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30
Dec

The Morning After: Weekend Edition


Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

Welcome to the last weekend of 2017. Before we dive into a new year we’re checking out all of Friday’s plus some highlights from earlier this week. See you in 2018!

Police have already made an arrest.Alleged swatting hoax ends in the death of a father of two

swatdims_640.jpg

On Thursday night, a disagreement over Call of Duty may have contributed to the death of an innocent man at the hands of police. A game played with a $1.50 wager led to an argument where one gamer gave their address out and challenged the other to do something with it. That address apparently passed to someone else who “swatted” it, calling the local police to fake a homicide and hostage situation.

When Wichita police responded, Andrew Finch came to the door, and although he was unarmed, he was shot and killed at his front door. Finch had no apparent connection to the dispute, but the player gave out a fake address. While the investigation continues, Los Angeles police reported late last night that they had arrested Tyler Raj Barris in connection with the call. In 2015, they arrested Barris for calling in bomb threats to a TV station, and during a YouTube interview, “SWAuTistic” took responsibility for bomb threats that interrupted a Major League Gaming Call of Duty event in Dallas earlier this month.

Just leave out the farts — and the politics.Marvel wants to help you make comics

youtu.be-ufpbSPkhd4I.jpg

The good news is that the Marvel: Create Your Own app will let you choose a Marvel character, pose them on various backgrounds and then fill in the story via speech bubbles. The bad news? Don’t plan on making your hard-hitting X-Men allegory a reality, since “controversial” topics like social justice issues and politics are banned.

Thanks, NVIDIA.Nintendo Switch homebrew should be available soon

nswtchhdims.jpg

A group of hackers recently revealed how NVIDIA’s Tegra chip gave them the opening necessary to crack the Nintendo Switch. There should be a method for running homebrew software on the console soon, as long as owners don’t update their software beyond version 3.0.0.

It just feels right.Kodi comes to Xbox One

kodidims_640.jpg

Xbox Media Center got its start on the original Xbox system, and now the project (since renamed from XBMC to Kodi) is available on Xbox One.

But wait, there’s more…

  • ‘PUBG’ sets new Steam record with three million simultaneous players
  • FCC approves first wireless ‘power-at-a-distance’ charging system
  • Apple apologizes for confusion over older iPhones slowing down, cuts replacement battery price
  • ‘Black Mirror’ season four is here to ruin your holiday spirit
  • Amazon and Microsoft employees caught up in sex trafficking sting
  • ‘Blade Runner 2049’ VFX reel shows CG tricks behind bleak landscapes

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30
Dec

Birkenstock vs. Amazon feud extends to search typos


In 2016 Birkenstock chose to stop doing business with Amazon, citing problems with counterfeit goods on the site and shady resellers. Now, the shoe company has a court win too, where a German judge ruled that Amazon can’t event buy ads on variations of the name that shoppers may mistype. Birkenstock’s case is that if someone is lured to Amazon’s site, they won’t find its real products, just counterfeits that could damage its reputation. Will these two work things out? Amazon’s spat with Google doesn’t seem to be cooling off, but earlier this year it did establish a partnership with Nike addressing similar concerns.

Source: Reuters

30
Dec

LAPD arrests 25-year-old suspect in Wichita ‘swatting’ case


Thursday night Wichita police killed Andrew Finch after responding to a call claiming a man at his address had shot someone and was holding others hostage. That call was a hoax, commonly referred to as “swatting,” and in this case, it’s apparently linked to a Call of Duty match, where one player passed a fake address to another before someone called the police to it. Now NBC News reports that police in Los Angeles have arrested 25-year-old Tyler Barriss, who is believed to have made the call inciting the incident.

Barriss may be the “SWAutistic” who tweeted about making the call and later participated in a phone interview with the DramaAlert show on YouTube. An LAPD spokesperson confirmed to Engadget that Barriss is in custody, no bail has been set, and that they are working with Wichita police on the case. The LA Times reported in 2015 that he had been arrested for calling in a bomb threat to a TV studio, and in the YouTube video, SWAutistic claims to be responsible for bomb threats that interrupted an MLG Call of Duty event in Dallas earlier this month.

Source: NBC News

30
Dec

Weekly Rewind: The best of 2017, the truth on eggnog, the future of photography


A lot can happen in a week when it comes to tech. The constant onslaught of news makes it nigh impossible for mere mortals with real lives to keep track of everything. That’s why we’ve compiled a quick and dirty list of this week’s top tech stories, from the best products of 2017 to the biggest failures of the year — it’s all here.

The Best Products of 2017

If you need to buy a new tech product, we’re here to help. Digital Trends has dozens of reviewers and editors who evaluate hundreds of new devices to find the best products every year. Smartphones, laptops, cameras, cars, smart thermostats, appliances, headphones, televisions, speakers, monitors, drones, tablets, 3D printers, ebook readers, video games, fitness bands … these are just a few of our major review categories, and we’re adding more each year as tech evolves.

Read: Best Products

Rest in pieces: The biggest tech demises of 2017

It’s the holiday season — the happiest time of the year — so it’s only natural that our thoughts should turn to death and decay. Sadly, 2017 has given us a lot of fodder. While it’s been a great year for some tech companies and products, others have fared less well, succumbing to mismanagement or just plain sad old user indifference.

Well, light your candles and ready your handkerchiefs because here’s our list of the tech startups, products and (in one case) ideal that won’t make it to 2018.

Read: Rest in pieces: The biggest tech demises of 2017

Does eggnog actually get safer to drink the longer it ages?

Nothing divides a holiday party quite like the serving of eggnog. Some love it, others hate it. Let’s say you make a boozy batch for Christmas, but you inadvertently find yourself in a group of nog loathers. How long can you keep the dairy-laden brew around? It depends on how much alcohol you added, essentially.

In 2009, we heard a story on Science Friday about Rockefeller University microbiologists Vince Fischetti and Raymond Schuch testing the salmonella levels in eggnog from Dr. Rebecca Lancefield’s recipe, which had been chilling in the fridge since before Thanksgiving. They’d added a bunch of salmonella and tested it at one, two, and three weeks. The longer the eggnog sat, the fewer bacteria there were, until it was completely sterile by week three.

Read: Does eggnog actually get safer to drink the longer it ages?

Authentic content is in: 2018 photography trends fuse reality and creativity

StoryBlocks

Photography has long ditched the trend of business-suit perfection for images of people that could have come straight from our social media feeds, but 2018 could mix the trend toward authenticity with an opposite but equally dominant trend: creativity. As 2017 comes to a close, stock photography companies tally data from the previous year to predict what imaging styles are going to dominate in the next year. The reports help not just stock photographers but various photographers, videographers, and other creatives in a number of different disciplines pinpoint what will help their work make an impact on viewers.

Read: Authentic content is in: 2018 photography trends fuse reality and creativity

Gaming disorder is now officially a mental condition, according to the WHO

In what can only be described as a sign of the times, the World Health Organization has recognized a new kind of mental health condition. It’s a familiar ailment, though some of us may be slow to call it a medical condition. It’s called gaming disorder, and it’s characterized by “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior,” or more simply, an addiction to gaming.

Read: Gaming disorder is now officially a mental condition, according to the WHO

Samsung chairman’s derailed appeal means he faces 12 years in prison

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

In August 2017 Lee Jae-yong, Samsung’s billionaire acting chairman, and the third-richest man in South Korea, was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to five years in prison. The court ruled he approved bribes from Samsung to secure government backing. The five-year sentence is lower than the 12 years sought by the prosecutors, and Lee’s lawyers appealed the verdict. Lee’s appeal hit problems in December, when president Park’s former secretary said on the stand that Lee had visited the president in 2014. During the trial Lee’s defense team claimed he had only met the president once and for a few minutes.

At least one further meeting, not revealed by Lee before, potentially strengthens the prosecutors’ case against him. Since then, prosecutors have pushed to increase Lee’s prison sentence to the original 12 years. Prosecutors told the court Lee’s control over Samsung and his massive wealth was, “none other than a result of bribery.” It’s also argued that the stricter sentence would, “establish the rule of law,” and deter similar actions in the future. The appeal is set to close at the end of this year, with a final decision is expected in January 2018.

Read: Samsung chairman’s derailed appeal means he faces 12 years in prison

With $40 million, you could book a trip to a luxury hotel on the ISS

NASA

For your next out-of-this-world vacation, you now have the option of literally going out of this world — but it’ll cost you $40 million. Then again, can you really put a price tag on having the time of your life? As per a new report from Popular Mechanics, Russia is looking to build a luxury hotel in outer space. Slated to be stationed on the International Space Station, this hotel, if it ever comes to fruition, is likely to offer some seriously breathtaking views. And if you have $40 million to spare, you might as well tack on an extra $20 million for the opportunity to go on a spacewalk with a professional (which is to say, a cosmonaut).

Read: With $40 million, you could book a trip to a luxury hotel on the ISS

Dash cam captures the dramatic moment a SpaceX rocket launch led to a car crash

Discussions about distracted driving usually focus on smartphones, a device that you can choose whether or not to use when you’re behind the wheel. Reach for your handset at 70 mph, and suddenly you’re no longer in control of that large chunk of metal motoring along the freeway, and pretty much anything can happen.

But there are other kinds of distractions that we have absolutely no control over, and one of them appeared to cause a nasty smash on a Southern Californian freeway on the night of Friday, December 22.

Read: Dash cam captures the dramatic moment a SpaceX rocket launch led to a car crash

10 huge movies with stars you totally missed

Lucas Arts

Sometimes, even when pondering a rather simple subject, you have an epiphany. And epiphanies, no matter how trivial the subject matter, are always refreshing. Our most recent example was seeing an incredible dramatic actor — let’s call him Michael Shannon — in a very famous movie — let’s call it Groundhog Day. This is a movie we’ve watched dozens of times — enough to almost feel we’ve lived old Phil Connors’ 72-plus years in Punxsutawney ourselves. But suddenly, there he was, in all his compelling, Michael Shannon glory.

That got us thinking: who else have we missed in huge films throughout the years? So, we crowdsourced. We asked around the office, dug around on IMDB, and mined up 10 epic moments of major stars you all but assuredly missed the first time.

Read: 10 huge movies with stars you totally missed

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Weekly Rewind: Bill Gates’ smart city, a robo pillow, our Black Friday favorites
  • Weekly Rewind: A spying Google Home Mini, the Nobel winner, ‘Star Wars’ spoilers
  • Weekly Rewind: Cyber Monday deals, Uber’s massive hack, Amazon Key’s competitor
  • Weekly Rewind: Galaxy Note 8 vs. iPhone 8, paper lightsabers, Nissan Leaf review
  • Weekly Rewind: The new Moto, a 12-year-old’s lead-detection invention, and more




30
Dec

Weekly Rewind: The best of 2017, the truth on eggnog, the future of photography


A lot can happen in a week when it comes to tech. The constant onslaught of news makes it nigh impossible for mere mortals with real lives to keep track of everything. That’s why we’ve compiled a quick and dirty list of this week’s top tech stories, from the best products of 2017 to the biggest failures of the year — it’s all here.

The Best Products of 2017

If you need to buy a new tech product, we’re here to help. Digital Trends has dozens of reviewers and editors who evaluate hundreds of new devices to find the best products every year. Smartphones, laptops, cameras, cars, smart thermostats, appliances, headphones, televisions, speakers, monitors, drones, tablets, 3D printers, ebook readers, video games, fitness bands … these are just a few of our major review categories, and we’re adding more each year as tech evolves.

Read: Best Products

Rest in pieces: The biggest tech demises of 2017

It’s the holiday season — the happiest time of the year — so it’s only natural that our thoughts should turn to death and decay. Sadly, 2017 has given us a lot of fodder. While it’s been a great year for some tech companies and products, others have fared less well, succumbing to mismanagement or just plain sad old user indifference.

Well, light your candles and ready your handkerchiefs because here’s our list of the tech startups, products and (in one case) ideal that won’t make it to 2018.

Read: Rest in pieces: The biggest tech demises of 2017

Does eggnog actually get safer to drink the longer it ages?

Nothing divides a holiday party quite like the serving of eggnog. Some love it, others hate it. Let’s say you make a boozy batch for Christmas, but you inadvertently find yourself in a group of nog loathers. How long can you keep the dairy-laden brew around? It depends on how much alcohol you added, essentially.

In 2009, we heard a story on Science Friday about Rockefeller University microbiologists Vince Fischetti and Raymond Schuch testing the salmonella levels in eggnog from Dr. Rebecca Lancefield’s recipe, which had been chilling in the fridge since before Thanksgiving. They’d added a bunch of salmonella and tested it at one, two, and three weeks. The longer the eggnog sat, the fewer bacteria there were, until it was completely sterile by week three.

Read: Does eggnog actually get safer to drink the longer it ages?

Authentic content is in: 2018 photography trends fuse reality and creativity

StoryBlocks

Photography has long ditched the trend of business-suit perfection for images of people that could have come straight from our social media feeds, but 2018 could mix the trend toward authenticity with an opposite but equally dominant trend: creativity. As 2017 comes to a close, stock photography companies tally data from the previous year to predict what imaging styles are going to dominate in the next year. The reports help not just stock photographers but various photographers, videographers, and other creatives in a number of different disciplines pinpoint what will help their work make an impact on viewers.

Read: Authentic content is in: 2018 photography trends fuse reality and creativity

Gaming disorder is now officially a mental condition, according to the WHO

In what can only be described as a sign of the times, the World Health Organization has recognized a new kind of mental health condition. It’s a familiar ailment, though some of us may be slow to call it a medical condition. It’s called gaming disorder, and it’s characterized by “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior,” or more simply, an addiction to gaming.

Read: Gaming disorder is now officially a mental condition, according to the WHO

Samsung chairman’s derailed appeal means he faces 12 years in prison

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

In August 2017 Lee Jae-yong, Samsung’s billionaire acting chairman, and the third-richest man in South Korea, was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to five years in prison. The court ruled he approved bribes from Samsung to secure government backing. The five-year sentence is lower than the 12 years sought by the prosecutors, and Lee’s lawyers appealed the verdict. Lee’s appeal hit problems in December, when president Park’s former secretary said on the stand that Lee had visited the president in 2014. During the trial Lee’s defense team claimed he had only met the president once and for a few minutes.

At least one further meeting, not revealed by Lee before, potentially strengthens the prosecutors’ case against him. Since then, prosecutors have pushed to increase Lee’s prison sentence to the original 12 years. Prosecutors told the court Lee’s control over Samsung and his massive wealth was, “none other than a result of bribery.” It’s also argued that the stricter sentence would, “establish the rule of law,” and deter similar actions in the future. The appeal is set to close at the end of this year, with a final decision is expected in January 2018.

Read: Samsung chairman’s derailed appeal means he faces 12 years in prison

With $40 million, you could book a trip to a luxury hotel on the ISS

NASA

For your next out-of-this-world vacation, you now have the option of literally going out of this world — but it’ll cost you $40 million. Then again, can you really put a price tag on having the time of your life? As per a new report from Popular Mechanics, Russia is looking to build a luxury hotel in outer space. Slated to be stationed on the International Space Station, this hotel, if it ever comes to fruition, is likely to offer some seriously breathtaking views. And if you have $40 million to spare, you might as well tack on an extra $20 million for the opportunity to go on a spacewalk with a professional (which is to say, a cosmonaut).

Read: With $40 million, you could book a trip to a luxury hotel on the ISS

Dash cam captures the dramatic moment a SpaceX rocket launch led to a car crash

Discussions about distracted driving usually focus on smartphones, a device that you can choose whether or not to use when you’re behind the wheel. Reach for your handset at 70 mph, and suddenly you’re no longer in control of that large chunk of metal motoring along the freeway, and pretty much anything can happen.

But there are other kinds of distractions that we have absolutely no control over, and one of them appeared to cause a nasty smash on a Southern Californian freeway on the night of Friday, December 22.

Read: Dash cam captures the dramatic moment a SpaceX rocket launch led to a car crash

10 huge movies with stars you totally missed

Lucas Arts

Sometimes, even when pondering a rather simple subject, you have an epiphany. And epiphanies, no matter how trivial the subject matter, are always refreshing. Our most recent example was seeing an incredible dramatic actor — let’s call him Michael Shannon — in a very famous movie — let’s call it Groundhog Day. This is a movie we’ve watched dozens of times — enough to almost feel we’ve lived old Phil Connors’ 72-plus years in Punxsutawney ourselves. But suddenly, there he was, in all his compelling, Michael Shannon glory.

That got us thinking: who else have we missed in huge films throughout the years? So, we crowdsourced. We asked around the office, dug around on IMDB, and mined up 10 epic moments of major stars you all but assuredly missed the first time.

Read: 10 huge movies with stars you totally missed

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Weekly Rewind: Bill Gates’ smart city, a robo pillow, our Black Friday favorites
  • Weekly Rewind: A spying Google Home Mini, the Nobel winner, ‘Star Wars’ spoilers
  • Weekly Rewind: Cyber Monday deals, Uber’s massive hack, Amazon Key’s competitor
  • Weekly Rewind: Galaxy Note 8 vs. iPhone 8, paper lightsabers, Nissan Leaf review
  • Weekly Rewind: The new Moto, a 12-year-old’s lead-detection invention, and more




30
Dec

Marvel wants to help you make comics, just leave out the farts


If you’ve ever wanted to make your own comic but don’t quite have the skills to draw one, Marvel and Tap Tap Comics have a solution. Called Marvel: Create Your Own, the new app will let you choose a Marvel character, pose them on various backgrounds and then fill in the story via speech bubbles. The service isn’t available right now, but you can sign up to be notified when it is.

Once you’ve created your comic masterpiece, you can then share it to an online community of Marvel fans. Of course, with this great power comes some rather odious terms of use, as noted by io9. The comics you make and share will be owned by Marvel and Tap Tap, and you can’t include content or topics that, let’s face it, many wannabe comic makers are going to want to include. The terms of use state that you can’t create things with content that might frighten or upset young children (or their parents), double entendres, sensationalism (killer bees, gossip, aliens — have they ever read a comic?), obscenity or “noises related to body functions” (farts are funny, ok?), politics, or “Other controversial topics (social issues, etc.).”

Chances are good that most of us are going to want to create a comic that breaks all those rules in just a few panels, of course. Still, it’s pretty great that Marvel is allowing us to play with these characters on the internet. If you really need to make Hulk fart jokes, you can just avoid uploading it to the community site.

?

Via: io9

Source: Marvel

30
Dec

Watch this coordinated drone swarm fly in tight formation — without GPS


Getting quadrotor drones to work together in swarms can lead to some spectacular, and potentially immensely useful, displays. However, in order for them to function together as a group, most drones rely on technology such as GPS or an external motion-capture system to keep them working together. That is fine in a lot of scenarios, but it is still a limiting factor that reduces where these drone swarms can be used.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania may have a solution, however. In a step toward autonomy for flying robot swarms, they managed to teach a swarm of a dozen quadrotors to fly together in formation effectively — using nothing more than a small downward-looking camera with a 160-degree field of view and a simple inertial measurement unit (IMU.) The result is reportedly the world’s biggest swarm of drones not relying on either GPS or motion capture.

“The solution is cheap and inexpensive, and the architecture we propose is scalable and extensible,” Dr. Giuseppe Loianno, a research scientist on the project, told Digital Trends. “These terms are used to refer to the ease of adding additional agents to the system without sacrificing overall performance. This is the first time that perception, planning, and control are combined for autonomous navigation of multiple interchangeable aerial vehicles — up to 12 quadrotors — without relying on GPS or an external motion capture system. We have released all the hardware and software components used in this work. In the future, we want anyone being able to fly a swarm of aerial vehicles without the use of expensive motion capture systems, and in areas where GPS is not available.”

Each drone in the group keeps track of its precise location and then sends updates to a ground station, which sends commands back to the swarm to make them change their location. The drones themselves are not really aware (well, as far as any drone is aware) that it is in a swarm, but rather follows instructions that happen to involve large numbers of drones working together in coordination. The system makes it possible to add more drones or easily reduce the numbers without a problem.

“We are working on robustness, loop closure, and dense environment reconstruction,” Loianno explained, concerning the next phase of the project. “We would like to have a complete distributed coordinated solution, where each vehicle is able to identify its neighbors coordinating with them, while concurrently mapping an unknown environment. The loop closure module will be able to reduce the small drift that occurs with visual odometry, and will also relax the assumption that the vehicles need to start from a known location. We are also working on new tactics to increase formation resilience.”

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Futuristic ‘spinning drone’ may one day fight our battles for us
  • CNN can now fly its news drone over crowds in an industry first
  • As wildfires raged, the Forest Service was capturing the immensity in VR
  • These new Parrot drones could save lives and crops
  • Hundreds of drones will fly like birds above Miami Beach at Art Basel




30
Dec

HTC Vive Tracker Review


The HTC Vive Tracker is weird. It’s a black puck with tiny feet, and looks like the kind of thing you’d use to prop up furniture. What it does is even stranger — it uses dark sorcery to bring physical objects into virtual reality. Like that machine from Tron. The one that ate Jeff Bridges.

These things won’t devour you and condemn you to live in a digital hell for decades, don’t worry. To bring an object into VR, you just screw a Vive Tracker on to specially designed plastic appendage — like a tennis racket, ping pong paddle, or plastic gun — and the object joins you in the virtual realms. Some enterprising developers have even managed to create VR-compatible chairs with the Vive Tracker. On the surface, it’s a very interesting device, but it gets complicated.

A game of dongles

To use the Vive Tracker, you’re going to have to go through a very hit-and-miss setup process to teach your VR setup to see the pucks. It’s quick and easy, which is good, since you’ll probably have to do it a few times at first, and then again, each time you use your VR rig.

First, you’ll plug in the dongle that came with the Vive Tracker into an open USB port on your PC. Then, make sure your HTC Vive is on and ready, with Steam VR or Viveport open. Navigate to the Devices menu, then click add a new device. You’ll need to attach the Tracker to whichever controller you’re going to use with it — a tennis racket, ping pong paddle, toy gun, or whatever else you paid $100 for.

Yeah, these plastic shells start at $100, almost across the board.

Setting up the Vive Tracker is a very hit-and-miss process.

Anyway, once it’s attached to its expensive plastic shell, you hold it up to your lighthouse sensors like you’re offering a sacrifice to a tiny square god. Then, press and hold the Vive logo and hope your offering was accepted. If not, try again. And again. And again.

We had plenty of issues connecting during initial setup. When you first plug in your Vive headset, you’re greeted with a thorough setup tutorial that walks you through every aspect of the process. The Vive Tracker, on the other hand, gives you a tiny paper booklet to leaf through.

Too little for too much

Once you have the Vive Tracker up and running, it’s easy enough to use. If you attached it to one of the tennis racket peripherals and fired up a compatible game, you’ll now see the tennis racket rendered perfectly in VR. That’s the magic of the Vive Tracker. It’s designed to take very basic input from the peripheral it’s attached to — it basically just tells the Vive system what its dimensions are — and the tracker itself relays that information to your lighthouse sensors, which track the object in real time.

Essentially, the Vive system says “Hey Tracker, I see you,” to which the Tracker replies, “Hey Vive, I’m attached to a tennis racket, and it looks like this.” It’s an important distinction, because it means the Tracker doesn’t do much on its own. You can throw it onto any object and expect it to work.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

While the Vive Tracker lets you see specific objects in the virtual world, it also has limitations. The longer you spend with the Vive Tracker, the more you’ll come to appreciate the design and functionality of the original Vive Touch Controllers.

When you use the Touch Controllers to interact with the world you feel them vibrate, creating the illusion that you’re interacting with a virtual object. The Tracker doesn’t have native haptic feedback, though, so you’ll end up missing that most of the time. Some attachments do have their own haptic feedback, like the Hyperblaster — a $100 Tracker-compatible toy gun. Most don’t. That makes us question whether the Tracker counts as an upgrade. Sure, the Tracker-compatible tennis racket looks more like a real one, but it doesn’t feel more realistic in the heat of the moment. Without haptics, the impact of hitting the ball isn’t simulated. It feels more like you’re swinging a piece of plastic in empty space.

Which, of course, is exactly what you’re doing.

Who the Tracker is for?

While the Vive Tracker is a peripheral you can buy for your HTC Vive system (which HTC is selling in bundles with the HTC Vive headset) it’s not actually for everyday people. That’s a clever bit of marketing jiu jitsu.

Head to the Vive Tracker’s website, and it’s clearly a device HTC would like you, the home user, to buy. Yet it’s designed primarily as a tool allowing VR developers to cut down on how long it takes to implement VR accessories of their own. Rather than figuring out their own tracking schema, developers can just invest in the Vive Tracker, and create an accessory that attaches to it.

The longer you spend with the Vive Tracker, the more you’ll come to appreciate the Vive’ Touch Controllers.

HTC wants you to have a Vive Tracker on hand for these extra accessories, so you can just swap out the expensive part of the system — the puck — and stay invested, exclusively, in their ecosystem.

HTC even said as much during Unity’s Vision AR/VR Summit earlier this year, detailing how the Tracker is good for developers by cutting down iteration time, and good for consumers because it saves them money — and has the fortunate side-effect of locking them into the HTC ecosystem.

In short, the Vive Tracker is a shackle HTC wants to use to tie your money up in their hardware. Like Hotel California, but instead of a haunting and lovely allegory you can never leave, it’s just a box of plastic junk you wasted money on. Now might be a good time to take a look at the sunk costs fallacy, and brush up on how escalation of commitment works. The Vive Tracker is a prime example how consumer electronics manufacturers use both to trick us into buying things we don’t need.

Here’s the thing

The HTC Vive Tracker lets you bring real world objects into VR, and use them in conjunction with the HTC Touch Controller, but the tracker and its accessory shells are less capable and less immersive than the Touch Controllers that shipped with your Vive headset. Not to mention you’ll be paying $100 for just the Tracker, or $150 for the Tracker and an accessory — or $80 for literally a plastic tennis racket and a plastic ping pong paddle.

It’s just not a good investment. The Touch Controllers work better, offer a more immersive experience. Plus, and you don’t have to worry if they’re compatible with one game or another. The appeal of the Vive Tracker is easy to see, but at its current pricing, and without haptics, it doesn’t make sense. It promises a more immersive experience, but delivers little more than a novelty you’ll use a few times, throw into a drawer, and forget.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Get your body in the game — pre-order an HTC Vive tracker now for $100
  • Now, you can play with a cool retro Power Glove VR controller
  • The best VR headset you can buy
  • The ZephVR blows air in your face, which might actually make VR better
  • Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset review




30
Dec

The best wallpapers for your desktop


If you work or play for hours on end on your PC, having a wallpaper that’s interesting to look at can be one of the best ways to spice up your usage of the system. Nobody likes staring at a blue screen or Windows logo for hours on end, so let’s make things a little more interesting, shall we?

We’ve trawled through the near-endless options of pretty images and animated backdrops to find you the best wallpapers out there. But we haven’t just picked the pretty ones. We’ve looked specifically for images that make for a good backdrop. They’re not too cluttered, provide plenty of space and clarity for icons, and in the case of the smarter ones, give you plenty of options to tweak them how you like.

Static screens

Don’t fancy all of the fuss and distractions of something animated or interactive? Not a problem. There are still millions of beautiful images you can pick from and even if they aren’t specifically designed to be a wallpaper, doesn’t mean they won’t work as one.

Because what we’re talking about it essentially just photography, there is a nearly infinite amount of options on the internet. To get you started, however, sites like WallpaperFusion have a bonanza of beautiful wallpapers to choose from, including landscapes, fantasy creatures, cars, and cartoon characters. NASA has a collection of the best images ever shot in space — all that black makes for a great contrast with your desktop shortcuts — and some of Cassini’s last snaps before it died. If you’d prefer something less factual and more digitally created, DigitalBlasphemy has been making great wallpapers for years.

Some of those links require premium memberships or payments. For guaranteed free images, these are our favorites. For a taste of what you can find, check out this user’s collection of beautiful wallpaper-ready photography over at Unsplash.

Here are a handful of some of the best wallpapers we’ve found in our search. Click the source link in the caption box to be taken to the full-size version.

Animated wallpapers

Going one step beyond standard wallpaper images, animated wallpapers give you a little bit of movement to your backdrop. It can really make your desktop come alive, so as long as it isn’t zooming all over the place, which can be distracting.

There are lots of ways to help make these fancy wallpapers work including DesktopHut Windows App, WallpaperEngine, and Bionix’s GIF Wallpaper Animator (alongside a wealth of YouTube videos). Although some feature more movement than others, once set up, your desktop backdrop should look a little like this:

In terms of actually finding animated wallpapers, companies like Uscenes offer loads of premium, animated wallpapers, while DesktopHut has a huge collection of free ones. If you’re desperate for more of these, check out the Living Backgrounds subreddit where you can find a constant stream of new animated wallpapers to choose from.

These are some of the best animated wallpapers we could find, though note of course that these are just still images from them. Click the caption link to take you to the download page.

Interactive wallpapers

If you’d rather something that broke through your monitor’s fourth wall entirely, then you’ll want to check out some of the interactive wallpaper options out there. Although typically you’ll need to pay for the tools to make it happen, the Wallpaper Engine or Stardock’s Deskscapes enable some truly amazing wallpaper options. They give you wallpapers with customizable colors and lighting options, fully interactive backdrops, websites loaded right into your desktop, and games that you can play without ever booting an application.

Here’s an idea of what some of them can look like:

For those who want an even deeper customizing tool, Rainmeter lets you customize your desktop beyond the wallpaper to include everything from live-stat trackers, to music visualizations, and custom icon layouts.

It would be impossible to do justice to our favorites without forcing you to install each of them in turn, but here are some stills from what we consider to be the best ones available right now. If you’d like to download them and try them out yourself, click the link in the caption box beneath each image.

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30
Dec

Alleged swatting hoax ends in the death of a father of two (updated)


Yesterday evening, a 28-year-old Kansas man was shot by police after the station received a call about a hostage situation taking place at the man’s residence. “It was a shooting call involving hostages,” Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston said during a press conference last night. “The original call, we were told that someone had an argument with their mother and dad was accidentally shot. And that now that person was holding mother, brother and sister hostage. We learned through that call that a father was deceased, and had been shot in the head. That was the information we were working off of.” But that information turned out to be wrong and shortly after the incident, reports began to surface online that the call was part of a “swatting” stunt — a hoax wherein someone makes a false police report in order to fuel a large law enforcement response.

Here’s what seems to have gone down. Two individuals were playing Call of Duty and got into an argument online over a game with a $1.50 wager. One of them, a person with the Twitter handle @SWauTistic, threatened to swat user @7aLeNT. The latter then provided an address that wasn’t actually their own in response to the threat. Shortly thereafter, @SWauTistic allegedly called in the false report, which led to a police response at the provided address. Andrew Finch, who lived at the address, reportedly went to the front door in response to the commotion and was shot. “As he came to the front door, one of our officers discharged his weapon,” said Livingston. The police haven’t said whether Finch had a weapon at the time, but his family has said there were no guns in the house. The officer who fired the shot is a seven-year department veteran who will be put on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.

Once the story began attracting media coverage, @SWauTistic tweeted that the house he swatted was on the news, which was then followed by a tweet saying he didn’t get anyone killed because he wasn’t the person who shot Finch.

KrebsOnSecurity reports that the individual then changed his Twitter handle to @GoredTutor36, but not before KrebsOnSecurity got its hands on weeks’ worth of the original account’s tweets. The person behind the account has claimed credit for a number of swatting hoaxes and other threats including one that led to the evacuation of the Dallas Convention Center earlier this month, a bomb threat at a Florida high school in November and the threat that caused the FCC to pause its net neutrality vote a couple of weeks ago.

In direct message conversations with KrebsOnSecurity, the person running @GoredTutor36 said that they had remorse over Finch’s death but that they would not be turning themselves in. “People will eventually (most likely those who know me) tell me to turn myself in or something. I can’t do that; though I know its [sic] morally right. I’m too scared admittedly,” they wrote. They also said, “Bomb threats are more fun and cooler than swats in my opinion and I should have just stuck to that. But I began making $ doing some swat requests.” The person also noted that the thrill of such hoaxes “comes from having to hide from police via net connections.”

Finch was a father of two children — a two-year-old and a seven-year-old — and his family said he didn’t play video games.

Update: The Wichita Police department has confirmed this is an incident of SWATting, and released material including audio of the phone call that sent officers to Finch’s door and video of what happened when officers arrived. According to the police, their investigation is ongoing, however they noted that the caller continued to contact 911 even after the police had arrived on the scene.

Images: @mattcarries via KrebsOnSecurity

Source: Wichita Police Department, The Wichita Eagle (1), (2)

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