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Posts from the ‘News’ Category


Ubisoft is shutting down the free-to-play ‘Ghost Recon’

Free-to-play games based on popular franchises were a huge trend for awhile. But, as Microsoft showed us this week by canceling Halo Online for Russia, there are no guarantees for success. Ubisoft is following suit and shutting down Ghost Recon Phantoms, formerly known as Ghost Recon Online. As Gamasutra writes, this was the publisher’s maiden voyage into the market when it launched back in 2011.

It “wasn’t as successful as we had hoped for, so we had to make the decision to close the game,” a note on the game’s Euro forums reads. “This decision wasn’t easy for us and we tried to find other ways. But in the end we decided to close the game and focus on other projects.” Sounds a little cold, yeah? A US-targeted blog post is a little less harsh, but the overall message is similar. Hopefully you didn’t have a ton of money in your in-game wallet, because there isn’t a way to get a refund for that, either. Ubisoft also explicitly notes that there won’t be a sequel, player numbers won’t be disclosed and fans won’t be able to host the game on their own.

The servers shut off on December 1st, so if you want to get in a few more rounds of the microtransaction-based shooter, don’t hesitate. And, perhaps let this be a warning about investing big in free-to-play games not named Team Fortress 2, Dota 2 or League of Legends — they can shut down at any time and take your money with them no matter who’s in charge.

Via: Gamasutra

Source: Ubisoft (1), (2)


Google taps Airbnb exec to turn self-driving cars into a business

Google’s self-driving car project hit a rough patch with the departure of one of its earliest team members, but it’s evident that the tech giant is still bent on turning the experiment into a viable business. The company has hired Airbnb executive Shaun Stewart, who led his former employer’s vacation rental team, as a director for its autonomous vehicle group. He’ll focus on commercializing the division — just what that entails isn’t clear, but previous rumors (and industry expectations) suggest that he may translate Google’s self-driving technology into a robotic ride-for-hire service.

Stewart may be a particularly good fit. As our TechCrunch colleagues observe, his expertise revolves around short-term travel rentals. Before Airbnb, he was the CEO of the luxury vacation deal site Jetsetter — he knows a thing or two about getting these services off the ground. And that’s important when the concept of a driverless taxi is still brand new, with plenty of nuts-and-bolts details that need to be pinned down in the years ahead.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Reuters


Facebook will show bigger vertical videos in your News Feed

Facebook’s News Feed for mobile will become much friendlier to vertical videos in the near future, according to Marketing Land. It won’t exactly be optimized for the orientation the way Snapchat is, but it will apparently stop cropping and showing them as tiny squares. The publication says when the update rolls out for Android and iOS, you’ll start seeing vertical videos with a 2:3 aspect ratio (as opposed to 1:1) on your News Feed without having to expand them. “We know that people enjoy more immersive experiences on Facebook, so we’re starting to display a larger portion of each vertical video in News Feed on mobile,” a spokesperson told Marketing Land.

Thanks to the popularity of apps like Snapchat, Periscope and Meerkat, more and more people have learned to embrace the format. Daily Mail North America’s CEO Jon Steinberg once said that the publication’s vertical video ads have nine times more completed views than ones shot in horizontal view. By showing a larger part of vertical videos than before, people too lazy to view them in full screen — and, let’s face it, it’s a hassle navigating away from the News Feed sometimes — are more likely to watch them till the end. Facebook didn’t reveal when the feature will go live, but Mashable said the update’s going out in the coming weeks.

Via: Mashable

Source: Marketing Land


How to get your drone license (and legally make money) – CNET

Aerial photography. Real estate tours. Drone burrito delivery.

Imagine the money you could make (and fun you could have!) if you flew for profit.

Sadly, drone businesses aren’t legal in the United States unless the government makes an exception for you — or unless you get your own drone license under the FAA’s brand-new rules.

Starting Monday, August 29, you can apply for your very own license by passing a multiple-choice test and paying a small fee. No experience necessary!

What, you mean I can’t just sell my drone photos already?

Nope! You could get fined $1,100 (or more) for operating your unmanned aerial system (UAS) for business purposes without FAA approval.

What is a Remote Pilot Certificate?

It’s the official name for the drone license I’ve been talking about. With it, you can legally fly drones with intention of making a profit — either by selling the footage, delivering goods and everything in between. You still have to follow a lot of restrictions when you fly…but more on those in a bit.

fd-dji-phantom-4-rev-10.jpgEnlarge Image

Prosumer camera drones like the popular DJI Phantom start at around $500 — but the sky’s the limit on price.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

What if I’m just flying for fun?

You don’t need the certificate…but you do still need to register your drone if it weighs over half a pound (0.55lb to be precise).

Oh, but if you’re a drone racer — weaving through obstacles with a nifty set of first-person-view glasses on your head — you’ll still need that Remote Pilot Certificate. At least that’s what the FAA tells Forbes.

OK, I want to make money. What do I need to get my license?

  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Have a valid government-issued picture ID with your name, address and signature
  • Make an appointment to take the knowledge test at a test center near you
  • Pay $150 to the testing firm
  • Study
  • Pass the test
  • Wait up to 48 hours for your test score to get uploaded
  • Apply for your Remote Pilot Certificate (using the code from your successful test as proof)
  • Complete a TSA background check
  • Print out a temporary Remote Pilot Certificate (while you wait for the real one to be delivered by mail)
  • Register your drone (maybe do this first?) and start flying!

OK, that does sound like a lot. Let’s break it down.


Barn owl vs. DJI drone: Which is the ultimate flyer?

How do I get an appointment for a Remote Pilot Certificate?

You need to call, email or submit an online request form with one of the two companies supervising the test — not the test center.

CATS (Computer Assisted Testing Service):

  • 1-800-947-4228, then press 3 (Monday to Friday, 5:30 a.m. PT to 5 p.m. PT, Saturday to Sunday 7 a.m. PT to 3:30 p.m. PT)
  • Online registration and payment (CATS calls you back within 24 hours to schedule)

PSI (formerly LaserGrade):

  • 1-800-211-2753, then press 1 twice (Monday to Friday, 5 a.m. PT to 5 p.m. PT, Saturday 5 a.m. PT to 2 p.m. PT)
  • (PSI replies within two business hours)
  • Online request form (PSI replies within two business hours)

According to testing centers we called, CATS and PSI handle pretty much everything, including assigning you a test center and accepting your $150 payment.


The DJI Phantom 4 taking flight.


How long is the waiting list?

In the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s not too bad as of August 26. One testing center told us they were booked for two weeks, another said they had openings later in the week.

Is there a testing center near me?

Probably! There are 686 of them across the United States. Check for yourself in the FAA’s full, official list of test centers (PDF).

You’ll need to call CATS or PSI to get your appointment, though. While the FAA’s website says you can just walk in, testing centers in the San Francisco Bay Area told us we needed to arrange everything with CATS or PSI first.

How hard is the test?

You get two hours to answer 60 multiple-choice questions, and you only need to answer 70 percent of them correctly to pass! (You can totally miss 18 questions and still succeed.)

But these aren’t exactly easy questions. You’ll probably need to study.

Oh yeah? How hard can the questions be?

While monitoring the Cooperstown CTAF you hear an aircraft announce that they are midfield left downwind to RWY 13. Where would the aircraft be relative to the runway? (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2G, Figure 26, area 2.)

A. The aircraft is East.

B. The aircraft is South.

C. The aircraft is West.

That’s just one of the FAA’s sample questions. Find more here (PDF).

What’s the best way to prepare for the test?

The FAA actually offers a free two-hour training course (register here first) to get you up to speed, plus an 87-page study guide (PDF).

I passed the test! Where do I apply for the actual certificate?

  • Register here first (pick Applicant) and fill out your personal information. (You can ignore the Airman Certificate Number and Date of Issuance fields)
  • Log into the site using your new username and password
  • Apply for the certificate here; pick Pilot from the first dropdown menu, then click on the Remote Pilot certification

If you get lost, here’s a complete set of instructions.

Enlarge Image

The Yuneeq Typhoon H drone.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Now that I’ve got my certificate, I can fly anywhere, anytime, yes?

Not so much — as you’ll see when you study, there are a lot of rules (PDF) about when and where you can fly your drone.

Unless you get a 107 waiver (and you need to apply for those months in advance), you can’t fly:

  • At night
  • Over people
  • Higher than 400 feet (unless you’re within 400 feet of a building; skyscraper climbing is OK)
  • Further away than you can see with your naked eye
  • At speeds over 100 miles per hour
  • From a moving vehicle (or inside a covered stationary vehicle)
  • Within five miles of an airport — unless you clear it with air traffic control using an upcoming tool at the FAA’s website.

Also, you need to register your drone (if it weighs between 0.55 and 55 pounds), do pre-flight checks before you fly and report any accidents that hurt people or do $500 worth of damage to property.

What if my drone weighs more than 55 pounds?

You can’t do it with a drone license, or even a 107 waiver. Only a 333 exemption (which are hard to get, can take a long time and generally require a real pilot’s license to fly) can let you pilot something that heavy.

What if my company already has a Section 333 Exemption?

Lucky you! But in many cases, you can’t actually fly a drone for profit under the 333 unless you’re a certified pilot. The Remote Pilot Certificate is another option.

What if I’ve already got a pilot’s license?

If you want your Remote Pilot Certificate, you can actually skip the knowledge test and take the online training course instead. You’ll still need to fill out a form, make an in-person appointment and have completed a flight review within the last two years, so it’s not necessarily any easier.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for existing pilots.


Toy drones are a cheap ticket to get in the sky

Could I really start a drone burrito delivery service?

Yes, the FAA says package delivery is OK — but it’d be tough! Particularly given the rule about needing to keep the drone within eyesight, and the one about drones needing to weigh 55 pounds or less. It’d probably be easier to just hand someone their food.

How about a journalist covering breaking news stories?

That could be tough, too. You can’t fly over people without a waiver, and the FAA says those will take months. But if you’re not reporting live, or not directly over people… the FAA says media companies can do it.

What if I have awesome video goggles and a camera on the drone? Do I really need to watch it with my actual eyes?

Someone needs to: either you, or a second person who can act as a visual observer. Them’s the rules!

Which drone should I buy?

If you’ve never flown before, buy a toy drone. Not kidding — you’ll learn the basic motor skills without any risk of hurting people or turning a $1,000+ aerial camera into scrap. Then, pick one of our top-rated prosumer drones that matches your needs and budget.

Is that it?

So far, so good…but there’s still a lot to think about. Maybe you’ll want to insure your drone against damage, and yourself against liability? You’ll definitely want to practice flying and camera skills, and you’ll need to figure out how to convince potential clients that you’re right for the job.

Lastly, know that your Remote Pilot Certificate is only good for two years. You’ll need to pass another knowledge test once that’s done.


Android and chill


Settle in and get comfy. This is how we’re gonna do Saturdays — talking about stuff.

Hey there!

I’m Jerry. I’m a former Electrical Engineer who ended up writing software (like many an EE) and then ended up with a cushy job that lets me work from home and do cool stuff. I’m also a Linux Professional (I love saying that for some reason) which is a fancy term for a masochist. I’ve been here a while, and the people in charge were wise (read: brave?) enough to tell me I can write words about stuff every Saturday. Mostly Android stuff, but there’s a big world out there. I’m also pretty laid back (or I like to think so) about most things. I started writing for Android Central in 2010, and this is my full-time job. Some may recognize my name here, and I’ve even met some of you in real life, which is a hoot.


Long time readers probably have noticed we’ve made a few changes here. Phil Nickinson, the long-time Editor-in-Chief and an awesome SOB that I truly love, has moved on to things that need more Phil added to them. For real. I only know half of what he’s doing, and already love it. He’s still here at Mobile Nations, and we’ll rope him into writing a few words or saying a few things here and there, but now this is our gig. And that’s cool, we got this Phil.

“We” means Dan Bader, the man who has to steer this boat and an all around Rock Star, Alex Dobie (Executive editor for the EU, licensed to thrill and dapperAF), Andrew Martonik (Executive editor for the U.S. and the best damn proofreader in the universe) and me. I’m in charge of touching things until they break, trying to figure stuff out, and talking about Android as a platform instead of just talking about the phones that use it. We’re supported by awesome people, too. All of our writers and contributors work hard to put out quality material, and they make the place better just by being here. It’s turning out to be a great mix of people, and I think we have one of the best teams out there when it comes to Android websites. We’re all doing what we’re good at, and what we enjoy. I love this job. Being surrounded by stuff that needs a battery and people with the same love for their work is part of it, but you are part of it, too. Hell, I’m one of you and I don’t want it any other way.

Now that a few details are out of the way, welcome to Saturday time with Jerry. Let’s talk about stuff.

  • Android 7.0 finally showed up. It’s a big deal for the platform with fundamental changes to the way Android works on the inside, but also polishes some of the details. I like the direction Google is taking Android, and I like the way they seem more serious about improving the experience for all the people who use it. That’s tough because Android isn’t a stand-alone product, and there are all sorts of partners with different ideas. All of it needs to be unified in some ways while letting it be very different in others. Forget about which phone is best or which company has better ideas for software features for a minute — third-party apps from Google Play and certain core Android features need to be great on all of them. Nougat is a step in that direction.
  • Android 7.0 is also just the beginning. There are rumors flying around and we have things we’re bursting to be able to talk about (soon, Alex). If even half of them are true we’ll see Android itself move forward in a different way than we’re used to and Google caring more about its own customers than ever before. Both awesome things that fit well with the tightening of Android itself.
  • The best part is you don’t have to worry about any of it if you like what you have now and how it works. Platform updates on Android are for hardcore enthusiasts and developers for the first six months, and by the time you get an update on your phone or are ready to move on to a new one, it will be ready for you. Letting people who want to be guinea pigs and beta testers do it while you keep on doing what you do is never a bad decision.
  • Why did I not know about this? Ordered.
  • The Note 7 has been around just long enough to gauge some early response from people who buy phones instead of review them. Samsung killed it. Absolutely murdered it. Sure, there are some issues when you dig into the forums where people like to talk about issues, but nothing with a screen has ever been produced that is 100% perfect. Watch all the lag test videos, read all the benchmark scores and discuss them to death, but also know that the Note 7 in your hands is one of the best Android phones you’ll be able to buy in 2016. Yeah, the price is stupid high. But for a lot of folks, it’s going to be worth every penny.
  • I love what The Wirecutter is doing here. Using mAh (milliamp hours) to measure how long a battery will last just doesn’t work well with battery packs or power supplies. I’m going to urge the powers that be to make it so across Mobile Nations.
  • Are you ready for the LG V20? I am. So are my headphones. A head to head between the HTC 10 (my pick of 2016 so far for audio quality) and the V20 is going to happen as soon as I wrap my filthy mitts around one. If LG’s take on Android 7.0 doesn’t turn me off, it could be my daily. Carrying three phones sucks 50% more than carrying two.
  • This is scary. Apple’s response was excellent, but a reminder that world governments have resources we couldn’t imagine and they aren’t afraid to spend them so they can hack a cell phone is always jarring. I hate to think about what the United States is doing. Or England. Or Germany. Hell, it’s all scary.
  • Remember, alt-right, PC culture, establishment and a host of other buzzwords are just that: words. Don’t let the media and their agenda (which is making money at any cost) define you or influence you no matter which side of any issue you’re on. Everything sucks. Everything always sucked. And it always will. I’ve seen presidents get caught spying and covering it up, get shot, get impeached over a blowjob and be tricked into going to war. The one thing I’ve learned from it all is that both sides will do anything to distract you, and the media circus flourishes because of it. You be you and do what you think is right.

We’ll talk again next week. In the meantime, remember we’re all in this together and kindness feels good both ways. Adios.


Juno probe makes the closest-ever encounter with Jupiter

If you thought the Juno probe’s first photos of Jupiter were tantalizing, you’re in for a treat. The spacecraft just completed the closest approach it will take during its primary mission around the gas giant, passing a mere 2,600 miles above the surface early on the 26th. It’s the closest any vehicle has been to Jupiter, and NASA researchers already believe that they’ll discover new things about the Jovian world once they process the data (which could take “some time,” NASA warns). And of course, it’s a prime photographic opportunity. You’ll not only get the sharpest-ever photos of Jupiter’s atmosphere when photos arrive late next week, but the first good look at the planet’s poles.

This isn’t the only close-up, as there are 36 in total before the mission winds down in February 2018. As such, you’ll probably learn a lot more about Jupiter in the next few years as scientists make sense of what they’ve found. However, this fly-by could easily be the most important of the bunch. It’s the first opportunity the Juno team has had to use all its scientific gear since entering orbit, and it’s unlikely that a probe will get that close for a long, long time.

Source: NASA


Six innovative rooftop solar technologies

By Cat DiStasio

It’s never been easier to give your house a solar roof. Falling manufacturing costs and increasing demand have led to a number of fascinating new solar products in recent years, including roof shingles with integrated solar cells, modular solar arrays and even efficient thermal tiles made from glass. As the technology improves and more people get turned on to the benefits of renewable energy, we expect to see even more innovative products hitting the market in the coming months and years, pushing forward the envelope for solar power production.

Dow Chemical Powerhouse solar shingles

In 2010, Dow Chemical unveiled a line of solar-integrated rooftop shingles that were a marked improvement over existing technologies. The sleek plastic-coated Powerhouse shingles were capable of converting 13 percent of the sun’s energy into electricity — a full 2 percent increase over other solar shingles on the market at that time. The shingles were expensive when they debuted ($10,000 for 250 shingles spread over 1,000 square feet), and an array that size would only make a small dent in energy usage for a typical household. However, Dow promised they would pay for themselves within a decade, and the product was an important step forward for integrated solar power systems.

SRS Energy’s Solé Power Tiles

A year before Dow wowed the solar industry with its attractive shingles, SRS Energy launched a product that promised to make installation a breeze. Its curved Solé Power Tiles were designed to mimic the shape of interlocking mission-style clay or cement shingles. In this case, the solar shingles had the same barrel design as their traditional counterparts, so they could be easily integrated into existing mission roofs. This adaptive quality would enable homeowners to replace as little or as much of their roof with the unique solar shingles as they liked, without having to rip off the entire roof.

SolTech Energy’s icy glass solar heat shingles

Solar shingles continue to evolve, not only in efficiency but also in design. Sweden-based SolTech Energy created a stunning example of the best of both worlds with its translucent glass mission tiles, which, when installed across an entire building, give the illusion of a roof tiled with ice. The shimmering SolTech roof tiles capture solar heat and use it to warm air beneath the tiles, which is then used to heat water and warm the home during the winter. The company claims the gorgeous roof tiles can produce about 350 kWh of heat per square meter (10.7 square feet), depending on weather conditions and the angle of the roof.

SunTegra’s Solar Roof Systems

Solar shingles — once a unique way to add solar power production to your rooftop — may actually become a thing of the past. That’s thanks to the emergence of new roof technologies that integrate solar cells so fully that they’re actually part of the roof, rather than just installed atop it. Elon Musk promised that SolarCity, which is being acquired by Tesla Motors through a $2.6 billion merger deal, will create such a roof, but the New York–based SunTegra Solar Roof Systems has already done it.

The company’s integrated solar systems have been installed on homes in the northeastern United States and in California, two prime spots for making the most of the sun’s energy. SunTegra’s solar roof (available in tiles or shingles) currently costs 15 percent more than typical rooftop solar panels, but the company claims it’s just as durable and weather-resistant as traditional roof coverings, which is something most solar panel manufacturers cannot say.

SolarPod Grid Tied requires no holes

When it comes to ease of installation for rooftop solar arrays, the SolarPod might have the market cornered. The system can be mounted to nearly any type of roof and requires no drilling of holes. Since holes are the last thing you want in your roof, this is a fairly clever solution to a common installation challenge. SolarPod’s Grid Tied solar array is an integrated and modular plug-and-play solar power system that includes a prefabricated frame made from corrosion-resistant steel that holds the solar panels. Because the frame floats above the existing roof, it’s also easy to adjust the angle of the solar array to capture the maximum amount of sunlight for that particular location, thereby increasing solar energy production.

SoloPower on a roll

In a completely different approach to easing the woes of installation, SoloPower developed a flexible solar panel that can be unfurled as easily as a carpet. The thin-film solar panels, linked together in long strips, boast an 11 percent energy conversion rate and a smooth installation process, thanks to their light weight and flexible composition. In theory, the flexible solar panels could be unrolled right over the top of an existing roof, in any quantity desired, without the sort of expensive glass and aluminum frames required by most rooftop solar arrays. Although the desire for integrated solar roofs may drive innovation faster, it would be nice to see more flexible — and potentially portable — options hit the market as well.


Recommended Reading: The political media machine on Facebook

Inside Facebook’s (Totally
Insane, Unintentionally
Gigantic, Hyperpartisan)
Political-Media Machine

John Herrman,
The New York Times Magazine

A barrage of political links, ads and other content has filled up your News Feed over the last few months. With each new election, the amount of noise seems to get worse and now that we have two candidates who both have quite a list of shortcomings, the chatter is at an all-time high. The New York Times Magazine takes a deep dive into how Facebook is serving as a massive political media machine and its influence on democracy in the US.

Dear Internet: It’s Time to Fix This Mess You Made

In a week that saw actress Leslie Jones attacked online once more, Wired penned an open letter to the internet to plead for an end online harassment.

Pandora Looks for a Way Out of the Doldrums. Cue Questlove.
Ben Sisario, The New York Times

Will teaming up with The Roots’ drummer and DJ Questlove give Pandora a much-needed boost as it preps to launch a streaming service? The New York Times has details on the partnership.

​Tiger Electronics Took on the Game Boy with Devices as Powerful as Calculators
Ernie Smith, Motherboard

Tiger Electronics was a mainstay in handheld gaming with simple gadgets that ran on two AA batteries. This piece from Motherboard offers a bit of nostalgia for those of us who played them and history lesson for those who didn’t.

Def Jam Can’t Compete With Apple
Justin Charity, The Ringer

After Frank Ocean independently released his long-awaited album Blond as an Apple Music exclusive, there are a lot of opinions about what this means for record labels. As The Ringer notes, Apple Music has industry experts like Jimmy Iovine running the show which could lure more popular artists looking to cut ties to a label.


Android Central 303: 7.0 ways to enjoy Nougat

This week, Alex, Andrew, and Daniel convene in New York City to discuss Nougat. It’s a full hour of all the new features in Android 7.0, and why you’re going to want it — now.

(A quick warning: there is one curse word in the episode. Sorry, Jeff!)

Thanks to this week’s sponsor:

  • Harrys: Use promo code AC to save $5 off your first purchase — start shaving smarter.

Podcast MP3 URL:


ICYMI: The first autonomous robotic octopus has arrived

ICYMI: The first autonomous robotic octopus has arrived
Today on In Case You Missed It: Harvard Researchers created the world’s first fully-autonomous octo-robot, something that runs on hydrogen peroxide and moves by pumping oxygen into its tentacles. We’d be afraid, except it looks so similar to what research vessel EV Nautilus just spotted in the sea that we can’t help but be charmed instead. If you’re more into nature as medicine, you may be interested in the study that showed houseplants may be better at removing air pollution than many ventilation systems.

We round up the week’s stories with TL;DR but can’t limit our suggestions to just one this week. Read up on the Apple iOS patch after a human rights activist was spied on here, and the story about the VR video starring President Obama and more even more impressive, the National Parks!– is here.

If you’re similarly into that seal video, the full ‘avoiding feeding orcas’ thing can be found here. As always, please share any interesting tech or science videos you find by using the #ICYMI hashtag on Twitter for @mskerryd.


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