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Posts tagged ‘News’

8
Dec

Sprint cozies up with Pokémon Go, turns over 10,000 stores into PokéStops


Stock up on cases and Poké Balls at your closest Sprint store.

The Pokémon Company has announced that over 10,000 Sprint, Boost Mobile and “Sprint at Radioshack” locations will become PokéStops and Gyms over the next few weeks.

As “the first Pokémon Go United States partner,” Sprint will be able to leverage Pokémon Go’s ongoing popularity to bring people into stores, allowing them to not only top up their Poké Ball reserves, but also their phones at in-store charging stations.

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The move is certainly a win for Sprint, which needs ways to differentiate itself from T-Mobile and the rest of the U.S. carrier game. Earlier this summer, T-Mobile launched a promotion forgiving all Pokémon Go data for a year, but that was during the height of the craze; Sprint is launching this promotion at the beginning of winter, when outdoor roaming is going to be considerably lower than it was in July.

Earlier this week, Reuters reported that Japan’s SoftBank, Sprint’s majority shareholder, plans to invest roughly $50 billion into the U.S. economy, and may revive merger plans with T-Mobile, which were stopped under pressure by the current regulatory environment, but that may change under the new administration.

Sprint, despite a move to expand and improve the speed and reliability of its LTE network, added the fewest number of customers in Q3, and is still some 10 million subscribers behind third-place T-Mobile.

Pokémon Go

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8
Dec

Get ready to head back down the mountain in Alto’s Odyssey


The developers behind Alto’s Adventure are teasing a sequel for 2017.

Fans of Alto’s Adventure, get ready for more llama-chasing fun in 2017. Team Alto today put out a teaser site for their next title, Alto’s Odyssey, and we couldn’t be more excited. Alto’s Adventure is both visually stunning and super fun to play — well deserving of it’s spot on our list of best Android games of 2016.

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While the developers have provided very little information for the new game beyond the title and the hazy purple landscape featured on AltosOdyssey.com, if we can glean anything concrete from the site’s artwork, it would appear that perhaps this next chapter in Alto’s life will see him hanging up his trusty snowboard for something a bit more… tropical?

Again, that’s pure speculation on my part. But if you’re as eager as we are to learn more about Alto’s Odyssey, you’ll want to scroll down to the bottom of their website and join the mailing list to get the latest news and updates.

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8
Dec

Canadians won’t be able to use a Note 7 on any network after December 15


Time to give it up, Canada.

Samsung Canada is following New Zealand’s lead by cutting off network access for all unreturned Note 7 devices as of December 15.

The company has announced that although 90% of the approximately 39,000 Note 7s sold through Canadian channels have been returned, the remaining 4,000 or so outstanding units will lose access to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on December 12, along with cellular abilities three days later, on December 15. An update will also include “a limitation on the battery charge,” though it’s unclear to what percentage. Other markets have limited the Note 7’s defective battery to 60% to prevent overheating and expansion.

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Samsung implores Canadians holding onto a Note 7 unit to return it as soon as possible:

We strongly urge any customers still using their Note7 to return their device to the place of purchase for a refund or exchange between December 7th and December 15th. We have been in continuous communication with Note7 customers to remind them about the need to return their recalled device and will continue to communicate daily with a push notification about this network deactivation event to ensure they continue to receive adequate notice.

As a recalled product, Note7 device owners are legally prohibited from selling or even giving away the recalled device. We would like to remind customers that they need to return their Note7 device.

The company notes that even after the update, Note 7s will still be able to call 9-1-1 for safety reasons.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

  • Galaxy Note 7 fires, recall and cancellation: Everything you need to know
  • Survey results: Samsung users stay loyal after Note 7 recall
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review
  • The latest Galaxy Note 7 news
  • Join the Note 7 discussion in the forums!

8
Dec

Kodak Ektra review: Phone camera failings can’t revive those nostalgic Kodak moments


We all owe a lot to Kodak. The imaging company was the forerunner in colour film, but also a largely unsung hero in technological developments: it invented the digital camera and even OLED display technology.

That was all before it fell behind the times, sold off the majority of its patents and, in 2012, filed for bankruptcy. The dream was dead.

But the memory lives on. For Kodak isn’t quite done and has, under license, been releasing a range of products in recent years. And 2016 sees the arrival of the Ektra, a phone-camera that shows Kodak’s hunger to climb back up the photographic food-chain.

However, and like so many things in 2016 – a year which has been viewed through the rose-tinted nostalgic glasses of those wanting to wind back to imaginary greater times – the shortcomings of a company that’s descended so far down the chain that it’s slipped off it are evident from the moment we switch the Ektra on.

Here’s why Kodak is best left as a fond memory, not a sub-par phone in your pocket.

Kodak Ektra review: What is it?

  • 147.8 x 73.4 x 14mm
  • 5-inch, 1080p display
  • Android 6.0 operating system

Is it a phone? Is it a camera? The Ektra wants to be both. Although, at-best, it’s a mid-range Android phone with a camera proposition that even on paper isn’t really anything beyond its competition.

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The Ektra’s 21-megapixel sensor – the same 1/2.4in size IMX230 chip as found in the 2015 Moto X Play – is paired with a protruding 26.5mm f/2.0 (equivalent) wide-angle lens.

Kodak certainly wants you to know the Ektra is camera-focused: the huge circular protrusion to the rear is statement enough. But that’s because this camera is optically stabilised (OIS), a feature that not only lacks from a large majority of smartphones, but one that isn’t found as a six-axis stabilisation proposition in any phone except for the Ektra.

The final point of interest in the Ektra’s camera arrangement is the “PDAF” acronym printed on the lens. Standing for “phase-detection autofocus” this actually has nothing to do with the lens itself, but the pixels on the imaging sensor which can offset their readings for focus calculation.

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However, if you were hoping for a large sensor, such as the humongous 1-inch one found in the Panasonic CM1, then you’ll be sorely disappointed. No such luck here. Which, despite physical appearances, leaves the Kodak Ektra struggling to standout.

Kodak Ektra review: What’s it like to use?

  • Six-axis optical image stabilisation
  • Phase-detection autofocus

As the Ektra is pitched as a camera phone the very first thing we did was fire-up the app. There’s a dedicated button, with the Kodak symbol, positioned just a little bit too far up the body. Double-pressing this will launch the camera without needing to sign-in to the phone, or press any power keys.

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Otherwise the camera app is accessed via an upward swipe of the camera symbol from the Android lock screen or a press of the Camera app on the homepage will also load it.

None of these three methods are lightning fast to get you into shooting action, though, which is disappointing. And that’s a sentiment that continues throughout the Ektra as a camera experience: focus isn’t very fast, despite being phase-detection; close-up focus frequently fails; there’s shutter lag; and it often takes a few seconds for an image thumbnail to appear in the gallery so you know you’ve actually taken a shot.

Design-wise the Camera app is trying too hard too: it’s opted for a familiar rotational thumbwheel, as you would find on real digital compact cameras, albeit in virtual form. It’s far too small, positioned too closely to the edge of the touchscreen and is really fiddly to use successfully. It’s been plonked there by a designer whose first job was to emulate a physical design, not to create a usable, considered experience.

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There are a bunch of modes too: auto, video panorama, bokeh (which fake-blurs the background – but takes 12-seconds to process and often doesn’t work at all), night mode, sport, macro (which doesn’t work especially close-up), portrait, landscape.

Kodak Ektra review: What’s image quality like?

  • 21-megapixel 1/2.4in sensor
  • 26.5mm f/2.0 (equiv.) lens

Whichever mode we’ve picked we’ve ended up with oversaturated images and, typically, odd colour balance. Daytime shots have taken on a cool hue, while greens and reds are overly punchy – which we thought was down to the phone’s screen, but is actually just over-saturation from processing, as revealed on our Mac’s monitor.

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Low-light has its issues too. It’s not so much down to image noise, but this sensor presents some visible banding in shadow areas at what are presumably higher ISO sensitivities (the metadata is hidden from view for some reason). Not pretty.

On the plus side is the potential of that six-axis stabilisation. The camera might not be fast, but hold a steady hand and even longer shutter speeds redeem fairly sharp images that we might not get from other cameras. On the flip side, we’ve had issues in daylight with the lag from shutter to shot being so bad that the result has been blurry (you need to keep fixed in position with the Ektra).

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In short, then, the Ektra can’t match up to other modern smartphones when it comes to ability nor quality. A Samsung Galaxy S7 is hands-down better.

Kodak Ektra review: What’s it like as a phone?

  • 3.2Ghz Helio X20 deca-core, 3GB RAM
  • 32GB storage (microSD expandable)
  • 3,000mAh non-removable battery

Despite a camera experience that’s not always fast – not by flagship phone standards, anyway – the Ektra functions fine as a phone. When even some flagships, such as the Moto Z, struggle to scroll through webpages, the Ektra shows no such issues. It’s not the speediest to load, but things function well once they’re in play.

Android is largely pure, with only a handful of Kodak apps thrown in as extras. One, Super8, is playful on Kodak’s camera and film history. We’re fine with the kitsch sentiment, problem is it doesn’t work: it failed to “develop” video we shot from the app itself, while the tiny preview screen-within-a-screen goes against the grain of usability. Other apps are quick-access to web help and a Kodak-specific gallery, which is just like a normal Android gallery.

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Battery-wise, there’s a 3,000mAh cell on board, which is a decent capacity. Given the phone body’s 9.4mm thickness, though, we would have thought there’s scope for even more inside. Note, the lens and grip protrusion make the phone 14mm thick overall, which is big for a phone these days.

First Impressions

As phone cameras continue to get better and better, we had high hopes for the Kodak Ektra. Its stance toward being a camera-phone help it to stand-out in a market of otherwise copycat devices that, to many, will be hard to recognise one from the next.

Sadly, the Ektra stands out for all the wrong reasons: its specification (ignoring six-axis stabilisation) is middling, it’s slow to operate and use as a camera, its images are over-saturated, low-light shots have banding issues, the app is poorly designed and, ultimately, there’s little to nothing to save Kodak’s attempted reintegration into the camera-slash-phone market.

Which all sounds scathing, but that’s how we feel this product stacks up. And that makes us really sad because, like we said in our opening gambit, we owe a lot to Kodak for its past history and innovation.

The Ektra, however, is best forgotten so we can enjoy those wonderful Kodak moments and memories past instead.

Kodak Ektra: The alternatives to consider

Panasonic CM1

  • £639

It might be a lot more cash, but the Panasonic CM1 really focuses on putting the ultimate camera in a phone. With a 1-inch sensor at its core, it’s far more adept at imaging.

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Samsung Galaxy S7

  • £639

It might not have a big, protruding camera, but the SGS7 knows what it’s doing when it comes to taking pictures. The camera is super-fast to respond and great in low-light. Plus, as phones go, this is one of the most fluid-to-use flagship devices on the market. So it’s a win win situation… despite the extra you’ll need to meet its asking price.

8
Dec

Technology is coming for your retail jobs


Amazon recently unveiled a new type of grocery store: one that doesn’t require cashiers at all. Called Amazon Go, the brick-and-mortar location uses sensors and gates to automatically identify what you bought, calculate your total and charge you for your purchases when you leave. It gets rids of pesky long lines in front of cashiers or self-checkout kiosks but also more or less eradicates the need for checkout counters altogether.

While that’s exciting for loathers of long lines (like me), it also sounds like it could cause a decline in employment, just as automation wiped out millions of manufacturing jobs over the past couple of decades. The reason for the drastic decrease there has been fiercely debated; many argue that trade agreements like NAFTA have resulted in jobs lost to other countries, but data suggests that increased productivity is really to blame.

Increased productivity has traditionally been linked to improvements in technology, which enables more output without adding more workers. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that the number of jobs in manufacturing saw a sharp decline in 2000 (and then again in 2010 after the credit crunch), not 1994, when NAFTA went into effect. In fact, between the years 1994 and 1998, the number of employees hired in manufacturing actually increased, if only slightly.

According to a 2010 report by the conservative Heritage Foundation, which cites BLS data, declines in manufacturing jobs coincide with significant growth in productivity and output.

So it appears trade agreements are not to blame: Increased productivity is the more likely culprit. And advances in technology are going to continue to impact employment. In fact, a World Economic Forum report from Jan. 2016 predicts that we will lose 5 million jobs by 2020, thanks to technology and automation.

It’s unclear what this, and Amazon’s new shopping tech, could mean for jobs in the retail sector. While it’s easy to assume that this automated-checkout system could replace human cashiers, many believe that existing staff could be repurposed for other positions in stores.

Tom Coughlin, IEEE senior member and president of Coughlin Associates, believes that stores could get their employees to focus more on servicing customers by helping them locate items and even assist them in bringing their heavy shopping out to their cars, instead of spending time trying to collect money from them.

Indeed, a report from the BLS also states that in an effort to combat online shopping, brick-and-mortar stores may emphasize customer service to improve sales. “Traditional retail stores should hire more sales workers to provide this service,” says the bureau’s retail industry forecast for 2014 to 2024, which projects a 7 percent increase in jobs.

Human workers are also more versatile, and they are able to perform a broad range of job duties that include helping customers find items, operating a cash register and re-stocking shelves. “Because retail sales workers have this versatile range of functions, their usage should also increase,” states the report. It’s important to note, though, that most stores today already employ stockers and customer service attendants, so it’s not clear if companies will increase hires in those areas enough to compensate.

Of course, a lot of this is speculation sparked by Amazon’s introduction of its new retail format, which is only in one outlet in Seattle right now. It’s unclear whether it will gain popularity and become more widespread.

Even if this cashier-free system takes off, though, there are ways to maintain the number of jobs in retail. The rise of online shopping did not appear to severely impact the number of jobs in the industry between the years 2004 and 2013, although employment did suffer between 2007 and 2010 because of the overall economic downturn.

AMAZON-COM/STORE

“A technology driven increase in productivity should not cost any net jobs,” says Josh Bivens, director of research and policy at the Economic Policy Institute. “The faster productivity growth we’ve ever seen came between 1945 and 1970 and 1995 and 2001 — and job growth in these periods was the fastest, not slowest, on record,” he says.

Bivens believes that managing the macroeconomy to ensure enough growth in demand to soak up the extra productive capacity is key to maintaining the number of jobs. Of course, that’s easier said than done, and it requires the injection of more money into the economy. That means more than just increasing GDP; it means growing a base of consumers through increasing wages and creating new jobs. And those jobs can’t be focused entirely in high-skilled fields.

Regardless of the feasibility though, Bivens reiterates that technological advancements are not to be shunned. “The policy bungling is what’s to be feared, not the productivity growth,” he says. In other words, while it is possible that developments in tech, such as Amazon Go, and the resulting bump in productivity could kill jobs, it’s up to economists and politicians to make sure that they don’t.

8
Dec

NASA mission will study Earth’s ‘breathing’ from space


Scientists know that the Earth “breathes” carbon, particularly through plants that absorb carbon through photosynthesis when they’re healthy and give it up when they lose their leaves or die. They haven’t had an extremely detailed look at that breathing cycle, however, which is where NASA and the University of Oklahoma come into play. They’re launching a satellite mission, the Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory, that will both study plant health as well as the exchange of key gases (carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane) between the land and the atmosphere.

The satellite will float 22,000 miles above the equator and examine both solar-based fluorescence (a sign of changes in photosynthesis and plant stress) as well as gas levels in the atmosphere. At a ground resolution of 3 to 6 miles, the mission promises “unprecedented detail” — it’ll show just where carbon is coming from and where it’s going.

There’s no mention of a specific launch date. However, NASA expects to spend $166 million on the mission over the next 5 years. That’s not a trivial amount, but it could pay dividends if it gives researchers a much better understanding of both Earth’s natural rhythms and our effect on them through deforestation.

Source: NASA

8
Dec

Bluetooth 5’s faster, longer-ranged wireless is here


Bluetooth is about to become a lot less hassle-prone. The wireless standard’s Special Interest Group has officially adopted the Bluetooth 5 spec, clearing the way for device makers to use the much-improved technology in everything from phones to wearables to smart home equipment. This doesn’t mean that you’ll see it right away, of course. The group expects Bluetooth 5-equipped products to hit the market in the next 2 to 6 months, or right around when the next wave of smartphones is likely to arrive.

Again, the new spec is all about raw performance. You can expect up to four times the range, twice the speed and eight times the amount of data in broadcast messages. Those will be particularly helpful for smart appliances and the Internet of Things, where the existing Bluetooth 4.2 standard might not be powerful enough to connect an entire home. However, it should also make a difference anywhere that you notice Bluetooth’s existing limitations. Smartwatches could see a serious upgrade, for example — one of the biggest bottlenecks on wristwear is the slow connection to your phone. And regardless of the device you use, there are techniques to reduce interference with other wireless devices.

Just don’t expect much of a boost to audio quality. While Bluetooth 5 could help with range, you won’t see improvements to audio compression, latency and power use until 2018. The newly adopted format is primarily about dragging Bluetooth’s range and speed into the modern era, and future efforts will build on top of that groundwork.

Source: Bluetooth SIG

8
Dec

Scientists find bacteria resistant to last-ditch drug treatments


If there wasn’t already a reason to develop a solution to drug-resistant “superbugs,” there is now. Scientists have found bacteria on an American pig farm that resists carbapenems, a variety of antibiotics used only against germs that resist normal antibiotics. There was a similar incident with cattle earlier in 2016, but that bacteria couldn’t transmit its resistance to anything but its offspring — this strain could jump between bacteria without much trouble.

Thankfully, the scientists didn’t find evidence of the bacteria reaching the pigs or their food supply. And while the bacteria would pose a threat to people who are already sick, it’s not normally dangerous to humans. That’s not exactly reassuring in the long term, though, and the team tells Popular Science that it wants to find methods of preventing this sort of contamination in the future. The group is also worried about the resistant bacteria’s origins. It’s unlikely that the resistance developed at the farm given the lack of antibiotics, so there’s a good chance that it came from something outside.

Plenty of research is underway to develop both more sophisticated antibiotics and treatments that avoid antibiotics altogether. However, this discovery reinforces the need for short-term steps to prevent particularly stubborn bacteria from spreading, such as better procedures and preventative technology. Ideally, the medical community would buy enough time to have a true answer to superbugs before the best available options prove ineffective.

Via: Popular Science

Source: American Society for Microbiology

8
Dec

Sprint stores are PokéStops and Gyms for ‘Pokémon Go’


As rumored, Niantic is bringing brand partnerships to its hit augmented reality game, Pokémon Go. The software developer has announced that Sprint will have the first sponsored locations in the US, with more than 10,500 stores expected to be turned into PokéStops and Gyms. It’s worth nothing this doesn’t only include Sprint’s namesake shops, but also those from Boost Mobile and RadioShack — which are owned by the carrier. These spaces will feature in-store charging stations too, in case your smartphone can’t keep up with all your quests.

Now don’t get too excited (or do), but Niantic says you should keep an eye on its social media channels on December 12th. That’s when it will be sharing details about new Pokémon additions to Pokémon Go, and we know you’re dying to find out all about that.

Source: Niantic

8
Dec

YouTube in 2016 was all about viral challenges


Like clockwork, the 2016 edition of YouTube’s annual Rewind retrospective video is here to sweep us back through all the whimsy and virality that made its way across the streaming site in the past year. For 2016, YouTube lined up an impressive roster of over 200 creators and artists like Hannah Hart, Casey Niestat, the Slow Mo Guys, Unbox Therapy and (of course) James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke team to recreate the most popular videos, memes and songs from the past year, including the bottle flip heard round the world. The whole package is wrapped up in a new mashup by The Hood Internet and remixed by Major Lazer, but first: the Rock and his infamous fanny pack get to do the intro.

All told, the top 10 videos on YouTube this year had a collective 550 million views for a combined 25 million hours of time spent watching. Adele’s Carpool Karaoke naturally topped the list with nearly 136 million views alone, followed by latecomer Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen with 95 million and homegrown curiosity channel What’s Inside? with nearly 60 million views on its “What’s Inside a Rattlesnake Rattle?” video.

Also new this year: YouTube filmed a couple of the Rewind 2016 scenes in 360 video as a dizzying Easter Egg for the superfans.

Source: YouTube Blog

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