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Google Chrome will now block autoplay videos based on user preferences


Your days of being startled by a video that seems to begin playing out of nowhere on your browser will soon come to an end. In its most recent update (which brings us to Google Chrome 66), Google Chrome has begun to automatically block autoplay videos based on your preferences, which could cut down on the number of times you have to frantically mute your computer while trying to determine where that infernal noise is coming from.

In a recent blog post, Google Chrome product manager John Pallett wrote that “a significant number” of autoplay videos are axed by users who don’t want them — either by muting, pausing, or closing out of the tabs altogether — within only six seconds of the videos’ start. This demonstrated to Google that many Chrome users have absolutely no use for videos that begin unannounced and unwanted, and consequently, the search giant has addressed the issue.

With this new update, if you stop an autoplay video on a website, Chrome will remember this preference, and block any subsequent autoplay videos the next time you visit the site. On the other hand, if you’re alright with the videos that are triggered automatically on some other websites, Chrome will allow those to keep playing undeterred.

But wait, you say — I’ve just started using Chrome, so how will Google know what I prefer? For those folks, Chrome will allow for autoplay videos to proceed on more than 1,000 websites where most other Chrome users allow videos to play with sound. However, the more you use Chrome, the better the browser becomes at understanding your personal do’s and don’t’s, and will make adjustments accordingly.

Ultimately, Pallett writes, the new policy will block around 50 percent of autoplay videos that you want nothing to do with, which should cut down on the noisiness of your browser quite significantly.

While this learning feature is a new tool from Chrome, you can actually already select to disable audio on certain websites if you’re running Google Chrome 64. You just have to right click on your website tab and select “mute site” in order to never hear anything from that particular page again.

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You could win $200,000 playing Quake in August


QuakeCon 2018’s version of the “peace, love and rockets” of years past is set to give Bethesda fans a full weekend of classic gaming action while looking forward to future games. For the first time in the event’s history, the exhibition hall will be opened for the full weekend, giving visitors plenty of time to look around. For those looking for competitive gaming action though, the best Quake Champions players in the world will also be competing for their share of a $200,000 prize pool.

Although plenty of gaming companies hold large events to hype up their next games and celebrate their back catalog, QuakeCon is a little different. With a major focus on the bring-your-own-computer (BYOC) LAN party feel of the event, it combines classic gaming with big prizes and an event hall full of exhibitors, with much of the organizing and production handled by eager volunteers.

QuakeCon will be much the same this year when fans gather for what will be the 23rd event of its kind. But it’ll be much bigger than ever before. The BYOC arena will be twice as large as last year and the keynote address and panels are returning, giving new details on upcoming Bethesda games and the wider communities of existing games. The exhibition hall is going to be open all day every day, too, running from Friday through Sunday.

There will be plenty of competitive play in the Esports area of this year’s QuakeCon, as well as in the BYOC arena. And for those who want to see the best players in the world take each other on, the QuakeCon Open will have $200,000 up for grabs and that should bring top-tier Quake competitors to the gaming table.

Tickets for those who want to simply walk around and soak in the atmosphere while visiting the exhibitions will, as usual, be entirely free. Those wanting to join the BYOC party, however, will need to splash out $75 for a ticket. You can also spend $200 or $400 for additional privileges like priority BYOC seating, priority event access, customer service, and a BYOC seating upgrade.

QuakeCon 2018 ticket registrations are coming soon, with the event itself set to take place between August 9 and 12 at the Gaylord Texan hotel in Grapevine, Texas.

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We scanned all the brands to find the best scanners for every need

Looking for a scanner for the office, professional photos, or just your at-home receipts? Today’s digital scanners excel at taking the work out of scanning with a bunch of advanced image optimization and the ability to transfer PDFs immediately to the cloud storage of your choice. They’re an ideal choice when a mobile scanning app just won’t work.

So let’s take a closer look at the top scanners on the market for homes, business, and professional freelancer use—all at a variety of prices so you can find the best one for your budget!

The best

Canon CanoScan LiDE220 ($90)

If your needs are smaller and you don’t want to spend several hundred dollars on a new scanner, this friendly Canon model should be much more your speed. For under $100 it provides auto scan modes, automatic setting adjustment, and document spacing fixes for clearer images. It also includes cloud compatibility with services such as Dropbox and Evernote.

All in all, it’s a quite versatile scanner that’s at home on an office desk or in a personal study room. However, with that low price you are also giving up a lot of speed: It takes the model about 10 seconds to scan one letter-sized page, which is quite slow if you have a lot of paperwork.

Buy it now at:


The rest

Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 ($500)

This speedy Fujitsu model is the ideal choice if you have a lot of documents to scan (and expect to do a lot of scanning for the foreseeable future, too). It use an intelligent scan with color detection, auto rotation for any upside pages, and automatic skipping for blank pages, so you don’t have to waste time organizing every single page. It’s also fast enough to scan up to 25 double-sided pages per minute, and it can handle sizable stacks of records, up to 50 pages at a time. Plus, we’re big fans of the minimalist design and control option s(which include scanning via Wi-Fi. When done, the ScanSnap saves docs as PDFs (or other common formats), and you have an option to send them directly to popular cloud services like Dropbox or Drive.

Overall, it’s an excellent heavier-duty scanner, which is why the price is a bit high for the average office scanner. However, it is almost entirely focused on traditional document scanning as opposed to photos, receipts, or other content, so it may not be the right fit for everyone.

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Visioneer RoadWarrior 4D Mobile Scanner ($132)

For those who like the idea of a mobile scanner, this Visioneer model is one of the best mobile scanners around. It has many of the same capabilities as a more expensive office scanner, including scanning both sides of the page at once, the ability to share scans, and a continuous feed mode for fast work.

It’s a great solution to scanning in receipts and other at-home items with a device that’s good for casual use and can be moved around as needed. However, note that it is USB power only, so you’ll need a computer, laptop, or some other USB port nearby to use this.

Buy it now at:


Epson WorkForce ES-400 ($350)

Maybe you’re looking for a heavy-duty office printer, but for a lower price than some of the models that we’ve talked about. This WorkForce model is more affordable, but still a reliable professional scanner with excellent specifications, including speeds up to 35 pages per minute (at 300 dpi), double-sided scanning, , and a 50-page document feeder.

Cloud scanning options offer uploads to Drive, Evernote, SharePoint and other common choices. You can also enable some smart scanning options like auto cropping and blank page removal, although it’s not as feature-rich as some of our picks.

Buy it now at:


Epson Perfection V800 ($800)

The Perfection is a strong choice if, in addition to document scanning, you also need high-quality photo or image scans. It offers up to 6400 dpi scanning resolution to capture every detail, and offers some great color replication as well. You can also choose between two different lenses, with an extra-high resolution lens to push quality even further.

The model also comes with a number of additional features for photo capture, including a series of film holders, software to adjust the results, and smart dust/scratch removal to get rid of defects in physical photos. On the downside, there’s no feeder option for fast document scanning, so photos need to be your primary focus.

Buy it now at:


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Nvidia shuts down its GeForce Partner Program, citing misinformation

Nvidia’s GeForce Partner Program (GPP) is shutting down due to the company’s unwillingness to battle “untruths” and “rumors” surrounding the platform, the company said on Friday, May 4. The company launched GPP at the beginning of March so that gamers know what they’re buying when shopping for a new gaming PC. With this program, partners would provide full transparency regarding the installed hardware and software in their products. 

“The new program means that we’ll be promoting our GPP partner brands across the web, on social media, at events and more,” Nvidia’s John Teeple said. “And GPP partners will get early access to our latest innovations, and work closely with our engineering team to bring the newest technologies to gamers.” 

Shortly after the launch, unnamed sources from add-in card and desktop/laptop manufacturers came forward to reveal that the program will likely hurt consumer choice. Even more, they worried that some of the agreement language may actually be illegal while the program itself could disrupt the current business they have with AMD and Intel. They also revealed one major requirement: The resulting product sports the label “[gaming brand] Aligned Exclusively with GeForce.” 

As an example, if Asus wanted to add its Republic of Gamers (RoG) line to Nvidia’s program, it wouldn’t be allowed to sell RoG products with AMD-based graphics. Of course, manufacturers can choose whether or not to join Nvidia’s program, but membership supposedly had its “perks” including access to early technology, sales rebate programs, game bundling, and more. 

AMD vice president and general manager Scott Herkelman had something to say without calling the program out by name. To the company’s defense, desktop and laptop manufacturers almost always list the hardware components of their products, thus Nvidia’s program really wasn’t about transparency in the first place. But Herkelman felt the need to pledge that it’s reigniting the freedom of choice. 

Yet he didn’t stop there. Herkelman jumped on Twitter to provide a more heated statement regarding the competition’s partner program. 

“Many of you told me how our competition tries to use funding and allocation to restrict or block your ability to market and sell Radeon based products in the manner you and your customers desire,” he said to AMD’s partners. “I want to let you know that your voices have been heard and that I welcome any others who have encountered similar experiences to reach out to me. Together we can work to ensure that we give gamers what they truly deserve — freedom of choice.” 

According to Nvidia, all it asked of its partners was to “brand their products in a way that would be crystal clear.” The company says it didn’t want “substitute GPUs hidden behind a pile of techno-jargon.” Specifications for desktops and laptops tend to list their graphics components and PC gamers are generally intelligent shoppers that don’t need any clarification. 

Regardless, Nvidia is pulling the controversial program because the “rumors, conjecture, and mistruths go far beyond” the program’s intent.

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What to expect from Microsoft Build 2018: Less Windows, more cloud

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Microsoft Build, an annual conference for developers, will begin on May 7, 2018 and run through May 9. It’s the company’s largest event of the year, hosting over 6,000 developers, but it’s not necessarily the most interesting for fans and tech nerds. This is the gig where a sweaty Steve Ballmer famously chanted “developers, DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS!” until he seemed on the verge of tears.

What that means, put simply, is you shouldn’t expect any big news about Windows, Surface, or other products that cater to home users. That’s particularly true this year. In the past, Microsoft has sometimes shown big new features of upcoming Windows releases – but a big patch just released. We’ll likely see hints at what the next Windows patch looks like but don’t expect anything concrete.

Don’t expect Surface devices

As for Surface?

Microsoft has never made a major Surface product announcement a Build, so it likely won’t start this year. The Surface Pro and Surface Book 2 are still competitive, so we likely won’t see an update for either until fall of this year.

Surface Pro 4 Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

It’s not inconceivable to think Microsoft would tease a new Surface device at the conference. Build wouldn’t be a bad place to briefly talk about the long-rumored Surface Phone, because developers will be interested in it and how to code for it.

Still, that’s a stretch. Build is a hardcore developer conference, and single tickets start at $2,500. Devoting time to a device that doesn’t necessarily impact how developers code for Microsoft products might make the attendees rather cross.

Do expect coding

Microsoft has two keynotes planned for Build. The first is on May 7, the second is on May 8, and both start at 8:30 a.m. Pacific time. The keynotes can be intriguing, as Microsoft often uses them to demonstrate cutting-edge technology or near-future concepts. Just be prepared to sit through coding. Yep. Live coding. On stage.

This coding sessions have infamously become a sore point for tech journalists and Microsoft superfans. Each group would rather see hot new features than watch someone de-bug using the latest version of Visual Studio. Build isn’t for either group. Build is for developers, and developers want to see how a new feature will change the way they work.

While drab, the coding sessions can be insightful. They offer a surprisingly deep look at how Microsoft, and its software, operates. That’s not something you’ll find at Facebook F8 and Google I/O keynotes, both of which are more traditional press conferences.

Get ready to get nerdy

What this all means, in sum, is you’ll need to get nerdy. Real nerdy. Build can be a spectacle, at times, as Microsoft isn’t shy about placing bold demos on stage. At its heart, though, it’s for developers, developers, developers. You’ll learn where the company is going, and what its engineers think the future will look like – not when your next Surface will hit store shelves.

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Wander ‘Burning Man’ in VR with help from the Smithsonian

Despite hosting tens of millions of visitors annually, the Smithsonian remains inaccessible to anyone unable to physically make the trip to visit. That’s why the Smithsonian American Art Museum is partnering with Intel to accelerate efforts in digitizing its 157 million-piece collection. It’s first project will allow attendees to virtually wander the site of the annual Burning Man festival.

As part of the “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man” installation at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in Washington DC, patrons will be able to don VR headsets and visit the Black Rock Desert in Android Jones Deep Playa Experience. Back in the real world, visitors will be able to view everything from sculptures and art to costumes and jewelry that came from the festival. All without getting caked in the desert’s infamous dust. The exhibit runs through January 21st, 2019.

Source: Intel


5G and a whole lot of Benjamins [#acpodcast]


Daniel Bader is back from South Korea, and he has plenty of insight to share with Andrew Martonik and Jerry Hildenbrand about the (finally official) LG G7 ThinQ. But first, Sprint and T-Mobile are merging to become a Voltron of cellular service in the United States. They discuss the business rationale behind this alliance; as well as pros and cons of this news from a customer perspective.

The crew also look ahead with a preview of Google I/O 2018 and new Google Assistant
features on Wear OS. Put this show in your earholes now!

Listen now

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Show Notes and Links:

  • Sprint and T-Mobile are merging
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Google will reportedly revamp News with video and speed tweaks

Google News is getting a major refresh, pulling in features from YouTube and the Play Newsstand magazine app to modernize the product, according to Ad Age. Google has been in talks with publishers over the update, which is expected to debut at the I/O developer conference next week.

The revamp will consolidate Google’s various news services — Play Newsstand is likely to close as part of the move, with Google News getting a new app. The rework will add YouTube’s news section and incorporate the AMP technology Google uses to load pages faster on mobile.

Google is ringing the changes as it places more focus on news. You can already subscribe to some publications using your Google account and it’s placing your subscriptions higher in search results. The company is also investing $300 million to combat the menace of fake news, taking measures like refusing to show search results for publishers that mask their country of origin.

All of these efforts, along with the News revamp, point towards Google trying to strengthen its relationships with publishers. News organizations are facing drops in traffic after Facebook adjusted the News Feed to prioritize posts from friends, giving Google more of an opportunity to become a stronger partner for publishers. If Google embraces this chance, new features could usher in a better News experience for all users.

Source: Ad Age


How much data is Apple collecting from you? Not that much

Not so long ago, a New York Times journalist took a look at just how much Facebook knew about him, and was horrified by the answer. Of course, this little experiment begged the question — how much do the other popular tech companies know about their users? To answer that, Jefferson Graham of USA Today looked into how much data Apple had collected from him, and was quite  surprised by the answer — not that much.

Like many of us, Graham is quite the avid Apple user, and has an iPhone, iPad, and two Mac computers. As such, it seemed likely that the company could have a veritable treasure trove of key information on someone like Graham. But in a pleasant surprise, this was not the case.

Back in March, Apple made it a bit easier for folks to download their iCloud and Apple ID data in order to comply with European Union rules. Folks also now have the option of correcting personal information, deactivating accounts, or deleting them altogether. But unlike Facebook, these accounts aren’t quite as rife with data as you might expect.

As Graham reported, when Apple finally delivered the requested data (it did take quite a while — eight days, to be exact), it was in a zip file that was only 9 megabytes large. Compare that to Graham’s Google and Facebook files, which were 243 and 881 MB respectively. Part of the reason that Apple’s data package is about 1/100th of the size of Facebook’s is that the majority of your Apple-related information is stored locally on your device, not on Apple’s servers. That means that while Apple has records of your downloads, purchases, and device repairs, it does not have access to your search history either by way of Siri or Safari.

This, Apple says, is a testament to just how seriously the company takes user privacy.

As Graham noted, Apple had time stamps of every time he backed up his iPhone, uploaded photos to iCloud, and his email and physical address. The company also had a copy of every app and song Graham had downloaded over the years. However, Apple did not have the questions Graham had asked smart assistant Siri, even though the company does use user queries to make Siri smarter.

How does this work? Apple says that once you ask Siri a question, Apple uses a “random identifier to mask your identity.” So while Apple knows what questions people are asking, none of those questions can be traced back to a particular user.

While Graham’s data file did include his browsing history from his Macs dating back to July of 2017, Apple claimed to not track that information. That means that Apple doesn’t use this data to send targeted advertisements, again, a very different practice from Google and Facebook. That said, the company does use your data to sell targeted ads based on your activity in the News and App Store apps. You can actually see what information Apple is using here by going to Settings, Privacy, then Advertising. If you tap “View Ad Information,” you’ll see who’s targeting you.

While it’s not quite the case that Apple knows and collects nothing about and from its users, it’s quite clear that in comparison to companies that derive their revenue from advertising (which is to say, Google and Facebook), Apple has relatively little user information. And hopefully, that will help you sleep just a little bit easier.


The best Star Wars toys for the tech-focused fan

Just like March 14 always makes us think of pi (or should that be pie?), May 4 has become synonymous with George Lucas’s iconic sci-fi franchise. Playing off the classic catchphrase “May the Force be with you,” May 4 is officially an international day of appreciation for all things Star Wars. To celebrate the occasion — and the upcoming release of Solo: A Star Wars Story — we rounded up some of our favorite tech-focused Star Wars toys, from X-Wing drones to a pint-sized version of BB-8.

‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Electronic Chewbacca Mask ($32)

By now, we’re pretty sure everyone has seen the viral Facebook video with the woman wearing this mask. If you haven’t, however, make sure to check it out, because it’s a roaring good time (get it?). The plastic device does look a lot like Chewbacca, but that’s not why we chose to include it on this list. Opening your mouth while wearing the Wookiee mask will cause Chewbacca’s roar to erupt from it — and it’s absolutely hilarious. And we’re not the only ones who think so. At one point, the mask was so popular that Kohl’s completely sold out of it.

Buy it now from:


Sphero BB-8 ($100)

BB-8 captured the hearts of millions when it was first introduced in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, arguably dethroning R2D2 as the most lovable robot in the entire Star Wars canon. Sphero’s miniature, app-enabled droid is just as cute as the original and can roll around at up to 4.5 mph. The orange-and-white robot also comes equipped with a waterproof shell, an hour of battery life, and a range of up to 100 feet. It can even interact with other Sphero droids and react to the Star Wars films, if you watch them together.

Read our BB-8 hands-on review

Buy it now from:


‘Star Wars: Jedi Challenges’ ($183)

Lenovo offers one of the coolest Star Wars experiences of any tech company, if you’re willing to spend a little more. Star Wars: Jedi Challenges is an augmented reality game that allows you to experience what it feels like to hold and fight with a real lightsaber. In order to play, you need to buy the bundle, which comes with an AR headset that is compatible with most Android and iOS devices, a lightsaber controller, and a tracking beacon. You also need to download the free app onto your smartphone, but once you have properly set everything up, you will be able to mow down Stormtroopers and get your Dejarik on.

Read our full Star Wars: Jedi Challenges review

Buy it now from:


Luke Skywalker FX Lightsaber ($103)

While there are dozens of different FX lightsabers to chose from, you can’t go wrong with Luke Skywalker’s original, green lightsaber from Return of the Jedi. This collector-grade weapon offers authentic sound effects and realistic lighting. It also features an authentic metal hilt, one designed after the blade Mark Hamill used in the 1983 film. Although you probably don’t want to go on an all-out onslaught with this lightsaber, it is sturdy enough for light to medium dueling and will look awesome on display in your home.

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Propel X-Wing Drone ($80)

For anyone who has ever wanted to fly a Star Wars spacecraft, but was unfortunate enough not to be born in a galaxy far, far away, now you can! Propel offers three detailed Star Wars remote-control drones, including an X-Wing, TIE fighter, and a speeder bike. Our favorite of the three is the X-Wing, which uses four miniature motors positioned under the device to keep it afloat. It also has three different speed settings and a T-Mode to accommodate different skills levels. Once you get the hang of the controls, this starfighter can reach speeds of up to 35 mph (yes, really).

Read our full Propel Star Wars Battle Drones review

Buy it now from:


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