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5
May

Recommended Reading: The ‘Stories’ invasion won’t relent anytime soon


Why ‘Stories’ Took Over Your Smartphone
Ian Bogost,
The Atlantic

Snapchat may have created the monster, but in nearly every social (and some not-so-social) app you fire up, you’ll be greeted with a feed of Stories. In fact, Facebook says the format is on pace to be more popular than a primary feed as the preferred way to share updates. The Atlantic explains how the ephemeral format took over your phone and why it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

All We Want to Do Is Watch Each Other Play Video Games
Nellie Bowles,
The New York Times

A look at the rise of eSports, where gamers are celebrities and the events are sporting spectacles.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Has a Game Plan
Christopher Vollmer and Daniel Gross, Strategy+Business

NBA commissioner Adam Silver discusses the league’s recent growth, due in part to its stellar social presence.

Your Next Bank Card Will Have a Fingerprint Scanner Built-in
Matt Burgess,
Wired UK

While Mastercard says it’s nearly ready to launch cards with built-in fingerprint scanners, Wired UK explains why getting users to opt-in is easier said than done.

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5
May

You may never own a quantum computer, but IBM will still let you use one


IBM scientists opening up a quantum computer IBM

You’ll probably never use quantum hardware yourself, but there’s a high chance you’ll benefit from research that couldn’t have been completed without it. The ones and zeros of conventional computers could never accomplish the kind of processing quantum computing is capable of.

The possibilities are limitless, yet there’s one important hurdle: If people don’t actually have access to quantum computers, the technology is little more than an intriguing science project. If computer scientists, academic researchers, and others don’t have access to the hardware, the field will never take its next step forward.

IBM’s answer to this problem is a cloud platform called IBM Q. Since the program launched in May 2016, it’s given users a way to utilize quantum computation without having direct access to a quantum computer.

The hardware itself might not be plentiful — but thanks to IBM Q, it’s ubiquitous.

Quantum Build

I met Bob Sutor, the vice president for IBM Q strategy and ecosystem on a crowded show floor at the IBM Think conference in April. We stood inches away from a cryostat, part of the complex architecture that makes quantum computation possible.

“The actual quantum device, the qubits, live in [a cryostat]. This is kept at very close to absolute zero. 0.015 kelvin. That’s a tiny bit above absolute zero, where nothing moves.”

“The actual quantum device, the qubits, live in here,” Sutor told me, pointing to a small compartment at the base of the structure. “This is kept at very close to absolute zero. 0.015 kelvin. That’s a tiny bit above absolute zero, where nothing moves.”

Refrigeration is a common factor among many of the quantum computing projects from the past decade. Low temperatures make it easy to maintain an environment where entanglement can take place. It’s one of the greatest challenges that scientists and engineers working in this field face: how can we make the surrounding area cold enough for the hardware to function as intended.

One of IBM’s 20 qubit commercial quantum computers in the IBM Q Network. IBM

While the coldest section of the cryostat almost reaches absolute zero, the top of the structure is a relatively balmy four degrees kelvin. Each section gets progressively colder from top to bottom, a process that apparently takes a total of 36 hours. Sutor refers to it as a “glorified still,” referring to the way that helium is used to carry out a distillation process that flushes out heat.

Dummy Hardware

As Sutor talks to me about this complex hardware, he acknowledges that this particular example isn’t actually used to run calculations as part of the IBM Q platform.

He tells me that the qubits are fake – “why put one of our state of the art chips in something that just wanders around?” – and that the cryostat itself is a little more “robust” than the real McCoy, to ensure that it doesn’t fall to pieces during its press tour.

“Why put one of our state of the art chips in something that just wanders around?”

We’ve been covering quantum computing for Digital Trends for years, and it was still fascinating to see the hardware ‘in the flesh,’ even if it was actually just a replica. But the fact that IBM feels the need to lug around a physical representation of its quantum endeavors speaks volumes about the current status of this technology.

For years, quantum computing was little more than a ‘what-if?’ that fascinated computer scientists. Then it was an experiment. Now it occupies a strange no man’s land, offering direct utility for researchers even before the promise of a large-scale universal quantum computer has been fulfilled. That said, it’s still a relatively niche technology, even though IBM is doing its utmost to make it accessible.

The field of quantum computing is evolving at a remarkable rate, but there’s still a long way to go before it reaches its potential. Part of the challenge is the sheer scope of bringing these ideas to fruition.

A replica of IBM’s quantum computing hardware at IBM Think. Brad Jones/Digital Trends

The concept itself required a significant amount of grounding in experimental physics just to get off the ground. That work needed to be upheld by feats of engineering – for instance, the coiled wires you see in the images illustrating this article were implemented to prevent the hardware from breaking itself into pieces as the temperatures drop and the metal contracts. Currently, there’s the daunting task of developing an ecosystem around the technology.

It took a company with the heft of IBM to turn something that could easily have ended up as a science project into technology that’s workable and practical. But now that a great deal of foundational work has already been completed, there’s a distinct focus on how the make this hardware accessible, alongside efforts to keep on making incremental improvements.

Working From Home

“A couple of years ago, this was a physics project,” said Jerry Chow, manager of IBM’s experimental quantum computing group, speaking to Digital Trends at the Think conference. “It was something that you needed to be in a laboratory to do. Putting it on the web was the first step.”

“A [few] of years ago, this was a physics project. It was something that you needed to be in a lab to do. Putting it on the web was the first step.

He notes that part of the intention with the remote access offered up via the IBM Q platform was to hide away some of the underlying physics. Users don’t necessarily need to know what the refrigeration process contributes — or how the superconducting processor operates. Not being able to fully comprehend the engineering of the quantum computer isn’t a barrier to entry.

This may seem obvious, given most of us use devices like smartphones and laptops on a daily basis without working knowledge of what’s under the hood. The difference is operational quantum hardware is incredibly rare by comparison.

A lack of finances or technical expertise might prevent brilliant researchers and standout students from using a quantum computer to do important work. But IBM Q ensures that even if these individuals have a path to the hardware they need.

We’re not talking about mere future potential, here. Chow tells me that 75,000 users have run over 2.5 million experiments on the IBM Q platform, with some 60 research papers having been published as a result. “There’s a paper from Japan on entangling 16 qubits, and how you would actually do that,” says Sutor. “That’s the first time anyone had actually done it on this type of machine.”

IBM scientists work on quantum computing hardware in the IBM Q Computation Center at the Thomas J Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York and IBM Research – Zurich in Zurich, Switzerland. IBM

When the idea of quantum computers first hit the mainstream, one of the most common questions people asked was when they could expect such a system to replace their PC. Experts replied that for the time being, it’s unclear whether this type of hardware would offer any tangible advantages over classical computers.

So, we shouldn’t expect to see a quantum computer in every home office – but now, it seems that in the short-term, we shouldn’t expect to see one in every computer science lab, either. In our inter-connected era, it follows that a cutting edge technology wouldn’t be rolled out en masse until all the kinks been ironed out.

The nature of the IBM Q platform means that lessons learned can be turned into improvements for everyone very quickly.

“The model for consumption of quantum in the near-term is this type of cloud access,” notes Chow. For the time being, it seems that accessing quantum hardware remotely is the most effective approach.

IBM is putting its hardware in the hands of people who can find practical uses right now, and that’s sure to shape the ongoing evolution of quantum computing.

At the same time, the nature of the IBM Q platform means that lessons learned can be turned into improvements that benefit the length and breadth of the user base very quickly.

What does IBM get out of making its hardware available to users who wouldn’t otherwise be able to work with a quantum computer? Well, all of the learning from using a quantum hardware would have been spread out across numerous labs. But thanks to IBM Q, now it’s all feeding back into its own project. Don’t expect progress to slow down any time soon.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Intel explores ‘spin qubits’ as the next wave in quantum computing
  • Microsoft creates a particle promising a more accurate quantum computer
  • Microsoft’s quantum computing language is now available for MacOS
  • You can control this robot as it trawls the Chicago River picking up trash
  • Google code offers hints that Android Messages is coming to a desktop near you


5
May

The big one: Huawei P20 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus vs. Google Pixel 2 vs. Apple iPhone X


Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Huawei P20 Pro has won praise, plaudits, and fans for its impressive triple-lens camera; but just how good is it compared to the other camera-phone powerhouses out there? On paper, it’s technically superior, and it has some truly unique features that make it stand out from the rest. However, the Google Pixel 2, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, and the Apple iPhone X are hardly lacking in the camera prowess department, so we put them all against each other in a country-spanning photo shootout.

The cameras

Let’s examine the camera specifications first, so each contender knows what it’s up against. First, the Huawei P20 Pro. It has three lenses: A 40-megapixel RGB lens with an f/1.8 aperture, a 20-megapixel monochrome lens with an f/1.6 aperture, and an 8-megapixel telephoto lens with an f/2.4 aperture. It’ll zoom in up to 3x without loss of quality, has electronic image stabilization, artificial intelligence for scene recognition and low-light photography enhancement, and 960 frames per second slow-motion video.

Basing everything purely on numbers, the Huawei P20 Pro has the rest of the pack beaten already; but numbers don’t tell the whole story.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus has two camera lenses on the back, both with 12 megapixels, and a clever mechanically adjusted aperture that swaps between f/1.5 and f/2.4. It has optical image stabilization, a 2x zoom without quality loss, and 960fps slow-motion video. The Google Pixel 2 is the only one of the four with a single camera lens, which has 12-megapixels and an f/1.8 aperture. That’s it, nothing special. However, it’s in the software that the Pixel 2 excels, providing beautiful HDR+ enhancements, and impressive bokeh-style portrait shots without a second camera lens.

Finally, the Apple iPhone X has two camera lenses, both with 12 megapixels. One takes wide-angle photos with an f/1.8 aperture, and the second f/2.4 lens handles telephoto duties. It has optical image stabilization, 2x optical zoom without a loss in quality, and bokeh-style portrait pictures. Basing everything purely on numbers, the Huawei P20 Pro has the rest of the pack beaten already; but numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Fountains, and Frankfurt

The first picture shows us how closely matched all these cameras are. We photographed a fountain outside the Steigenberger hotel in Frankfurt on a sunny but slightly overcast afternoon. Let’s go in reverse, eliminating the ones we like least straight away. It’s the Galaxy S9 Plus that takes the least realistically-colored photo, which is overly bright, and the sky is lacking in the blue that other cameras revealed. The Huawei P20 Pro goes in the other direction, darkening the scene, particularly on the building.

  • 1.
    Huawei P20 Pro
  • 2.
    iPhone X
  • 3.
    Galaxy S9
  • 4.
    Pixel 2

That leaves the iPhone X and the Pixel 2, which are so closely matched, it’ll come down to personal preference. The iPhone X has a a bluer sky, while the Pixel gets the colors and details exactly right. Forced to make a choice, we’d pick the Google Pixel 2 here, although it’s very close.

Winner: Google Pixel 2

The Euro sign

The Euro sign is a well-known landmark in the center of Frankfurt’s financial district, and to capture the scene effectively, we shot our pictures in portrait orientation. The iPhone X is the first to fall here, with a washed out sky, a lack of detail, and it looks pixelated when zooming in. The distant sign in the bottom left of the image is relatively clear in all photos apart from the iPhone X, and it’s the same with the couple taking a photo in the bottom right.

  • 1.
    Huawei P20 Pro
  • 2.
    iPhone X
  • 3.
    Galaxy S9
  • 4.
    Pixel 2

The P20 Pro reveals detail when up close, a textured sky, and dark green grass; but the stars around the Euro sign are a little dark, and lack visual punch. The Pixel 2 and the Galaxy S9 take very similar pictures, with colors almost matching, and a similar level of detail. The Euro stars are bright, but it’s the Galaxy S9 that manages to best balance the blue of the sign with the gold of the stars, while maintaining the colors of the ground and the buildings.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

The bridge

Heading out into the German countryside, this picturesque bridge made us stop and take some photos, and the results couldn’t be more different. It’s the toughest call yet. One photo stands apart from the others, and it’s not technically the best image, but it’s the one that looks the most attractive to our eyes — the Galaxy S9 Plus. The grass on the right is wonderfully natural, the sky a baby blue, and the water reflective and cooling. If there’s a downside, it’s the slightly soft brickwork on the bridge that lacks a little detail.

  • 1.
    Huawei P20 Pro
  • 2.
    iPhone X
  • 3.
    Galaxy S9
  • 4.
    Pixel 2

The iPhone X comes next, producing a very balanced instantly-shareable picture. It’s here where you see more detail in the bridge, and in the foliage in the bottom right compared to the Galaxy S9 Plus. The P20 Pro and Pixel 2 are so close to the iPhone X, it’s a draw between all three, and largely up to personal preference.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

Church Spire

Let’s zoom. Each of these photos used the camera’s standard zoom feature, going to 2x or 3x. The Pixel 2 is the only one without a lossless zoom mode, and it really shows when you get in close, consequently eliminating the phone from the running at the first hurdle. Surprisingly, the iPhone X comes next, failing to capture as much detail as the two front runners — the P20 Pro and the Galaxy S9 Plus.

  • 1.
    Huawei P20 Pro
  • 2.
    iPhone X
  • 3.
    Galaxy S9
  • 4.
    Pixel 2

Both these two phones took fantastic zoomed in images, but the P20 Pro takes first place here. The sharpness and detail is quite astonishing, and easily getting in much closer than any of the other phones too. While other categories have not revealed an instantly clear winner, this is the first time it has been obvious from the outset.

Winner: Huawei P20 Pro

Night time cafe

Moving to Austria and Salzburg, we snapped this lively town square cafe set beside an imposing cliff face. It had everything: Color, drama, movement, and challenging lighting conditions. The iPhone X and the Pixel 2 both take good pictures, but they’re outmatched by the Galaxy S9 and the Huawei P20 Pro, which take great pictures. Hardly surprising, given the technology inside specifically designed to take pictures in these lighting conditions.

  • 1.
    Huawei P20 Pro
  • 2.
    iPhone X
  • 3.
    Galaxy S9
  • 4.
    Pixel 2

We love the way the Galaxy S9 captures the varied lighting under the cafe canopy, giving the shot a realistic edge; but its the P20 Pro that wins with some stunning detail. Just take a look at the texture on the road, and the brickwork under the pink lighting on the building, the yellow “Moving Pictures” sign, and then on the cliff face itself. It’s very impressive.

Winner: Huawei P20 Pro

Darkness

The ultimate test? Walking past a dark entrance to a house, recessed from the road, you could barely make out anything that was there with the naked eye. The Pixel 2’s picture is brighter than what we could really see, and representative of what we’d expect a smartphone to achieve given the conditions. The iPhone X takes a better picture, with more detail, better color balance, and a good glimpse of what was shrouded in darkness.

  • 1.
    Huawei P20 Pro
  • 2.
    iPhone X
  • 3.
    Galaxy S9
  • 4.
    Pixel 2

The Galaxy S9 Plus is leaps and bounds ahead, showing the building itself, making the white sign readable, and revealing there’s a car hidden on the left hand side. However, the color is off and details are blurred, particularly the trees overhanging the car and the left of the picture.

You may think we wheeled out a massive spotlight for the P20 Pro’s picture, or that a security light flicked on; but we assure you, it was taken under exactly the same conditions. You can see the gravel driveway, the wall on the right, the shape and texture of the trees on the left, and even establish what brand of car is hiding. There are two trees in the center of the picture that are almost completely obscured in the other images, even the Galaxy S9 Plus’ photo.

Winner: Huawei P20 Pro

Blue sky

The P20 Pro uses artificial intelligence (AI) to adjust the camera settings depending on the scene. In this photo it switched to Blue Sky mode. It’s proof that Huawei’s decision to let you turn off the AI enhancements is a good one, because while the sky is a wonderful blue, it’s at the expense of detail in the lower half of the picture. The Galaxy S9 Plus also suffers from an overly blue sky and a lack of detail, especially on the wall in the right of the picture.

  • 1.
    Huawei P20 Pro
  • 2.
    iPhone X
  • 3.
    Galaxy S9
  • 4.
    Pixel 2

This leaves the iPhone X and the Pixel 2, and it’s a tough call between them. The Pixel 2 has more detail in the most distant part of the castle, but equal with the iPhone X in the rest of the image. However, the iPhone X’s brighter picture all round is more appealing, giving it its first win.

Winner: Apple iPhone X

Portrait telescope

All four phones have a portrait mode, producing the effect of an object in the foreground isolated against a blurred background. We chose a very shiny telescope on top of the Hohensalzburg Castle as our subject. No post image alterations were made to the focal point, which is possible on the P20 Pro and the Galaxy S9 Plus.

  • 1.
    Huawei P20 Pro
  • 2.
    iPhone X
  • 3.
    Galaxy S9
  • 4.
    Pixel 2

The Pixel 2 isn’t a contender here, as it didn’t manage to blur out the background at all, despite taking a pleasant picture and telling us the portrait mode was active. It’s the only camera that relies on software to manipulate the image, rather than a combination of two or more lenses. The Galaxy S9 Plus and the iPhone X are hard to split. We prefer the iPhone’s brighter picture, and the greater shine on the telescope, but it doesn’t pick out the extreme edges of the scope as expertly as the Galaxy S9 Plus.

Neither camera allowed us to step back from the scene and retain the portrait mode like the P20 Pro. Using its Aperture mode, we could still isolate the telescope against a much more expansive background, creating a very different type of picture. We prefer this because if we want to make the telescope the focal point, it’s easy to crop the picture down. With the S9 Plus and the iPhone X, this isn’t possible. It also effectively separates the telescope and the wall, giving a great depth of field to the scene.

Winner: Huawei P20 Pro

The black forest gateaux

Finally, back in London, we visited one of the original Patisserie Valerie cafes in the city, to enjoy tea and a piece of black forest gateaux. Food is rarely snapped in ideal conditions, and the cafe on Old Compton Street is no exception. Dark wood cladding and low lighting make it challenging for phones to get colors and contrast right. Each phone varied a lot here.

  • 1.
    Huawei P20 Pro
  • 2.
    iPhone X
  • 3.
    Galaxy S9
  • 4.
    Pixel 2

The four phones are split into two, with the Huawei P20 Pro and the Pixel 2 taking pictures we liked the least, and the Galaxy S9 and the iPhone X taking ones we preferred. The Pixel 2 didn’t handle the light very well, losing detail out on the chocolate chips on the left side of the cake, and showing less creaminess in the cake itself. The P20 Pro activated food mode, which we left on for the picture, and while there’s plenty of detail and the colors are correct, it blurs out too much around the edges for our liking.

Look at the Galaxy S9’s picture, and the detail is better again in the darker areas; but the iPhone X gets everything right: Chocolatey cake, creamy cream, red cherries, and moist chocolate shapes on top. Delicious, and highly eatable.

Winner: Apple iPhone X

Conclusion

The Pixel 2 won a single category, but was a runner-up in two further categories, showing just how great it performs with a single-lens camera. No-one is going to be disappointed with the results from a Pixel 2. The Apple iPhone X took two category wins, and a single runner-up prize. It’s notable that its wins were everyday situations we all take photos in — blue skies, the countryside, and food. You’ll be happy with its performance in most situations.

The Huawei P20 Pro won four categories, all of which really highlight the camera’s strengths.

The Galaxy S9 Plus also took two wins, but it snapped against the P20 Pro’s heels in four other categories, and it was often a tough decision splitting the two. It’s genuinely superb, as we’ve seen in other comparisons, and there’s almost no situation where it won’t take a fantastic photograph.

That leaves the Huawei P20 Pro, which won four categories, all of which really highlight the camera’s strengths — zoom, low light, and portrait — and accentuate just how far ahead of other cameras it is in these departments. Does this mean it’s the big winner here, and should be purchased over the others? That’s a harder question to answer. Arguably the Galaxy S9 Plus is the more capable, everyday-use camera phone; but it does lack the P20 Pro’s superb feature set and enviable monochrome mode.

In reality, all four of these phones are excellent. Do note, you can’t buy the Huawei P20 Pro in the U.S. unless you import it.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Huawei P20 Pro vs. Apple iPhone X: A battle of flagship smartphones
  • Pride of a nation: LG V30S ThinQ vs. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus camera shootout
  • Sibling rivalry: Honor View 10 vs. Huawei Mate 10 Pro camera shootout
  • It’s only business: BlackBerry Motion vs. LG G6 camera shootout
  • Huawei MateBook X Pro vs. MacBook Pro


5
May

These are the best smart home products to use with Google Home Mini


google-home-mini-accessories-1.jpg?itok=

Now that you’ve got a Google Home Mini, it’s time to connected it to some things. Need some things? Here’s where to start.

So you’ve got a new Google Home Mini. Good for you. That’s a good call. It’s like a Google Home, only less expensive and smaller, without the emphasis on the speaker. It’s like an Amazon Echo, only, erm, not and Echo, and with Google Assistant instead of Alexa.

It is, in brief, a perfectly good purchase. But now you need to do something with it. If you’re already a user of such a product, you’re probably in the know. You’ve got your stuff, it’s connected and working.

If today’s your first day with a Google Mini, though, there’s a little more setup to do.

Here are a few prime choices when it comes to connected products to use with your Google Home Mini.

  • Connected lights
  • Connected thermostat
  • Logitech Harmony
  • Connected sprinklers
  • Wemo Plugs
  • Other Google Homes

Philips Hue — or other connected lights

philips-hue-phil.jpg?itok=0tbfMgri

Philips Hue is the top name in connected bulbs, but they’re by no means the only ones available today. If you’ve got connected bulbs of any sort (or if you have some connected through another hub like Samsung Smart Things), you’ll definitely want to tie them in to Google Home Mini. Start with a $70 starter pack.

Attach the bulbs, assign them rooms, then just control them with your voice.

And remember that once you can control something in Google Assistant, you can control it form Google Home, or Android Auto, or your phone — wherever.

See Philips Hue at Amazon

Connected thermostat

nest-thermostat-e-15.jpg?itok=ZxLD1SCn

If you have a connected thermostat — I’m a big fan of Nest — especially the new $190 Nest E — and secondarily Ecobee — then you have got to hook it up to Google Home. There’s literally nothing in the world better than turning the heat up without having to get out of bed.

OK, there are lots of things better than that. But being able to control the temperature with your voice is a killer feature. Don’t think. Just do it.

See Nest at Amazon

Logitech Harmony

I’ve long recommended a Logitech Harmony remote over pretty much anything else. What comes with your TV probably is bad. What comes with your cable box probably isn’t great. What comes with the Apple TV is awful.

Logitech Harmony is much, much better, and it has the added bonus of being able to control lots of connected things.

And Google Assistant is able to control Logitech Harmony. So you can tell your new Google Home Mini to turn the TV off or on. (I usually default to the former as I’m headed out the door, or when my kids just aren’t listening.) Start with a $144 Harmony Companion, and eye the $250+ Harmony Elite for an upgrade.

It’s a great time-save — and a way to be so lazy that you don’t even have to look for the remote control.

See Harmony Companion at Amazon

Connected sprinklers

Here’s a great one if you’ve got a lawn you need to water. I’ve been using the Rachio connected sprinkler system for a long time. It works with my phone, and it works with Google Assistant.

If you’re using a $199 Rachio right, you probably won’t need to turn the sprinklers on or off manually too often.

But … this is just a great option to have. And it’s one of those things that really is easier to do with your voice than having to pull our your phone.

Your kids wanna run through the sprinklers? “OK, Google — tell Rachio to water the front yard.”

Neighborhood hooligans hanging out on your property? “OK, Google — tell Rachio to water the front yard.”

See Rachio at Amazon

Wemo Plugs

Don’t wanna do connected lights? Give a plug a shot instead. Wemo makes it really easy to turn just a dumb plug into something a good bit smarter for just $35. And it’s flexible. Anything you plug into one of the Wemo plugs becomes smart — not just a lamp.

This is one of those things that’s perfect for, say, a Christmas tree or outdoor decorations and lights.

You can set timers, and you can control via your voice.

And trust me (I know from experience) that’ll save you a few cold trips onto the front porch in your underwear.

See Wemo at Amazon

Other Google Homes

google-home-max-13.jpg?itok=ha5zPZhC

One Google Home is great, but pick up a few more and you can use them to listen for commands and play your music through the house. If you don’t want another microphone or already have some nice speakers, you could also set up a Chromecast Audio system or pair your Google Home with Bluetooth speakers.

More: How to use Chromecast Audio as a whole-home audio alternative to Sonos

Update, May 2018: We added the “Other Google Homes” section and a jump list.

Google Hardware

home-family.jpg?itok=iUP4ApSp

  • Google Wifi review
  • Google Home review
  • Chromecast Ultra: all you need to know
  • Which Chromecast should you buy?

Google Wifi: Google
Amazon
Google Home: Google
Best Buy
Chromecast Ultra: Google
Best Buy

5
May

Samsung just gave Yahoo! another chance to play fast and loose with millions of users’ data


Android-figures.jpg?itok=JOwVsINE

There are three billion reasons why Samsung allowing Yahoo! apps on your phone is a bad idea.

In a perfect world, allowing three billion user accounts to be hacked would mean a business is forced to shut down and its assets shared with the victims. In the real world, it means the people in charge of it are able to sell for huge amounts of cash and the new owners can force their way onto your brand new phone. That’s exactly what just happened now that Samsung has decided that it needs even more money and is forcing Yahoo! down the throat of Verizon Galaxy S9 buyers. (The deal includes preloading these Oath-branded apps on Verizon-sold Galaxy phones, but it also allows Bixby and other Samsung services to use Oath services like Yahoo! News as sources.)

User data and digital advertising is big money. Sometimes big enough to stop caring for your customers.

In 2013, Yahoo! was hacked and one billion accounts were compromised. In 2014, the same thing happened and another 500 million accounts were affected. The company didn’t bother to say anything until 2016. In 2017, they admitted that it was actually three billion accounts compromised — that’s every single Yahoo! account that existed at the time.

That didn’t seem to bother Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, who said “we all live in an internet world, it’s not a question of if you’re going to get hacked but when you are going to get hacked,” and proceeded to buy the company for $4.5 billion, changing the name to Oath in hopes that you wouldn’t realize. Thankfully, Verizon’s efforts to dismiss multiple lawsuits and federal investigations into the attacks were shot down and they get to be responsible for the thing they should have never bought.

Fast forward to the here and now, and we find out that Samsung has reached a deal with Verizon to force install four Yahoo! apps onto the Galaxy S9 as system apps in the hopes that you’ll use them and feed more data into Yahoo’s gaping maw. Reactions are what you would expect: nobody is happy (although the ever-present group that thinks Samsung can do no wrong is alive and well, as is the group that thinks Samsung is some sort of demon rather than a tech company) but nobody seems to care. At least nobody who should care seems to care. User response is also fairly anemic, with “you can disable them” being the usual response even though they are system-level apps that will have already started running before you can do anything about it.

Yahoo_Sunnyvale_BuildingDSign.jpeg?itok=

I’ll be frank — Samsung’s style of software turns me off and I don’t plan on using a Galaxy S9. I’m also not a Verizon customer. But I do hold both companies to a higher standard because of their position in mobile and because we have seen both do the right thing many times. Not this time, though. This time the two companies show that a small percentage of extra profit means much more than your privacy. And that, frankly, stinks.

Big companies are supposed to make big money but there should be limits on how.

Corporations aren’t inherently bad. They exist as a way to create money for investors and owners the same way most of us work to collect a paycheck. Corporations are supposed to do things that make more money and should explore every opportunity in good faith. In turn, they should also value their customers and say no sometimes. When news of these breaches started to become public (and were grossly under-reported by Yahoo!), I said Verizon should bail on their plans to buy Yahoo! because it and its customers deserved better. It didn’t. Now I’m saying Samsung should reconsider plopping Yahoo! Sports, Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo! Newsroom and Go90 on one of the best phones money can buy. It won’t.

I can’t believe that nobody at Samsung knows Yahoo’s history, or that Verizon has to keep its tainted infrastructure in place so that Yahoo! can continue to operate. Since Samsung obviously knows that every single Yahoo! customer account was hacked and still wants to prominently place these apps on its flagship phone, I can’t help but think it feels money is more important than your privacy.

If you just bought a Galaxy S9 and find it’s littered with Yahoo! trash, or when your phone is updated and Yahoo! trash arrives along with, spend $2.49 to buy Package Disabler Pro and rid your phone of it as quickly as you can. If you’re in the market for a new phone, keep this in mind before any company gets your money.

In fact, maybe consider buying into a platform where the developers have some control instead of one where phone makers can do as they please. I very much dislike using an iPhone, but am finding it difficult to recommend Android to users because of shenanigans like this.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

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5
May

Best PlayStation VR Events You Can Watch Live


Watch your favorite live VR events within your VR.

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If you’re looking for different ways to enjoy live VR content, why not use your headset to watch these live events? There are several different apps you can download to watch these events, and some might be better than others. These are the best ways to watch PlayStation VR events live.

Let the Excitement Begin!

  • What is NextVR?
  • NextVR: NFL & NBA Game Line-Up
  • NextVR: Live Dance Performances & More
  • Live Performances on Youtube VR
  • Hatsune Miku: VR Future Live
  • Joshua Bell VR Experience

What is NextVR?

NextVR is an app available to you on the PlayStation store. Here you can find plenty of live entertainment for a variety of different interests. This is, without a doubt, a video app you can use from the comfort of your couch and not miss out too much on the VR experience you’re already going to get with this 180° view of the actual event (the other 180° being an image filler).

Moving your head or body won’t change angles much at all as the scenes aren’t interactive, but don’t let that discourage you, you’re still going to have a great time with an up-close and personal experience with your favorite forms of entertainment. Using your VR headset to watch videos is one thing, and using them to watch the 3D videos NextVR has to offer is another.

Download NextVR Directly from the PlayStation Store!

NextVR: NFL

NextVR has partnered with The National Football League to bring you the best Football highlights from five of their games from the 2017 season with Super Bowl XLIV Champion Reggie Bush is hosting with Elika Sadeghi as commentator. It’s a 3D experience in the front row seats of your favorite sport. On December 10th, NextVR will release the game highlights of the Dallas Cowboy Vs the New York Giants and, until then, they have the highlights of 4 other games available to view now! Don’t forget to tune back in on December 18th for the season recap as well!

NextVR: NBA

NBA Digital has made NextVR the Official League Pass VR Partner of the NBA. Instead of game highlights like they’ve done with the NFL you’ll have the full games LIVE right there in the app! For International NBA League Pass Subscribers, ALL NBA games will be live and at your fingertips through their NextVR Screening Room on the app.

In addition to that, 27 games will be available to watch that were filmed specifically for a full immersive VR experience. They’re going to film one game from each team’s home so that you can experience every basketball court without ever having to leave home. For NBA League Pass Holders, 7 out of those 27 VR experience games will be available to you.

See at NBA League Passes

NextVR: Live Dance Performances & More!

Not too big of a fan of Football or Basketball? That’s okay, NextVR has plenty of other options available to cater to different interests. With 4 Boxing Event videos, all featuring Canelo Álvarez, you can stand right on the edge of the ring and watch amazing highlights of his fights or watch one of the 11 ICC’s Soccer Game Highlights.

Then there’s the NBC World of Dance, with 17 dances and behind-the-scenes clips of some of our favorite dance crews like Keone & Mari, Stroll Groove, or The Lab. They create a unique experience of watching these recitals with many different views, including one from the crowd AND a 180° camera that circles the stage! It is best of both worlds to not only experience the fancy footwork up close and personal, but then have a view from the crowd for the judging. The immersive feeling of actually having to turn your head from the contestant to judge during commentary is phenomenal.

Download NextVR Directly from the PlayStation Store!

Hatsune Miku: VR Future Live

Now we all remember Hatsune Miku, the J-Pop Vocaloid that debuted in 2007, developed and distributed by Crypton Future Media. Well, lucky for us, now you can enjoy a 3-song concert exclusively through your PlayStation VR. In fact, SEGA, the publisher of the experience, came out with 3 total concerts for you to enjoy.

All of them have just about endless possibilities of where you can chose to stand during the performance, available to change at any time during the show. Miku is the only available performer for the first concert. But other popular Vocaloids like Kagamine Rin, Kagamine Len, and Megurine Luka are available on the second, while the third performance features Kaito and Meiko.

Download Directly from the PlayStation Store!

OR!
See at SEGA

Joshua Bell VR Experience

Sony took the virtual viewing of music performances by storm by having Joshua Bell, partnered with pianist Sam Haywood, perform Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance No. 1” live and just for you. Without being able to stop at a 360° video, they also used advanced audio technology so that the music will follow your precise location during the experience.

As a classical music lover and fellow VRHead, I’m almost speechless by the performance that danced across my headset as if I were standing right in front of him. The video is available free on the PlayStation Store, and I absolutely recommend it.

Download The Joshua Bell VR Experience Directly from the PlayStation Store!

Live Performances on Youtube VR

No upcoming events or concerts to watch live? Don’t let that discourage you. Doing a quick search on Youtube for “VR Live Performances” you’ll find almost endless concerts and performances. With choices ranging from Metallica to Hamilton, the possibilities are endless. This isn’t even counting the available content of 360° live streamed events, sceneries, and semi-interactive music videos.

Youtube App Directly from the PlayStation Store

PlayStation 4

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  • PS4 vs. PS4 Slim vs. PS4 Pro: Which should you buy?
  • PlayStation VR Review
  • Playing PS4 games through your phone is awesome

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5
May

Best Magnetic Car Mounts for Samsung Galaxy Phones in 2018


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Yeah! Magnets!

It’s pretty much illegal anywhere you go to hold onto your phone while you drive, so your best bet is to get a great car mount. But certain mounts can be pretty tedious, and a great magnetic mount makes life so much easier when you’re getting in and out of the car. These are the best magnetic car mounts for your phone!

If your phone supports wireless charging, you’ll have to be careful where you place the metal disc so as not to interfere with the coils. Figure out where the charging coils are and stick the metal where they’re not. Or better yet, put the metal between your phone and a case. Then you can take it out whenever you want to charge up wirelessly.

  • Nite Ize Steelie
  • Anker universal mount
  • WizGear universal air vent mount
  • Maxboost 2-pack
  • TechMatte MagGrip CD slot mount
  • Mpow suction pad mount
  • Oliv. magnetic button mount

Nite Ize Steelie

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This neat little mount takes up maybe half an inch of your dash or console as it’s just a little metal ball. The other half, a little concave circle, sticks to the back of your phone. It looks like your phone would be rolling around on the ball, but the ball is stationary, and the magnet is strong enough to hold it in place.

This mount is especially great if you have to stick it somewhere awkward since it really allows for any orientation when it comes to mounting. You can snag it on Amazon for about $20. While there are several configurations of the Steelie, I like the original the best.

See at Amazon

Anker universal mount

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Anker’s mount adheres to your dash on a flat surface and features a fully adjustable pad, making it great for awkward mounting spots. Its larger magnetic pad is easy to slap your phone onto, and it doesn’t take up nearly as much space as mounts with brackets and arms.

The best part about this one is that it keeps your vents free, so you can adjust them to your heart’s content and never have to worry about the heater messing with your phone. Check this one out for $16.

See at Amazon

WizGear universal air vent mount

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Yes, this appears first on Amazon when you search up magnetic car mount, but that’s for a good reason (not just that manufacturers pay to have it there). For one, it’s well-reviewed: out of nearly 20,000 reviews, 66% are 5-star and 14% are 4-star. For another, I’ve been using this mount for three years and it hasn’t let me down once. It’s relatively compact, fits great onto just about any air vent, and it hasn’t loosened up or anything.

Basically, if you want an inexpensive, reliable magnetic mount with no fuss, check this one out. It’s $7.

See at Amazon

Maxboost 2-pack

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At this point, mounts are basically the same with a different brand attached to them. Maxboost’s mounts attach to your air vent and have a sizable magnetic pad, making it super easy to find in the dark. If there’s two of you in the car, why should one of your still have to hold onto your phone? This two-pack solves that problem. At $6, you really can’t go wrong. Maxboost’s mounts come with a circular metal plate and rectangular plate each.

See at Amazon

TechMatte MagGrip CD slot mount

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If you don’t want to stick anything to your dash and don’t want to bother with your air vents, then consider putting that old CD slot to use! The TechMatte MagGrip simply slides into your CD slot with its semicircle support, you tighten it up, and Bob’s your uncle. The magnetic pad is on an adjustable arm to allow for whichever orientation you choose, and the MagGrip comes with a circular and rectangular plate, depending on which you prefer to use. It’s $11 on Amazon.

See at Amazon

Mpow suction pad mount

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OK, you don’t wanna mount on your dash, your air vents, or in your CD slot: What do you do?

Grab the Mpow suction mount and stick it on your windshield (if that’s legal where you are). I know, on the windshield is precarious, but Mpow’s mount has a very small footprint, and its arm is adjustable, so you can move it around to where it’s not blocking your field of view. At $10, Mpow’s mount comes with smaller and larger metal plates and is easily detachable from your windscreen, thanks to the suction switch.

See at Amazon

Oliv. magnetic button mount

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I love the Oliv. magnetic button mount. It’s incredibly easy to install, the magnetic is strong enough to hold even over the horribly pothole-riddled streets of my hometown, and the magnetic plate that goes on your phone is unobtrusive. This is a three-piece mount, with the adhesive plate, the base, and the mount, which attaches to the base via a magnet as well. I’m not sure why the whole thing comes off, but it does make installation that much easier.

At roughly $30, this isn’t the cheapest mount money can buy, and that’s a good thing. If you want a reliable mount that actually feels sturdy, this is what you want. It tilts and swivels like a good mount should, and I really can’t stress enough how great the hold is. It’s my new favorite.

See at Oliv

Got a favorite of your own?

Did we miss an excellent magnetic car mount? Sound off in the comments below!

Updated May 2018: Updated pricing for all the mounts and added the awesome Oliv. magnetic button mount to the list.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

  • Galaxy S9 and S9+: Everything you need to know!
  • Galaxy S9 review: A great phone for the masses
  • Complete Galaxy S9 and S9+ specs
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  • Join our Galaxy S9 forums

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5
May

BMW M550i review: Equal parts luxury and power


Cruising along on the autobahn at 220 kilometers per hour (136 miles per hour) is equal parts exciting and anxiety-inducing because my brain can’t shake the feeling I’m still breaking the law. That concern didn’t stop when I pulled over. I also experienced some apprehension about using BMW’s Display Key to control the $73,900 BMW M550i sedan.

The Display Key with its tiny touchscreen basically replaces a lot of the features found in a car’s companion app. Drivers can lock and unlock doors, set the temperature in the car and check on their fuel level from a range of about 980 feet.

I wasn’t nervous about using the key fob to check on the car’s status, though. It’s the key’s ability to act as a remote control that lets you pull the vehicle in and out of a parking space without you sitting in the automobile that had me a little freaked out.

I was nervous because even though while it is parking the car is traveling at only 1 mile per hour and uses its sensors to keep from running into other vehicles, I started thinking “what if it hits the other car and oh great now I’m in Germany with a wrecked car and a rightfully angry driver yelling at me.” It turns out that this worry, like my concern about driving fast, it was misplaced.

While pulling into a space in a parking lot, if you know there’s not going to be enough room to exit the vehicle, the driver can use the key fob’s Remote Control Parking option while standing outside the M550i. Just get out, press the parking button, and with the controls on the tiny display, pull the car into the space. Of course, you still have to make sure you don’t accidentally run into anything. BMW says the car’s sensors will bring it to a stop once it determines you’re completely in the space, but it’s still on you to stop any potential collisions.

The thing is, I would never pull into a spot like that (unless it’s an assigned spot in a tight urban garage). If there’s not enough room to open my doors, there’s not enough room for the other vehicles and now you’ve either stopped someone from getting into her car, or you risk someone dinging your car. If I return and I’m boxed in on either side, that’s where the Remote Control Parking makes the most sense. I can just pull out and be on my way.

The Display Key sounds great, but the limited range stops it from being a must-have feature. With a range of fewer than a 1,000 feet, it’s helpful when the car is parked in front of your home or work. At, let’s say, the mall, it becomes less beneficial because the car is out of range. At that point, you would use the BMW Connected app on your smartphone. Just whip out your phone and you can take care of most of the key’s features not counting the remote parking.

So the key feels a bit gimmicky, but because of the parking feature, it’s actually quite useful in certain situations. And frankly, it’s only one element of a car that’s stuffed with tech.

When I was actually driving, BMW’s semi-autonomous adaptive cruise control and lane-keep-assist proved to be a blessing while I was stuck in Munich gridlock. The car handled slow-moving and stop-and-go traffic with zero issues. I can’t stress this enough: If you’re about to buy a car, splurge on the driver’s assistance package. Especially if you commute. You can thank me later.

One thing I do want to note is how much I liked the HUD (heads up display). BMW seems to have figured out how to layout a ton of information (speed, directions, alerts when you’re following too closely, etc.) without it feeling crowded.

The BMW infotainment system is still a solid gateway to navigation, media and a host of other features. You can use the touchscreen, but unless I was using CarPlay (still a $300 option, which is ridiculous), I relied on the control knob in the center console.

Also because that controller is where your hand sits at the end of the center armrest near the shifter, I could stay planted firmly in my seat instead of leaning forward to reach the touchscreen. Not deviating from the preferred sitting position is important when you’re driving fast, and you will want to drive fast because the M550i is quick. The 4.4-liter twin turbo V8 engine will get you from zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds. Plus, it’s an all-wheel-drive vehicle that has 456 horsepower and 480 pounds of torque, so all that power is firmly planted on the ground when you stomp on the accelerator.

Yes, it’s crammed with a lot of power, but it’s also comfortable. It’s a luxury sedan that even after a long day of driving in multiple conditions, I was sad to exit and hand back to BMW.

But it sits in a weird place in the 5 Series lineup. It has more performance than your typical 5 Series (the car maker’s midlevel luxury sedan), but it’s not completely an M vehicle (the automaker’s high-performance brand) with all the power and tuned suspension that would imply. It’s a bit of a happy medium and you notice that in the corners. It does an outstanding job as a luxury sedan, but if you judge it while taking sharp corners as a sport sedan (an M car), it’s not quite there. Which is totally fine because the starting price for an M5 sedan is $102,600, and most folks who buy that car will rarely get a chance to push it to its limit.

The M550i I tested with all the bells and whistles was about $88,000. Sure, an M5 will blow it away in the corners and in a straight line, but we don’t always need an insanely powerful car to get around. The M550i is “good enough.” If that sounds like a compromise, it’s not. The slightly more powerful 5 Series is an enjoyable cruiser that’ll leave you with some extra cash in the bank. And if your door is blocked when you leave your financial institution, you can use the Display Key to pull out.

Source: BMW

5
May

How to load movies onto your Oculus Go


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Loading videos on to your Oculus Go is a breeze. Here’s how to do it!

So you couldn’t deny that great price point and you went ahead and bought yourself an Oculus Go. You’ve spent a little time with it. You’ve played with a few apps and gotten ensconced in a few games. However, you are now ready to watch some of your own movies on this modern wonder.

Whether you are working with a Windows system or MacOS, it’s a breeze to do. Here’s how!

Windows

Connect your Oculus Go to your PC with a micro USB cable.
In your headset, you will have to give your PC permission to gain access. Select Allow Access to Data.
Once you are connected to your PC, the Autoplay feature should open. If it does, select Open Device to View Files.

If Autoplay does not start, you can manually browse to Oculus Go Storage through File Explorer. It will be named VR-Headset.

Once you have your VR-Headset open, select Internal Shared Storage.

Open the folder named Movies.

You can now drag and drop videos into the storage of your Oculus Go.

MacOS

Download the File Transfer Tool from Android and install it on your Mac.
Connect your Oculus Go to your Mac with a micro USB cable.
Open the File Transfer Tool you just installed.
In your headset, you will have to give your computer permission to gain access. Select Allow Access to Data.

A folder named VR-Headset should automatically open

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Now open the folder called Movies.

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You can now drag and drop videos directly into your Oculus Go

Whether you’re watching some home movies or The Star Wars Holiday Special, you can now kick up your virtual feet and enjoy watching whatever you choose. The virtual world is now your oyster.

5
May

NASA’s InSight lander is on its way to Mars


The first NASA mission that will look into the Martian interior is now on its way to the red planet. NASA’s Mars InSight lander has launched on top of a ULA Atlas V rocket and is a historic launch in several ways. In addition to being the agency’s first spacecraft to study the Martian subsurface, it’s NASA’s first lander since the Phoenix arrived on the planet in 2008. The Curiosity followed the Phoenix four years later, but as we all know, the car-sized spacecraft that loves taking selfies is a rover.

InSight is also the first NASA interplanetary mission to launch from the West Coast, particularly from Space Launch Complex 3E at the US Air Force Vandenberg Base. After it arrives on the planet on November 26th, (around 3PM Eastern time), it will deploy a seismometer and a heat probe to detect Marsquakes and monitor the flow of heat. Its findings will help us better understand what’s underneath the Martian surface, such as how thick its crust is. The data it sends back could also shed light on how rocky planets and their natural satellites are formed — including our own.

LIFTOFF! Humanity’s next mission to Mars has left the pad! @NASAInSight heads into space for a ~6 month journey to Mars where it will take the planet’s vital signs and help us understand how rocky planets formed. Watch: https://t.co/SA1B0Dglms pic.twitter.com/wBqFc47L5p

— NASA (@NASA) May 5, 2018

Source: NASA

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