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18
Aug

I’m excited for the Pixel 3 XL’s notch for one specific reason


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O _ O

Much has been made of the Pixel 3 XL’s design — at least, what leaks are showing. A full glass back and front facing speakers make an appearance, but most of the attention has been focused on the mother of all notches. I was originally against a notch on the Pixel 3 XL but I’ve come around for one main reason.

Pick up your Pixel 2 XL, or look at a photo of it online. The front-facing camera, top speaker, and proximity sensor are all pretty separate. Now, look at some screen protectors for the Pixel 2 XL on Amazon. On most screen protectors, you’ll see separate holes for the camera, speaker and proximity sensor.

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Those separate holes present a problem. Yes, you want your camera not to get covered by another piece of glass so that your selfies look great. And you want the proximity sensor to work correctly so your face doesn’t actually hang your phone up for you. But three separate cutouts on a screen protector presents a couple problems.

First, those are two more spaces you need to worry about when you’re lining the screen protector up. But, most screen protectors are forgiving so you’ll be able to make it attach correctly. Then it comes time to use your phone with the screen protector on. Taking the phone out of and putting it in your pocket will attract lint, dirt and other nasties, and every adhesive thing you put in your pockets will attract these even more.

By having all of the sensors in the notch, there shouldn’t be any reason for screen protectors to be anything except for a single pane of glass. This means less dirt and dust clogging up your front-facing camera, which makes my fastidious brain happy.

Elsewhere, I’m warming up to notches as a whole (sorry Jerry). By default, it looks like you’re losing screen space. It took someone else pointing out that notches extend the screen UP into the bezel instead of extending the bezel DOWN into the screen.

Have you come around on notches? Let us know down below!

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

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18
Aug

Limber up for Guacamelee! 2 with everything you need to know


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Guacemelee! is back and aims to be better (and wackier) than ever.

Developed by DrinkBox Studios, Guacamelee! is a sidescrolling Metroidvania platformer with a lot of heart and personality inspired by Mexican culture. It effortlessly combines narrative and gameplay in the best ways possible, making it a prime candidate for a sequel. Enter: Guacamelee! 2.

The story so far

If you think about it a certain way, Guacamelee! can be seen as a superhero origin story of sorts. Juan Aguacate, an ordinary farmer living in an ordinary Mexican village, finds himself killed and thrust into the underworld after a run-in with the evil skeleton Carlos Calaca. During his time in the land of the dead, a masked luchador named Tostada gives Juan his own mask, transforming him into a powerful luchador himself. With his newfound abilities, he rushes to save his beloved from Calaca, who kidnapped her with the intent to use her as a sacrifice to unite the worlds of the living and dead. All the while Juan is trying to find a way to return to his normal life. No pressure.

Guacamelee! features two endings depending on certain actions you took while playing. It’s your typical Disney-esque fairy tale ending or a bittersweet conclusion to your journey. Either your beloved is revived through the powers of your mask, or you arrive too late to save her.

Out of retirement

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Like any good superhero, Juan eventually hangs up his cape– er, mask, and settles down in a humble life with his wife and children. But a hero’s work is never done. Forced out of retirement after seven years, Juan takes on his greatest challenge yet to save the universe, affectionately called the Mexiverse, once more.

Guacamelee! 2 looks like it will take both endings into account as it appears that it will contain alternate timelines. As seen in one gameplay video, Juan travels to what is referred to as the Darkest Timeline where he ended up defeated in the first game, only for another hero to swoop in and save the day. But as the saying goes: you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. And that’s exactly what happens with the ‘hero’ that stole Juan’s thunder.

Metroidvania gameplay meets a quirky personality

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Guacamelee!’s gameplay is where it truly shines, and DrinkBox is looking to double down on what made it so great with its sequel. Tight, responsive controls and fluid combat make for an excellent experience.

Like its predecessor, Guacamelee! 2 weaves together your wrestling skills with its platforming sections, which can get downright diabolical. Need to take down an enemy or blast through a wall to progress? Use your Rooster Uppercut to get the job done. When used in conjunction with others moves, like your Dashing Derpderp ability, you can easily traverse otherwise impassable jumps and deliver epic 1-2 punches to knock out your opponents. Some of its wackier abilities even let you transform into a chicken (Pollo) or a goat to get to hard to reach places. Because why not.

guacamelee-2-chicken-shot.jpg?itok=s1fJIWhile transforming into a chicken in the first game was mainly used as a means of traversal to squeeze through tight areas, it’s getting a bit of an upgrade in Guacamelee! 2. Now players will be able to fight enemies as a chicken and break barriers using Pollo Shot or Pollo Glide, among other abilities. DrinkBox has expanded the chicken gameplay sections so much that they jokingly refer to it as a “Pollovania” inside of the main game’s Metroidvania.

guacamelee-2-platforming-spikes.jpg?itokIn the first game, Juan had the ability to switch between both the living and dead realms at will, allowing him to continue his journey. For instance, one area in the living realm may have had less platforms than the dead, and vice versa. And if a spiked wall was blocking your path in the land of the dead, that wall may disappear when switching back to the land of the living. This mechanic is being fleshed out more in Guacamalee! 2. There will now be ripples that move across the screen independently from your control, almost as if the fabric of time and space is tearing apart. Within one of these moving ripples could either be the land of the living or dead, so you’ll need to move with them appropriately in order to complete certain sections.

Guacamelee! 2 introduces a new training aspect to allow players to grow accustomed to their skills, with the eventual goal of mastering them. By visiting various NPCs across your journey, you’ll meet different trainers with their own area of combat expertise. If you’re having trouble hitting those combos, it would be a good idea to get some practice in before taking on a greater challenge.

This training will certainly come in handy once you get a taste of the bosses in Guacamelee! 2. The first game saw you facing off against Calaca’s toughest minions, and its successor looks to continue the rage-inducing fights. One such boss in Guacamelee! 2, El Muñeco, can be seen in this gameplay video.

And of course taking down hordes of enemies is always more fun with friends, so Guacamelee! 2 supports 4-player co-op.

Mexican heritage

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When creating its art style and music, the developer wanted the game to wear its Mexican influences on its sleeve. Everything looks colorful and vibrant, reflecting the society it emulates. Its influences are apparent in its iconography and even more so in the characters that you meet and sounds you hear, described as having an “absolutely fuego electro-Mexican soundtrack” and gorgeous visuals thanks to its new engine.

If you’re so inclined to really dig deep into Guacamelee!’s visuals and the process of creating them, the developer has a 1-hour Game Developers Conference panel talking about that very subject.

Where and when can you play it?

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Despite only being confirmed for Sony’s console, this doesn’t rule out a release on other platforms in the future. The first game launched on PS3 and PS Vita when it came out in 2013, but was eventually ported to Xbox One at a later date. DrinkBox Studios has indicated in the past that Guacamelee! 2 is a timed-exclusive, though the studio is first and foremost focused on its PS4 and PC release.

Guacamelee! 2 is set to release on August 21, 2018 for PlayStation 4 and PC, and will be priced at $19.99.

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18
Aug

These are the best strategy games for Android


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Put on your thinking hat with these strategy games for Android

We’re rounding up some of our favorite strategy games on Android for the deep thinkers out there. These are more than just simple puzzles games — these require careful planning and forethought to emerge victoriously. You’ll find some great replay value in games like these as well, since the same strategy won’t always work twice.

Strategy gamers, pop on your thinking caps and get downloading these outstanding Android games.

  • Holedown
  • Civilization Revolution 2
  • The Battle for Polytopia
  • XCOM: Enemy Within
  • Mushroom Wars 2
  • Fire Emblem: Heroes
  • Clash Royale
  • Plague Inc.
  • Pandemic: The Board Game
  • Vainglory
  • Hearthstone
  • Star Command

Holedown

The latest game from developer Martin Jonasson is Holedown, a frantic puzzle game that mixes in a healthy dose of strategy. The game has you mining to the core of celestial bodies — starting with an asteroid and working your way up to the Sun — using bouncing miner balls that ricochet off of colored blocks. Each brick has a number that represents the number of hits needed to destroy it. You can let gravity do most of the work by destroying a block supporting other blocks and some are bolded in place and must be destroyed.

It’s very quick to pick up and play this game, but that’s when the strategy comes in. All the bricks are curved, allowing you to set up tricky bank shots to clear out massive sections of blocks in one go. This will become quite important as the screen move up one row after every shot. If the blocks reach the top of the screen, it’s game over.

Along the way, you will collect crystals which are spent on upgrades that give you more balls per shot, and more shots per round. These upgrades are crucial to completing the later planets but also let the earlier levels become more of a mindless distraction for your subway commute.

If you’re a fan of physics-based puzzle games and are looking for a new obsession, Holedown is well worth your money!

Downlaod: Holedown ($3.99)

Civilization Revolution 2

Based on arguably the best strategy franchise of all time, Civilization Revolution 2 is a simplified version of Sid Meier’s epic turn-based game based on world domination.

In Revolution 2, you play as an infamous world leader as you try and build an empire by increasing production, building out armies, and conquering your enemies. There are four ways to win each match: dominate your opponents by capturing their capitals, get an economic win by collecting 20,000 gold and building the World Bank, acquire 20 converted cities, wonders, or great people and build the United Nations for a cultural win, or be the first to launch a ship into space for a science win.

It lacks some of the polish of the latest Civilization games and has been optimized for mobile, but since it’s a paid game you also won’t have to deal with ads slowing down the flow of the game or greedy in-app purchases.

Download: Civilization Revolution 2 ($9.99)

The Battle for Polytopia

If you’re a fan of the Civilization franchise, you just have to check out The Battle for Polytopia. This indie game features polygon tribes battling for control of the battle arena. The game features simple turn-based gameplay that’s quick and easy to pick up and play. Each turn, you collect stars based on the number and size of the cities you control, which you can spend on upgrading your tribe’s technology tree, building troops, or collecting resources. You must be wise with how you spend your resources and position your troops on your turn.

There are multiple ways to play. For solo play, you can create a custom game that either ends after 30 turns, or play until only one tribe remains. There’s also the rarely scene pass-and-play multiplayer option, which lets you set up a custom game among friends and even keep them saved so you can play the same game over time. If you aren’t able to play in person with friends, the AI offers a pretty decent challenge with difficulty levels ranging from easy to “crazy”. There are four tribes available to you when you download the game, with six others available via in-app purchases.

Download: The Battle for Polytopia (Free w/IAPs)

XCOM: Enemy Within

XCOM is a celebrated turn-based strategy franchise that tasks you with stopping aliens from invading earth. As an XCOM commander, you’re tasked with controlling your team of troops as they set off on missions to take out aliens.

XCOM: Enemy Within is an expansion for the game XCOM: Enemy Unknown and adds a new array of abilities, upgrades and weapons to help you counter the alien threats. It’s been out for nearly 4 years now but still holds up as one of the best strategy game experiences for Android. Each turn, you can control your troops and move them into position around the mission map to counter the advancing aliens. After completing missions, you’ll head back to the XCOM HQ where you’ll be able to upgrade your troops and unlock new abilities based on your success in the field.

XCOM: Enemy Within is a full game that’s available for $9.99 from the Google Play Store.

Download: XCOM: Enemy Within ($9.99)

Mushroom Wars 2

Mushroom Wars 2 is an award-winning real-time strategy game that has you controlling tiny armies of mushroom soldiers in online or offline battles. Finally released for Android, this game features beautiful graphics and gameplay that’s easy to learn but challenging to master.

Your goal is total domination, which requires you to move your troops across the map, taking over strategic mushroom huts and other structures while defending against advances from your enemy. There are four Mushroom tribes to choose from with a full campaign episode available for each, but the real action begins with the online multiplayer. You’ll need to keep your wits about you as you balance your troop levels, build morale, and use special skills to dominate your opponents.

Don’t let the cutesy characters confuse you — this is a cutthroat strategy game at its core, and certainly a game you’ll want to check out!

Download: Mushroom Wars 2 (Free w/IAPs)

Fire Emblem: Heroes

Fire Emblem: Heroes represents Nintendo’s first foray into developing games for Android (ignoring last year’s Miimoto app) and is the eighth title in the popular strategy-RPG franchise to be released on North American shores.

Heroes brings all of your favorite Fire Emblem characters together for a brand new story that pits the noble Askran Kingdom against the power-hungry Emblian Empire, which wishes to rule all worlds. You play the role of a mighty summoner who has the power to bring Fire Emblem’s best heroes together to help defend the kingdom. Battle takes place in arenas where you must strategically move your Heroes around to attack and defend against your opponents.

Play through the Story Mode to unlock new game modes, including Special Maps, Arena Duels, and the Training Tower. Arena Duel is the multiplayer aspect of the game that will keep you busy beyond the single player campaign.

You can read our full review for more.

Download: Fire Emblem: Heroes (Free w/IAPs)

Clash Royale

From the makers of Clash of Clans comes Clash Royale. Battle human opponents in real time via frantic card-based battles where you must take out the enemy’s Crown Towers while defending your own.

To be successful in Clash Royale, you’ll need to learn the strengths and weaknesses of all the different cards, then use them very strategically during battle. Play the wrong card at the wrong time and it might be game over, so be smart, and patient.

The longer the play and the more trophies you collect, the more cards you unlock. In-app purchases can help expedite your progress, but they’re not necessary as you’ll be automatically matched up with opponents at your skill level. Clash Royale is one of the best games of 2016, so download it and find out what the hype is all about.

Download: Clash Royale (Free)

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Plague Inc.

Plague Inc. is a rather dark global virus simulation game. Players gently guide a disease from a modest cough to a deadly worldwide pandemic by evolving it with new symptoms, means of transmission, and resistances. Over time, players unlock new disease types with their own unique traits. World events also randomly pop up every game, forcing you to change your evolution path.

With an in-app purchase, you can get rid of ads and add a fast-forward option, or shortcut to new virus types. As morbid as it may be, Plague Inc.’s gameplay is truly infectious.

Download: Plague Inc. (Free)

Pandemic: The Board Game

From spreading the plague to trying to prevent one, this mobile version of the popular strategic board game of the same name that provides a real challenge whether you’re playing alone or with friends. Your goal: Try to cure four contagious diseases from spreading and taking over the world.

You select your characters at the start of the game, with each character performing specific roles to help eradicate the diseases. Which characters you pick will have a big effect on your team’s ultimate success. This is a pass-and-play game to play with friends, and you’ll all have to work together and use your teams strategically if you want to win. There’s an in-app purchase available for expansions, which improves the replayability of this addictive and challenging game.

Download: Pandemic: The Board Game ($6.99)

Vainglory

Vainglory is the complete package, featuring all the frantic MOBA action fans of the genre have come to expect — jump into a quick match with random teammates and opponents, create your own party of friends and take on all comers, or chill offline and practice your strategies against bots. There are five hero classes featuring a total of 25 unique heroes to unlock, upgrade and take into battle. The touch controls are smooth and easy to pick up, so you’ll be able to jump right into the heat of the battle instantly. As you fight your way down the lane, there’s a significant upgrade system that branches out, allowing you to react and counter your enemies more effectively.

If you’re new to the MOBA genre, no worries! After introducing you to the gameplay fundamentals on first launch, Vainglory also features the Academy, an extensive tutorial section that will help you bolster your skills and abilities in the game. There’s also a ton of things to unlock, live events to participate in, and a bustling online community on Twitch. Jump in!

Download: Vainglory (Free)

Hearthstone

Hearthstone is a free, turn-based card game that follows a familiar formula: players summon creature cards and cast spell cards based on the Warcraft universe in an effort to defeat online opponents.

Every one of the nine heroes has their own unique special ability as well as a sizeable batch of collectible and craftable cards. Casual online games, ranked matches, wacky weekly Tavern Brawls, and grueling Arena games appeal to varying levels of commitment, as you build your deck and your best strategies.

Hearthstone is without a doubt the best free card game to come to Android to date.

Download: Hearthstone (Free)

Star Command

Star Command is a sci-fi strategy game with a retro pixel art style. Players take command of a spaceship that vaguely looks like it could have been pulled out of a Star Trek movie, and recruit a crew, upgrade facilities, and embark on intergalactic adventures that usually end in a firefight with grotesque aliens.

Battles rage between ships with different mini-games for each weapon system, or against boarding parties, where you need to move crew members into position, put out fires, and make sure your people don’t get sucked out into the cold void of space when there’s a hull breach. Over time, your crew increases in skills, enabling them to man the ship’s various stations with increasing effectiveness.

If you’re looking for a fun, light-hearted single-player experience with great writing and a lot of long-term progression, Star Command is where it’s at.

Download: Star Command ($2.99)

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What are you playing?

These are our picks, but we love to hear what our readers are playing. Let us know in the comments and your picks just might appear in a future update!

Updated August 2018: Added XCOM: Enemy Within, Fire Emblem: Heroes, and Holedown to our list! Check ’em out!

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18
Aug

With Q#, Microsoft is throwing programmers the keys to quantum


Microsoft

Computers are about to get weird.

After decades as theory, the first quantum computers now sit in a select few labs across the globe. They’re rudimentary, and arguably less practical than early electronic computers like the 50-ton ENIAC. Yet researchers are making headway. IBM, Google, and Intel are making progress on quantum hardware, and a practical quantum computer finally feels like a near-future reality instead of a subject for science fiction.

That’s an opportunity. It’s also a problem. Quantum physics is a weird realm of teleportation and probability that doesn’t follow the rules we’re familiar with. Most people don’t understand quantum mechanics, and that includes programmers, the people who will need to put quantum computers to practical use.

Microsoft has a plan to educate them.

Making the mystery approachable

Any developer looking to learn a new programming language, like C# or Javascript, wants to make immediate use of her lessons. Yet quantum computing’s infancy can make that difficult. Creating a program for many quantum devices is a lot like trying to write in binary machine code – except even more difficult, because quantum mechanics. This isn’t just a field that’s well understood but hard to translate. It’s an area of study where some fundamentals remain unknown.

Matt Smith/Digital Trends

That includes the reason why quantum computers work. “What we have in quantum computing is proof points that quantum computers can outperform classical computers,” said Krysta Svore, Principle Research Manager at Microsoft’s Quantum Architectures and Computation group. “The Holy Grail in our field would be an actual mathematical proof of that.”

Quantum computing is so new, and so unlike anything before it, that even top researchers remain in the dark about important and fundamental elements.

Teaching programmers to code for quantum on real hardware is out of the question for now. Microsoft’s quantum programming language, Q#, side-steps that problem by offering simple access to the tools needed to begin programming. That means making Q# as familiar and approachable as possible, even while scientists continue to make breakthroughs in the fundamentals of how quantum computers work.

Q# isn’t tucked away behind a wall of terrible documentation and poorly explained installers. Programmers can access it through Visual Studio, the world’s most popular development environment. And programmers don’t need access to a quantum computer to use it.

Instead, they can program as if their code would run on an actual quantum device but then run it on a virtual simulation. That’s possible because the quantum computer isn’t treated as its own complete, independent system, but instead as an accelerator that’s called on by a classical computer running classical computer code.

“We envision the quantum computer being another resource in Azure, next to say the GPU, the FPGA, the ASIX, to use. Azure becomes this whole fabric that includes in its compute, a quantum computer,” Svore told Digital Trends.

Most programmers are familiar using purpose-built hardware for specific tasks, and most are familiar calling on resources in the cloud. Firing up Q# isn’t different from those well-known tasks. Quantum hardware might be exotic and rare, but the programming environment Microsoft offers for Q# is exactly what you’d see today if you looked over the shoulder of a programmer at most Fortune 500 companies. That makes it far less intimidating.

“The ultimate vision is that the user isn’t saying ‘Ok, now I need to take this app and run it on this part on the CPU, this part here, this part there,’” said Svore. “It’s the same with quantum computing. We want the accelerator to be seamless.”

A quantum community

Programmers can introduce themselves to Q# through a set of free tutorials that Microsoft calls Quantum Katas. Each lesson involves “a sequence of tasks on a certain quantum computing topic” that programmers are challenged to solve. Finding the correct solution is the goal, but the journey is just as important. The katas aren’t meant to be solved in a single pass. They teach through trial-and-error, introducing programmers to the basics of quantum programming along the way.

Q# and the Quantum Katas bring a transformative level of feedback to quantum programming

Chris Granade, a Research Software Development Engineer at Microsoft, saw them for himself while attending a tutorial session hosted by the University of Technology Sydney. “It was really amazing to watch that people could go from zero knowledge in quantum, to writing it,” he told Digital Trends. “What was transformative, was that when people had a misunderstanding, they didn’t suffer with it. They could run the katas, they could see the got the wrong answer, and that feedback really got people to understand in a hands-on way.”

That hands-on experience immediately transforms quantum computing from a theoretical concept to a practical reality, which makes all the difference in how people approach it. Programmers may not make physical objects, but they’re used to seeing feedback just like any other craftsperson. They create a thing and it works – or it doesn’t. Q# and the Quantum Katas bring that level of feedback to quantum programming, giving anyone interested a chance to dig in and understand what quantum computing makes possible.

The change Granade saw in person isn’t just happening in classrooms. The Quantum Development Kit, of which Q# is a part, can be downloaded by anyone under an open-source license. Interested developers can not only begin to use it, but actively contribute to the community. Svore told Digital Trends that QDK downloads number in “the upper tens of thousands,” and participants have already added “a handful of substantial contributions,” including new algorithms and documentation.

While still a niche, this Quantum Development Kit places the bar of entry low enough that even a novice programmer can begin to experiment with Q# and, in doing so, begin to understand what makes quantum computing tick. That’s helpful not just for programmers, but for the entire field of quantum physics. Explaining quantum theories is a major headache not only because the quantum world is strange compared to the “classical” physics most programmers know, but also because the practical implications of quantum physics can be difficult to demonstrate.

“You don’t need to know the physics. You don’t need to know the quantum mechanics.”

Classical computers deal with binary absolutes. 1s and 0s. Off or on. Quantum deals with probabilities, and programming for quantum means creating algorithms that manipulate probabilities to produce the correct solution. “You know this wave includes my solution. These other waves include not a solution. So, I want those waves, when they interfere, to go away,” Svore explained. “And I want the wave that includes my solution to get really big. At the end, we measure the quantum states. The probability of getting the high wave out is more likely the higher that wave is. That’s how we design quantum algorithms.”

Do you understand what Svore means?

If not, don’t feel bad. It’s not easy to grasp, and it’s not easy to demonstrate. Even thought experiments meant to simplify quantum mechanics, like Schrodinger’s famous cat, can leave you scratching your head.

Microsoft

Microsoft hopes that Q#, and the Quantum Katas, will offer a hands-on alternative for approaching the subject. “You don’t need to know the physics. You don’t need to know the quantum mechanics. In fact, I’ll admit I didn’t take quantum mechanics until graduate school,” said Svore. “I entered quantum computing without ever taking physics in college. I’m a computer scientist by training.”

Quantum programming could become a window of insight by giving programmers a chance to make practical use of quantum theories without ditching the tools they’ve come to rely on. There’s no need to spend years learning physics. Just jump in, make an application that uses Q#, and see what happens.

Preparing for tomorrow

Today’s practical use of Q# is limited because there’s no hardware to call on. Microsoft hasn’t built a quantum computer yet, and even if it had, it would be too primitive to perform useful calculations. But a programmer can check their work by running Q# on a simulated quantum computer. That makes it possible to code a program for quantum with a reasonable expectation that, once the hardware is available, it will work.

Krysta Svore, Principle Research Manager at Microsoft’s Quantum Architectures and Computation group (left) and Chris Granade, a Research Software Development Engineer at Microsoft. Matt Smith/Digital Trends

That’s crucial. Quantum computers are not merely a better modern-day PC. They’re fundamentally different. They require different hardware, different algorithms, and a different approach to solving complex problems. Even if a time traveler appeared with a functional, stable, million-qubit quantum computer, we’d have trouble putting it to use, just as Roman scholars would be perplexed if handed a laptop. 99.9 percent of modern developers, programmers, and computer scientists have zero experience coding for quantum, and no clue how quantum physics work. The basics must be introduced before more impressive discoveries can be made.

Teaching that will take time – but Microsoft’s Q# is an important step forward.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Microsoft provides free lessons for quantum computing basics
  • To put a quantum computer on your desk, Intel has a plan unlike any other
  • Intel backs the U.S. government’s new bill for advancing quantum science
  • The world’s first practical quantum computer has cash and a timeline
  • Philips claims ‘world’s first’ with a new 4K HDR desktop display



18
Aug

How to watch YouTube videos on the Lenovo Smart Display


This might be your new favorite way to binge YouTube.

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Of all the smart home gadgets that have come out in the past couple of years, one that I’ve been particularly enthralled with is the Lenovo Smart Display — essentially Lenovo’s take on Google Home that just happens to have a 10.1-inch screen slapped onto it.

There are a lot of use cases for the Smart Display’s screen, but out of all of them, one of the ways I use it the most is to watch YouTube videos.

The form factor is perfect to have something playing in the background while cooking dinner or doing chores, and to help you get started with your own Smart Display, here’s everything you need to know about watching YouTube videos on it!

  • How to open YouTube
  • How to watch videos from specific channels
  • How to search for videos

How to open YouTube

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Unlike Android, Google’s operating system for Smart Displays doesn’t have traditional apps that you can open up and browse willy-nilly. There are touch-friendly UI elements that are definitely tailored for certain services/features, but the main point of interaction is meant to be your voice.

As such, you won’t find a regular YouTube app that allows you to browse through trending videos, your subscription feed, etc.

You can open up YouTube by saying “Hey Google, Open YouTube”, but all this does is show you a list of recommended videos.

How to watch videos from specific channels

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If you want to quickly watch videos from a specific channel, all you’ve got to say is “Hey Google, watch [Enter channel name here] on YouTube.” With that command, the Google Assistant will automatically start playing the latest video from the channel you said.

Once a video is playing, you can tap the screen so you see the playback controls, swipe up from the bottom, and scroll through other related videos that YouTube thinks you’ll be interested in. If you find something you like, just tap on it and that video will begin playing.

How to search for videos

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For those times where you aren’t entirely sure what you want to watch, you can also just search all of YouTube on your Smart Display.

You can do this for searching both videos and channels, and while channels will show up, tapping on them will just start playing videos from it in chronological order rather than taking you to a channel page.

Kick back and binge on!

With those tips in mind, you’re ready to start watching YouTube videos on your Smart Display!

Have any additional questions? Let us know in the comments below.

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18
Aug

Facebook Fights US Government Demand to Break Messenger Encryption in Criminal Case


Facebook is contesting a demand from the U.S. government that it break the encryption of its popular Messenger app so that law enforcement can listen in to a suspect’s conversations as part of an ongoing investigation into the MS-13 gang.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s demand is in relation to a case proceeding in a federal court in California that is currently under seal, so public files are unavailable. However, Reuters’ sources said the judge in the case heard arguments on Tuesday on a government motion to hold Facebook in contempt of court for refusing to carry out the surveillance request.

Facebook says it can only comply with the government’s request if it rewrites the code relied upon by all its users to remove encryption or else hacks the government’s current target, according to Reuters.

Legal experts differed over whether the government would likely be able to force Facebook to comply. However, if the government gets its way in the case, experts say the precedent could allow it to make similar arguments to force other tech companies to compromise their encrypted communications services.

Messaging platforms like Signal, Telegram, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage all use end-to-end encryption that prevents communications between sender and recipient from being accessed by anyone else, including the service providers.

Tech companies have pushed back against previous attempts by authorities to break encryption methods, such as the FBI’s request that Apple help it hack into the iPhone owned by Syed Farook, one of the shooters in the December 2015 attacks in San Bernardino.

In February 2016, a U.S. federal judge ordered Apple to help the FBI, but Apple opposed the order in an open letter penned by Tim Cook, who said the FBI’s request would set a “dangerous precedent” with serious implications for the future of smartphone encryption.

Apple’s dispute with the FBI ended on March 28, 2016 after the government found an alternate way to access the data on the iPhone with the help of a private contractor and withdrew the lawsuit.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tags: Facebook, Facebook Messenger, privacy, Encryption
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18
Aug

HDHomerun Premium offers 45 streaming channels for $34 a month


hdhomerun-8.jpg?itok=lJ80lqdM HDHomerun Quatro — with four over-the-air tuners — is $119 at Amazon.

The new streaming service will work on existing HDHomerun boxes.

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A little bit of breaking news in the ol’ CordCutters world tonight. SiliconDust — the company behind the excellent HDHomerun over-the-air streaming boxes — has just launched a new streaming service. It’ll work with most existing HDHomerun boxes (save for HDHomerun Prime, which already requires a cable subscription), and it’s available in the United States (with Canada on deck) for $34.99 a month.

HDHomerun works with Android and Android TV, iOS and Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Mac OS, Windows, and Linux.

You’ll get 45 channels with the service.

For more details, hit up the link below.

Read the full story at CordCutters.com

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18
Aug

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium review


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Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium

When you think of a $1,000 smartphone, Apple’s iPhone X is the first that comes to mind. It’s forward-thinking, with a nearly bezel-less design, and it packs a class-leading and secure facial-recognition system. Sony’s new Xperia XZ2 Premium also costs $1,000, but it hardly feels like it’s worth as much. It’s one of the most cumbersome phones we’ve held this year, thanks to its ridiculously thick body and dated 16:9 aspect ratio, and it also has thick bezels that make it look like it came straight out of 2015.

That being said, the spotlight feature on the XZ2 Premium is something we haven’t seen in any other phone to date: the ability to capture good-looking videos in “extreme low-light conditions.” This dual-camera system is a first for Sony, and it is capable of capturing video up to ISO 12800, which is the highest we’ve seen to date in a smartphone. It’s impressive — especially when compared to phones like the Galaxy Note 9 and the iPhone X — but it wasn’t enough to make us want to use the phone after our review period. Let’s take a closer look.

Thick and heavy design, fantastic display

Sony finally introduced a new design motif earlier this year called Ambient Flow, which is meant to accentuate the curves on its phones, making them more ergonomic to hold. It’s an improved look, but we have some problems, some of which we’ve already highlighted in our Xperia XZ2 review, as it looks similar. Ironically, the XZ2 Premium feels less “premium” than the XZ2.

sony xperia xz2 premium watching video

sony xperia xz2 premium top half angle

sony xperia xz2 premium bottom half

sony xperia xz2 premium xz family comparison

The first features you’ll notice about the XZ2 Premium are its size and weight. This is a thick phone that’s also incredibly wide and tall. It will fill every hand — large or small — and it will be difficult to reach certain parts of the 5.8-inch screen without using both hands (or using the one-hand software mode). Its exact dimensions are 157.48 x 78.74 x 12.7mm, and it weighs 232 grams. The Galaxy Note 9 has a 6.4-inch screen, its dimensions are 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8 mm, and it weighs 201 grams. The Sony phone is wider, thicker, and heavier, despite offering a smaller screen and a smaller battery.

The edges around the phone are curvy, it has rounded corners, and the edges on the back slope into the front. That makes it feel natural to hold, but it still remains a cumbersome phone to carry and use. We don’t like how thick it is, and how unnecessarily large it feels in the hand. That being said, we recommend stopping by a store to experience how the XZ2 Premium feels for yourself, as you may prefer a bigger phone. Alternatively, check out the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact if you want a phone on the opposite end of the spectrum.

The spotlight feature on the XZ2 Premium is something we haven’t seen in any other phone.

It’s protected by Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back with an aluminum frame around. The glass body and curvy design is a recipe for disaster. When placed on a flat, smooth surface, the Xperia XZ2 Premium has a mind of its own and starts moving around. It’s constantly trying to fall, and much to our dismay, it experienced two drops during our review period. The first is when it slid off a table onto the pavement (at an outdoor restaurant), and the second time it slid out of our pocket at a press conference. Thankfully, it only suffered a few scratches to the glass on the back.

The XZ2 Premium sliding out of pockets is more common than you think. It slid out of our pocket on the subway, on a plane, at the theater, and when sitting at the office, though, fortunately, we stopped it right on time, preventing any serious injury. The point is, this phone will try to hit the floor any chance it gets, so you definitely need a case — which will only add more bulk and weight to the phone — and you need to constantly think about where you place it and how.

sony xperia xz1 premium camera lenses Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

There’s a power button on the right edge, which is a tad lower than we’d like, a volume rocker above, and a camera shutter button at the bottom. There’s no headphone jack (a USB-C adapter is in the box), but there are two front-facing stereo speakers, and a USB Type-C charging port sits at the bottom. The speakers sound good, and you can easily hear audio in noisy environments, such as outdoors.

The front of the phone also packs chunky edges around the display, particularly at the top and bottom. Put the XZ2 Premium against almost every other flagship smartphone of 2018, and it will look the oldest thanks to its lack of an edge-to-edge screen. This dated, ugly look — paired with the unusual weight and thickness — does not make this phone feel like $1,000.

Front design aside, we love the look of the XZ2 Premium from the back. Both the Chrome Black and Chrome Silver colors make the phone look flashy and futuristic, and the centered camera, sensor, and fingerprint scanner give off a sci-fi vibe. We do have to point out the same gripe we had with the cheaper XZ2: The fingerprint sensor is too low. We’ve put our grubby fingers on the dual-camera sensor countless times thinking it was the fingerprint sensor. You get used to it after some time, but we’d still prefer if Sony raised it next year.

It is an absolute joy to watch media on this phone.

The IPS LCD  5.8-inch screen supports HDR, has a 3,840 x 2,160 4K resolution, as well as a 16:9 aspect ratio. It’s fantastically sharp and colorful, and the screen truly comes to life when you play 4K HDR content like Stranger Things on Netflix. The black levels aren’t as deep as we’ve seen on many OLED screens, but it is an absolute joy to watch media on this phone. The screen also gets plenty bright for most situations, and reading the screen in broad daylight is manageable when brightness is maxed out.

We did have one small issue with our unit — some colors on the screen would appear slightly muted as we swiped the notification drawer up and down. It was distracting and happened often enough for us to notice. We’ve reached out to Sony about the problem.

While we love the screen and the rear design on the XZ2 Premium, the weight, thickness, and overall large body made us want to swap phones as quickly as possible.

Strong performance, Android 8.0 Oreo

The XZ2 Premium is powered by the same processor inside its two smaller siblings — the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip — but it comes with 6GB of RAM. We had absolutely no trouble with performance on this device. Apps open instantly, moving around the operating system is fast, and games like Alto’s Odyssey and PUBG Mobile run without any issues. You’ll be able to run almost any intensive app or service on this phone.

Here are a few benchmark results:

  • AnTuTu 3DBench: 257,384
  • Geekbench 4 CPU: 2,415 single-core; 8,272 multi-core
  • 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme: 3,394 (Vulkan)

The XZ2 Premium’s AnTuTu score is one of our highest, coming in right below Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus. It reaffirms that you really don’t need to worry about performance here. One thing to note, the phone did get surprisingly warm after running these benchmark apps, but we never found it reaching a similar level of heat when playing games for a decent amount of time.

The phone runs Android 8.0 Oreo, and we’ve yet to run into any of the same software bugs we saw on the XZ2 and XZ2 Compact. Our biggest issue here is just how dated the software looks compared to other Android skins, but it’s still perfectly usable.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium Compared To

vivo nex s prod

Vivo Nex S

moto z3 play prod

Moto Z3 Play

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LG G7 ThinQ

alcatel 1x prod

Alcatel 1X

lg fortune 2

LG Fortune 2

cat s61 prod

Cat S61

htc u12 plus prod

HTC U12 Plus

moto e5 plus hands on review 9

Moto E5 Plus

samsung galaxy s9 prod

Samsung Galaxy S9

nokia 7 plus prd

Nokia 7 Plus

lg v35 thinq prod

LG V35 ThinQ

moto g6 prd

Motorola Moto G6

nuu g3

Nuu G3

samsung galaxy s8 product

Samsung Galaxy S8

xiaomi mi mix product

Xiaomi Mi Mix

There is a good deal of bloatware, most of which you can’t uninstall but only disable, which is annoying. There are a handful of Sony apps such as 3D Creator, where you can create 3D images of objects or even your face. You can send it off to a 3D printer to build or simply share these images to Facebook. It’s neat, but it’s a feature we’d forget about after trying it once. There’s also Xperia Assist, which you can use to trigger several phone features based on time of day or events. For example, the Good Night action automatically turns on the blue light filter and Do Not Disturb at a time range you set. You can choose exactly what you want on or off, making it quite handy.

Sony has also included the Dynamic Vibration System it debuted on the XZ2, which tries to make you “feel” videos, music, and games by making the phone vibrate during punchy parts of the audio. To us, the vibrating phone doesn’t make us feel more immersed in what we’re doing, which is why we recommend simply ignoring this feature.

You likely won’t run out of space thanks to the base 64GB available, but in case you do, there’s a MicroSD card slot if you want to add more.

Ultra-low-light camera

The highlight of the Xperia XZ2 Premium is its camera, particularly with video, but let’s start with stills. The rear dual-camera system — a first for Sony — houses a 19-megapixel f/1.8 lens and a 12-megapixel monochrome lens with a f/1.6 aperture. It can capture up to 51200 ISO for photos and 12800 ISO for videos, which means it should be able to perform well in low-light conditions.


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dog

buildings at night

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building in the distance

treeline

park

city street at night

In good lighting, the camera can take well-detailed photos with good color accuracy, and the camera shutter is fast to react. The only delay we’ve seen is the few seconds it takes to process the photo. While it can handle high-contrast scenarios well with HDR, it’s slow to kick in and it doesn’t always work, requiring a few attempts before you get a nice, balanced shot.

In low-light environments, the camera app will say “ultra-high sensitivity” when it’s using both cameras. You can manually turn on the dual-camera system in the manual camera mode. The results are solid; photos have a respectable amount of detail and color accuracy, and while there’s quite a bit of noise, it’s not overpowering. There’s a fair chance some photos will come out blurry, which means you may have to make another attempt.

But when compared with the Galaxy Note 9 — which should also deliver excellent low-light photos — the results don’t look as strong. Photos from the Note 9 tend to be more detailed, more colorful, and less grainy – an example is the photo of the Nintendo Switch, which was actually much darker than it appears in the Note 9’s photo. In the XZ2 Premium’s photo, there’s a lot of noise (ISO 8000), and details start to become fuzzy.

tree branches

nintendo switch

park at night

tree branches note 9

nintendo switch note 9

park at night note 9

Top row: Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium, Bottom row: Samsung Galaxy Note 9

So, while you can expect to take some solid low-light photos with the XZ2 Premium, we don’t think it can take the crown for the best low-light camera.

Videos look really shaky with Sony’s phone. To truly make use of this low-light camera, a smartphone gimbal or tripod is essential.

That all changes with video. Considering this is a $1,000 phone, we decided to compare the XZ2 Premium’s low-light video capabilities against two other $1,000 phones — the iPhone X and the Note 9. The results are astounding. At the park, the latter two phones produce videos that are much darker and filled with noise, but the XZ2 Premium’s video shows a ton more detail with less noise. In the videos of the dog sleeping, the XZ2 Premium’s video offers the best colors with far less noise than the other two videos, though the dog in the iPhone X’s video does appear a tad sharper.

That being said, the XZ2 Premium suffers greatly from poor stabilization compared to the other two cameras. Camera shake is hardly noticeable with all the videos from the iPhone X and the Note 9, but videos look really shaky with Sony’s phone. To truly make use of this low-light camera, a smartphone gimbal or tripod is essential.

Like the XZ2 Compact and the XZ2, the XZ2 Premium can also capture 4K HDR footage, but because its screen is 4K HDR, it’s one of the few phones where you can capture 4K HDR content and watch it in full glory on the same screen. Videos have beautiful and true-to-life color profiles, but we encounter the same problems with video stabilization.

The camera can also capture super slow motion video at 960 frames per second in 1080p. It’s a fun feature that can produce some incredibly cool video, but it requires precise timing and lots of light for it to look good. There’s also going to be a Portrait Mode and a monochrome mode for photos coming soon in a software update, but we’ve yet to see it on our device.

The 13-megapixel front camera takes selfies that are more than satisfactory, and it even uses the display as a flash so selfies look good in low light as well.

selfie without flash

selfie with flash

For all the technology Sony packs into this dual-camera system, we can only say this phone takes the best low light videos. It’s not the best smartphone camera, and it’s not the best low-light camera — though that doesn’t mean it doesn’t take good photos. The 4K HDR option is a plus, but you can’t record with it for long, and it really does need either a tripod or a gimbal for best results.

Battery life

We never felt battery anxiety with the 3,540mAh battery inside the XZ2 Premium. After taking the phone off the charger at 7:30 a.m., with medium to heavy use including music streaming, gaming, web browsing, and taking pictures, we’d end up with a little under 40 percent by 8 p.m. This phone should easily get you through a day, and perhaps a little more with light use.

There’s wireless charging onboard, as well as support for Quick Charge 3.0 in case you want to top up fast.

Price, availability, and warranty information

The Xperia XZ2 Premium costs $1,000, and it’s available for purchase now at Amazon, Best Buy, and Focus. The phone only supports GSM networks, which means it will work on T-Mobile and AT&T, but you won’t be able to use it on Verizon or Sprint.

Sony offers a standard one-year limited warranty that covers the phone from manufacturer defects, and nothing more.

Our Take

Sony’s Xperia XZ2 Premium impresses with its low-light capabilities, but its spotlight features cater to a niche audience, and they’re not good enough to make this phone exciting to use.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes, in this price range, every smartphone in our best smartphones guide is up for grabs. We strongly recommend you consider the Galaxy Note 9 or Galaxy S9 Plus, as they seriously impress with low-light photography (also check out the Huawei P20 Pro if you don’t mind importing a phone).

Otherwise, the Google Pixel 2 XL is our top pick. It’s more affordable, it has an excellent camera, and the best software experience you can get on an Android phone.

How long will it last?

The XZ2 Premium is wrapped in Gorilla Glass 5, and we’ve already managed to scratch it up thanks to its slippery nature. We recommend a case if you don’t want it to end up shattered. The phone is IP65/68 water- and dust-resistant, so it should be able to withstand rain and maybe a dunk in the pool.

Sony has already promised an update to Android 9.0 Pie, which we expect will arrive later this year. You should expect an update to Android Q next year too. Overall, we expect this phone to last you three to four years, if not more.

Should you buy it?

No, at $1,000 it’s tough to justify buying the XZ2 Premium. Unless you desperately want to film in 4K HDR or often find yourself filming in low light, this phone doesn’t do enough for its high price tag, and it’s not pleasurable to use.

18
Aug

The OnePlus 6T could launch on T-Mobile in October, report says


The OnePlus 6 may have just launched a few months ago, but already it seems as though the OnePlus 6T is in the works. While we may not have too many details about what the phone will look like or feature under the hood, we are starting to get a better idea of how it will launch in the U.S. — for the first time in OnePlus’ history, its next flagship may have the backing of a major U.S. carrier.

According to CNET, T-Mobile will be the exclusive carrier partner for the OnePlus 6T when it’s released in October. To be clear, that doesn’t mean that the phone won’t also be available unlocked — it just means that it won’t be available from other U.S. carriers. Citing people familiar with the matter, CNET says that the partnership will include the release of a version of the phone optimized for T-Mobile’s network.

The report also notes that the phone is set to come in at $550 — though the price has not been finalized and it could end up costing a little more or less.

OnePlus has certainly come a long way in the past few years. The company started as a small startup aimed at developing phones with flagship specs that come at a much lower price than other flagship phones. OnePlus still isn’t really a well-known brand among those that aren’t into smartphones, but with carrier backing, it will likely attract much more mainstream awareness. It makes sense that OnePlus would go for T-Mobile too — OnePlus’ unlocked phones only work with T-Mobile and AT&T in the U.S., and T-Mobile’s brand of being free from the major carriers seems in line with OnePlus’ brand of being free from expensive flagship phones.

OnePlus could be one of the few Chinese smartphone brands to get carrier backing in the U.S. this year. Companies like Huawei and ZTE have faced a number of issues with the U.S. government of late, all related to security issues.

Other details about the phone have yet to be released, but it will likely feature the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor again, along with at least 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Everything you need to know about the 6-inch OnePlus 5T
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  • OnePlus 2019 smartphone will be 5G ready, promises timely updates



18
Aug

Welcome to the uncanny valley: This robot head shows lifelike expressions


You only have to look at the number of research labs and companies developing artificial skin, machine muscles, and, err, sex robots to realize that robots are becoming increasingly lifelike in their appearance. Even with that background, however, we weren’t quite prepared for SEER (short for “Simulative Emotional Expression Robot”), the lifelike robotic head shown off recently at SIGGRAPH 2018. Created by Japanese artist Takayuki Todo, SEER is a machine that is capable of recognizing the facial expressions of people it interacts with and then mirroring that same expression back at them.

Of course, facial recognition technology is nothing new. It is something a lot of us take for granted, considering that it’s now baked into many smartphones like the iPhone X as a substitute for the four-figure passcodes we previously used to unlock our phones. However, Todo uses the technology to stunning effect in a way that makes it feel as though SEER is almost a living being. It’s a great example of the uncanny valley: The phenomenon first identified in 1970 by Japanese robotics professor Masahiro Mori. Mori noted how more humanoid robots could inspire emotions like empathy in onlookers, although this risks tipping over into revulsion when it’s not executed correctly. That makes SEER even more impressive, since the human brain is particularly good at identifying when an artificial face isn’t quite right. (Think about all the people who were freaked out by the CGI characters in Robert Zemeckis’ 2004 movie The Polar Express.)

At present, SEER is limited to being an art project or a fancy tech demo. But it’s easy to imagine this technology being used in future robots — whether it’s to give them more lifelike features to make the experience of our working alongside them more comfortable or to create embodied virtual assistants, capable of mirroring back our emotions to enhance trust and affection.

In an email, SEER creator Takayuki Todo told Digital Trends that he is continuing to develop the project, and plans to show SEER at various festivals and exhibitions around the world. We are excited to see what he has in store going forward.

Editors’ Recommendations

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