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14
Dec

Pandora Plus and free members can stream on-demand after watching an ad


Watch a 15-second ad, get on-demand music streaming.

Back in March, Pandora launched Pandora Premium as a way to compete more directly with the likes of Spotify and Google Play Music. One of the biggest draws to Premium is the ability to stream on-demand music alongside Pandora’s radio stations, but the streaming service is now expanding this feature to both Plus and free members as well.

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For Plus and free users of Pandora, on-demand music streaming will be available after watching a 15-second advertisement. You’ll search for the song, artist, or album you’re looking for, choose that you want to watch the 15-second ad, and you’ll then be able to listen to whatever you’d like. No advertisements will play during your listening session, but if you search for something else and leave what you’re currently jamming out to, you’ll need to watch another 15-second ad before proceeding.

Premium subscribers will still retain the exclusive ability to create custom playlists and download songs for offline listening, and by giving Plus and free users a taste of what a Premium subscription has to offer, Pandora is likely hoping they’ll get more people to hand over the $9.99/month premium.

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This feature will be rolling out to Pandora today, and we’re interested in your thoughts on this. If you’re a Plus or free member, do you think this will tempt you into subscribing to Pandora Premium? If you’re a Premium user, will this encourage you to step down to a Plus or free setup? Let us know in the comments section.

Spotify is testing a sleeker and less cluttered UI for its Android app

14
Dec

This is our first look at the Samsung Galaxy S9


Ladies and gentlemen, the Galaxy S9.

Samsung knocked it out of the park with the Galaxy S8 in 2017, and as such, expectations for the S9 are pretty high. We’ve already heard a few rumors and reports about what to expect from next year’s flagship, and now we have our first real render of what the phone will probably look like.

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The folks at 91Mobiles recently partnered with OnLeaks to share the first CAD render for the S9, and although this isn’t confirmed by Samsung to be the final design of the phone, it does line up nicely with other reports that have popped up regarding it.

The overall aesthetic of the Galaxy S9 will be very similar to that of the S8, but one notable change lies with the placement of the rear fingerprint scanner. Rather than being positioned next to the camera, it’s now in a much more sensible location underneath it. Speaking of the camera, this render only shows a single sensor rather than two like what’s found on the Note 8. The single sensor should still kick out awesome photos, but if you need to be on the dual-camera bandwagon, previous reports have indicated that the Galaxy S9+ will come outfitted with two rear cameras.

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As for specifications, the S9 will reportedly be powered by either the Snapdragon 845 or Samsung’s Exynos 9810 depending on where you buy the phone, possibly 6GB of RAM, Android Oreo out of the box, and we might even see a variant with as much as 512GB of internal storage.

The S9 is shaping up to be a very identical-looking phone compared to the S8, but then again, is that really a bad thing? With beefed up specs and a fingerprint sensor placement that actually makes sense, the S9 looks like it’s keeping what worked on the S8 and fixing what needed fixing.

Oh, and there’s still a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Samsung Galaxy S9: Rumors, Specs, Release Date, and More!

14
Dec

The next Xbox voice chat app will work on your phone


Microsoft introduced a new beta of the Xbox phone app today, which appears to include the testing of party chat on your mobile device. Presumably, this will allow you to chat with your Xbox party on your phone, similar to the way the Nintendo Switch works. While the Xbox app is available for both iOS and Android, this new beta appears to only be available at the Google Play Store.

The highlight here really is the ability to chat with your Xbox party when you’re not at a console. There isn’t anything official on this feature from Microsoft; we were first made aware of the update thanks to eagle-eyed Reddit users. Time will tell when this update will be available for iPhone owners as well.

Via: Reddit

Source: Google Play Store

14
Dec

FCC Has Voted to Repeal Net Neutrality Rules


The Federal Communications Commission today voted to repeal Net Neutrality rules put in place by the United States government back in 2015 under the Obama administration (via Recode). Instead of classifying internet service providers as “common carriers” under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, the FCC has voted 3-2 in favor of rolling back to reclassifying ISPs as “information service” providers, as they were between February 1996 and February 2015.

Now, companies like AT&T, Charter, Comcast, and Verizon will be allowed to block or slow down a user’s access to certain websites, as well as potentially charge access to sites and services. The vote passed in favor under FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, along with the two other Republican commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr. Outvoted were Democrat commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel.

The order now adopted by the FCC today will eliminate a “utility-style regulation” of ISPs, and also removes any requirement for these companies to refrain from blocking or throttling web traffic. One requirement remaining is that telecom companies will be forced to tell customers if and when they prioritize their content over competitors, and if they don’t they could face penalties from the Federal Trade Commission.

Apple and many other large technology companies previously urged the FCC to reconsider its proposal. Those in favor of keeping ISPs classified under Title II argued that the FCC rolling back the internet’s classification as a public utility will hurt net neutrality, as it could eventually divide internet users into so-called “fast lanes” and “slow lanes.” Throughout his remarks given today, Pai said that this will not be the case.

And Pai, before the vote was final, sought to swat away his critics. “Following today’s vote,” he began, “Americans will still be able to access the websites they want to visit. They will still be able to enjoy the services they want to enjoy. There will still be cops on the beat guarding a free and open Internet.”

Apple’s comment on the topic earlier this year stated that this ruling could “fundamentally alter the internet as we know it,” and if it passed it would be put in place to the detriment of consumers, competition, and innovation. Around the same time, the FCC received a record-breaking 22 million comments from the public who voiced their opinions on the controversial issue in the months leading up to today’s vote.

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.

Tags: net neutrality, FCC
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14
Dec

UK tribunal declares WikiLeaks a media organization


A British tribunal released a ruling today on a freedom of information case in which an Italian journalist, Stefania Maurizi, sought documents regarding WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition. While the tribunal decided that she could not get those documents due to confidentiality reasons, it did state in its summary that WikiLeaks was a media organization, which could make any US attempts at having Assange extradited more difficult.

In the tribunal’s summary, the Guardian reports, it said, “WikiLeaks is a media organization which publishes and comments upon censored or restricted official materials involving war, surveillance or corruption, which are leaked to it in a variety of different circumstances.” Neither the US Department of Justice nor the UK Crown Prosecution Service have stated whether extradition discussions regarding Assange — who is currently living in a London-based Ecuadorian embassy where he has been granted diplomatic asylum — have taken place. But if UK officials were considering assisting an extradition request, such a clear statement declaring WikiLeaks a media organization might change that.

“If such a request were made, the UK would not be assisting the US to extradite a narco, a mafia boss or a drug kingpin. It would being assisting the US to extradite a media publisher to prosecute him and his media organization for their publications,” Maurizi told the Guardian.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said arresting Assange was a priority and CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in April, “It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: A non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”

Via: The Guardian

14
Dec

Japan’s answer to Amazon is building its own mobile network


Japanese e-commerce platform Rakuten has announced its plan to shake up the mobile business in its home country. Reuters is reporting that the company is applying for a license to offer 4G service, making it Japan’s fourth national wireless carrier. Rakuten intends to offer service in 2019, and has a target of gaining 15 million customers, putting it well behind third-placed Softbank, which currently serves 39 million.

Rakuten already has a toe in the mobile world, thanks to its imaginatively-named MVNO, Rakuten Mobile. According to our colleagues in Japan, the budget carrier offers low cost (and low-quality) voice and data services. But that, at least, means that Rakuten won’t be launching into the market from a standing start, and since it already has beefy e-commerce and media platforms, has plenty of reasons to lock customers in.

The move appears to have been prompted, at least in part, because of regulatory concerns that Japan’s big three: Softbank, NTT DoCoMo and Au/KDDI have too much power. Rakuten believes that extra competition will lower prices, but even if it does shake up the industry, there’s no discounts on offer. The company believes that it’ll need to raise $5.3 billion in order to pay for the necessary spectrum and infrastructure.

Via: Reuters

Source: Rakuten

14
Dec

Microsoft’s Mixer app relaunches with more streaming features


Microsoft’s revamped Mixer app is coming out of beta. Back in October the company announced it was working on redesigning the livestreaming app to make it easier to find new and relevant gaming broadcasts. Features included a reworked Trending section, a featured streams carousel and better filters, among others. The team has completely pulled apart Mixer’s existing underlying framework to rebuild it on a brand new code base, which means updates and bug fixes should come faster than ever.

Thanks to community feedback during the beta period, the new version also comes with a host of other features, including push notifications, tap-and-hold video previews and enhanced stream page and player settings. The refresh may not bring it entirely up to speed with its main rival, Twitch, which has a new focus on the lucrative pro-streaming market, but it does help position it as a serious contender in the field, and certainly provides greater flexibility for new features in the near future. It’s available on Android now, and on iOS in the coming days.

14
Dec

Google adds more tools to help you find travel deals


Here’s the thing about vacations: they’re fun, but they can also be stressful when you start thinking about how much they’ll cost you. Google is trying to take a bit of that stress away by launching a handful of features that can make your trips more affordable. To start with, the tech titan has expanded Flight’s ability to save you money. Back in October, the flight search service gained the capability to tell you when prices are expected to increase. Now, it can also tell you when prices are lower than usual and by how much, as well as whether prices won’t drop any further for the dates you used in your search query.

Google says Flights uses machine learning and statistical analysis of historical data for its predictions. The company is not actually privy to airline sales and price increases, so the service’s advice might not always be accurate. But those tips, which you can see under your results within Flight’s interface, can help you decide whether to pull the trigger or wait a little more before buying tickets.

Before you book those flights, though, search for hotels on Google first. Your results will now come with a warning if room rates are higher than usual. An advisory somewhere at the top part of your results will also reveal whether it’s peak travel period to your chosen destination, due to a holiday, an event or big conventions and conferences. In case prices don’t fit your budget, you can toggle on an option that sends you email price alerts instead. For now, you’ll have to be on mobile to see that price alert feature, but it’ll come out for desktop next year.

Once you’re already at your destination, then it’s time to check out Google Trips. In addition to being able to organize your bookings and itineraries, it can now also help you find great deals. The new Discounts feature will give you instant access to tickets, top tourist destinations and experiences sold by vendors like Klook and Expedia, so long as you book them from within the app. It sounds like a great way to quickly find things to do when you don’t want spend more time than needed scouring search results or if you prefer keeping things spontaneous.

14
Dec

Vodafone customers given second chance to ditch contracts scot-free


Some Vodafone customers are being given a second chance to ditch their mobile contracts without incurring any nasty early exit penalties, after the provider changed the way roaming fees work earlier this year. Ahead of roaming charges being abolished across the EU, Vodafone announced in April a flat £5 per day fee for using your regular allowances abroad in 60 “roam-further” destinations outside the EU. While that’s a pretty common way of doing things these days, as you might know, carriers have to offer affected customers a get-out-of-jail-free card for changing the state of play mid-contract.

Ofcom introduced a rule several years ago that forced mobile providers to let customers bail on their contracts if hit with a price hike during the agreed term. As the changes to roaming fees could leave some customers worse off at the end of the month, this too falls under the spirit of Ofcom’s regulations. Vodafone did apparently text all relevant subscribers to inform them of the changes during April and May, and those who were identified of being particularly ‘at risk’ were provided a link that offered additional information on their right to back out of contracts.

However, Ofcom has received complaints suggesting the language Vodafone used in its communications to customers wasn’t clear enough. The regulator is also concerned the message didn’t make its way to everyone that could be affected, and that the mandatory notice period of 30 days before implementing pricing changes may not have been honoured in every case.

To put these concerns to bed, Vodafone has effectively started the process again, texting everyone that could be affected by the £5 roaming fee and spelling out their right to tear up their contracts within 30 days, no questions asked. Vodafone has also said it’ll refund any customers that feel they’ve been unfairly stung by the roaming charges thus far, and has promised to do better next time something like this comes up. Chances are if you have been or will be affected, you’ll have heard from the provider already, but there’s no harm in reaching out if you’re unsure what your situation and rights are.

Via: Huffington Post

Source: Ofcom

14
Dec

‘Grand Theft Auto’ publisher Take-Two opens an indie label


Take-Two is the latest major games publisher to open up an indie label. From the sounds of it, Private Division will operate like a smaller scale version of Take-Two itself, giving developers leeway to work on things at their own pace and not worry about pumping out a sea of annual sequels.

So far, it’s signed projects from a handful of former-AAA developers including an RPG from David Goldfarb (Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3) and an unannounced RPG from fan-favorite Obsidian Entertainment (Fallout: New Vegas, South Park: The Stick of Truth). That’s in addition to Assassin’s Creed creator Patrice Désilets’ Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey. Oh, and it’s also publishing Kerbal Space Program and Halo co-creator Marcus Lehto’s unnamed new sci-fi shooter.

Aside from the upcoming Kerbal expansion, none of the other games are expected to be released anytime soon. The fine print on a press release says that none of the other games are planned for Take-Two’s fiscal years ending March 31st, 2018 and 2019. Which is understandable considering most games take between two and three years to develop, on average.

Major publishers setting up indie labels has been a win-win so far. Electronic Arts has its EA Originals program which currently has Fe and A Way Out in gestation. Then there’s Microsoft’s ID@Xbox program, Square Enix Collective and Sony’s recently-launched Unties imprint. These help give the big names cred and a place for pursuing risky ideas that might not fly in the AAA space. It also means that the quirky games get a marketing budget so they don’t languish unheard of on Steam or your favorite digital store.

Check out the slick introduction video above for glimpses at what the teams are working on.

Source: Private Division (YouTube)

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