Sheldon and Fear the Walking Dead. House of Cards is what established Netflix’s reputation for quality original programming, as well as its ability to attract established movie starts to its platform. It’s unsurprising, then, that the streaming service would be exploring ways to continue this popular universe in new TV shows.

Via: Polygon

Source: Variety


Some Google Docs users are being locked out of their files

A number of Google Docs users have reported being locked out of their documents today for, according to the message that pops up when they try to access the affected document, violating Google’s terms of service. Users that have tweeted about the issue have said their locked-out pieces were about a range of topics including wildfire crimes, post-socialist eastern Europe and a response to reviewers of an academic journal submission.

FYI according to this thread some Google spam system has gone rogue and is randomly blocking some Google Docs

— SwiftOnSecurity (@SwiftOnSecurity) October 31, 2017

Tfw your finalizing a piece on E. Europe post-socialist parties in Google Drive and Google removes it because it’s in violation of its ToS??

— Bhaskar Sunkara (@sunraysunray) October 31, 2017

Working away happily on @googledocs with a response to reviewers. Suddenly: “This document is in violation of Terms of Service”. #WTF

— Leighton Pumpkin 🎃 (@widdowquinn) October 31, 2017

A Google spokesperson told us, “We’re investigating reports of an issue with Google Docs. We will provide more information when appropriate.” The range of subject matters and number of reports suggest it’s probably just a glitch, but the problem is a reminder of what we give up for the convenience and ease offered by cloud-based programs like Docs. Google Docs and others like it allow users to store their work offline, making it easily accessible wherever they happen to be. They also make it easy to share documents between a number of different people. But giving up control over your work comes with risks, as today’s issues make clear. And though they’re fairly rare, they can cause huge problems.

For example, Twitter user @widdowquinn said that while they had been encouraging others to use Google Docs for collaborative work on grants and academic papers, today’s glitch is a deal breaker.

Yep. I can’t trust @googledocs, any more. If this was the day before a grant submission, it could literally cost us £100k+

— Leighton Pumpkin 🎃 (@widdowquinn) October 31, 2017

The Docs lock-outs also serve as a reminder that companies like Google are scanning your content and that privacy is also something we give up for convenience. In Google’s privacy policy, the company makes it clear that it’s collecting information about what you use and how you use it. “This includes information like your usage data and preferences, Gmail messages, G+ profile, photos, videos, browsing history, map searches, docs, or other Google-hosted content. Our automated systems analyze this information as it is sent and received and when it is stored,” says the company.

Unfortunately, a pen and paper, though reliable, just won’t cut it these days. So you’ll have to figure out what you’re willing to give up and what risks you’re willing to take when it comes to storing, sharing and accessing your work. We’ll update this post once Google provides more information about the issue.

Via: New York Magazine

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