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Comcast wants the FCC to pre-empt state net neutrality laws

Why it matters to you

The battle over net neutrality is far from over, and now, a conflict between state and federal jurisdiction is taking center stage.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has made clear his dedication to rolling back net neutrality provisions outlined during President Obama’s administration, and companies are taking note. Comcast recently met with Pai’s staff to try to prevent individual states from setting their own net neutrality rules, for fear that states might try to stop internet service providers (ISPs) from “blocking, throttling, or discriminating against online content,” Ars Technica reported. In addition, Comcast asked the FCC to undo a previous classification of broadband as a Title II common carrier service. Should Pai and his staff agree to this, it would effectively undermine the FCC’s legal authority to enforce net neutrality rules.

While Pai has noted that he has every intention to reverse that classification, more contentious may be preventing states from implementing their own broadband regulations. As per an ex parte filing submitted by Comcast, the company “also emphasized that the Commission’s order in this proceeding should include a clear, affirmative ruling that expressly confirms the primacy of federal law with respect to BIAS (Broadband Internet Access Service) as an interstate information service, and that pre-empts state and local efforts to regulate BIAS either directly or indirectly.”

Comcast is by no means the only party to seek federal pre-emption of such state laws. Verizon also asked the Commission to block such rules, and both current and former Republican FCC commissioners are asking Pai to pre-empt states. Former Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell made an appearance before a Congressional committee last week, during which he noted, “The FCC should use its ample statutory authority to pre-empt states and localities to promote flexible and clear national rules that protect consumers and markets alike.” He noted a “disturbing trend” in which “states and localities have tried to regulate many aspects of the broadband market, potentially creating a confusing and innovation-killing patchwork of local laws governing both the economics of the internet and consumer privacy.”

Despite these requests, it’s unclear if the FCC is authorized to pre-empt state net neutrality laws. In fact, back in 2015, when the FCC attempted to pre-empt state laws preventing municipal broadband expansion, a federal appeals court determined that the Commission had actually exceeded its legal authority. So we’ll just have to see what the fate of net neutrality may be.

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‘PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ may be behind recent Windows 7 surge on Steam

Why it matters to you

Windows 10 might slowly be gaining market share, but it’s far from a dominant force in markets like China.

It’s been a long time since Windows 7 was at its peak popularity among gamers, but somehow it surged to the top of the Steam Hardware Survey charts in October. It currently beats out previous top-dog Windows 10 64-bit by more than 35 percent. Oddly enough, that may be the fault of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

The swing in the numbers is even more surprising. In the last month alone, Windows 7-64bit has seen an upswing of close to 23 percent, while Windows 10 64-bit has dipped by more than 17 percent. Why would so many people seemingly turn their backs on the most contemporary version of the Windows operating system in favor of its eight-year-old predecessor?

It might be down to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. The battle royale title has been tearing up the Steam charts since its Early Access release earlier this year and its influence might be starting to impact the makeup of system software on Steam.

The game isn’t making players switch OS for a boost to frame rate or functionality though, but instead is drawing in millions of players from around the world, most notably from China. The number of Steam users running the “Simplified Chinese” language on Steam increased by almost 27 percent during October.

Windows 7 is the most popular operating system in China due to Windows 10 being banned in the country. With that in mind, the likes of TechSpot have done the math. Battlegrounds is bringing in so many Chinese gamers that it’s changing the popularity of certain pieces of software for the Steam user base.

This should perhaps be no surprise. With more than 13 million copies sold within the last seven months alone, Battlegrounds was bound to have an impact in a variety of gaming sectors. Some of those consequences, though, have certainly been unexpected.

As TechSpot points out, its impact in China may be short-lived. If threats to ban the game for its violence go ahead, we could see the surge of Chinese Steam gamers dampen very quickly.

Whatever your language preferences, if you’re looking to have a better chance of winning your next chicken dinner, check out our beginner and advance guides to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

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Ingenious new sewage treatment system generates electricity and clean water

Why it matters to you

The device could offer a sustainable means of energy and sanitation for off-grid communities.

We have a long ways to go towards a truly sustainable future. But a device called the NEWgenerator may help us get there by generating two of our fundamental needs — clean water and energy.

Developed by Daniel Yeh, an associate professor of engineering at the University of South Florida, the device is designed to kill two proverbial birds with one stone — generate power while cleaning wastewater, simultaneously solving the global need for water and sanitation. The off-grid device was recently awarded a $1.14 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which will help install the next generation of the device in Durban, South Africa.

Yeh began developing the NEWgenerator through his research on anaerobic membrane bioreactors (AnMBRs), a technology that turns sewage into biogas, which can later be used to generate electricity. Regarded as a sustainable means to treat wastewater, AnMBR is especially promising for developing regions, where water sanitation problems are most prevalent.

“I believe that it has great potential for accomplishing high performance, small-scale wastewater treatment and water recycling, bypassing vast, expensive sewer networks that are difficult to achieve in many developing countries,” Yeh told Digital Trends. “The NEWgenerator is a way for us to engineer the AnMBR into a compact, solar-powered, mini container form factor and represents the embodiment of 15 years of research on this technology.”

Beyond extracting energy, the NEWgenerator also recovers nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus from the urine and fecal matter found in wastewater. Those nutrients could then be used as fertilizer. Though these nutrients would otherwise be recycled naturally, it would take much longer, according to Yeh. “We essentially accelerate what nature would do, with the help of engineering,” he said.

In a 2015 project, Yeh and his team field-tested a compact version of the device for a year at a school in India. “During this entire period, the NEWgen operated solely on solar energy and provided wastewater treatment and water recycling at a rate of over 100 uses per day,” he said.

Yeh and his team will now use the two-year, $1.14 million grant to begin installing improved NEWgenerators in developing regions, where sewage infrastructures struggle to keep up with increasing amounts of waste. But the researchers also think the technology could help in remote regions around the world that lack connected sewage systems.

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Liquid metal transistor could pave the way for self-repairing electronics

Why it matters to you

Super-flexible electronics could enable all sorts of technological advances, and could be long-lasting, too.

Truly flexible electronics are still part of the realm of science fiction, but research engineers at the Carnegie Mellon University have made a breakthrough which could bring them to reality. A new metal alloy that exists in a liquid state at room temperature holds the potential to enable liquid metal transistors, flexible circuitry, and possibly even self-repairing circuits in the future.

Carmel Majidi, Michael Dickey, and James Wissman of the Soft Machines Lab at the university created their new alloy with a combination of indium and gallium. The metal is entirely liquid at room temperature and is a good conductor of electricity. By applying a current to two liquid metal droplets, a circuit could be formed, or broken, effectively opening and closing a gate, much like a traditional transistor.

Liquid transistors would allow for much more flexible circuitry than we’re used to, potentially opening up the door for smart fabrics and much more malleable electronics. If a circuit could be physically altered through the application of current, it’s entirely possible that it could be reconfigured to perform different functions as and when needed, as Hexus points out. That ability to rebuild itself could also enable the creation of circuits which could repair themselves if damaged.


The key to this new alloy is its lack of any real complicating factors. Its ability to operate in a liquid state at room temperature removes any major cooling or heating requirements. Unlike other room-temperature liquid metals, like mercury, this new alloy is entirely non-toxic, so it’s safe for humans to handle and use. Better yet, it requires a moderate voltage of just 1-10 volts to create the liquid transistor effect. That’s a similar voltage to traditional solid-state transistors.

The only concern with the materials used in this experiment was their potential lifetime. Those behind the study believe that as it stands, the gallium may decay to a less versatile state. One potential remedying factor though is to use more inert electrodes like gold or graphite.

While such technology is still years away from being applicable to commercial electronics, it holds an exciting potential for technologies that until now, were seen as near-impossibilities with existing materials.

This isn’t the only fluid development which could overhaul computing as we know it. “5D electric blood” could be the new wonder material of tomorrow’s high-end electronics.

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Google is changing the way developers think about spatial audio

Google wants to improve audio everywhere, no matter what device you’re using.

A good audio experience can do some truly incredible things to your perception. Immersive sound can make flat things feel more alive, change the tone of something from exciting to terrifying, and really make you feel like you are a part of the experience. This applies doubly so for VR and AR things. A good spatial audio experience can pull you in and fully immerse you in ways you didn’t expect, it’s a very cool thing to experience firsthand.

Not every VR experience has good spatial audio experiences, and fewer WebVR or AR experiences offer anything even close. Google is planning to address this issue everywhere, on as many platforms as possible, with a new SDK called Resonance Audio.


Google’s goal is to make spatial audio better everywhere, beyond what we currently know as basic 3D sound. This is the stuff that makes it so when you’re watching a 360-degree video, the sound feels like it is actually coming from the direction those sounds should be coming from. If you turn away from those sources, the sounds would become quieter just like they would in the real world. It’s complicated stuff that usually takes developers a lot of hard work to nail correctly, but Google claims this new SDK would make it not only much easier but noticeably higher quality.

Best of all, Resonance Audio is not Android-only. While this tech is based on the VR Audio SDK Google originally built for Daydream, Resonance Audio will work across multiple platforms. This means there’s potential here for WebVR, Mobile VR, and AR experiences to improve across the board with better spatial audio.

Developers can now check out more details on Resonance Audio. The rest of us? Wait and see how well developers are able to turn this into something great for everyone!

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Moto Smart Speaker with Alexa available for preorder November 7 for $149

Officially goes on sale November 13 and at Verizon on the 16th.

Last month, Motorola officially announced its Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa. The Smart Speaker is the latest Moto Mod for the Moto Z family, and it allows you to take Alexa and a beefy external speaker with you wherever you go.


Motorola initially said that the Moto Smart Speaker would be available for purchase at some point in November, and now it’s been revealed that preorders for the accessory will officially start on November 7 through Amazon, Best Buy, and Motorola’s own website. Official sales will begin on November 13, and you’ll be able to pick up the Smart Speaker at Verizon starting November 16.

Like other Moto Mods, the Moto Smart Speaker isn’t cheap with a price tag of $150. Having a tiny Alexa speaker that you can take with you wherever you go is neat, but an Echo Tap only costs $80 and offers the same general functionality.

The Moto Smart Speaker does have the unique ability to attach to the back of your phone and should have considerably better battery life than the Tap, but seeing as how the Mod covers the camera lens for your Moto Z device, you likely won’t want to have this thing attached to your phone at all times.

Moto X4 pre-orders starting soon, Amazon Alexa Moto Mod coming November


Enter Thrifter’s Black Friday giveaway & you could win a $1,500 home theater setup

This is too good to miss.

Thrifter’s latest giveaway is its best one yet, and we know you will be just as excited about it as we are!

Our friends at Thrifter are celebrating their first ever Black Friday by giving one lucky reader a ton of special prizes.

Thrifter will be extensively covering all of the Black Friday circulars and deals. Keep the Black Friday hub bookmarked and refresh it often for the latest updates on Black Friday ad scan leaks, hot deals, doorbusters, buying guides, expert tips, and shopping news.


One grand prize winner will receive:

  • Samsung 55″ 4K Smart LED UHDTV (UN55MU6300FXZA) – $748 value
  • Samsung 130W 2.1-Channel Soundbar System (HW-K360) – $198 value
  • Microsoft Xbox One X Gaming Console – $500 value
  • $50 B&H Photo Video Gift Card – $50 value

Entering for your chance to win is as easy as subscribing to Thrifter’s emails, giving them a follow on Twitter and Facebook, and posting a tweet. You can come back every day and get another entry, too.

Make sure your name is in the virtual hat by 11:59 PM EST on Cyber Monday (November 27th). Remember to keep coming back for more entries and to check up on the latest and greatest Black Friday updates. Good luck!

Thrifter is giving away a $1,500 home theater setup!

More from Thrifter:

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For more great deals be sure to check out our friends at Thrifter now!


OnePlus will unveil the OnePlus 5T on Nov. 16 in New York City!

OnePlus is giving the OnePlus 5T a live launch event in Brooklyn.

OnePlus always hypes the launch of its newest phone, but the company is taking things to the next level — and to a new city — with the OnePlus 5T. In a post on the company’s forums, co-founder Carl Pei said that the OnePlus 5T will be unveiled in Brooklyn, New York City (where they paint murals of Biggie) on November 16.

The phone will then go on sale on November 21 in North America and Europe, followed by China on December 1. Indian users will get a chance to buy the phone on November 21 in a flash sale, with wider availability on November 28.


As many of you know, our team has been hard at work on the OnePlus 5T. But our products aren’t built by us alone, the OnePlus community has played a key role. Feedback from our users led us to develop one of the industry’s most powerful video stabilization solutions, as well as one of its most accurate sRGB display calibrations.

We stepped up community involvement in our product development since launching our Open Beta program back in August 2016. Over 15 thousand users have contributed to this program, by sharing bug reports, suggesting new features, and helping us optimize existing ones.

Our devices are always built together with you. That’s why we’re inviting you to “A New View”, the upcoming OnePlus 5T launch event. We can’t wait to tell you all about the new features and improvements that we have been working on.

OnePlus is selling a limited number of tickets for fans of the company and its products to attend the event. Starting November 8, for $40, the public can purchase tickets to the launch event; everyone else can watch through the livestream on November 16 at 11am ET / 5pm GMT.

Everything you need to know about the OnePlus 5T!


The misery of carrier stores [#acpodcast]

Alex Dobie takes center stage this week as he, Daniel Bader, Andrew Martonik, and Jerry Hildenbrand talk about Alex’s hands-on experience with some recently announced devices, the Razer Phone and HTC’s U11+.

Razer’s maiden voyage into the smartphone market is targeted towards gamers. With a unique 120Hz display, 8GB of RAM, and a huge 4,000mAh battery, it offers an opportunity for high frame rates on a mobile device. But can the Android gaming experience really take advantage of its potential? And how satisfactory of a phone is it in other respects?

The HTC U11+ has a lot going for it from a hardware perspective. On the software side of things, it includes Android Oreo and HTC Sense. But there’s a catch—HTC currently has no launch plans for the U.S., and there are no British carriers for it in the UK. In a market with so many excellent, readily available phones, how can this dark horse contender gain any mindshare with consumers?

Show Notes and Links:

  • Razer Phone hands-on preview

  • Razer Phone: Everything you need to know

  • Razer Phone specs

  • HTC U11+ hands-on preview

  • HTC U11+ specs

  • HTC U11 Life review

  • The HTC U11+ started life as a Google Pixel 2 XL project — kind of

Podcast MP3 URL:


Android’s first public beta was released 10 years ago

The first beta of the OS we’ve come to know and love turns 10.

Android is now known as the largest smartphone operating system on the market, but a decade ago it was just a public beta. These days it’s easy to get caught up in the small imperfections of popular flagships, but there’s no better way to remember just how far we’ve come in the last 10 years than to watch the original demo video for Android.

In it, we see a 34-year-old Sergey Brin introducing Google’s new open-source project to the world. Steve Horowitz demos a much simpler form of Android than we’re used to today, with a small carousel of apps at the bottom of the screen. He mentions that Google is hopeful its software will lead to the creation of “thousands of G Phones” — it’s probably safe to say that they exceeded that.

The apps demoed, including Google Maps, Quake, and a web browser using the 3G network, were fairly rudimentary, but it’s easy to see elements of Android’s UI that still hold true today, particularly on the touchscreen device. At the end of the video, Brin offers a $10 million incentive to the developers of the best software for Android, which now has the largest app ecosystem through the Google Play Store.

Android didn’t make its way to hands of the public until the release of the HTC-made T-Mobile G1 in 2008, and 10 years later it’s hard to imagine going back to a time without smartphones in every hand and pocket, so it’s interesting to look back at what Android was like in the early days.

The History of Android

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