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23
Jun

U.S. Customs says biometric entry and exit is coming first to this airport


Entering and exiting an international airport through customs powered by biometrics is becoming closer to reality than science fiction. The Orlando International Airport, the busiest airport in Florida, is slated to be the first U.S. airport using biometrics at both the entry and exit for travelers crossing borders. The airport’s commitment, which doesn’t yet appear to have a completion date, was announced on Thursday, June 21 by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA).

CBP is already testing a facial-recognition exit in 13 airports and arrival at 10 airports, but Orlando International is the first in the country that has made the commitment to implementing both for international travel. The biometric entry and exit uses facial recognition because implementing the cameras has a minimal impact (read: cost) on the airline infrastructure already in place, the CBP suggests. The system verifies the identity of passengers boarding and leaving international flights at the gates, in addition to passing through traditional security when arriving at the airport.

Comparison data for photographs is also already on hand through data from the Department of Homeland Security, another reason the facial recognition was selected out of the biometrics programs researched. The lack of a photograph also alerts airport security, as CBP shared in an early look at the technology. Scanning faces and matching with a photo takes less than two seconds, CBP says, with a 99 percent accuracy rate.

The government mandated research into biometric airport security in 2002, and two years later, required biometric data, when leaving the country, from travelers that aren’t U.S. citizens.

“We are at a critical turning point in the implementation of a biometric entry-exit system, and we’ve found a path forward that transforms travel for all travelers,” CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said in a press release. “The valuable collaboration with stakeholder partners like GOAA has resulted in real momentum and it has brought us to where we are today, the first fully biometric entry-exit deployment at an airport.”

The move comes as airports are seeing an increasing number of travelers and, in turn, increasing wait times through security. While Orlando is the first committing to both biometric entry and exit, the program isn’t the first to implement facial-recognition security. Earlier this year, an airline at Los Angeles International Airport passed testing for a similar system.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Apple stops making AirPort base stations, exits Wi-Fi router business
  • More people are flying than ever, and here’s how the TSA is dealing with surges at airports
  • A.I. border agents could use machine smarts to tell if travelers are lying
  • Louis Vuitton’s luggage tracker tells you if it’s landed in a different country
  • The ForwardX Ovis is the first smart suitcase custom-built to follow you



23
Jun

Security Researcher Discovers Method for Brute Forcing iPhone Passcode in iOS 11


A USB-based vulnerability that allows for the brute forcing of a passcode on an iOS device has been discovered by security researcher Matthew Hickey, reports ZDNet.

The method, which bypasses the 10-entry attempt that erases an iOS device when the setting is enabled, allows a hacker to plug an iPhone or iPad into a computer and send all passcodes, from 0000 to 9999, all at once, triggering an input routine that takes priority over anything else on the device. Hickey demos the hack in the video below.

“Instead of sending passcodes one at a time and waiting, send them all in one go,” he said.

“If you send your brute-force attack in one long string of inputs, it’ll process all of them, and bypass the erase data feature,” he explained.

All that’s required to use this brute force password cracking method is an iPhone or iPad that’s turned on and locked and a Lightning cable, according to Hickey. It works on iOS devices up to iOS 11.3.

Hickey’s iPhone cracking method takes between three and five seconds for each four-digit passcode, which means it’s slow and not as advanced as other passcode cracking methods employed by companies like Grayshift, which makes the GrayKey box. For this method to guess a six-digit passcode, Hickey says it would take weeks.

Apple in iOS 12 is introducing a new USB Restricted Mode that may put a stop to the vulnerability that Hickey has discovered, as well as vulnerabilities exploited by tools like the GrayKey Box.


With USB Restricted Mode, enabled by default on iOS devices running iOS 12, USB access to an iPhone or iPad is cut off if it’s been more than an hour since the device was last unlocked.

That means computers and other accessories can’t be used to access a locked iPhone if it’s been locked for over an hour, disabling access via a USB to Lightning cable.
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23
Jun

Astronomers make huge exoplanet discovery haul in record time


If we ever discover life in outer space, it may be found on an Earth-like planet orbiting a nearby star. Exoplanets have become a focus for many astronomers since they were first discovered three decades ago. But these distant planets aren’t just studied as potential alien home planets — they also help astronomers better understand the features of the universe. To date, some 3,796 have been identified after a recent haul added 80 planetary candidates to the list.

In a paper published online this week in The Astronomical Journal, an international group of scientists reported that dozens of planetary candidates have been identified by measuring light fluctuations using K2, the mission that followed up NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope.

Among the nearly 80 candidates is a planet that orbits the star HD 73344, which qualifies as the brightest host star ever identified by K2. According to data analyzed by the astronomers, the planetary candidate orbits HD 73344 every 15 days. By measuring the amount of light the planet blocks while passing in front of the star, astronomers estimate that the planet is two and a half times the size of Earth, with 10 times more mass. Temperature on the planet hovers around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, comparable to lava erupting from a volcano.

At about 114 light years from us, the planet is relatively close in cosmic terms. And though life as we know it couldn’t exist on its boiling surface, scientists believe the planet could be a good candidate to study exoplanet characteristics, such as atmospheric composition.

“We think it would probably be more like a smaller, hotter version of Uranus or Neptune,” said Ian Crossfield, an assistant professor of physics at  Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who co-led the study.

Eighty planetary candidates is an impressive haul in its own right, but the study is additionally notable for the speed it took to identify the candidates. By running raw data from the K2 mission through existing tools developed by researchers at MIT, the astronomers were able to sift through “lightcurves,” graphs that depict light intensity, from 50,000 stars. Where a typical analysis like this could take months or a year, the recent report was completed in a matter of weeks.

Crossfield referred to the recent study as a “dress rehearsal” for astronomers set to receive data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

“When the TESS data come down, there’ll be a few months before all of the stars that TESS looked at for that month ‘set’ for the year,” Crossfield said. “If we get candidates out quickly to the community, everyone can start immediately observing systems discovered by TESS, and doing a lot of great planetary science. So this [analysis] was really a dress rehearsal for TESS.”

Editors’ Recommendations

  • NASA’s planet-hunting satellite sends back its first image — and it’s amazing
  • Take a VR journey to an exoplanet with NASA’s new ‘Travel Bureau’
  • NASA’s planet-hunting TESS satellite: What you need to know
  • Get your Sagan on with 60 awe-inspiring photos of the final frontier
  • A.I. outperforms astronomers, predicts whether exoplanets will survive



23
Jun

New electronic skin allows bionic limbs to feel pain — and that’s a good thing


Larry Canner/JHU

There’s no doubt that bionic prostheses have evolved by leaps and bounds in recent years, thanks to various technological breakthroughs. But one thing that most of them can’t do is let their wearers feel pain. And although it might seem odd that a prosthesis user would want their bionic limb to convey pain signals, engineers at Johns Hopkins University who have been working on such a device tell us that it’s genuinely useful.

“We created an e-dermis, a new electronic dermis, that goes over the fingertips of a prosthesis. The e-dermis is able to detect something that is painful or not,” Luke Osborn, a graduate student in biomedical engineering who worked on the project, told Digital Trends. “When something that is painful is detected, the prosthesis and the user perceive this sensation and the hand lets go of the object. This is exciting because, for the first time, a prosthesis can feel not only touch but something that is painful as well. The e-dermis is meant to mimic the skin in that it contains different artificial receptors to convey these sensations of light touch or pain.”

It’s easy for us, as non-prosthesis wearers, to think of our limbs as being there to perform certain functions and little more. That’s because we’ve not had the experience of losing sensation in our hands or arms, as is the case with an amputee who has had to adopt a prosthesis. No matter how good it might be at carrying out everyday actions … a bionic limb without sensation is unlikely to feel like an entirely adequate replacement for a missing appendage.

“After many years, I felt my hand, as if a hollow shell got filled with life again,” said the unnamed amputee who tested the e-dermis tech for the team.

To provide its sensory feedback to a prosthesis user, the e-dermis skin turns pressure information into a signal that can stimulate the wearers’ peripheral nerves. The idea is that, when something happens that would cause pain in a real limb, this information is transmitted to the wearer, making the limb feel more lifelike and realistic as a result. This could be useful in scenarios in which the prosthetic limb risks being damaged.

“We have demonstrated the feasibility [of this technology],” Nitish Thakor, professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins, told Digital Trends. “The next steps are a wider range of studies on more amputees and to bring this work to a practical availability to many more amputees.”

A paper describing the work was published in the journal Science Robotics.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Nerve-stimulating algorithm gives prosthetic limbs a lasting sense of touch
  • From drones to bionic arms, here are 8 examples of amazing mind-reading tech
  • An artificial beauty spot could warn you of cancer before symptoms emerge
  • Meet the Australian ‘techno-artist’ growing a web-connected ear on his arm
  • Drug-infused 3D-printed dentures promise to bite back against infections



23
Jun

Tight on space? Here’s how to transfer photos from an iPhone to a computer




Lilly Rum/Unsplash

The iPhone camera gets better with every new iteration, which isn’t surprising given it’s one of the most popular smartphone cameras in existence. As image quality improves and resolution continues to climb, however, you’re going to need more storage space. And with support for RAW images and 4K videos, those files are now even larger. So for shutterbugs who use a 32GB (or smaller) iPhone, how do you maintain creativity without maxing out the storage capacity? You’ll want to learn how to transfer photos from your iPhone to a computer.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to quickly and easily back up your photos to your computer or the cloud, which not only saves you space, but ensures your photos will be readily accessible elsewhere in the event your phone is stolen or breaks. Below are a few of our favorite methods for doing so, whether you want to rely on a direct connection or one of many cloud-based apps. (The processes described here also applies to the iPad and iPod Touch.)

There’s more to Apple’s mobile operating system than you might think. Fortunately, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite iOS tips and tricks in one handy guide.

How to upload your photos using a USB cable

The process for importing and transferring photos from an iOS device basically hasn’t changed for a decade, whether you’re using MacOS or Windows. The process varies slightly between operating systems, but it’s basically just a matter of plugging your iPhone in and clicking the Import button.

MacOS

Step 1: Plug your phone into your computer — either using a 30-pin-to-USB (iPhone 4S or older) or Lightning-to-USB cable — the same way you would if you transferring music from an iPod to a computer.

Step 2: The Photos app should automatically launch, but if not, open the program via Launchpad, Dock, or Applications folder. (Alternatively, launch Aperture or iPhoto if you use those applications.) If your device isn’t automatically selected, you can find it on the left side of the Photos app screen. You could also use the Image Capture app in MacOS to quickly download content from phone to a folder.

Step 3: If using Photos, click the blue Import New button in the upper-right corner, or select the individual photos you wish to transfer before clicking the Import Selected button at the top. You can also check the box beside Delete items after import if you wish to automatically delete the photos on your iPhone after importing.

Once done, select Last Import (located on the left) to view your recently-uploaded images. Keep in mind that Ctrl-clicking an image will also bring up additional options for sharing, favoriting, and editing said images.

MacOS, by default, launches the Photos app whenever a camera, memory card, or device containing photos — like an iPhone, for example — is connected. To disable this, after the first time Photos launches, uncheck the box in the upper-left that says “Open photos for this device” or “Open photos.”

Windows

The iPhone pairs well with MacOS — there’s no doubt there. However, that doesn’t mean Apple has made it difficult for Windows users to access their photos using a program native to their respective OS. The process is nearly identical for Windows 8 and 10 users, so you shouldn’t experience much trouble using any moderately recent Windows OS.

Step 1: Plug your phone into your computer — either using a 30-pin or Lightning cable — the same way you would do so if you were uploading music. (You may also need to install iTunes beforehand.)

Step 2: The Photos app should automatically launch, but if not, open the program using the Start menu or search bar. You may have to unlock your iPhone before moving on.

Step 3: Click the Import button in the upper-right corner, represented by a box with a downward arrow inside. Afterward, check the individual photos you wish to transfer from your iPhone and click Continue in the lower-left corner.

Step 4: Check the box in the resulting pop-up window if you’d like to automatically delete the photos on your iPhone after importing them, or simply click the Import button to transfer the images to your main Pictures folder. Alternatively, click the blue Change where they’re imported link to select a new save destination.

When finished, click the Albums button accessible via the left-hand navigational pane. Then, select Last Import at the top to view, share, or edit any of your recently-uploaded photos.

How to upload your photos wirelessly (on a Mac)

On MacOS, it’s possible to bypass the cable altogether thanks to Apple’s AirDrop. This proprietary wireless transfer protocol makes it easy to send photos from your iPhone to your MacOS computer, be it a single image or a hundred. So long as you have a comparable operating system and computer (a full list of which you can find below), the process is fairly straightforward. If you’re running Mac OSX Lion (10.7) or later, the following computers should be AirDrop compatible:

• iMac (Early 2009 or newer)
• Mac Pro (Mid-2010 or newer)
• Mac mini (Mid-2010 or newer)
• MacBook Pro (Late 2008 or newer)
• MacBook Air (Late 2010 or newer)
• MacBook (Late 2008 or newer)

Step 1: Make sure Wi-Fi is enabled for both devices.

Step 2: On your MacOS computer, open a Finder window and in the left-hand navigation bar, click on the AirDrop label (it should be at the very top, as shown below).

Step 3: On your iPhone, go to the Photos app and select the photo(s) you want to transfer. There’s no limit on how few or how many you can transfer at once, so go wild with it.

Step 4: Tap on the share icon inside the Photos app and wait for the MacOS computer you want to transfer them to to pop up under the AirDrop section of the share dialog. Once the correct MacOS computer appears, tap on it. Depending on your AirDrop settings, you may have to approve the transfer, otherwise it will automatically begin.

Step 4: By default, the photos are stored in your Mac’s Downloads folder. The images won’t be grouped into a folder by default, so it’s up to you to organize the images and store them to keep them safe.

23
Jun

Apple owns up to sticky key problems with free MacBook keyboard repairs


Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Though it might not be a permanent fix to the keyboard problem on the latest MacBook models, Apple has heard the cries from owners of its laptops. As a result of the company’s transition to the new butterfly key switches, MacBook and MacBook Pro owners have reported keyboard issues such as sticky and unresponsive keys. As a solution, Apple will now offer free keyboard repairs or replacements for affected laptops, even if they’re out of warranty.

“Today we launched a keyboard service program for our customers that covers a small percentage of keyboards in certain MacBook and MacBook Pro models which may exhibit one or more of the following behaviors: letters or characters that repeat unexpectedly or don’t appear when pressed or keys that feel ‘sticky’ or aren’t responding in a consistent manner,” Apple said in a statement to 9to5 Mac.

The repair process can be initiated through Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider, and Apple will cover eligible devices for a period of up to four years from the date of purchase. If you’re not near an Apple retail store, you can also mail in your laptop for service. Owners who have previously paid for a keyboard repair will get a refund covering the cost of service.

According to Apple’s support document, the repairs cover the 12-inch Retina MacBook from as early as 2015, the 13-inch MacBook Pro from as early as 2016, and the 15-inch MacBook Pro from as early as 2016. It’s unclear at this time if Apple has implemented any design updates as part of this repair program to prevent similar keyboard problems from surfacing in the future. In the past, an Apple Insider study found that the failure rates for the keyboard were twice as high for MacBook models utilizing the new butterfly switches compared to older models. Additionally, the new butterfly switch keyboards were more likely to require a secondary repair. And because of the complexity of the keyboard design, the repair cost could exceed $700 for out of warranty service.

Because of the high failure rates with the new keyboard design, there have been several class-action lawsuits filed against Apple. One of those lawsuits also alleges that Apple doesn’t have a permanent fix for the problem even after Apple repairs the keyboard. Apple may be working on a solution behind the scenes. A recently published patent reveals Apple is experimenting with a crumb-resistant keyboard. MacBook fans are hopeful that Apple will address the keyboard issue when the company announces a hardware refresh for the laptop that will bring newer Intel processors under the hood.

If you’re in the market for a new MacBook, check out our guide to Apple’s laptops. If you’re not set on a Mac notebook, we also have some suggestions for Apple alternatives.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Apple’s MacBook Pro problem will make you want to backup your files ASAP
  • MacBook Pro owners file class action lawsuit over keyboard issues
  • Failure rate of MacBook Pro ‘butterfly’ keyboards is double that of older models
  • Can we get an apology? Two big MacBook fails that Apple should fix at WWDC
  • The best MacBook Pro you can buy is on sale for $1,000 at Best Buy



23
Jun

Digital Storm Equinox review



Research Center:

Digital Storm Equinox

Digital Storm might not be a household name, but as a PC manufacturer it’s made some of our favorite desktops over the years. The latest laptop from Digital Storm, the Equinox, promises to live up to thatht pedigree with the help of some very impressive hardware.

Featuring an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 16GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q graphics card, with 500GB of storage space and a 1,080p, 144Hz display, the Digital Storm Equinox comes dressed to impress. It will run you $1,875, but there’s more to this laptop than meets the eye.

Slim, simple, with a few secrets

It’s not easy to manufacture laptops. The supply chain needed to make and sell a fully-custom laptop at scale is truly massive, add on top of that the additional research and development budget needed, and it’s clear why smaller companies have trouble manufacturing their own laptops. Because of that, it’s not uncommon to see manufacturers go with off-the-shelf laptop components with external customizations like a new logo sprayed on the back, or a branded sticker on the interior.

There’s nothing wrong with the exterior design here, it’s just a bit dated and one-size-fits-all compared to the bespoke craftsmanship you get from bigger manufacturers, which have the resources to design and produce custom laptop bodies.

That said, there are some advantages to going with an off-the-shelf chassis like this one. If you pop open a Dell or Asus gaming laptop, you’re not guaranteed to find anything inside that can be replaced or upgraded by the user. Most laptops from big manufacturers are designed as closed systems, often times not much more user expandable as your smartphone is. More and more often, RAM and storage are soldered to the motherboard in these systems, so you can’t really pop anything in or out.

There’s one big advantage to going with an off-the-shelf chassis like this one — the ability to upgrade over time.

That’s where the Digital Storm Equinox gets a leg up on the competition. Just remove eleven screws from the back panel and it pops right off. Inside, you’ll find two RAM slots — occupied by a pair of 8GB sticks for a grand total of 16GB of RAM — a full-sized M.2 slot, so you can expand or replace the stock 500GB SSD in there. Plus, there’s a vacant drive bay that would fit a SATA hard drive. To be fair, the Razer Blade 15 also features a replaceable M.2 drive, and replaceable RAM, and that’s great for anyone who wants to lowball the configuration and expand later. But the Equinox has the advantage here on account of that vacant drive bay, and the fact that it’s made from off-the-shelf components so you could feasibly replace just about anything on the inside — if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty.

Even though the Equinox doesn’t have quite the same level of fit and finish you’d find in a gaming laptop from a bigger manufacturer, it does feature a surprising degree of expandability, so this is a machine you’re going to be able to change over time. Not the major components like the GPU or CPU, but there’s room here to upgrade the storage or replace the RAM over time, and those are options you don’t see very often anymore.

More than a few ports

Looking at the Digital Storm Equinox, you might notice that the ports are in unusual locations. They’re slid a little further forward than they might be on other laptops. That’s because of the massive graphics card on the inside, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 requires a lot of space, and a lot of cooling. So the ports have been relocated to accommodate cooling vents and some complex internal topography.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

It features a single USB port on the right side, along with a headphone and microphone jack, an ethernet port and an SD card slot. On the left side, it features two USB-C ports, two more USB-A ports, an HDMI port, two mini DisplayPorts, and the power port. We appreciate that this laptop has more ports than its competitors, especially as we’re starting to see the number of ports dwindle in favor of lighter and slimmer-bodied laptops.

The Equinox manages to make the most of its 144Hz display by keeping the resolution down to a reasonable 1080p.

The keyboard and touchpad both feel responsive, which is impressive for an off-the-shelf chassis. The fingerprint sensor embedded in the touchpad didn’t give us any trouble when we used it to login to Windows, and the touchpad itself feels appropriately slick and smooth. However, it’s very clear this touchpad is metal instead of glass, which we’ve been seeing more commonly on premium laptops. It doesn’t have that sanded-smooth feel we’ve become accustomed to.

Typing on the Equinox’s keyboard feels great. The keys are a tiny bit mushy, but they’re springy and feature a surprisingly deep keystroke. Additionally, the keyboard boasts RGB lighting customizable via included software. There is a bit of light bleed, but it’s intentional because the keys are transparent with opaque black caps on top. It’s a nice effect. In the dark the keyboard looks positively luminescent. Under bright lights, it’s less impressive, but still clearly visible.

Quick and smooth

The Digital Storm Equinox features a 144Hz 1080p display, which is a good fit for its gaming hardware. The GTX 1070 is a powerful graphics card, but few laptops can handle gaming at 1440p or 4K while still hitting the 144 FPS necessary to take advantage of a 144Hz display. Some can, but it’s rare and comes at a cost — these laptops are typically very large and very expensive.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

The Equinox manages to make the most of its 144Hz display by keeping the resolution down to a reasonable 1,920 x 1,080, rather than a more ambitious 1440p or 4K max resolution.

On top of the refresh rate, the Equinox is an unassuming workhorse. The display is sharp and vibrant enough that you’ll never think twice about it. Games are fluid and colorful, with deep, dark shadows and bright, rich highlights.

As you can see in our benchmarks here, the Equinox features a slightly low contrast ratio of 470-to-1. to Colors are bright, shadows are dark, all without losing definition in between, but side-by-side with a higher-contrast display and there’s a clear difference. It’s the tradeoff you get when you opt for a high-refresh-rate display though.

The color accuracy isn’t quite as high as you might want, with average color error hitting 2.56. That might be a problem if you’re doing intensive photo or video editing, but during everyday use it’s low enough that you won’t notice.

The display manages to hit 95 percent of the sRGB color space, and about 71 percent of the more finicky AdobeRGB color space. That’s about what we’d expect from a 144Hz display on a gaming laptop, and it’s right around what we saw on the Alienware 17 R5.

Six-core showdown

Powered by an 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8750H processor, the Digital Storm Equinox just flies through most everyday tasks. With its six-core architecture, the Core i7 handles complex multi-tasking with ease. We never experienced any slowdown even when we had several processor-intensive applications running at the same time.

The extra speed you get out of those six cores is helpful for everyday tasks and productivity suites — Adobe, Microsoft Office, and the like — but it’s not as important for gaming as your graphics card is. So, keep in mind you can get away with a Core i5 in most gaming laptops and a Core i7, like the one in the Digital Storm Equinox, is a little overkill unless you’re going to be doing a lot of work in Adobe Photoshop or Premiere Pro.

Looking at how the Core i7-8750H stacks up to competitors here, you can see that it falls right between the 7th-generation Core i7-7820HK and the latest Core i9-8950HK. It’s a perfect example of what you get out of these three processors and how they differ.

Even under heavy load, running a game at max settings for a few hours, it warms up but never gets hot.

The Core i7-7820HK is quick and nimble, but it’s only a quad-core processor. The Core i9-8950HK is just about the most heavy-duty processor you can get on a laptop today, and its scores illustrate that marvelously. We see a similar distribution in multi-core scores, with the Equinox coming in right in the middle of the lower-end Core i7-7820HK and the higher-end Intel Core i9-8950HK.

Looking at our other performance metrics here, we see the same distribution across the board. If nothing else it’s an excellent reminder that Intel’s chips are very consistent. In our Handbrake benchmark for instance, the Core i9 finished it up in a little over five minutes, while the Equinox and its 8th-generation Core i7 finished it up in just over six minutes.

Expandable and dependable

The Digital Storm Equinox ships with a 500GB Samsung 960 EVO M.2 SSD, which is an absolutely killer choice. We’ve tested them before and they’re typically very quick, the one in our review unit was no exception. This thing is one of the best SSDs on the market, and it comes standard on the Equinox.

With read and write speeds over 1 gigabyte-per-second, you’re never going to feel bottlenecked by this SSD. Moving big files from one place to another is a breeze — but that’s not it. This little drive has one more trick up its sleeve.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

We touched on this a little bit earlier, but the fact that the Digital Storm Equinox has a removable M.2 drive is unusual in a very good way. The Samsung 960 EVO SSD is a great storage solution, but if you’re going to need more space in the future, stepping up to a one or two terabyte drive, you have a few options with the Equinox that you don’t in other laptops.

You can pop it open, remove the Samsung 960 EVO M.2 drive, and replace it with any other M.2 drive. Similarly, the empty SATA slot inside the Equinox would fit a 1TB mechanical drive or SSD perfectly. So, even if this laptop doesn’t have quite enough storage space for your liking, it’s easily expandable, so you DIY-ers out there can upgrade the storage significantly with the removal of just a couple screws.

GTX 1070 versus the world

The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 is a very powerful graphics card, but it has a bad habit of running hot, especially in laptop systems. The version inside the Digital Storm Equinox is a Max-Q version, so it’s been underclocked. That means it isn’t quite as powerful as a non-Max-Q version but produces less heat and requires smaller fans. In the Digital Storm Equinox, the heat-mitigation properties of the Max-Q graphics card are very apparent.

Even under heavy load, running a game at max settings for a few hours, it warms up but never gets hot. Aluminum laptops like the MacBook Pro, Razer Blade, and even the Asus Zephyrus, tend to heat up and become uncomfortably hot to the touch. Thanks to the plastic back plate, the Equinox doesn’t have that problem.

Looking at our benchmarks here, you can see that the Max-Q GTX 1070, underclocked though it is, manages to keep up with its competitors without too much trouble. The GTX 1080 in the Alienware 17 R5 leads the pack, but that’s to be expected. Looking at the Razer Blade 15, which also features a Max-Q GTX 1070 graphics card, you can see that the Equinox is coming well within striking distance.

Digital Storm Equinox Compared To

Dell Inspiron 15 7577

HP Omen 15

EVGA SC17 1080

Razer Blade Pro (2017)

Origin EON15-S

Asus ROG Zephyrus

MSI GS63VR 6RF Stealth Pro

MSI GS60 Ghost Pro

Alienware 15 (2015)

Asus ROG G501

Digital Storm Triton

Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Edition

AVADirect Clevo P157SM-A

MSI Global GT60 Dominator Pro

Lenovo IdeaPad Y500

It’s unclear if the Razer Blade benefits from some unseen advantage here or if it’s just the natural variance you’re going to see between graphics cards — even graphics cards of the same type. But it’s important to point out that the Razer Blade 15 doesn’t blow the Equinox out of the water, it’s a very close race. That’s impressive since the Razer Blade 15 will run you about $800 more than the Equinox.

Not an all-day performer

Here it is, the Achilles’ Heel of most gaming laptops: Battery life. Running powerful hardware requires a lot of power, so even average-sized laptop batteries will often find themselves overburdened by gaming-grade hardware. That’s certainly the case here.

The Digital Storm Equinox offers decent battery life for a gaming laptop, but it’s probably not going to last an entire workday. You might make it to lunch if you’re just doing some Microsoft Office work, or some light photo editing, but you’ll probably want to make sure you bring your charger anywhere you go.

That’s par for the course for gaming laptops. Looking at these battery benchmarks, you can see that some of the heavier-duty gaming laptops will last a bit longer on our tests, but for the most part they land in the same range. The Equinox for instance managed to stay alive for about three and a half hours in our video loop test, that’s not bad for a 54-watt-hour battery. It fell just short of the Alienware 17 R5 which managed about 20 minutes longer on its 68 watt-hour battery — and more power-hungry hardware.

That being said, some other gaming laptops such as the Razer Blade 15 outperform the Equinox by a significant degree here, hitting over 7 hours of battery life on our video loop test. That’s an impressive result and a clear indicator of what you get when you opt for a premium laptop. The Blade is more expensive than the Equinox but you get quite a bit more mileage out of its battery.

Our Take

The Digital Storm Equinox is something of a contradiction. It’s an expensive gaming laptop, but it’s less expensive than similarly outfitted competitors. It’s well-built but not well-engineered, it’s thin but not exactly stylish. However, you’ll be hard-pressed to find this kind of performance at this price point, and for plenty of people, that’s exactly what they want.

Is there a better alternative?

The answer to this question changes depending how you’re looking at the Equinox. If it’s the most expensive laptop on your list, then it’s an excellent deal. You are not likely to find another laptop with this hardware or performance level for a lower price. The MSI GS65 Stealth comes close, offering similar specs for only a marginal price increase. Similarly, the Gigabyte Aero can be outfitted with the same hardware if you don’t mind paying an extra $500 for a sharper chassis.

That said, if the Equinox is the least expensive laptop on your list, you can find this combination of components in a much more attractive and premium chassis. The Razer Blade 15 for instance offers a classy exterior design, and better battery life when compared to the Equinox — but it’s going to run you about $2,600 for the same specs as the Equinox.

There’s also a third angle: If you miss the days of expandable laptops, the Equinox could be the machine you’ve been looking for. You can open it up, upgrade its storage, tinker with its components much more easily than you can with other laptops. That alone gives it an advantage over the competition, if you don’t mind popping this thing open.

How long will it last?

The Equinox features a powerful six-core CPU from Intel’s latest processor generation, and a high-end graphics card that will handle just about any modern game you can throw at it. On their own, these components will keep the Equinox relevant and competitive for at least a couple years, and its greatest shortcoming — storage space — is easily fixed thanks to a full-size M.2 port on the interior of the machine. This is a laptop that begs to be user-customized, tinkered with, and upgraded over time.

The Digital Storm Equinox also ships with a three-year limited hardware warranty, just keep in mind that you might void that warranty if you crack it open to change its internals.

Should you buy it?

Yes, absolutely. At $1,875 it’s not cheap, but it’s is less expensive than similarly-outfitted gaming laptops from Razer, Asus, and Dell. Not to mention, if you’re not intimidated by opening up a laptop to upgrade its components, the Equinox is an excellent choice.

That said, if you’d prefer a laptop with a svelte-and-stylish chassis, it might be worth spending a little extra to pick up the new Razer Blade 15 — or scale down your gaming needs and settle for a Dell XPS 15 with a GTX 1050.

23
Jun

Bethesda lawsuit says Westworld game is ‘blatant rip-off’ of Fallout Shelter


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Alleges developer misused Bethesda’s intellectual property to develop new game for Warner Bros.

Bethesda Softworks has sued Warner Bros. Entertainment and Behavior Interactive over their latest mobile release, Westworld.

As reported by Polygon, Bethesda has filed a lawsuit in Maryland U.S. District Court which alleges the mobile game Westworld, based on HBO’s hit TV series of the same title, is a “blatant rip-off” of its own game, Fallout Shelter, to the extent that it was built using the exact same code.

The lawsuit alleges Behaviour Interactive used code from Fallout Shelter to develop a Westworld game for Warner Bros.

According to the court filings, Bethesda entered into a contract with Behaviour Interactive in 2014 to start development of Fallout Shelter, a mobile simulation game based in Bethesda’s Fallout franchise. Under the agreement, all of Behaviour’s work on the game would be the owned property of Bethesda, but Behaviour would retain “access to source code, game assets, and other intellectual property” related to the development of the game.

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Fallout Shelter was released for iOS and Android in 2015 and quickly amassed millions of downloads. Later, versions of the game were also released on Xbox One, Playstation 4, and Nintendo Switch.

The suit goes on to allege that well after the release of Fallout Shelter, Warner Bros. decided to collaborate with Behaviour to develop a mobile game of its own based on Westworld. Bethesda’s suit alleges Behaviour turned around and used the exact code and assets used to develop Fallout Shelter to create the Westworld game — and they appear to have some rather concrete evidence to back that claim.

From the lawsuit, Bethesda describes a specific bug that was found in a pre-release demo version of Fallout Shelter. The bug was fixed before the public release of Fallout Shelter — but the exact same bug appeared in a demo version of Westworld.

“While this error was ultimately fixed in subsequent builds of FALLOUT SHELTER, the appearance of the bug in the Westworld game demo makes clear that the FALLOUT SHELTER source code was used by Behaviour in developing the Westworld game.”

While it may seem weird to see Bethesda taking another company to court for ripping off Fallout Shelter, a game which itself could be considered a total knock-off of the popular mobile franchise Tiny Tower, the issue here is the specific misuse of intellectual property by Behaviour to develop a game with Warner Bros. and in particular the potential breach of contract between Behavior and Bethesda.

The games are undeniably similar and the question then becomes how much Warner Bros. knew about the existing contract between Behaviour and Bethesda. Bethesda alleges that “Warner Bros. expected and relied on Behaviour’s ability to reuse and/or leverage Bethesda’s computer code, game designs, and other intellectual property” to lay out the groundwork to further develop the Westworld mobile game. We’ll have to see whether this goes to trial or is settled out of court.

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23
Jun

Apple Launches Repair Program for Faulty MacBook and MacBook Pro Keyboards


Apple today launched a keyboard repair program for MacBook and MacBook Pro models equipped with butterfly keys to address complaints over letters or characters that repeat unexpectedly, letters or characters that do not appear, and keys that feel “sticky” or do not respond in a consistent manner.

According to Apple, a “small percentage” of MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards from 2015 to 2017 can experience these symptoms.

Apple says that customers can bring an affected MacBook or MacBook Pro into an Apple retail store or to an Apple Authorized Service Provider to receive repairs free of charge, with the type of service to be determined after the keyboard has been examined.

Repairs may include the replacement of one or more keys or the entire keyboard. Eligible MacBook and MacBook Pro models are listed below:

  • MacBook (Retina, 12-­inch, Early 2015)
  • MacBook (Retina, 12­-inch, Early 2016)
  • MacBook (Retina, 12-­inch, 2017)
  • MacBook Pro (13­-inch, 2016, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2017, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2017, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (15-­inch, 2016)
  • MacBook Pro (15-­inch, 2017)

No other MacBook or MacBook Pro models are included in the program, but it does cover eligible MacBook and MacBook Pro models for four years after the first retail sale of the unit. To initiate the repair process, customers should find an Apple Authorized Service Provider, make an appointment at an Apple retail store, or mail the device into an Apple Repair Center after contacting Apple support. Apple says that if the affected MacBook or MacBook Pro has damage that impairs service, the issue will need to be repaired first.

Customers who experienced keyboard issues but were forced to pay for repairs for their MacBook or MacBook Pro models can contact Apple to inquire about a refund. In some cases, repairs for keyboard issues were priced at upwards of $500.

Apple’s decision to offer a repair program follows increasing customer dissatisfaction with the failure rate of the first and second-generation butterfly keyboards in the 2015 and later MacBook models and the 2016 and later MacBook Pro models.


Customer complaints have suggested that these models experience issues more often than prior keyboards due to the flatter butterfly keys that adopt dome switches for a more responsive feel. The design of these keyboards can cause keys to fail when dust or other small particles get into the keys, leading to the “sticky” and non-responsive keys Apple describes above.

Apple is facing two potential class action lawsuits over the defective keyboards in recent MacBook and MacBook Pro models from customers who were forced to pay high prices for out-of-warranty repairs. Thousands of customers also signed a Change.org petition calling on Apple to fix the keyboard issues that are being addressed in the new repair program.

Related Roundups: MacBook Pro, MacBookBuyer’s Guide: MacBook Pro (Don’t Buy), MacBook (Don’t Buy)
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23
Jun

No more needles? Diabetics could one day treat themselves with a cup of coffee


For diabetics, keeping their illness under control by regulating their blood sugar level is a 24/7 job. But one day, it could be as simple as having a cup of coffee after a meal.

That’s thanks to scientists from ETH Zurich in Switzerland, who have been working to engineer cells capable of releasing crucial (and potentially lifesaving) insulin whenever they detect the presence of caffeine.

“We have engineered human cells to sense caffeine and correspondingly produce glucagon-like peptide 1, [also known as] GLP-1,” Martin Fussenegger, professor in the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering at ETH Zurich, told Digital Trends. “The designer cells are encapsulated in beads of half a millimeter in diameter, made of alginate, a clinically licensed algae hydrogel. When implanted into the body, the designer cells are protected from the host immune system, and are connected to the bloodstream so they can sense caffeine and release GLP-1 into the bloodstream.”

The GLP-1 that Fussenegger refers to is a protein therapeutic that triggers the insulin release in type-2 diabetic patients. Its action is considered superior to the injection of insulin, since GLP-1 does not lead to hypoglycemia, more commonly known as low blood sugar levels. At present, the ETH Zurich team’s engineered cells have only been tested in mice as a proof of concept, although human trials are hoped to follow, after trials with larger animals.

For the study, the researchers used Nespresso capsules, as well as standard types of coffee, including brand-specific ones such as coffee bought from Starbucks. It did not work with chocolate drinks since these do not have enough caffeine to trigger the system.

“In the future, lifestyle and therapy will merge to the extent that type-2 diabetic will no longer realize that they are sick,” Fussenegger said. “[This is] because the designer cells and [patients’] normal habit to consume caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea will control their blood glucose levels more naturally than finger-prick tests and insulin injection. Due to the better fine-tuning of blood glucose homeostasis, we also expect fewer complications and side effects when treating type-2 diabetic patients.”

A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.

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