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29
Jul

Leaked Images Depict 6.5-inch ‘iPhone X Plus’ and 6.1-inch LCD iPhone Dummy Units


Serial mobile leaker Benjamin Geskin today shared images depicting what he claims are dummy units of Apple’s upcoming 6.5-inch “iPhone X Plus” and mid-tier 6.1-inch LCD iPhone.

Images of iPhone dummy units have become something of an annual tradition in the rumor mill and these pictures come at the expected time in the yearly iPhone cycle, just a couple of months ahead of Apple’s usual September-October launch timeframe.

2018 iPhone X Plus (6.5-inch) and iPhone (6.1-inch) Dummy Models. pic.twitter.com/QrgkT6u0vS

— Ben Geskin (@VenyaGeskin1) July 29, 2018

Dummy units are usually based on chassis design schematics sourced from the Chinese supply chain, and like previous years, these images conform with details we already know.

Apple is expected to launch two flagship OLED iPhones this year that measure in at 5.8 and 6.5 inches. The latter model shown in the leaked images features the same vertically oriented dual-lens rear camera as the current iPhone X. One uncorroborated report claimed the 6.5-inch iPhone will use a triple-lens camera setup, but that’s actually something that’s been rumored for the 2019 iPhone lineup.

Apple is also expected to debut a lower-cost 6.1-inch device that features an LCD display to keep the price tag more affordable. As predicted, the 6.1-inch dummy unit in the images has slightly larger bezels to accommodate the lower-spec LCD panel.


As a mid-range device, the 6.1-inch model will feature some iPhone X features including Face ID, but Apple is planning to make other compromises apart from the screen to keep the cost down. The single-lens rear camera shown in the images is the most obvious of these. Apple is also believed to be using aluminum for the frame of the 6.1-inch device instead of steel.

While the current iPhone X is limited to Space Gray and Silver, well-connected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes the next-generation iPhone X models will be available in Black, White, and Gold. The 6.1-inch model however could come in a wide array of colors, including red, blue, orange, gray, and white.

Kuo believes the 6.1-inch LCD device will be priced at around the $700 to $800 mark, similar to the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus. RBC Capital Markets analyst Amit Daryanani believes Apple will sell the iPhone X Plus at $999, the price of the current iPhone X, while the next-generation iPhone X could sell for $899.

Related Roundup: 2018 iPhonesTag: Ben Geskin
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29
Jul

G-Sync vs. FreeSync


Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

If you’ve ever experienced screen tearing in a PC game, you know how annoying it can be. An otherwise perfectly-rendered title totally ruined by gross horizontal lines and stuttering. You can turn on V-Sync, but if you don’t have a high-end system, it can put a huge dent in your performance.

Both Nvidia and AMD have stepped up to try and solve the issue while preserving framerates, and both manufacturers have turned to adaptive refresh technology for the solution. But let’s break it down to show which is a better option for you.

Performance

G-Sync and FreeSync are both designed to smooth out gameplay, reduce input lag, and prevent screen tearing. They have different methods for accomplishing these goals, but what really sets them apart is that one is closely guarded, and the other is openly shared. While Nvidia’s G-Sync is enabled by including a chip in the construction of the monitor, FreeSync uses the video card’s functionality to manage the refresh rate of the monitor using the Adaptive Sync standard built into the DisplayPort standard.

The result is a difference in performance.

Users have noted that although tearing and stuttering are reduced with FreeSync enabled, some monitors exhibit another problem: Ghosting. As objects move on the screen, they leave behind a bit of the image of their last position like a shadow. It’s an artifact that some people don’t notice at all, and really annoys others.

There are a lot of fingers being pointed at what might be causing it, but the physical reason for it is power management. If you don’t apply enough power to the pixels, your image will have gaps in it, too much power, and you’ll see ghosting. It’s hard to balance the adaptive refresh technology with proper power distribution.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Both FreeSync and G-Sync also start to suffer when the framerate isn’t consistently syncing within the monitor’s refresh range. G-Sync can show problems with flickering at very low framerates, and while the technology usually compensates to fix it, there are exceptions. FreeSync, meanwhile, has stuttering problems if framerate drops below a monitor’s stated minimum refresh rate. Some FreeSync monitors have an extremely narrow adaptive refresh range, and if your video card can’t deliver frames within that range, problems arise.

Most reviewers who’ve compared the two side-by-side seem to prefer the quality of G-Sync, which does not show stutter issues at low framerates, and thus smoother in real-world situations.

Selection

One of the first differences you’ll hear people talk about when it comes to adaptive refresh technology, besides the general rivalry between AMD and Nvidia, is the difference between a closed and an open standard. While G-Sync is proprietary Nvidia technology, and requires the company’s permission and cooperation to use, FreeSync is free to use, and implementing it is a goal of the program, not a way to make money. Thus, there are more monitors available with FreeSync support.

On the other hand, G-Sync has been around longer, and it’s also managed by Nvidia, the current leader in GPU manufacturing. That may prevent AMD’s lead in compatible monitors from extending, but right now it still has the upper hand.

Either way, you can’t mix and match between the two technologies. While the monitors themselves will work irrespective of the brand of graphics card, the FreeSync and G-Sync features specifically require a same-brand GPU.  You have to choose whether you want to go with Nvidia or AMD, and then purchase a monitor and GPU accordingly.

If you go the Nvidia route, the module in the monitor is going to handle a lot of the heavy lifting involved in adjusting the refresh rate. That’s going to be reflected in the price you pay for the monitor, since each manufacturer has to pay Nvidia for the hardware. The upside is that the technology has been readily available since early 2014, so it’s available in monitors as cheap as $350, like the Acer Predator XB241H.

The G-Sync module also does most of the heavy lifting, so as long as your monitor is compatible, you can use lower end cards. Nvidia lists the compatible options, which range from the Titan X and 1080 Ti all the way down the 1050, which retails for as little as $150.

Asus
Asus

You won’t end up paying much extra for a monitor with FreeSync. There’s no premium to the manufacturer to include it, unlike G-Sync. As such, FreeSync in the mid hundreds frequently come with a 1440p display and a 144Hz refresh rate (where there G-Sync counterparts might not), and monitors without those features can run as low as $160.

You’ll also need a card that supports FreeSync. As with G-Sync, you have the option of purchasing an Nvidia card AMD offers cards at many different price points, from their top-of-the-line RX Vega 64, retailing at almost $900, all the way down to their RX 400 series, and all are FreeSync capable.  For $100, you can install an Rx 460, and AMD even manufactures processors with integrated graphics that support FreeSync.

Conclusion

Without any other components, you should expect to spend at least $500 on a G-Sync compatible monitor and graphics card, more if you want to step up to a graphics card that can actually handle 4K gaming. For a little more than $400, you can get into the base level of FreeSync’s compatibility, with the aforementioned VG245H and a card like the Radeon RX 550 that will squeeze out 1080p gaming with decent performance.  The good news with AMD is that, up to the RX 580 (which is a great card for 1440p gaming), price points are comparable to Nvidia cards.  That means you’ll be able to get an equally powerful GPU without the G-Sync premium.

Given the price gap, you might wonder why anyone would prefer G-Sync. The answer is simple — it’s superior. Nvidia’s adaptive refresh technology just delivers more consistent overall performance. It’s also worth noting that, when it comes to high performance and 4K gaming, Nvidia video cards are currently the performance king. Going with FreeSync, and thus buying an AMD Radeon card, might mean purchasing hardware that delivers less bang for your buck.

Ultimately, both of these technologies largely accomplish their goals and deliver an experience that’s superior to V-Sync. Your choice will depend on whether you prefer value or a top-notch gaming experience.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • What is G-Sync? If you’re a gaming fan, you’ll want to know
  • Samsung 2018 QLED TVs update adds FreeSync, but limits refresh rates
  • The best gaming monitors
  • Asus ROG Swift PG279Q review
  • The best ultrawide monitors of 2018



29
Jul

Pokémon Go vs. Ghostbusters World: Which should you play this fall?


Pick your favorite franchise and go crazy

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With the release of Ghostbuster World just around the corner, you may be wondering what game you should devote your time to Pokémon Go or Ghostbusters World, after all, there is only so much outdoor video gaming you can do in a day isn’t there? Having played an early build of Ghostbusters at Comic-Con this week we thought we would take the time to lay out the similarities and differences in the games to help you choose what’s right for you.

An Overview

Pokémon Go is a real-world based mobile game where you walk the world collecting Pokémon, battling in raids, collecting stuff from Pokestops, small digital signposts based on real-world landmarks, and trading and sharing with friends as you play. There is obviously a lot more to the game which will get into in moment but that is the gist of it. Its popularity stems from the nostalgia of the Pokémon franchise, as well as the health benefits of walking around to hatch eggs.

Ghostbusters is a real-world mobile game but this time you get to battle ghosts from the original movie franchise as well as the games, cartoons and comic books that make up the lore. While feeling very similar to Pokémon Go in some ways, essentially they are both “Catch a thing in AR” games, they are some very clear differences that may make people who didn’t enjoy Pokémon Go think about playing Ghostbusters.

The Game Map

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Ghostbusters has a world map that is plugged directly into Google Maps new Gaming APIs giving the game a very high degree of accuracy, so high in fact it can use the 3D models from Google Maps to show the buildings around you. This adds quite a lot of immersion to the game as well, making you physically move around buildings to find the ghosts that inhabit the world before you can engage them.

Pokémon Go, on the other hand, uses a flat map that, although it does show you the streets and outlines of buildings, does let the Pokémon spawn anywhere on that map, including in lakes and rivers. The flatness does help with seeing large areas however and it is nice to see to see Pokestops and Gyms off in the distance, giving you a goal to reach. Pokémon Go also has the added bonus of weather effects which mirror the real world, so if it is raining in your town, it’s raining in Pokémon Go too. Not only does this add bonuses to your Pokémon but it adds a really immersive touch to an otherwise fairly mundane map.

Augmented Reality

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The use of augmented reality is sometimes considered a gimmick but with games that are based out in the real world, they make you feel a part of the game in such a unique way. In Pokémon Go, the AR allows you to see the Pokémon you are trying to catch in the world around you but without any true interaction. Pokémon Go has been around for a while now, before the release of ARCore so the Pokémon seem to float in space as opposed to being connected to their surroundings. This may change however as Niantic, the makers of Pokémon Go, have recently been working on some awesome occlusion technology that will incorporate real-world objects into AR with more realism than ever before.

Ghostbusters World is built from the ground up with Google’s ARCore and Apple’s ARKit in mind. Before you start any battle with a ghost you scan the world with a PKE meter. This is just a fancy way of allowing the camera to detect the floor, but it fits so perfectly within the framework of the game it made me chuckle each time I did it. Because of the more advanced AR technology, the ghosts feel, ironically, more tethered to the real world. When you the ghosts fly around they never sink under the floor and they cast a glow on it as they fly over. Even the trap, when you roll it out runs along the floor in a convincing way adding depth to the game. When you play the games side by side you can really see the advancements using ARcore and ARkit have brought to these types of games.

Portals/Pokestops

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Real-World games need something visible in the real world for a player to go to and interact with. In Pokémon Go, they use Pokestops and gyms that have been created using Niantics other game, Ingress, portal data. These portals were added by players when the game first came out and was used to populate both games with that physical link the Land of the Real. The Pokestop and gym system works very well in my eyes, especially as they give me points to walk to, creating a healthy goal as I play. I use the Pokestops to map out my walks through my town to maximize both my walking and my Pokemoning.

Ghostbusters World offers portals as well though I’m unsure where they are going to get the data to have them widespread around the physical world, after all, they don’t access to Niantics data. I wonder if the Google Maps API offer information on local landmarks that might be used to create the portals. Dimension Portals will be even more important in GBW as the missions actually involve moving to the doors to complete them. With no step tracking, it feels less likely that I will walk between stops for missions, after all, I can drive around and complete more missions quicker right? I think I will exercise less with Ghostbusters.

Combat

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Let’s face it, combat in Pokémon Go is pretty stale. You spin a ball and throw it at a Pokémon and hope to catch it. Even the gyms are the barest minimum of combat compared to the game it is based on. I’m sure I’m not the only person who had hoped for a more well-rounded combat system but we got what we got and we put up with it.

Combat in Ghostbusters World is a little more in depth, you actually get to choose weapons that are best suited to the ghost you fight as well as being able to counter there attacks and use special attacks to reduce their stamina. This makes capturing a ghost feel a lot more satisfying, even sliding the trap out and pulling the ghost in, takes timing and a little work to accomplish. Then there is PvP. Though I didn’t get a chance to play with the PvP in my hands-on the developer did say that we would be fighting each other using ghosts we have caught in the game, which sounds like a whole heap of fun to be had in a group while waiting for the Raids.

More: Hands-on with Ghostbusters World

Raids

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Ghostbusters Worlds raids are going to be a lot of fun. While Pokémon Go raids are enjoyable to meet a group of like-minded people to take down a big bad there is little in the way of actual teamwork needed, a quick chat about what Pokémon types to use and you are good to go. The actual Raid itself is no different to the normal gym battle, it just has more people.

Ghostbusters raid, on the other hand, feels more like a boss fight in a video game —There are separate attack phases and little marshmallow people attack you! —and communication will be key. By actually talking to the people you raid with you can coordinate attack and defense to take down whichever terrible ghosts they use to terrorize your neighborhood, and they actually do terrorize your neighborhood, you have to chase them around to fight them.

So which should you play?

Now remember I have been playing Pokémon Go from day ne and have only spent an hour on Ghostbusters World but for my money, I think Pokémon Go may become relegated to special event days and signing in to get my streaks once a day when Ghostbusters World hits the Play store. I really enjoyed my time with it and it just feels more like a full game rather than a step counter with some game mechanics.

Maybe the nostalgia of Ghostbusters is stronger for me than the nostalgia of Pokémon but I think I want to be the one you’re gonna call, rather than be the one who catches them all.

Android Gaming

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29
Jul

Bixby’s reputation is tarnished beyond repair


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A weak launch and lots of dissatisfied customers left a permanent mark.

Samsung announced its Bixby digital assistant with the Galaxy S8 and S8+ in April 2017. At the time, our review of the phones referred to Bixby as “undercooked” — that was an understatement. Bixby Voice wasn’t even available at launch, so you were left with Bixby Home, Bixby Vision and some basic reminder features. Samsung’s ambitions were huge, and while everyone was harsh on Bixby for its failings, it was at least given the benefit of the doubt considering many of its promised features had yet to be deployed.

Later in the year we got the Galaxy Note 8, well after Bixby Voice had launched to little fanfare. Bixby was but a footnote of the phone’s announcement and wasn’t at all present in its marketing — and as a product, it wasn’t a compelling part of the Note 8’s experience. I reviewed the Galaxy S9 with just a few sentences mentioning that Bixby exists and it can be disabled — that’s all it deserved. Even with months of extra work, Bixby Home was still slow, Bixby Voice was cumbersome and the “smart” proactive features basically didn’t exist.

Not much has changed.

How to completely disable Bixby

galaxy-s9-bixby.jpg?itok=B5vi1ewc

In an attempt to broaden my horizons and keep up with trends, I’m highly observant of phones being used by “regular” people. Every time I’m out of the house, I’m looking to see what phones people are using, and how they’re using them. I ask my friends and family all sorts of questions about their smartphone habits. Between the Galaxy S8/S8+, Note 8 and S9/S9+, Samsung has sold well over 100 million devices that have a Bixby button and have the assistant. Yet for all of the phone use I’ve observed and questions I’ve asked, I don’t see or hear from anyone using Bixby. A highly unscientific poll of my tech-forward Twitter followers shows Bixby to be more of a punchline than anything else. Yes people are using Bixby — Samsung has numbers to prove it — but it isn’t particularly widespread.

The fact that people have forgotten about Bixby has been a positive for Samsung.

Sad as it sounds, the fact that people have largely forgotten about Bixby has been a positive for Samsung. As soon as the company capitulated and gave users the choice to completely disable Bixby, it stopped being a point of conversation when talking about Samsung’s phones — which is a good thing, because the discussion was overwhelmingly negative.

That kind of points to the core problem with Bixby at this point, beyond the fact that it isn’t particularly great as a product. Even if it were to dramatically improve, nobody would find out organically — because they’ve already just disabled it and have absolutely no intention of giving it another chance. Though Samsung continues to develop Bixby, it’s now playing in a world where people either have no idea it exists or had a poor first impression and never came back. Much like what Apple faced with Siri over the product’s first few years, there’s a ridiculously uphill battle ahead to overcome that much bad public perception.

Bixby hasn’t been able to get into the public consciousness the way Assistant, Siri and Alexa have.

Google’s Assistant, Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa have been able to jump over the line to general consumer consciousness in a relatively short amount of time. Bixby hasn’t been able to make the same sort of jump in over 18 months with three major phone launches offering the software. At some point, you start to wonder if Samsung is content to keep Bixby on its very pedestrian pace of development, or if there’s any value at all in giving it a strong push back into view of the average person buying a high-end phone today. (And I sure don’t think a Bixby-powered speaker is the way to do it.)

As we head into the Galaxy Note 9’s launch on August 9, I wonder what, if any, emphasis will be put on Bixby. It’s fully expected that Samsung will keep plowing away with the feature, including a Bixby button and prominent placement as part of the home screen experience. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we heard no mention of Bixby in the announcement. And perhaps that’s for the best until Samsung can show a massive leap in quality for the much-maligned digital assistant.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

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29
Jul

Best Headphones for Oculus Go


The sound is the key to immersion.

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With the Oculus Go picking up steam, there are some extra things that you might want for a better experience overall. Whether it’s extra battery or better sound, these simple things can add up and really change your immersion. When it comes to sound for VR, it’ll change your entire immersion by having a good set of headphones to hear every little sound. These are the best options for headphones in order to make sure your VR experience is the best.

  • Best overall
  • Best over the ear
  • Best earbuds
  • Best Bluetooth

Best Overall: Bose QC 35

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The Bose QC 35 II headphones are one of the best options for noise-canceling headphones on the market right now. These headphones have incredible sound as well as 20 hours of battery so you can continuously play VR without any interruption of sound. They come equipped with a 3.5mm cable to ensure that you have the best-wired experience. If you prefer cordless, don’t worry, there are Bluetooth options as well.

You can pick up your own headphones for $349, which is more expensive than the other options, but they’re worth every dollar.

Bottom line: With dual speakers and the best noise canceling options out there, no headset will bring you a better immersion than these.

See at Amazon.

Why Bose QC 35 II’s are the best headphones

The Bose QC 35 II have an over-the-ear design with soft padding for extended uses. With their phenomenal noise canceling abilities it’s easy to immersive yourself into your favorite games or streaming apps. This, combined with their volume-optimized EQ means you’ll never want for anything when it comes to the perfect sound.

It doesn’t even stop there. The headphones themselves aren’t the only noise canceling part of these headphones. Their dual-microphone system means noise won’t go into your mic that you don’t want to either. Then, if you’re streaming to Facebook for your friends to see your game, and you want the noise of your game to be included for them to hear, you can adjust the noise-canceling sensitivity.

There is 20 hours of Bluetooth battery and 40 hours if you plug them into your Oculus Go instead. That’s much longer than your Oculus Go battery itself! This means you connect these headphones to your cell phone, have a 10-hour conversation with your Mom where she won’t say Goodbye and actually hang up, play on your Oculus Go and then still have hours left to listen to your favorite music. These headphones seem steep in price, but they are definitely worth the investment.

Best over the ear: Avantree

avantree-black-headphones%20-%20edited.j

Avantree creates great headphones for all different uses, and they’re a great option for VR. These Avantree headphones are perfect because of the 20 hours of battery as well as superior sound and lightweight fit. They also come with a 3.5mm cable so that you can plug them right into your headset or use the Bluetooth options.

These headphones are a great buy for only around $40.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for the most comfortable experience you want these over-the-ear headphones.

See at Amazon.

Best earbuds: Symphonized NRG

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The Symphonized earbuds are noise canceling to help your VR experience become that much more immersive. If you’re looking to stream your gameplay to your Facebook friends these are perfect with a microphone and volume control built into their cord.

You can pick these up earbuds for your Oculus Go for $24.47

Bottom line: For immersion, streaming and easy storage these are the best earbuds for you.

See at Amazon.

Best Bluetooth: ESTAVEL

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Maybe you want to get rid of the pesky cable that drags over your chest when you’re trying to play your games. For just a couple dollars more than the Symphonized set you can get a pair of Bluetooth earbuds. The best part? These earbuds also have a mic and volume control built into the small cable that is made to go around the back of your neck.

For $27.99, these are a great option to travel with when you’re going around with your Oculus Go.

Bottom line: They aren’t noise canceling, but they get rid of the hassle of a cable while still giving you more control than your average pair of headphones.

See at Amazon.

What headphones will you be picking up?

Let us know in the comments below what you’re most excited about with the Oculus Go.

Updated July 2018: We’ve added better options with even better prices. Which headphones did you decide on buying?

Oculus Go

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29
Jul

Inmates hack prison service JPay tablets to the tune of $225,000


Prisoners in five Idaho correctional institutions hacked JPay tablets for almost a quarter million dollars in credits, the Associated Press reported. In all, 364 inmates allegedly exploited the tablet’s software for $225,000.

JPay handheld computer tablets supplied to Idaho prisoners provide a means to email families and friends, video chat, watch educational videos, and download and play purchased games and music.  The tablets, which are supplied by contract with CenturyLink and JPay, do not allow internet access.

Family and friends can use JPay to transfer funds to inmates to use as credits for the JPay system. JPay and CenturyLink say the prisoners exploited a software vulnerability to bump up their credit balances.

CenturyLink spokesperson Mark Mozen said the vulnerability has been resolved, but the company won’t provide details it considers proprietary information.

In a  statement, JPay spokesperson Jade Trombetta said: “JPay is proud to provide services that allow incarcerated individuals to communicate with friends and family, access educational programming, and enjoy positive entertainment options that help prevent behavioral issues.

“While the vast majority of individuals use our secure technology appropriately, we are continually working to improve our products to prevent any attempts at misuse.”

Fifty of the 364 accumulated more than $1,000 in credits, said Idaho Department of Corrections spokesperson Jeff Ray. One inmate had almost $10,000 in hacked credits.

Ray said a special investigations unit discovered the problem earlier this month. Ray also stated that no taxpayer dollars were involved in the thefts.

“This conduct was intentional, not accidental. It required a knowledge of the JPay system and multiple actions by every inmate who exploited the system’s vulnerability to improperly credit their account,” Ray said in a statement.

Inmates involved in the hacking activity can still send and receive emails, but their ability to download games and music has been cut off until they make good on the thefts. To date, JPay has recovered more than $65,000 in credits.

The Department of Corrections filed disciplinary offense reports onthe alleged hackers. The inmates could potentially lose prison privileges and be reclassified to higher risk levels.

Prisons in the United States have four major purposes: retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, and rehabilitation. Education is an essential element of inmate rehabilitation, but teaching prisoners how to hack computer systems was never part of the plan.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Could this Z-Wave vulnerability put millions of smart home devices at risk?
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  • Pay-n-pray cybersecurity isn’t working. What if we just paid when it works?



29
Jul

Move over, Spider-Man! Spider silk can be used to build armor and repair nerves


When you picture the kind of next-gen materials that excite scientists, chances are spider silk isn’t near the top of the list. As it turns out, however, the unusual mechanical qualities of spider silk — ranging from its high tensile strength and toughness to its lightweight flexibility — make it an extremely versatile material.

Here are some of the amazing things researchers are using spider silk for right now. And, no, despite what you’ve read in Spider-Man books, catching supervillains isn’t one of them!

Delivering life-saving drugs

Immune cells that ingested spider silk nanoparticles (in green). The endosomes – the part of the cell in which the nanoparticles release the vaccine – appear in blue. Laboratoire Bourquin/UNIGE.

Could spider silk one day help battle cancer? Quite possibly, if one recent Swiss-German project is to be believed. Researchers have developed microcapsules made of balled-up artificial spider silk, which could soon be used to deliver vaccines directly to patients’ immune cells to fight cancerous tumors.

“Spider silk is light and very resistant,” Professor Carole Bourquin, a specialist in anti-tumor immunotherapies who worked on the project, told Digital Trends. “It does not induce any inflammation or immune reaction in itself. We found that amazingly the microparticles can withstand high temperatures of more than 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit) for several hours. This suggests that they may protect vaccines in developing countries where refrigeration is frequently a problem for conventional vaccines.”

Creating better hearing aids

Researchers from New York’s Binghamton University are using spider silk to improve the quality of hearing aid microphones. The idea is that ultra-sensitive spider silk can pick up the velocity of air instead of just its pressure, due to its extreme thinness. By coating the spider silk with gold, and placing it in a magnetic field to obtain an electronic signal, the researchers were able to create a microphone able to operate at an impressive range of frequencies.

“Today’s miniature directional microphones sound bad because their response varies strongly with frequency,” Ronald Miles, a professor in Binghampton’s department of mechanical engineering, told Digital Trends. “They tend to lose low-frequency sounds and respond mostly to very high-frequency sounds. Our technology will enable the creation of directional microphones that have audiophile quality. We’ve shown that their frequency response is flat from 1 Hz to 50 kHz. This has not been possible until now.”

Helping repair damaged nerves

Spider Silk at the microscopic level

In addition to better hearing aids, spider silk has other potential applications for people with disabilities. In Austria, researchers are investigating the use of the ultra-strong spider silk of the golden orb-weaver spider from Tanzania to help heal severe nerve injuries. The microsurgical technique involves filling veins with spider silk to help guide nerves as they repair.

“Unfortunately, most materials have the effect of inhibiting nerve growth,” Christine Radtke, a professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Austria’s MedUni Vienna/Vienna General Hospital, told Digital Trends. “Spider silk, on the other hand, is a material that nerves love. They will attach to it, and then follows the fibers directly. It’s like a rose trellis.”

Making impact-absorbing body armor

A batch of artificial spider silk fibers. Lena Holm

Researchers from the U.K.’s University of Cambridge have designed artificial spider silk which could be used for creating ultra-lightweight, but incredibly strong shields. In tests, their material has been shown capable of dissipating close to 70 percent of the energy if impacts.

This is a property real spiders need to have in their silk to absorb the impact of insects hitting their webs. Potential applications for this technology include everything from impact-absorbing helmets for cyclists, football players, and skateboarders to potential armored vests for use by police or soldiers.

Creating fake skin

Graphic showcasing spider silk’s utilization in creating artificial skin

In the comics, Spider-Man has occasionally dealt with broken or injured arms by creating a sling for himself out of spider web. Researchers from Sweden and India recently took this idea one step further by using spider silk to develop wound dressings and even artificial skin to help heal wounds.

The dressings could be used to treat chronic wounds like diabetic foot ulcers, while the artificial skin could be used for skin grafts in the case of critical third-degree burns. It could also be employed as a skin substitute to screen certain drug molecules for the cosmeceutical industry. Noted scientist Peter Parker would be proud!

Producing even stronger spider silk

You know what material is even more versatile than spider silk? That’s right: graphene, the 2D wonder material consisting of a single layer of carbon atoms laid out in a hexagonal arrangement. While spider silk is impressively strong, graphene is in another league entirely — being touted as the strongest material known to exist, 200x the strength of steel.

In their efforts to make new supercharged version of regular spider silk, researchers at the University of Trento, Italy fed spiders a diet partially comprised of graphene — and then watched what happened. The nanomaterial-laced silk wound up being 3x the strength and 10x the toughness of the silk spiders produce in the wild.

No applications have been demonstrated yet, but it’s easy to imagine how this could be deployed in conjunction with some of the other use-cases on this list.

Making the clothing material of the future

With spider silk’s combination of stretch, stretchiness and sustainability, there’s no wonder it’s in demand from clothing designers. While it’s still somewhat uncommon, spider silk has already attracted the attention of some big names in the industry.

Previously, we’ve written about a fully biodegradable spider silk shoe developed by Adidas, as well as a North Face prototype “Moon Parka” jacket that’s made out of much the same material. How long before spider silk starts showing up elsewhere on the high street?

Helping astronauts move in microgravity

This one’s really more of an honorary mention, because it doesn’t include real spider silk — but, rather, is inspired by the way that spiders spin silk to move around. Created by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the so-called Orbit Weaver device is a Spider-Man-style web shooter designed to let astronauts more easily pull themselves from location to location in zero or microgravity conditions.

“The device shoots a string out with a magnetic tip,” Xin Liu, the arts curator at the MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative, told Digital Trends. “Once the tip is in contact with a steel panel, it secures the attachment due to magnetic forces. Then the device will rewind, like a fishing spoil but reversed, and drag the wearer. Because you are technically weightless, it doesn’t need much torque to pull a person around with such a small device.”

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Spider silk microcapsules could deliver vaccines to help battle cancer
  • Spider silk could be used to create artificial skin to help heal wounds
  • Sorry, Spider-Man! Newly developed bio-fiber is even stronger than spider silk
  • Moving around in zero gravity is hard. MIT’s solution? Spider-Man’s web shooter
  • ‘Spider-Man’ hands-on preview



29
Jul

How to care for your laptop’s battery


Who doesn’t have a love/hate relationship with their laptop battery? It lets us be mobile, but it also chains us to that little battery life gauge and the dreaded decay of performance as time goes on.

But by following certain best practices, you can move the relationship more firmly toward the “love” side.

Save cycles, save your battery

All laptop batteries are built to handle a certain number of charge cycles, usually somewhere around 500 full cycles — and sometimes even more. Essentially, a charge cycle equals one full discharge down to zero percent and then a recharge back up to 100 percent. A discharge down to 50 percent and then back to 100 percent would equal half a cycle. Over time, each charge cycle decreases a battery’s capacity from its design specifications, meaning that the fewer times you drain it, the longer the battery last — all other things being equal.

And so, where do you start? You can begin by visiting the power settings corner of your laptop and learning how your battery works, and what battery settings to enable. Also, pay attention to hibernation modes. Ideally, you want your laptop to enter into hibernation before the battery is totally drained — as well as during downtime when you won’t be using the laptop for a while.

To save even more power, take a tour of your apps and quit any that are running in the background and steadily eating into your battery life. On Windows 10, for example, we suggest you search for and enable the Battery Saver. This mode will automatically turn on when your laptop reaches around 20% battery life (more down below on why this is particularly important). This will automatically block background apps, keep your features like Calendar from syncing or pushing notifications, lower screen brightness, and other various changes that will conserve your battery so you can get to an outlet ASAP.

For MacBooks, look into enabling Power Nap so you can put your Mac to sleep without worrying about it skipping important tasks, allowing you to save more battery life. Enabling automatic graphics switching can also help Macs save energy by switching to a lower graphics mode when engaged in simple tasks (like text-based work where graphics aren’t as important).

There are plenty of manual changes you can make here, too. Cloud storage services or video players that you aren’t using can be safely shut down, too. You can also manually reduce the amount of power you’re using by shutting off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when you’re not using them, turning off optional features such as keyboard backlighting, and generally reducing the number of components burning power. Both Microsoft and Apple have guides explaining the process further.

Keeping your battery in zone

FrameAngel/Shutterstock

In ancient, less enlightened times, there was a problem called “battery memory” that caused nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries to “forget” their full charge capacity and start charging at lower and lower levels. This problem doesn’t exist any longer thanks to modern lithium-ion batteries, but it has led to a lot of poor advice and arguments about battery care based on outdated information. It’s time to clear the air.

Contrary to some recommendations, you don’t need to completely discharge a lithium-ion battery and then recharge it to somehow reboot or calibrate it – this is a destructive practice that’s very hard on your battery. Whether or not it’s a smart idea to perform a complete discharge a couple of times a year remains an unanswered question. Generally, the consensus seems to be that letting your battery discharge (without bottoming it out — aim for around 20 percent) and then charge it when possible is the best practice.

Next, there was a time when users were advised to refrain from keeping their devices plugged in, based on the idea that letting a battery charge to 100 percent could wear the battery out more quickly. Today, however, modern devices are designed to stop charging at 100 percent and thus keeping them plugged in doesn’t impact the battery’s lifespan, according to Battery University.

As with many battery-related questions, the issue of keeping your laptop plugged in when it’s reached full capacity is hotly debated, and so there’s nothing wrong with turning your machine off and unplugging it. If you’re going to store your laptop for an extended time without using it, then discharge or charge it to 50 percent before putting it away.

Generally speaking, the best thing you can do for your lithium-ion battery is to avoid letting it discharge below 20 percent. Plug it in and charge it when you can, and then rinse and repeat. The good news is that with modern batteries and systems there’s really not much else you need to do — except perhaps reasonably expect that your battery will eventually start losing its overall capacity.

It’s getting hot in here, so hide your batteries

Today’s lithium-ion batteries are durable, but they can only take so much heat. For example, if you are charging your battery and it starts to get overly warm, perhaps because the CPU or graphics processor is working hard or the environment is overly hot, then shut the device down and pop the battery out if possible. Give it a break so that it can cool down or you can move to someplace with a lower temperature. Of course, many modern laptops have sealed batteries, in which case shutting the machine down and letting it cool is highly recommended if maximizing the battery’s lifespan is your concern.

Likewise, keep the laptop off of your lap. If testicular damage and discomfort weren’t good enough reasons, then with many machines you’re also making the problem worse by blocking vents. You’ll want to make sure that both vents that pull in cool air and those that expel hot air are able to do their jobs.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you should avoid placing your laptop anywhere it might become hot. That includes your car on a hot summer day, beneath a window that gets direct sunlight, or near a space heater. Unusual conditions such as these can do a lot of damage to a battery in a short period of time, though you may not realize it immediately.

Cold temperatures usually aren’t a problem down to a certain point, and storing a battery in a cool place is recommended, but don’t leave your laptop in freezing temperatures. Too much cold can also kill the battery permanently or reduce its lifespan.

If you want to watch temperature even more closely (say, you live in a particularly hot climate), then there are a number of apps you can run that will monitor laptop heat. This includes CoreTemp and Real Temp for Windows, which you can download for free.

Software and your battery

Finally, a note about your software — keep it updated! Companies work hard to improve the way that programs use power via software updates. The same operating system on a later patch could use significantly less battery power, giving your battery a longer lifespan without changing anything else. And so, review your OS and keep your machine — and its battery — on a healthy diet of updates.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Does wireless charging degrade your battery faster? We asked an expert
  • Spilled water on your laptop? Here’s how to fix it
  • How does fast charging work? Here’s every single standard compared
  • How to clean a laptop screen
  • 10 common laptop-buying mistakes you can easily avoid



29
Jul

What you missed this week on CordCutters.com


Reviews, contests and more!

accc-7-28.png?itok=CwO4qWSVHere’s the thing about the future of streaming video: If you’re only doing it on a TV, you’re already behind the curve. I say that being a relatively old guy (as in older than 20) and being someone who most often does the cord-cutting thing on a display of no less than 43 inches.

My kids, meanwhile, watch anything and everything, whenever and however than can. On a phone. On a Fire HD tablet. On a (much better) iPad. On Roku. On Apple TV. On Shield TV.

The point is they switch from one to another as if there are no mental barriers for doing so. And for them, there aren’t.

So it’s been fun watching them over the past week with the new Lenovo Smart Display. They’re used to having Google Home(s) in damned nearly every room of our house. And the Amazon Echo Show is usually in sight, too. But Google definitely brings something more to the table. Especially with live TV and the built-in integration of YouTube TV. (Providing that you’re a subscriber, of course.

There will be plenty more on both Android Central and CordCutters.com regarding not just the Lenovo Smart Display, but all the (lowercase) smart displays. It’s that important of a new category. Now Google and its partners just have to sell it.

Read the full CordCutters.com review of the Lenovo Smart Display

Here’s what else you missed this week on CordCutters.com:

  • Inside? Outside? Upside down? Where’s the best place to put an over-the-air antenna?
  • Speaking of OTA TV — can you run it and an internet connection on the same line of coax?
  • We’ve got a winner for our Amazon Fire TV Cube giveaway.
  • And we’re now giving away a Mohu Blade antenna and AirTV OTA streaming tuner!
  • The Tablo OTA streaming tuner has added 5.1 surround sound.
  • An oldie but a goodie: The Apple TV Aerial screensavers are gorgeous on Android TV.

Introducing CordCutters.com

  • The hardware you need
  • All about streaming services
  • What channels are on which service
  • FREE over-the-air TV
  • How to watch sports
  • Join the discussion

Get the latest deals

29
Jul

How to control your TV with Amazon Echo


Amazon Echo can replace your remote control, with a little help.

alexa-television-hero.jpg?itok=oY-PicxV

As nice as it would be for every television to include a simple local network access function, most TVs still rely on good old-fashioned Infrared (IR) to receive commands. This isn’t the best news for someone looking to convert their living room into Smart Home 2.0, but there are some tools available that make this a little easier to deal with than you’d think.

For example, you can pair a Logitech Harmony Hub and an Amazon Echo to create a totally voice controlled television. Here’s how you set it up!

logitech-harmony-hub-1.jpg?itok=Q63AlpeL

The Harmony line from Logitech has been the best option for universal remotes for a long time, but recently the company has moved from baking all of those smarts into a better remote control to building a hub that controls way more than just the TV. On its own, Harmony Hub can give you the ability to control just about anything connected to your Wi-Fi network as well as anything you can control with IR in a single app. You can even build little scripts inside of Harmony, so a single button press turns on the TV, sets the input you want to be on, and can even be activated on a schedule. It’s an impressive setup, made all the more impressive when you add an Amazon Echo.

Starting your smart living room conversion is fairly easy. Set up your Harmony Hub anywhere that lets you mount the IR sensor pointed right at the television. It doesn’t have to be close, but if you want to set Harmony up with your entertainment center, you can. After it is set up and connected to your network, you can add Harmony to Alexa just like any other skill.

Open your Alexa App.
Go to Home, then Skills.
Search for Harmony.
Select the blue icon that appears.
Enable the Harmony Skill.
Log in to Harmony from the Alexa app.

Once Alexa is connected to Harmony, you have the ability to turn the television on and off automatically. Just about everything else requires a little bit of extra work. Harmony is aware of what channels are available with your provider, but you can’t just ask for a specific channel out of the box unless your television is connected directly to cable. If you use an HD cable box that connects via HDMI, or something like a TiVo, you have to create actions in Harmony under the Smart TV settings.

Volume control is now available through Alexa through multiple command types. You can simply ask for the volume to be turned up, or you can specify an increase or decrease by specific increments between 1 and 20. Alexa currently does not have the ability to switch inputs through Harmony without actions, but an IFTTT trigger can be set up to allow this. Harmony and Alexa are being better integrated all the time with updates, but right out of the box this is a great way to control your television with your voice.

See at Amazon

Update July 2018: This article has been updated with the best tools for using your Echo to control your TV time!

Amazon Echo

  • Tap, Echo or Dot: The ultimate Alexa question
  • All about Alexa Skills
  • Amazon Echo review
  • Echo Dot review
  • Echo Spot review
  • Top Echo Tips & Tricks
  • Amazon Echo vs. Google Home
  • Get the latest Alexa news

See at Amazon

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