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20
Apr

Nintendo knows you will destroy Labo’s cardboard


It’s fair to say that the first reactions to Nintendo’s Labo kits were…mixed. Did it usher in a new era of DIY fun, or was the veteran video game company making bank off selling expensive stacks of cardboard? Once we got our hands on it, some of our fears were put to rest — except for the durability issue. What happens when kids tear through the less-durable material, or a parent accidentally throws pieces away? The Labo launched publicly today, but lucky for us, Nintendo is selling replacement sheets in its store.

The items vary in cost from $3 stickers to a $14 bundle for body parts from the $80 Robot Kit. (Lest you think of pulling a fast one and picking up the cardboard pieces to bypass either kit’s full cost, remember that they come with essential software in Switch cartridges, too.) So far, the Labo replacement catalog has multiple sub-parts for the Robot Kit along with bundles for each of the Variety Kit’s activities like the fishing rod or piano.

Via: IGN

Source: Nintendo store

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20
Apr

Full Sail taps VR to help online students feel less isolated


Taking online classes is an easy way to fit college into your schedule without the need to physically be on campus. But, there are drawbacks. Full Sail University hopes that implementing virtual reality into its courses will help eliminate some of those faults. The Florida-based school is collaborating with Doghead Simulations on a virtual classroom app. The idea is to help remote students feel more like they’re sitting in a lecture hall rather than watching a professor’s YouTube video or taking an online survey, according to VR Focus.

The app is called Rumii, and at its core it’s a teleconferencing suite. The twist is that it’s native to VR and gives meeting participants a customizable avatar and meeting space. With it, you can share documents, give presentations (with a laser pointer even) and browse the web on a giant screen at the front of a virtual conference room. As you can see in the video below, there’s a lot of promise for this sort of thing, especially when you consider that Doghead is working on a version for mobile VR.

There’s also potential for VR-enhanced lessons in addition to lectures and coursework. An episode of Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams showed kids in school using a wearable bracelet that offered up AR projections and information during classroom exercises. There’s potential for that sort of thing to happen here — it’s just up to the professors and developers to implement it.

Another benefit beyond helping remote students feel like they’re actually in a classroom flips one of VR critics’ biggest complaints. Because you’re in a headset and because you’re more or less isolated from the rest of the world, this can aid in keeping distractions at bay. “In today’s world where technology and screen time can be distracting,” Full Sail’s CIO Isis Jones said, “VR allows you to be in the moment and engaged with the subject at hand.”

Full Sail focuses on technical training for things like game design and 3D animation, so the chances of students having access to high-powered PCs and VR headsets is pretty likely. At this point, Rumii classrooms for everyone probably won’t happen until VR headsets come down in price and go fully mainstream, however.

Source: VR Focus

20
Apr

The gear you need to celebrate 4/20 like a responsible adult


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It’s 4/20 everybody, the High Stoner Holiday where we burn our trees rather than decorate them! The celebrations mark a magical moment when everybody can get the giggles with reckless abandon while satiating their munchies with traditional holiday tidings like Abba-zabba and Taco Bell. Today offers neophyte cannabis enthusiasts and hardcore stoners alike an opportunity to indulge in the mild euphoric of their choice with like-minded friends and family, or really, anybody standing with a dutchie on their right hand side. But just as Christmas suffers from SantaCon, 4/20 celebrations attract their own brand of red-eyed knuckleheads who make the rest of us look bad. So unless you want to get lumped in with the folks who still proudly display their Scarface poster from college, put down that comically large blunt and read on.

The Basics

If you’re just getting into the world of weed, it’s best to begin with the basics. A simple glass pipe costs as little a $5 and can often perform almost as well as more expensive variants. Their basic functionality doesn’t differ all that much — pipes are pipes — but as you spend more, you get better build quality and more extravagant detailing. You of course can always roll your own. Joints, and their tobacco-wrapped cousin the blunt, are some of the easiest, economic and portable means of consuming cannabis. Really all you need is a flat surface, some rolling papers and a grinder.

If you’re intent on rolling your own but don’t know how, head over to YouTube for a ludicrous number of tutorials and explanatory videos. The secret to rolling a serviceable joint that won’t run (that is, only burn down one side) or clog on you lies in how well you grind up the herb. One of the coolest grinders that I’ve used recently is the OTTO, though its creators the Banana Bros refer to it as a “smart milling machine.” It can sense the kind of botanical material that is in its jaws and subsequently adjust the speed, milling direction and pressure to ensure that it’s fully pulverized without being turned into dust. The OTTO can either be used as a straightforward mill or, with the addition of a small tube at its base, automatically grind and fill a preformed cone joint, saving you the hassle of wrapping and tapping one of your own. This is an especially handy feature for folks with issues like arthritis, who might not be capable of hand rolling. The OTTO will be available in June from Amazon for $140.

You could cut out the grinding part altogether and purchase pre-rolled joints and blunts from your local dispensary. What you don’t typically see from pre-rolls are rewards programs but that’s exactly what Stone Road is offering. Each joint comes with a QR code. Simply download the Stone Road app (iOS and Android) and scan the code with your phone to earn points. You earn 15 points per joint which can be used to bid on a variety of adventurous experiences through the app. These rewards, currently only available in California, are added on a weekly basis and range from rooftop yoga classes in downtown Los Angeles, to art gallery openings and pop-up concerts. Individual joints retail for $10 apiece, 4-packs of the standard J’s go for $36 and 4-packs of the hash oil-infused variety cost $56.

On the Go (Flower)

If you enjoy consuming cannabis while out and about, but don’t want to announce your presence with the stink of burning skunk, there are a number of ways to get high on the sly. Most eschew combustion and gently heat the material until the active ingredients vaporize instead. You’ll still need to grind your herb beforehand, but the fact that you aren’t inhaling flaming hot smoke drastically reduces the stress on your lungs.

Two of the front runners in the portable vaporizer field also happen to be my personal favorites: the PAX 3 and the Firefly. The PAX 3 has been called the “MacBook of Vaporizers” (mostly by me, but it’s still true) and for good reason. It offers a sleek, futuristic design, simple usability, and packs a potent heating system that will fully vaporize its cannabinoid cargo without emitting conspicuous clouds. Simply pack a gram or so of ground weed into the heating chamber, click on the mouthpiece to activate the unit and wait about 30 seconds for it to sufficiently warm up.

Each bowl lasts around eight to 12 drags before needing to be replaced but, unlike other models, doesn’t need to be stirred midway to prevent it from scorching. The PAX 3 is small enough to fit in a handbag or pocket and is easily concealed in your palm, making it perfect for quietly getting lifted in public.

The Firefly isn’t as easily-concealed as the PAX 3 but it is alien-looking enough that most folks won’t know what you’re up to. As opposed to the PAX’s chillum-like design, the Firefly is shaped like a futuristic pipe. To use it, you lift off the faceplate to reveal the heating chamber. After packing in a gram of ground weed, simply press and hold the buttons on either side of the bowl to activate it. You’ll know it’s working by the soft orange glow of the heating mechanism.

Unlike the PAX 3, the Firefly does have a tendency to scorch material so you’re going to want to stir the bowl occasionally to keep everything green. I recommend the Firefly over the PAX 3 for new vapers since you can monitor the bowl (and your weed) as you’re heating it. The fact that most people will assume you’re speaking into a super fancy cell phone while using this (and not just getting high in public) is an added bonus.

The Mighty from Storz and Bickel, the same company behind the venerable Volcano desktop vaporizer, makes no attempt to hide what it is. It’s bigger than a pair of stacked Google Nexus 6P phones and weighs a full half pound. It’s also slower than either the PAX 3 or the Firefly, requiring 75 seconds to fully heat. But the wait is more than worth it. The Mighty relies on the same convection air heating system as its tabletop cousin. And, for quicker use on the go, the Mighty employs “dosing capsules”. These are small containers that you pre-fill with loose leaf or oil (you’ll need a Liquid Pad for the latter) and simply drop in when you’re ready to toke. This is the ideal device for group outings and more advanced users looking for a precise vaping experience.

On the Go (Oil)

The problem with the PAX 3 and Firefly is that they require you to carry a bag of ground up, easily spillable looseleaf around with you. That can be a hassle, especially after a couple of bowls. If you don’t want to mess with having to load each bowl individually, oil cartridge vapes are for you.

The PAX Era is a marquee oil vape made by the same folks that produce the PAX 3. It’s a pencil-sized device that takes sealed half-gram cartridges of hash oil and is even more discreet than its loose-leaf cousin. There is no power button, simply insert the cartridge and begin drawing from the mouthpiece. If you want to unlock the Era’s full potential, PAX offers a companion app (iOS and Android) with temperature controls, detailed battery level and even mini-games to pass the time.

The cartridges (or Pods, as the company calls them) are a bit pricey, ranging from $45 to $60. But, in terms of low-profile, easy-to-use oil vapes, the Era is the device to beat, and the unit itself costs just $20.

If you value ease of use above all else, you’re going to love the Highlighter and Highlighter Plus from Bloom Farms. Not only are these oil vapes basically foolproof, they’re packed with enough THC to knock out an elephant. You simply screw the oil canister onto the base, which holds the battery, then draw. That’s it.

The battery will typically last longer than the contents of the canister and the C02 oil within them ranges from 60 – 90 percent THC, which means the only thing that might give out in the middle of a session is you.

Of course, it’s 2018, weed is legal (medically) in more than half the country. Why should we have to be constrained to one format of cannabis when on the go? That’s where the V2 Series 3X comes in. This 3-in-1 portable pen utilizes a trio of swappable cartridges that can be filled with either loose leaf, oil or wax, depending on your mood. Unlike the Highlighters, the V2’s cartridges snap into alignment thanks to magnetic guides, which hold them securely in place.

The device offers three temperature settings, accessed through a series of button presses on the unit body, depending on the material that’s being heated. In my experience, the V2 doesn’t handle any particular one markedly better than the competition but does perform commendably across all of them. Think of it like choosing a Subaru hatchback as opposed to a Corvette; one goes real fast, the other can fit you, your buddies, your dog and all of your gear. So if you’re looking for flexibility over specific performance, the V2 Series 3 is a solid choice.

Staying at home

Some of us prefer spending our Green Days melting into the couch and binge watching Netflix. For days like that, there are no better options than the Volcano Digit and the Puffco Peak.

The Volcano is the granddaddy gold standard of tabletop vaporizers and has only gotten better with time. Where once users dialed in the preferred temperature using analog controls, they can now set it with digital precision. And, with a temperature range of over 300 degrees F, you’ll be able to dictate the exact quantity and quality of vapor you’re looking for. The Volcano’s convection-style oven gently heats your herb without burning it, removing a lot of the tar and other impurities without fouling the flavor. Even cooler, the food-grade bags into which this vapor is blown can be sealed and stored for hours!

The bag system is a bit more complicated than what you’d find in forced-air setups (that’s where the heating element also incorporates a fan that blows the vapor through a tube, into your mouth). You’ll have to load the ground herb into a heating chamber, set the chamber on top of the base station, wait for the vapor to heat up and be blown into the bag, then remove the entire stack of stuff that you’ve placed on the base station and swap out the chamber for a mouthpiece. It’s a lot to do, especially when you’re just starting out, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature. If you’re looking for a tabletop rig that’s powerful and will last for decades to come even with regular use, the Volcano Digital remains the vape to beat.

The Puffco Peak may not be as imposing as the Volcano, but don’t think it doesn’t pack a wallop. Namely because instead of ground loose leaf being blown into a bag, the Peak melts C02 oils, waxes and any other kind of cannabis concentrate that you can think of. The Peak is definitely geared for more advanced users (i.e. those who have developed a high enough tolerance to begin dabbling in concentrates).

Using the Peak is straightforward once you figure out the system, but even I had to take a moment and read through the manual a couple times at first. Still, out of all the devices discussed here today, the Peak is my personal favorite. It combines a rapid heating cycle with long battery life and portability comparable to that of the Mighty.

So whether you prefer to smoke, vape or dab your cannabis — at home or on the go — you’ve got plenty of options. These aren’t the only ways to get lifted legally, just some of the best. And remember folks, even though you can’t technically overdose on weed, doesn’t mean that you should try to anyway. The secret to a happy 4/20 is moderation in all things — other than Abba Zabba.

20
Apr

Ohio university offers the first ‘Fortnite’ eSports scholarship


Ohio’s Ashland University’s new eSports program will be the first in the US to offer player scholarships for the wildly popular battle royale game Fortnite. They’ll hey plan to field a four-player team alongside squads for Overwatch and League of Legends when the program debuts in the collegiate eSports landscape next fall.

The Ohio school’s program was first announced in February, making it the latest university to join a collegiate scene that’s blowing up. Fortnite is an obvious choice for its popularity and surprisingly broad appeal — plus, prospective players can get the game for free. Ashland is offering $4,000 scholarships to their student e-athletes, and will announce open tryouts for its Fortnite squad in the future.

Source: Ashland University

20
Apr

Cannabis is having its ‘smartphone’ moment


“It’s very similar to having a phone, you wouldn’t want just one or two apps on it. You’d want to be able to have a wide selection,” Bharat Vasan, CEO of PAX, told me in his company’s downtown San Francisco office. He’s referring to the range of “pods” available for the PAX Era weed vaporizer, likening fewer weed options to only having Instagram or Twitter on a phone.

PAX makes some of the best-known cannabis vaporizers in the industry. But during our interview, Vasan doesn’t mention the words “high,” “stoned,” “weed,” “doobie,” “blaze” or “dank” once. Instead, he talks about “platforms,” “apps,” “experience” and “updates.” PAX is one of a handful of technology companies making weed accessible to a generation that doesn’t want to roll their own. A generation that wants, even expects, to customize its experience via an app on their phone. A user that’s more likely to update their firmware than clean out a pipe.

Today is 4/20, the Christmas of cannabis, and PAX is using it to launch a limited edition Era vaporizer with a celebrity endorsement from weed-friendly electronic duo Thievery Corporation. The Era uses “pods” of cannabis oil, which snap into place on the pen-like device; the user only needs to inhale and enjoy. The launch also includes a new pod from Blue River called “Lebanese Blonde” (a meta reference to a Thievery Corporation track, itself named after a variety of cannabis) and a new album from the duo.

The cannabis oil in these pods requires a high-tech, convoluted extraction process. JJ O’Brien, VP of the Era product line, told me “the [new] pod is really incorporating as close to a traditional Lebanese hash-making as possible. So there’s no CO2, there’s no ethanol, no butane.” In technology terms, it’s an attempt at authenticity, reminiscent of when iOS apps tried hard to look like the analog items they replaced.

It’s not just PAX that is bringing cannabis into the mobile age. Bloom Farm’s range of “Highlighter” vape pens come in rose gold and space gray-esque colorways. The pens include a capacitive tip on one end so you can navigate your work email while you casually stick it to the man by supping on the other end. Just this week I received a product release announcement from another company that espoused a new vaporizer’s spec sheet, complete with 64Kb of memory and pass-through charging. No wireless charging or contactless payments yet, but I am sure they’re coming.

It’s a cliche, but PAX is often likened to “the Apple of vaporizers.” Its products are slick, with soft glowing lights, seamless Bluetooth connectivity and strong cosmetic design. They also come at a premium (the Era is only $30, but the pods are pricey compared to the same weight in “flower”). The flagship PAX 3, which works with any flower or concentrate, costs $250.

The Era’s pod system is a proprietary format, something Apple is also very fond of using. On the other side, companies like Bloom Farms or ABX use generic connections, meaning you can often pick and choose which hardware to use with which cartridge of oil. PAX’s closed system is going for the “it just works” approach, but it also locks you into its products.

Showtime

“Originally, we had some Afghan Black, and were going to call the song that.” Rob Garza from Thievery Corporation told me backstage at the launch event. Apparently someone else that day was from Lebanon, and said that they had a type of hash called Lebanese Blonde. The group decided that sounded better, and the title of their song was born. In turn, kicking off a chain of events that would, years later, find that name etched onto the side of a vape cartridge. Which beats an iPod with U2’s signatures on the back in my opinion.

The new strain is made by Blue River. PAX does not make any cannabis-based product, only a means to enjoy them. Tony Verzura, Blue River’s CTO (yes, cannabis manufacturers have CTOs too), was enthusiastic in explaining the process. But mostly he talks in metaphors about the importance of layers, comparing weed making to music and its “transition from analog to digital.”

In a transition that Samsung would have been proud of, Verzura and Garza later took to the stage while O’Brien introduced them. Like a well-groomed PR machine, they repeated the exact two anecdotes they told me in an interview moments prior. When the presentation finishes, the music takes over and the atmosphere lifts gently upward with every subtle wisp of Lebanese Blonde exhaled in the room.

If PAX is the Apple, and everyone else is the Android, then there’s another challenge in store for weed’s digital update: copycats and clones. Much like there are endless wannabe iPhones, connected cannabis could end up saturated with inferior “me too” devices before too long, and the audience for cannabis might not be large enough to support them. The e-cigarette and nicotine vape market is already plagued by cheap devices with ridiculous features that are endlessly iterated. Weed vapes could end up going the same way.

Since cannabis culture started embracing technology, there has been the natural split between purists and progressives. It’s vinyl versus digital all over again. But, like MP3s and ebooks caused their respective industries a headache, they also democratized their enjoyment. Now, there’s a new wave of consumer that thinks digital is best, apps are better and sure, throw in some fancy LEDs for good measure. That is to say, that much like some people only know a phone with apps and a camera, soon a whole generation of weed consumers won’t know what to do with a grinder and papers.

Modern weed is for a modern user though. Vaporizing is discreet and (almost) smell free, devices like the PAX 3 or PAX Era have Bluetooth, mobile apps and child locks. The PAX 3 even has games on board. I asked Verzura if vapes with features like this have somehow legitimized cannabis to a new generation, and he told me about how he was now able to consume it at a baseball game. “People might smell it for a second” he said, “but no one really notices.”

And that, perhaps, is the important change that smarter weed devices can offer. A way to consume that’s much easier for everyone, much more convenient and much more culturally acceptable.

I asked Vasan: If the current PAX devices do their job well, then why don’t they just leave it at that, and retire on a beach? “You know, I’d love that. That’s not how the consumer space works. I feel like there’s a lot more that PAX can do to make the experience like other mainstream experiences in your life” he responded. “There are other mainstream products like Rings and Dropcams and August locks in your life. This experience should parallel the best of those.”

Better make sure you keep your vape’s software up-to-date.

20
Apr

DNC sues Russia, Trump campaign and WikiLeaks over 2016 hack


While Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election continues, the Democratic National Committee has decided to take action of its own. According to the Washington Post, the DNC this morning filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit accusing (among others) the Russian government, WikiLeaks and key officials inside Donald Trump’s presidential campaign of computer fraud, racketeering, data theft and more, all in hopes of swaying the outcome of a presidential election.

The 66-page lawsuit lays out the case for 12 legal violations that largely deal with Russia’s alleged infiltration of US computer systems, its collection of private data belonging to the DNC, and cooperation with third-parties like WikiLeaks to disseminate that information. Altogether, the suit argues that these actions amounted to a successful criminal conspiracy meant to influence the US electoral process. While the lawsuit alleges that all the defendants named violated the RICO Act — a law designed in large part to combat organized crime — it’s still unclear whether these legal proceedings will (or even could) result in jail time. As noted by the Post, the lawsuit seeks only millions of dollars in financial restitution and punitive damages.

Tom Perez, chairman of the DNC, laid out the party’s rationale in filing such a wide-reaching lawsuit in a post on Medium.

“We’re taking this action because we believe no one is above the law, and we must pursue every avenue of justice against those who engaged in this illegal activity against the DNC and our democracy,” he said. “We must also prevent future attacks on our democracy, and that’s exactly what we’re doing today.”

Perez later added that the DNC believes “Russia found a willing partner in the Trump campaign, who shared their goal of damaging the Democratic Party and helping elect Donald Trump. The Trump campaign had repeated secretive communications with Russian agents and WikiLeaks. Russian agents told Trump advisors that the Kremlin wanted to help Trump and had stolen emails and other material that could damage Trump’s opponent.” President Trump, who is typically quick to respond to developments on Twitter, has so far remained quiet on the matter, though we can’t imagine that lasting for much longer.

Source: https://medium.com/@TheDemocrats/were-suing-the-trump-campaign-and-russia-72a6b76067e6, Washington Post

20
Apr

I believe in free speech, but Minds makes me queasy


The email landed in my inbox just as the winds of bad press began to whip up around Mark Zuckerberg’s ankles. It asked if I wanted to try Minds, the new blockchain-based social network, in the wake of #DeleteFacebook. The site is a social media platform that claims to protect you from data collection, breaches, surveillance, algorithm manipulation and demonetization.

This was, after all, around the time that Christopher Wylie began to blow the whistle concerning Cambridge Analytica. Wylie revealed to the world how Britain’s European Union referendum and the 2016 US elections were affected by improperly obtained data. If Facebook was going to both enable such practices and profit from them, then perhaps it was time to go elsewhere.

Minds describes itself as a “Crypto Social Network,” an open-source, decentralized platform that upholds “internet freedom.” It is designed to protect free speech and open discourse, laudable goals that most people, myself included, would uphold. The only rules are that you cannot dox, incite violence or harass another user through the platform; otherwise, the world is yours.

And there’s a quasi-financial upside, too: The more popular your contributions, the bigger the reward. Imagine a cross between Twitter, Facebook and Reddit, where you’re rewarded with ERC 20 tokens. And these tokens can be traded in for boosts, which push your content to the top of the chronological feed to boost your profile. Sounds good, right?

It’s not until you survey the most popular channels on the platform that you start wondering what sort of free speech and debate Minds is interested in protecting. The site’s stars are largely the intellectual bantamweights of the far-right movement, and the debate seems very one-sided. If you’re wondering where people with Pepe the Frog avatars have migrated to, it’s here. In fact, the general tenor of Minds is a combination of race hate, gun porn, “pro-white erotica” and lots and lots of weed.

On one visit, the first unwanted item in my feed was a video featuring the former leader of a British neo-fascist group. He was taking part in a lengthy discussion series with a well-known Canadian far-right activist. The topic of their discussion was the idea that the UK had been taken over by Islamic rape gangs. If it has, they’re doing a wonderful job of hiding themselves: I haven’t seen one in ages.

Another brought to my attention a long tract about the repatriation of migrants (the post called them “freeloading assholes”) back to their own countries by loading them on a “cheap-ass tanker from China.” You’re only ever a couple of clicks away from a link being shared from the Daily Stormer, or accounts promoting the aforementioned white-only nudes. And that’s the level of the discourse that has become the platform’s lingua franca.

“There doesn’t seem to be much intellectual or philosophical merit in letting someone set fire to a stink-bomb inside a library.”

CEO Bill Ottman doesn’t believe that it is right, or proper, to intervene in debates being had by others. In an interview with TechCrunch, Ottman said that the site “is not pushing a political agenda, but [is] more concerned with transparency, internet freedom and giving control back to the user.” Later, he added that it was a “sad state of affairs” when “every network that cares about free speech gets lumped in with the extremists.”

It’s fair enough to want to uphold the First Amendment, which prevents the government from criminalizing what you say. But if Ottman is profiting from the content that is shared on his site, then he is, at the very least, culpable for its tone. And it’s a tone that makes me feel very, very uncomfortable.

Bill Ottman apparently is fine with content from the Daily Stormer being circulated on the site, or accounts that seem to celebrate the use of concentration camps. Another seemed perfectly anodyne until you spotted that, between the comedy clips, there were memes calling Obama a traitor. There are also plenty of the usual rabid conspiracy theories about the NSA being able to scan your brain and murdering babies for fun and profit.

I’m sure that the response to this will be simple: I am a triggered, brainwashed and/or complicit member of the media elite who is high from huffing Hillary fumes. Or I’m financially in hock with Zuckerberg, and I’ll receive a fat check for dismissing one of its competitors so readily. Perhaps the folks with Pepe icons who talk about murdering African Americans will counter that it’s only a “joke.” Which is, of course, the first and last excuse of people who mean exactly what they say.

This isn’t about me believing that different political opinions should be suppressed, no matter the current performative victimhood currently employed by some prominent conservatives arguing that they are being censored. If you think having a banner image of a Zyklon B canister is something rational folks do, you do you.

I often wonder about what the great philosophers would have said about the moral duty of platform holders to curate material. Of course, a world in which ideas are shared freely, with the best rising to the top, seems like the best philosophy to adopt on paper. But when people knowingly spread mistruths and fabricate material specifically to drive a wedge between communities? There doesn’t seem to be much intellectual or philosophical merit in letting someone set fire to a stink bomb inside a library.

And, because there are so many people who use social media, those who can scream the loudest get the most attention. The fact that Minds is working on an ICO means that it could, potentially, offer financial incentives to bring out the worst in people. We’re already at the point where users are advocating for forced repatriation and genocide; how much cash is even necessary to make this debate get even uglier?

It’s the same issue that CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince wrestled with when he decided to withdraw domain services to the Daily Stormer. At the time, he said that the power to dictate what is fit for publication online shouldn’t be in the hands of businesses. Prince knew that he was acting against his principles, but he explained in his blog that CloudFlare had taken the site offline because “the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters.” Prince wanted a rational debate on the role and responsibility of infrastructure providers to tackle hate speech. I don’t think one has happened, and perhaps we’re now past the point at which one can take place.

Source: Minds

20
Apr

MacRumors Giveaway: Win AirPods in a Color of Your Choice From ColorWare


For this week’s giveaway, we’ve teamed up with ColorWare to give MacRumors readers a chance to win a set of custom-painted AirPods, which are available in dozens of different colors.

ColorWare is a company that’s been around for quite some time, offering custom paint jobs and unique skins for a range of electronic devices. AirPods can be ordered from ColorWare in custom colors for a fee of $299, with an additional $40 fee to paint the case a matching shade.

At $299 (or $349 with the case), there’s a premium for choosing AirPods from ColorWare, but ColorWare is the only site that offers one-of-a-kind color options you can’t get anywhere else.


ColorWare’s AirPods can be ordered in one of several solid or metallic colors, with both gloss and matte finishes available. Traditional black, gold, silver, and gray shades are options, but there are also a several bright shades in every color of the rainbow. If you want AirPods in teal, red, green, purple, or pink, ColorWare is the way to go.


You can choose to have both AirPods custom painted in the same color along with the case, or you can get each AirPod and the case all in different colors, meaning there are quite a few available color combinations.


ColorWare has been custom-painting devices since 1998 and has had a lot of time to perfect the painting process. The company uses a coating process that includes a primer, an application of a proprietary color formula, and an X2 liquid plastic coating that protects the new color.


Because ColorWare is using traditional AirPods, full AirPods functionality is intact, with a W1 chip for easy pairing, a long battery life, a built-in accelerometer for ear detection, iCloud support for quick device switching, and support for gestures.

We have one set of custom-painted AirPods and Charging Case to give away, with the winner to choose the color and finish of their choice. We’ve also teamed up with ColorWare to offer MacRumors readers an exclusive 30 percent discount on all iPhone, iPad, and Mac skins, which is a more affordable way to get a fresh device color.


To get the discount, just visit ColorWare’s site and click on the MacRumors banner at the top of any page.

To enter to win our giveaway, use the Rafflecopter widget below and enter an email address. Email addresses will be used solely for contact purposes to reach the winners and send the prizes. You can earn additional entries by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, subscribing to our YouTube channel, following us on Twitter, or visiting the MacRumors Facebook page.

Due to the complexities of international laws regarding giveaways, only U.S. residents who are 18 years or older and Canadian residents (excluding Quebec) who have reached the age of majority in their province or territory are eligible to enter. To offer feedback or get more information on the giveaway restrictions, please refer to our Site Feedback section, as that is where discussion of the rules will be redirected.

a Rafflecopter giveawayThe contest will run from today (April 20) at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time through 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time on April 27. The winner will be chosen randomly on April 27 and will be contacted by email. The winner will have 48 hours to respond and provide a shipping address before a new winner is chosen.

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20
Apr

What does a potential T-Mobile / Sprint merger mean for wireless users?


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Why do these two companies want to hook-up so badly, and what would it mean for us?

Sprint and T-Mobile are back at it again. The two companies are said to be working on a way to find the common ground that lets them merge after two failed sets of talks. The most recent failure came after Softbank, Sprint’s parent company, had concerns about relinquishing control. While many say that the downsides of any merging of the two companies are less consumer choice — we need only to look to Canada to see the effect on prices of three large telecom companies controlling the wireless market — not much has been said about the benefits, not only to Sprint and T-Mobile but to the consumer. No matter where you stand on the benefits and drawbacks of the two companies getting together, it’s interesting to look at any changes that could happen.

Why this is good for both companies

On the corporate level, both Sprint and T-Mobile see huge benefit from any merger but for very different reasons. The obvious is all the ways this helps the two compete with AT&T and Verizon, who each have more subscribers than the other two combined. With the new entity, there will be more competition for things such as spectrum auctions because a united Sprint and T-Mobile not only has more revenue but also poses a greater risk to AT&T and Verizon. Without a third “giant” carrier to drive them, AT&T and Verizon may not take the same risks they will when there is a large competitor in their rearview mirror.

Softbank needs to unload Sprint but needs to have a say in how it’s used.

Softbank may benefit more from any merger or buyout than anyone else. The company purchased Sprint as a way to break into the U.S. market but its influence hasn’t created the splash many thought it would. What did happen was $30 billion of long-term debt the company has incurred by absorbing Sprint. While it’s likely that any deal between Sprint and T-Mobile wouldn’t erase Softbank’s obligation in full, the company would likely walk away with it reduced or with a cash injection to pay a portion of it off.

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Look for Softbank to still require at least some control over any merged Sprint-T-Mobile entity, as the company has also invested heavily into Internet of Things applications. Having influence in a carrier’s decisions is a nice benefit when in that position. Softbank needs Sprint-T-Mobile to be a strong player but also needs to be able to steer policy and decisions to stay favorable to them.

T-Mobile needs more spectrum and Sprint has exactly the kind it needs.

T-Mobile benefits because Sprint has the one thing it wants and hasn’t been able to get (at least not get as much as it feels it needs) — mobile spectrum. Sprint happens to have a massive 150 MHz of it and it’s exactly the kind T-Mobile requires. T-Mobile is positioned well when it comes to cell site density and mid-band spectrum but needs more high-band spectrum to give it the capacity to expand. Sprint has only utilized about a third of its 2.5 GHz spectrum so there is plenty left that could be used exactly the way T-Mobile wants to use it should the two companies join.

Why it would be good for consumers

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The reasons that make any potential get together good for both companies are also the reasons it makes it good for customers. The results would mean better coverage and a faster network.

Assuming the two companies wouldn’t stay separate (and they shouldn’t, for all the reasons above) getting them together could mean the fast T-Mobile LTE network is available for more people in more places, with less dead spaces in between.

Any Sprint-T-Mobile merger means more 5G in more places.

T-Mobile knows that expansion is what comes next. We’re seeing it expand to “rural” areas using the recently-acquired 600 MHz spectrum which now covers more than 300,000 square miles of previously dead air. But the spectrum available isn’t enough, and Sprint’s massive chunk of 2.5 GHz spectrum would slide right in to keep the expansion going at the same aggressive rate once the 600 MHz block runs out.

This is also “5G-ready” spectrum, as it can provide the bandwidth a large number of high-speed connections would require. T-Mobile already has 200 MHz of millimeter-wave spectrum spread out across 100 million potential customers and has been deploying 5G-ready infrastructure in its 600 MHz expansion. T-Mobile was late to the 4G revolution, but has eyes on what’s next.

Current customers would see better service with fewer dead spots.

Sprint has everything it needs to be a network powerhouse. We’ve all heard the promises, and the few places where Sprint has built the network out are filled with happy customers. But issues with funding, changes in the company’s leadership and poor decisions in the past have plagued Sprint and the network is in a downward spiral it may never be able to pull out of. To expand, Sprint needs money. To get money, it needs rapid customer growth. To get more customers it has to be able to have a better network. Joining with T-Mobile breaks this circle and both sides know it. That makes Sprint’s assets very valuable.

Finally, a look at the coverage map is interesting and enlightening. Not the coverage maps the two companies publish on their websites, but a more realistic map like this one from Ookla that shows the combined network footprint as read by the company’s SpeedTest service.

overlay.jpg?itok=OiBMG6uX Wisconsin, Florida and the Mid-Atlantic would have a great network should this merger happen.

Every pink dot is a place where you can connect to a fast T-Mobile network. The yellow spaces in between are where you can find a Sprint signal, but it’s hampered by Sprint’s mid-band spectrum (which is also shared with the company’s 3G network) and that signal is attached to a low-speed, low-bandwidth network that customers aren’t all that happy with. A better utilization of Sprint’s assets on top of T-Mobile’s could mean a very strong network across this entire footprint and would mean the speeds you see in Seattle (T-Mobile) would come to the network you can find in Yakima (Sprint) for example.

That’s really what all the talk about spectrum and Megahertz means. T-Mobile doesn’t have what it needs to bring service to more places and Sprint doesn’t have what it needs to make its network faster. The two together means better service for a lot of people. Sprint’s assets would let a merged company build in more places and T-Mobile’s assets mean what it could build would be good.

This isn’t over

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Any merger or buyout is nowhere near final, as we’ve seen before. there are plenty of drawbacks to losing an independent network operator and replacing it with another multi-headed AT&T-like beast. As potential customers, we’re most concerned with pricing and how this takes away any incentive for Sprint and T-Mobile to offer a better deal than AT&T or Verizon. But things like policy decisions, where Sprint and T-Mobile have lobbied for things that benefit the “little guy” and creative ways to change how we buy service are important and could disappear if any merger happens, too.

All the good a merger may bring could be outweighed by what’s not so good.

AT&T and Verizon aren’t very pleased with the idea of Sprint and T-Mobile becoming one large competitor either. It would threaten the two company’s market position — currently, the two go back and forth at the top spot for revenue and subscriber count — which could, in turn, affect what sort of treatment either receive from regulators and partners. Expect both to fight against any merger or buyout should it get close to happening.

For now, we can simply wait and see and try to analyze how this could change the current mobile landscape and shape the future.

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20
Apr

What’s the current desktop setup at your home/office?


Sharing time!

Even though we spend most of our time talking about Android and the mobile gadgets they power here on AC, there’s always something to be said about a great desktop setup. As someone who’s been working from home for just about two years, I’ve quickly learned that the perfect combo of monitors, desk, office chair, etc. can go a long way in making the 9-5 grind far more enjoyable.

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James Falconer, an Android Central Community Manager, recently checked in with our members to see what kind of desktop setup they’re currently rocking. A lot of you have already chimed in, and these are just a few of the responses so far:

avatar582577_2.gifmetllicamilitia
04-17-2018 03:46 PM

My current setup is a MacBook Pro and Lenovo Yoga. It’s not my ideal setup though. Ideally I would like at least a dual monitor setup as I think it’s better than split screen. I also don’t want to give up portability so it would probably need to be more or less a docking station I would use. At least an area with monitors setup that I can easily connect to.

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avatar1042415_26.gifxandros9
04-17-2018 04:15 PM

It’s changed a bit but I think it peaked when I still had my ThinkPad as my only PC. I had two old monitors hooked into a docking station for it so I could come home, drop it on the dock and boom – two displays and the whole desktop feel.

The monitors are a 14″ HP (1024×768) that’s probably around 17 years old and the better one is a Samsung SyncMaster of a size that currently escapes me. I’ll…

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avatar335378_20.gifakutch34
04-18-2018 08:39 AM

Current set up is iPhone 8 Plus (PRODUCT) RED & my trusty iPad Pro 9.7. Between these two, I honestly don’t remember the last time I touched my laptop. They do everything I need on a daily basis so my laptop just sits and collects dust. (Laptop is a Lenovo ThinkPad)

Ideal Setup: I’d love a MacBook Pro. I feel I’d be more inclined to used a laptop that I could reply to iMessages on and that…

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avatar2495993_1.gifbrau0303
04-18-2018 09:05 AM

Current:
At work I have dual Dell 24″ @ 1920×1080 monitors.
At home I have an MSI Notebook w/15″ & a Samsung 32″ 1080P HD TV connected via HDMI (Don’t recall Rez. will update later) XBOX One & Direct TV controller are also connected to the 32″ TV
Ideal:
Work setup is fine.
Home – Would like to swap out the 32″ for a 42″ or larger.

Reply

What about you? What kind of desktop setup are you currently using?

Join the conversation in the forums!

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