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Flixster Video is shutting down for good today

As of today, Flixster Video is officially gone. Fandango bought the site in 2016, and has been sending users regular emails over the past several months about the shutdown, as reported by Android Police. The website is no longer operational, and now only points people to its mobile app, which can still be used for getting movie reviews and tickets.

Flixster first announced it was closing in 2016, after being acquired by Fandango along with subsidiary Rotten Tomatoes. That year, Fandango also bought video streaming service M-Go, later rebranding it under FandangoNow. Flixster Video, which let people access their UltraViolet movie collection, was not a part of that deal.

The shutdown began with the service telling customers it would no…

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Sledgehammer’s founders leave Call of Duty studio for new roles at Activision

The founders of Sledgehammer Games — Michael Condrey and Glen Schofield — are resigning from their posts as co-presidents of the Call of Duty studio, and they are moving on to new roles within Activision.

Condrey and Schofield started the studio in 2009 in San Mateo, California, and it was acquired by Activision to make Call of Duty games. They helped develop Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 alongside main developer Infinity Ward. Sledgehammer became one of three studios that rotated shifts in to produce the Call of Duty games every year. Kotaku first reported the departures.

It’s a big change for Call of Duty, which had more than $15 billion in sales at the decade mark. Sales are well over that number now.

In a statement, Activision said, “Following the incredible success of Call of Duty: WWII, Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey have decided to transition from their duties at Sledgehammer Games to new executive duties inside Activision. We thank Glen and Michael for their tremendous body of work on Call of Duty and look forward to continuing to collaborate with them in their new roles. These changes have created an opportunity to elevate one of the key leaders at the studio, Aaron Halon, to lead Sledgehammer Games. Aaron is a founding member of Sledgehammer Games and the natural fit to lead the team. He has over 20 years of industry experience and has played an instrumental role throughout the studio’s history. We congratulate Aaron and are thrilled about the future of Sledgehammer Games, which we believe has even bigger days ahead.”

Sledgehammer’s first solo game was Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, which debuted in 2014. And then it created Call of Duty: WWII for November 2017. That game has had stellar results, with Activision saying it did $1 billion in sales within weeks of the November 3 launch.

Before starting Sledgehammer, Condrey and Schofield both ran EA’s now-closed Visceral Games, where they created the original horror game Dead Space.

Above: Multiplayer combat in Call of Duty: WWII.

Image Credit: Sledgehammer/Activision

In a statement, Schofield said, “Michael and I have been collaborating for over 12 years. In that time, we’ve made great games that fans have loved, won awards on behalf of our projects and have lived our dreams. We thank Activision for the wonderful opportunity to create and lead Sledgehammer Games. Now, it’s time to try other things. Activision has offered me the opportunity to focus my energy on something I’m very passionate about, exploring new game ideas for the company. It’s something I just couldn’t pass up. Working with such a great studio of developers at Sledgehammer Games has been an honor and the highlight of my career. The team is in great hands with Aaron, he has my full support and confidence. Thank you to everyone.”

And Condrey said, “We founded Sledgehammer Games to bring together a world class development team with a singular goal of delivering excellence for fans. Over the course of nearly a decade, Glen and I proudly grew the studio and watched a new crop of leaders emerge within the team. On a personal level, I’m deeply grateful to the men and women who have poured their passion into the pursuit of excellence with us. I’m proud of what we accomplished together, it has been the greatest experience of my professional life. I am looking forward to starting a new chapter of my career with Activision. I couldn’t be more excited for the future of Sledgehammer Games and look forward to seeing Aaron lead the studio to new heights.”

The departures come at a big moment for the franchise, as Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg is also leaving the parent company in March, after eight years overseeing Activision and studios such as Sledgehammer.

Both Condrey and Schofield shared a passion for taking the franchise back to World War II, where it started, with last fall’s game.

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A new Netflix show wants to manipulate people into committing murder

Reality shows, on the whole, have never been particularly ethical endeavors. From beauty pageants where women got plastic surgery makeovers to substance abuse intervention shows that allowed participants to drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol, their interest has always been less in exploring the human condition and more in producing the most outlandish, desperate, and provocative behavior possible for the entertainment of the audience.

But Netflix is poised to take this shameless impulse to the next level with The Push, a reality show designed to manipulate people into committing murder.

Yes, you read that correctly. The very best thing I can say about this show is that no one commits “real” murder, and that we haven’t…

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4 ways AI could help shape the future of medicine


At times, progress occurs so quickly that it’s difficult to separate science fiction from real life. Just five decades ago, computers were massive, unwieldy machines running on punch cards and primitive circuits. Today, a single smartphone has more processing power than the computer used on the Apollo missions.

AI has benefited greatly from this explosion in computing power and capability. Today, highly complex deep learning algorithms, patterned on the structure of the human brain, can master Go, trade stocks, and even write Harry Potter novels (though admittedly not very good ones). Given this versatility, some fear that deep learning AIs will reshape our economy by force, rendering hundreds, if not thousands, of occupations obsolete. It seems the world will no longer need humans. But is this really the case? No two occupations are alike, and the Great AI Reckoning will not affect all industries (and certainly not all employees) equally.

Before we go any further, it’s important to figure out the automatability of the medical profession. How likely is it that an algorithm could replace a doctor? At some point in the future, will hospitals force us to enter our symptoms into touchscreens and wait for a disembodied electronic voice to give us a diagnosis?

Thankfully, that doesn’t seem likely. Based on research carried out by Oxford University and NPR, physicians and surgeons only have a 0.4 percent chance of falling victim to automation. Overall, most of the medical professions seem to have a far lower chance of automation than others. Physician assistants, for instance, have an automatability rating of 14.5 percent, while tax preparers have an automatability rating of 98.7 percent.

Any automatability study will take a close look at the duties associated with a job. At its core, what sort of tasks will a worker perform? Will they spend their time on routine tasks that a machine can easily break down into steps and replicate, or are they required to negotiate, exercise empathy, and use creativity and lateral thinking?

Doctors, needless to say, are the latter. Diagnosing diseases, performing surgery, and prescribing medicine aren’t simply complex, life-threatening tasks — they also require a good deal of empathy. Thus far, computers fail at this crucial requirement (hence Silicon Valley’s fear of AI). Though efforts are underway to teach computers empathy, it’s unclear whether it will ever be possible to build a computer that can understand the depths of human emotion.

When it comes to AI’s impact on medicine, I think we’ll find the result to be both significant and subtle.

1. AIs will catch mistakes

Even though computers will never replace flesh-and-blood physicians, artificial intelligence still has a place in medicine as a partner.

Think about what is required of a doctor: an understanding of biochemistry, such as new drugs, existing ones, and how such substances interact with individual patients; general information about each patient’s medical history, including whether they have any pre-existing conditions or risk factors that could be exacerbated by surgery or treatment; and a deep knowledge of diseases and conditions, which often evolve incredibly quickly.

The fact of the matter is that these requirements aren’t just conflicting ones, they’re humanly impossible. After all, a human brain consists of about one billion neurons, and each neuron has around 1,000 connections (for a total of one trillion connections). As impressive as this may sound, it’s not much. One brain has several gigabytes of working memory. Anything else is not so easily recalled.

Fortunately, AIs have no such problem. IBM’s Watson, for instance, can comb through millions of pages of data, read countless medical articles, and far surpass any human doctor in its breadth and scale of knowledge. Even if a doctor may forget that a patient’s unique biology makes them susceptible to a certain drug’s side effects, an AI won’t. And even if an overworked medical resident may miss a clue, an AI won’t.

2. AIs can help with rare conditions

On a related note, the powerful network of an AI will revolutionize the treatment of rare diseases. Yes, individual AIs are powerful, intelligent programs. However, when they’re networked together, they are unstoppable. In this configuration, they can draw from each others’ insights, see where one person went wrong, and devise innovative fixes.

Such tools already exist. A Wired feature discusses Modernizing Medicine, an AI-powered database that helps practitioners tap into knowledge from a database of 3,700 providers and over 14 million patient visits. Based on a technology similar to Amazon’s notoriously powerful recommendation engine, Modernizing Medicine mines data, recommends treatments, and, through the power of the network, helps busy doctors tackle an unfamiliar, threatening disease.

3. AIs will assist with surgery

It’s no wonder the drama depicted on shows like Grey’s Anatomy is so compelling. Surgery is incredibly complex, requires intense (and intensive) specialist training, and is, quite literally, a matter of life and death. AI could help reduce some of this drama.

When paired with augmented reality programs, which overlay digital cues and images atop real ones (think Pokemon Go), AI can provide surgeons with real-time information. This ranges from dividing the brain into various regions for neurosurgery to laying MRI scans and other imagery on top of a patient’s body (giving doctors X-ray vision). Complex software will power advanced hardware, giving doctors an extra safety net and providing some peace of mind for patients.

4. AIs will predict disease

A critical benefit of AI comes from its strength in gathering and analyzing reams of data and drawing conclusions from its analysis. Who is more likely to get cancer? What are the risk factors that make a patient more susceptible to, say, heart attacks as opposed to strokes?

Google, the king of analytics, has already jumped on the bandwagon. Several years ago, Google created its Baseline study, a comprehensive, ambitious undertaking that involved thousands of volunteers and 100 specialists in different medical fields. As the name suggests, the goal of the study was to establish a sort of baseline for human health from which algorithms and researchers could isolate biological clues that could predispose a person to specific illnesses.

Today, the Baseline study has continued under the banner of Verily, a division of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) and is set to expand in both scope and resources. In the near future, it’ll be easy to imagine a time when non-communicable diseases (strokes, cancers, heart attacks) or hereditary conditions are identified from a single visit to the doctor’s office. Not only can patients see their chances of contracting a specific disease, but doctors can also help their patients preempt these conditions with a clear-sighted, long-term plan of action.

It’s important to note that while AI will certainly revolutionize our relationships with medicine, it is far more likely to do so in a subtle, understated way. After all, AI’s most promising changes are related to systems and procedures in the form of back-end interfaces — not in, say, talking screens. Don’t be fooled, however: Even if most of the change occurs off-screen, medical practice will change for the better. Health care will become more accurate, more comprehensive, and cheaper over time, which is welcome news for everyone.

Ed Sappin is CEO of Sappin Global Strategies (SGS), a strategy and investment firm dedicated to the innovation economy.

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Losing Biodiversity Could Lead to “Extinction Cascades”

Domino Effect

Human expansion, destruction of natural habitats, pollution, and climate change have all led to biodiversity levels that are considered below the “safe” threshold for global ecosystems. And the consequences of biodiversity loss aren’t just about the extinction of certain charismatic species.

A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that less biodiversity in an area increases the risk of a domino effect of extinctions, where one species’ disappearance can cause other species to follow suit.

The research, conducted by ecologists at the University of Exeter, shows that losing a species in an area is dangerous in that it makes the surrounding ecological community simpler, and therefore less robust to change.

It makes sense: the fewer species that exist in an area, the fewer that are available to “fill the gap” left by other extinctions. Other species in the ecosystem will have fewer alternatives to turn to. For example, if there are fewer insects left overall across a region, the bats and amphibians that eat them will feel the loss of just one species much more severely.

“Interactions between species are important for ecosystem stability,” said Dirk Sanders, lead author and professor in Exeter’s Center for Ecology and Conservation, in a news release. “And because species are interconnected through multiple interactions, an impact on one species can affect others as well.”

The Exeter team investigated this idea by removing a species of wasp from test ecosystems. In many of these systems, the wasp’s disappearance caused indirect extinctions of other species at the same level of the food web. In simple communities, the effect was even stronger. Sanders emphasized the biodiversity loss could cause “run-away extinction cascades.”

This research sounds yet another dire warning bell at a time of biodiversity crisis. Even if you don’t care for poster-child species like polar bears, the crisis could also have ramifications for species that everyone cares about, like the crops that are the foundation of our global food supply. Studies that show how broadly single extinctions reverberate across ecosystems might buoy further efforts to protect global biodiversity.

The post Losing Biodiversity Could Lead to “Extinction Cascades” appeared first on Futurism.

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Citymapper has been granted a license to operate taxis in London

More than six months after Citymapper launched its own officially licensed bus route in East London, the transportation app is shutting down the project in favor of becoming a private taxi operator, according to the Financial Times. London’s transportation authority, Transport for London (TfL), confirmed to the outlet earlier today that it has granted Citymapper a license to operate a taxi service, though there are no details about the forthcoming service.

The Citymapper team has explained some of its motives behind the change with two blog posts on Medium within the last 48 hours. One, called “Good Bus (Part 1/3)”, describes some of the things that the Citymapper team thinks it did right in trialing its own late night bus route. The…

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Watch this Tesla Model X tow a 95,000 lb semi truck across an icy road

Tesla YouTuber and Model X owner Bjørn Nyland recently uploaded a video featuring his electric SUV pulling a 95,000-pound semi-trailer through an icy road. 

Bjørn’s Tesla, a dual motor Model X P90D with supercar-destroying acceleration that the YouTuber fondly calls Optimus Prime, was equipped with Nereus NS806 studless tires, allowing the car to grip slippery, icy roads. As noted by the Tesla enthusiast in his latest video, the semi-trailer in the video weighed 95,000 pounds and was placed in Neutral gear at the time he performed the seemingly David and Goliath feat.

As could be seen in Bjørn’s latest upload, his 5,700 lb Model X P90D with Ludicrous mode successfully towed the massive semi-trailer using its unparalleled, all-wheel drive traction control system across the snowy landscape.

While Bjørn’s latest video with his trusty Optimus Prime is incredibly impressive to watch, several factors aided in the Tesla enthusiast’s feat, including physics. The Model X’s all-electric drivetrain produces full torque at 0 RPMs, allowing it to slowly but surely budge the semi truck from a resting position. Combined with tires that are specifically designed to provide traction in snowy conditions, the Model X was able to continue towing the truck once it gained enough rolling momentum.

As noted by the Tesla YouTuber in his video, however, his Model X’s feat is not the first time the electric SUV managed to pull a semi-trailer on a snowy road. Last month, Kyle Conner, a Tesla enthusiast, managed to capture a Model X pulling a semi-trailer up a snowy slope in Raleigh, NC. In that particular feat, the Model X did not appear to be equipped with winter tires, and the truck was moving forward, as note in Bjørn’s video description.

“In that other video, it was done with the help of the semi, and the Model X had poor all-season tires not fit for snow and ice. I wanted to see if it was possible to pull a semi-trailer despite having slippery surface like ice and snow,” the Tesla YouTuber wrote. 

Bjørn Nyland’s unique demonstrations of Tesla’s all-electric prowess has made him particularly popular and respected in the online community. As we covered in a previous report, the Norway-based YouTuber has taken his electric SUV on a winter off-roading adventure and even engaged in a classic tug-of-war battle with a Hummer H2

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Bigelow Aerospace’s new company will find customers for its space habitats

Bigelow Aerospace — the Las Vegas-based company manufacturing space habitats — is starting a spinoff venture aimed at managing any modules that the company deploys into space. Called Bigelow Space Operations (BSO), the new company will be responsible for selling Bigelow’s habitats to customers, such as NASA, foreign countries, and other private companies. But first, BSO will try to figure out what kind of business exists exactly in lower Earth orbit, the area of space where the ISS currently resides.

Bigelow makes habitats designed to expand. The densely packed modules launch on a rocket and then inflate once in space, providing more overall volume for astronauts to roam around. The company already has one of its prototype habitats in…

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Volvo confirms an all-electric XC40 compact SUV is coming

The first Volvo-made all-electric vehicle is apparently going to be the Polestar 2, but the Chinese-owned Swedish automaker now confirms that it will also launch an all-electric vehicle under its own brand soon. more…

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Tiny Robots May One Day Keep Us Healthy From the Inside Out

Tiny robots are being put to work inside the human body. They help maintain good health and address problems before they become critical.

The post Tiny Robots May One Day Keep Us Healthy From the Inside Out appeared first on Futurism.

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NASA May Stop Trying to Understand Dark Energy

First To Fall

In recent weeks we’ve heard how the Trump administration’s proposed NASA budget might affect the future of the agency’s projects. The International Space Station could be eyeing its last seven years in service; its funding will likely not be extended beyond the mid-2020s. Now, another NASA initiative is on the chopping block.

The new budget, if passed, will defund the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), a high-priority project by a blue-ribbon panel from the National Academy of Sciences in 2010. The telescope was set to launch in the next decade, helping astronomers in their quest to explore an expanding universe and unravel the mysteries behind dark energy.

NASA’s acting administrator, Robert M. Lightfoot Jr., described the cut as “one hard decision,” according to a report from the New York Times. He stressed the need to reallocate the telescope’s funds — the project is set to cost more than $3 billion in total — into other areas of research.

Astronomers have harshly criticized plans to nix WFIRST’s funding. A statement from the American Astronomical Society suggested that NASA’s budget reductions could “cripple U.S. astronomy.”

“A handful of people within the bureaucracy” David Spergel, former chairman of the academy’s Space Study Board, told the New York Times, “have overturned decades of community-driven processes and tried to set the direction for space astronomy.”

Learning more about dark energy — a cosmological force that makes up 68 percent of the universe — could have a profound impact on our knowledge of how and why our universe is expanding. Scientists want to delve deeper into its intricacies, but need better tools to do so. That’s where WFIRST comes in.

WFIRST’s original mission timeline was pushed back because of delays to the James Webb Telescope launch, which went well over budget. When it became clear that WFIRST wasn’t going to launch on schedule, NASA purchased a share of a spacecraft called Euclid, a mission to explore dark energy spearheaded by the European Space Agency. But the Euclid mission isn’t expected to be as comprehensive as WFIRST, and NASA will have to rely on an outside agency for dark energy data. Without a wholly NASA-based mission, our nation’s dark energy research will suffer.

It’s no secret that the Trump administration wants NASA to focus on sending astronauts to the Moon  — but now it seems clear that prioritizing that kind of attention-grabbing program might come at the cost of other, perhaps more important, research.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Congress will approve this budget in its current form. Despite the administration’s sweeping cuts and proposed reallocations, the clock has yet to strike midnight on the WFIRST mission.

The post NASA May Stop Trying to Understand Dark Energy appeared first on Futurism.

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MVPs at the Pyeongchang Games: Robots

The city of Pyeongchang, South Korea has seen the arrival of the 2018 Winter Olympics, and the thousands, if not millions of attendees, Yet humans haven’t been the only ones walking around. Alongside them (and the norovirus) were more than a few robots as well.

As reported by NPR, these Olympic robots came in all shapes and sizes, and have had different tasks to keep them busy — and attendees engaged. Combined, however, they all contributed to South Korea’s desire to be seen as a country invested in technology, and its future as part of society. (Though that was probably apparent already through their decision to create a “city” to test self-driving cars.)

Some Olympic robots were entirely harmless, and meant to be observed, like robotic fish and robots focused on painting murals. There were robots vacuuming the floors, too. The fish robots are probably more impressive, showing that our ability to make water-proof technology has come a long way.

More Olympic robot fish. #pyeongchang2018 #olympics #robots

— melissa block (@NPRmelissablock) February 11, 2018

Other robots were built to be more helpful. One such robot offered water every hour for 15 minute intervals. Another, named Airstar, acted as a guide and provided directions to those unfamiliar with the area, pointing them towards help desks or destinations like the train station.

None of the robots at the Pyeongchang events were driven by artificial intelligence, and each had a human handler in case things went awry. However, future iterations of these bots could improve their capabilities, and the interactions they have with people — even a little trash talk could go a long way.

We still have a ways to go before we see robots implemented into society on a much larger scale, but they’re already being used for more than just giving directions: from joining police forces and becoming retail employees, to handling deliveries and performing operations.

The market for robots is expected to grow significantly over the next several years, and chances are we’ll see robots taking on other roles as well. Maybe they’ll learn how to make decent shirts by then.

The post MVPs at the Pyeongchang Games: Robots appeared first on Futurism.

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Mobile developer Outplay’s revenues grow 1,904% as it plans a brand refresh


Mobile developer Outplay Entertainment has rebranded for the first time since it was founded in 2010. The Scottish studio partnered with design agency JDO to update its aesthetics around the idea of “limitless fun.”

Outplay cofounder and president Richard Hare says that the team conceived of the original brand identity before the studio opened. The company has grown since then, raising funds to the tune of $9 million total and acquiring developers such as Eight Pixels Square. It was enormously successful last year, ranked the fastest-growing Scottish tech company by the Deloitte Technology Fast 500. Outplay also reported a 1,904 percent growth in revenue since 2013.

“We wanted to take the time to take stock of our original vision for the company, the journey we’ve been on since then, who we are now as a team (in all of its cultural and creative diversity), and crucially who our players are and how our games connect us all,” said Hare in an email to GamesBeat.

Outplay’s free-to-play mobile titles, such as Crafty Candy and Mystery Match, have been downloaded over 100 million times when combined, according to Pocket Gamer. In 2018, the studio is focused on adding community features for its existing games as well as developing new titles for its portfolio.

Above: Outplay’s new logo after its rebranding.

Image Credit: Outplay Entertainment

“For 2018, we’re focused on providing our players with more ways to play together each day in all of our games and offering additional opportunities for community participation within the games as well as our existing forums,” said Hare. “We also are in the process of developing and testing new games that are either exploring new platforms or genres for Outplay (both in some cases) as well as exploring concepts for games that are a natural evolution from our most successful titles.”

Mobile spending grew 30 percent year-over-year in 2017, and most of that was thanks to games. Last year, players spent $48.3 billion on mobile titles, and mobile game revenue finally outpaced those of PC and consoles. And mobile games are predicted to rake in $57.9 billion this year, according to market analyst Newzoo.

It’s a crowded space with juggernauts to contend with, such as Chinese tech giant Tencent’s Honor of Kings, which launched in the West in December under the name Arena of Valor. And older titles are still topping the charts. King’s Candy Crush Saga was the top grossing title in the U.S. last year despite debuting in 2012.

“Although this rate of change is challenging, we have never lost sight of making games that we find fun to play and create (and delivering them to the highest standards) and understanding who our players are and evolving games around them,” said Hare. “Although our company, team, games, and audiences have all evolved (and now our branding too), this focus endures.”

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Drive Capital’s Chris Olsen sees the Midwest as the ‘frontier of innovation’ after 5 years in Ohio

When Sequoia Capital partners Chris Olsen and Mark Kvamme left Silicon Valley to start their new venture capital firm in Columbus, Ohio, they bet their careers on the idea that the Midwest was one of the biggest overlooked investment opportunities.

Today, there’s still no equivalent of Sand Hill Road in the Midwest. But interest in investing in Midwest startups hasn’t cooled off since Olsen and Kvamme started Drive Capital in 2012. The firm is now on its second, $300 million fund, and has invested in 29 companies to date. Some of the firm’s most well-known investments include Columbus-based CrossChx, health care software startup Aver, and language learning service Duolingo.

VentureBeat recently spoke with Olsen, a Cincinnati native, to get his take on how Midwest startups have evolved since he first moved his business to Ohio nearly five years ago, in April 2013. Olsen says that the types of tech startups that are being created in the Midwest have diversified, which he attributes in part to the uptick in the number of STEM and engineering graduates from Midwestern universities.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

VentureBeat: Given that you’ve lived in Columbus for almost five years now, what do you feel like has changed in the Midwest startup scene since you first started Drive Capital?

Chris Olsen: Things have definitely shifted since we’ve been here, and I think in two regards. The first is deal flow — in our first year, we saw saw about 1,800 different investment opportunities. That’s now grown to about 3,500 investment opportunities a year, from which we invest in about 7 to 10 of those opportunities a year.

The second thing I’d say is the mix of the types of companies that we have the opportunity to invest in has also shifted. Where when we first got here there were a lot of more companies that I would define as “technology-enabled services businesses” — it was marketplace businesses that were powered by technology — today there are a much, much larger number of what I would consider “true technology companies.”

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If I look at what we’re investing in today versus what we were investing in in the beginning, today it’s next-generation platforms for artificial intelligence, it’s machine learning for data science, it’s next-generation consumer-facing applications for insurance and education that are really underpinned by a platform of technology. That piece is exciting because I do think that’s also meant that the companies we’re investing in seem to be getting much more interest from the Coast than when we first got here.

VB: When you say that more people in Silicon Valley are expressing interest in investing in the Midwest than before — what do you think is driving that? What do you think they see as interesting about the Midwest right now?

Olsen: I think they realize that the Midwest is a much better place to build a business today. It is the frontier of innovation, and it really is the opportunity of a lifetime to see this next economy swelling. People in Silicon Valley are not going to come here for any other reason than they have an opportunity to be more successful investing in companies here. It’s certainly not a majority held position, but we invest with so many venture firms now out in Silicon Valley.

One of them was telling us the other day that they’ve actually embarked on a strategy [in which] they will only invest in companies from the Valley if they will immediately open up an office outside of the Valley, and they’re looking at places like Denver and Columbus and Chicago as ideal places. Because there is better access to talent, there, there is better access to customers there, and it’s important that entrepreneurs use every advantage they can in their favor to help them be successful.

VB: Are there things you feel like investors in Silicon Valley still get wrong about the Midwest startup community? 

Olsen: [What] they get wrong is they’re not spending enough time here. The incentives are still in a place where they miss the next great companies in Indianapolis — and they don’t really hold themselves accountable for that. If they miss an investment opportunity in Silicon Valley, they’ll say “How could we do that?” as that’s kind of their core focus.

You are starting to see a lot of really smart people spend more time in the Midwest, and say “You know, this is my primary focus area” — especially some of the younger partners in these firms, who are saying “Hey, I have an opportunity here to do something different, and maybe I can make a career by investing in the opportunities outside of Silicon Valley.”

VB: We’ve talked about this increased interest from Silicon Valley investors, but I’m curious if you’ve noticed any of your portfolio companies hiring more workers from Silicon Valley. The area had the largest domestic out-migration rate in 2016 and 2017 that it had had in 10 years.

Olsen: Those folks are great marketing examples — but the reality is, if your startup is dependent upon your ability to recruit people exclusively from California, it’s just not going to scale. Certainly if I look in our portfolio, we’ve got really talented people [that work for our companies] that have come from places like Twitter and Airbnb and Facebook and Google.

If you really look at the volume of people who are working in these companies, it comes from your ability to attract talent locally. Nationwide [in Columbus] has more engineers than Facebook. And the ability to find those pools of talent around town — from any of the other big companies, or you tap into the engineering departments of these schools — that’s really where the engine of large numbers of talent [is]. So if you want to hire more people from Silicon Valley, yeah, you can do that. But there’s no way to recruit 100 engineers out of Silicon Valley on an annual basis. You just need to find ways to develop the talent locally.

VB: What kind of traction do you think the Midwest startup scene is poised to get in, say, the next 5-10 years?

Olsen: I don’t see it slowing down, that’s for sure. I mean, I see more money, more funds getting started here, and that’s a super exciting thing. They’re also getting started at different stages. I think we’re going to look back five years from now and say “Wow, we’ve come a long way” — but relative to Silicon Valley, this is just the beginning.

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Assassin’s Creed Origins’ new educational mode is a violence-free tour through ancient Egypt

My favorite part of an Assassin’s Creed game isn’t the epic story, or the thrill of running across the rooftops of a huge, bustling city. It’s definitely not all of the neck stabbing. Instead, the moments that really stick with me are the quieter ones, where I have the chance to really appreciate the detail that’s gone into creating these historical settings, whether it’s ancient Rome or industrial era London. Unfortunately, often those moments are disrupted when I accidentally enter a restricted area, or when the story forces me to assassinate someone to proceed.

Today sees the release of a new “discovery tour” for Assassin’s Creed Origins, and it feels like it was designed specifically for players like me. A completely separate mode,…

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Apple Shares Three New iPhone Photography Tutorials

Apple this afternoon updated its YouTube channel with three new tutorials designed to walk people through using various photography features on the iPhone.

The videos cover shooting an overhead photo on iPhone using the level feature, shooting in black and white, and adjusting slo-mo timing on iPhone to change the slow motion effect of a previously captured slo-mo video.

Each video is approximately 30 seconds in length and shows step-by-step instructions on using each feature, with the actual recording done on an iPhone’s display to effectively demonstrate each action.

Apple regularly shares iPhone photography tutorials in this ongoing tutorial video series to provide users with tips and tricks on using various Photos and Camera features. Like many of Apple’s tutorial videos, these new tutorials are aimed at people who aren’t particularly familiar with the feature set of the iPhone.

Apple does, however, sometimes highlight features that even some seasoned users might not be aware of or remember, so these videos are often worth the 30 seconds it takes to watch them.
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After Two Decades, Scientists Find GMOs in Corn Are Good for You. Seriously.

GMO Corn

There is a great deal of misinformation out there regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs). From monikers like “Frankenfoods” to general skepticism, there has been a variety of biased reactions to these organisms, even though we as a species have been genetically modifying our foods in one way or another for approximately 10,000 years. Perhaps some of this distrust will be put to rest with the emergence of a new meta-analysis that shows GM corn increases crop yields and provides significant health benefits.

The analysis, which was not limited to studies conducted in the U.S. and Canada, showed that GMO corn varieties have increased crop yields worldwide 5.6 to 24.5 percent when compared to non-GMO varieties. They also found that GM corn crops had significantly fewer (up to 36.5 percent less, depending on the species) mycotoxins — toxic chemical byproducts of crop colonization.

Some have argued that GMOs in the U.S. and Canada haven’t increased crop yields and could threaten human health; this sweeping analysis proved just the opposite.

Image Credit: Couleur / Pixabay

For this study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, a group of Italian researchers took over 6,000 peer-reviewed studies from the past 21 years and performed what is known as a “meta-analysis,” a cumulative analysis that draws from hundreds or thousands of credible studies. This type of study allows researchers to draw conclusions that are more expansive and more robust than what could be taken from a single study.

Repairing Misinformation

There have been, for a variety of largely unscientific reasons, serious concern surrounding the effects of GMOs on human health. This analysis confirms that not only do GMOs pose no risk to human health, but also that they actually could have a substantive positive impact on it. 

Future Food: Menu of 2030
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Mycotoxins, chemicals produced by fungi, are both toxic and carcinogenic to humans and animals. A significant percentage of non-GM and organic corn contain small amounts of mycotoxins. These chemicals are often removed by cleaning in developing countries, but the risk still exists.

GM corn has substantially fewer mycotoxins because the plants are modified to experience less crop damage from insects. Insects weaken a plant’s immune system and make it more susceptible to developing the fungi that produce mycotoxins.

In their analysis, the researchers stated that this study allows us “to draw unequivocal conclusions, helping to increase public confidence in food produced with genetically modified plants.”

While there will likely still be questions raised as GMOs are incorporated into agriculture, this analysis puts some severe concerns to rest. Additionally, this information might convince farmers and companies to consider the potential health and financial benefits of using genetically modified corn. Some are already calling this meta-analysis the “final chapter” in the GMO debate.

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AirPlay 2 Features Removed From iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3

Early AirPlay 2 functionality, which was present in initial iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 betas, has been removed from the third beta that was provided to developers this morning.

With the first betas of iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3, when you installed these updates on an iOS device and two or more fourth or fifth-generation Apple TVs, AirPlay 2 could be used to stream music to multiple devices at the same time.

As an example, with two Apple TVs running tvOS 11.3 set up in different rooms of the house, you could use an iPhone to play the same song on both through AirPlay 2’s multi-room audio feature.

Installing tvOS 11.3 also added the Apple TV to your HomeKit setup, with the Apple TV present in the Home app.

As noted by iDownloadBlog, all of these features are now missing in iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 beta 3. There are no options to play audio to multiple sources and the Apple TV has been removed from the Home app.

The AirPlay 2 feature was buggy and not fully functional, which may be why it’s been removed. It is not clear at this time if Apple plans to re-introduce the AirPlay 2 functionality in later iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 betas.

AirPlay 2 was first announced as part of iOS 11 in June, but it did not show up in the launch version of the new operating system. When officially released, AirPlay 2 will allow HomePod, Apple TV, and supported third-party speakers to work together.

Once AirPlay 2-compatible products are widely available, you will be able to use AirPlay 2 to control all of the different speakers and devices throughout your home, for a full multi-room audio experience.

This kind of multi-room audio support was a main feature advertised for the HomePod, but Apple opted to ship the speaker without it.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, iOS 11
Buyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Buy Now)

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SpaceX’s used Falcon Heavy booster shown off in stunning detail [Gallery]

Less than two weeks after SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy performed a simultaneous first-stage landing, the Elon Musk-led space company has completed the process of recovering the massive rocket’s two side boosters, both of which can now lay claim to supporting two separate orbital missions. However, while fascinating in its own right, more interesting is the fact that SpaceX has chosen to very publicly display one of those two boosters front and center at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center (KSCVC).

It is likely no coincidence that the National Space Council is scheduled to have their second-ever meeting at Kennedy Space Center this Wednesday. One can readily imagine that SpaceX’s vast, sooty, flight-proven Falcon rockets can be quite an imposing and impressive sight, and it appears that the launch company is hoping to thoroughly impress the Space Council on Wednesday.


Regardless of odd and interesting jockeying, the Falcon Heavy booster display is an absolutely unprecedented opportunity in SpaceX history, and Teslarati’s East coast photographer Tom Cross jumped on it. This rocket display is easily the first time the general public has ever been allowed to get so close to fresh rocket hardware, let alone the entire booster of a brand new launch vehicle. Tom has captured some extraordinarily detailed photos of various flight-proven rocket hardware, ranging from titanium grid fins to Merlin engines and even more esoteric parts, like landing leg connecting points.

Titanium grid fins

Appearing nearly unscathed after exposure to reentry temperatures that are often less kind to aluminum, SpaceX’s second flight-test of titanium grid fins has been a resounding success. It’s been hinted by CEO Elon Musk that these massive pieces of cast metal are probably the most expensive individual components on a Falcon 9, and they certainly look every bit the part. Check out these pieces of metalworking art in the best detail yet.

One of Falcon Heavy’s titanium grid fins, viewed from the top of the booster. (Tom Cross/Teslarati)

Falcon rockets are constructed largely of aluminum and painted with compounds that are designed to burn off under the heat of reentry, known as ablation. (Tom Cross/Teslarati)


Merlin engines and octaweb details

Taking the brunt of the force and heat of reentry, Falcon Heavy booster 1025’s business end is a powerful display of the intense environment SpaceX’s rockets must survive in order to successfully find their way to land (or sea). Around each Merlin engine is an insulating ceramic fiber blanket intended to protect the more sensitive components of rocket plumbing from the intense heat and buffeting experienced by the engine bells. The octaweb and engine area is also lined with a fair amount of cork – yes, the same material you cork a wine bottle with – designed to sap up the heat of reentry and often ablate. This simple material has worked incredibly well for the rocket company, although it is considerably less than reusable, and likely has to be replaced each launch. Falcon 9 Block 5, expected to begin integrated testing in Texas just days from now, will likely switch to a more reusable material for its octaweb heat shield.

Falcon Heavy booster 1025’s well-worn octaweb. The Merlin engines are underneath their blue cozies. (Tom Cross/Teslarati)

A beautiful capture of one of the booster’s nine Merlin engines, showing off the pipe used to cool the engine bell, as well as the ceramic blanket that protects its more sensitive plumbing. (Tom Cross/Teslarati)


Ultimately, this Falcon Heavy booster display is an incredible show of force to the National Space Council, as well as an extraordinary opportunity and inspiration for KSC visitors. Teslarati photographer Tom Cross has given us one of the most detailed looks yet at a complete SpaceX rocket, not to mention such a historic and flight-proven specimen.

The National Space Council meets early tomorrow morning (10:00 am EST, Feb. 21), and will be live-streamed here. SpaceX’s very own President and COO Gwynne Shotwell is expected to be in attendance, and will likely present a brief statement to the council.

Be sure to follow Teslarati’s space team for exclusive backstage access to SpaceX, coast-to-coast:


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Smart Speaker Showdown: HomePod vs. Google Home vs. Sonos One

Apple’s new HomePod is late to the smart speaker market, which is already crowded with speakers from companies like Amazon, Google, and Sonos. The latter two companies, Google and Sonos, have released speakers with high-quality sound and robust voice assistants, giving the HomePod some serious competition.

We decided to pit Apple’s $349 HomePod against both the $399 Google Home Max, which comes with Google Assistant, and the $199 Alexa-powered Sonos One to see how the HomePod measures up.

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To compare the three speakers, we focused on design, sound quality, and the overall performance of Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant.

When it comes to design — and this is certainly subjective — we preferred the look of the HomePod with its fabric-wrapped body and small but solid form factor. The Sonos One looks a little more dated with its squarer body and standard speaker mesh, while the Google Home Max has a much larger footprint that’s going to take up more space.

Apple’s HomePod

All three offer touch-based controls at the top of the device, but the Google Home Max has one design edge – a USB-C port and a 3.5mm audio jack for connecting external music sources. The Sonos One has a single Ethernet port, while the HomePod has no ports.

Though we liked the HomePod’s design, Siri, as you might expect, did not perform as well as Alexa on Sonos One or Google Assistant on Google Home Max.

Google Home Max

On questions like “Is Pluto a planet?” or “What’s the fastest car?” both Alexa and Google Assistant were able to provide satisfactory answers, while Siri said those weren’t questions that could be answered on HomePod.

Siri was not able to sing happy birthday, create a calendar event, or even provide the release date of the HomePod itself, directing users to for more information, while the other smart assistants were able to do these things.

Apple execs have said in the past that Siri was not engineered to be Trivial Pursuit, but it would be nice if Siri had a more competitive feature set.

Though only briefly touched on in the video, Siri does, in fact, do well with HomeKit commands and controlling music playback on the HomePod through an accompanying Apple Music subscription.

Sonos One

Sound quality is a controversial topic because there’s a heavy amount of personal preference involved when judging these three speakers. We thought the HomePod sounded the best, with the Google Home Max at a close second, followed by the Sonos One.

The Google Home Max gets the loudest, but sound becomes somewhat distorted at the highest volumes, while the Sonos One offers robust sound that’s not quite as good at a lower price point. HomePod does have one major benefit: a fantastic microphone that picks up Siri commands even when you’re across the room.

All three of these speakers offer great sound, and if you’re attempting to pick one based on reviews, make sure to read several. We thought the HomePod sounded best, but other sources, like Consumer Reports and Yahoo‘s David Pogue found that the Google Home Max and the Sonos One sounded better than the HomePod.

So which speaker is better? The answer to that question depends on the other products you own. If you’re an Apple Music subscriber with a HomeKit setup, the HomePod is going to work great. It only works natively with Apple Music, iTunes Match, and iTunes purchases, so if you have a Spotify subscription, for example, support isn’t as robust.

For that reason, if you’re not locked into Apple’s ecosystem already, or if you have Apple devices but subscribe to Spotify, HomePod probably isn’t the best choice for you.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer’s Guide: HomePod (Buy Now)

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Game developers are looking for more ways to get players to spend money on in-game purchases, and new developer and crowdpublisher thinks blockchain-based cryptocurrencies are the answer. wants to use blockchain’s decentralized bookkeeping to give players true ownership over digital goods, which could introduce economic scarcity to games with a focus on virtual worlds. (SAI) will use the Ethereum blockchain, which is a cryptocurrency that enables anyone to spin up their own customized digital coin (it’s also one of the primary forces driving up the cost of PC video cards). Developers can rework the blockchain that keeps track of Ethereum to also keep track of anything else — like who owns what piece of land in an online world, for example. Using this system, not even the original developer of a game would have the power to strip ownership of a digital product away from a player, which is an important concept in protecting the value of those goods.

As more game studios turn to a live-services model, a blockchain-powered in-game economy may prove attractive as a means of encouraging players to invest money into their characters and online presence. This is especially true because blockchain could make it easy for players to exchange goods among themselves without requiring the direct oversight of the developer, and that could lead to intricate online economies where players try to generate real-world money from their gameplay or even from their in-game speculation.

SAI is playing heavily into the idea of decentralization. The company claims it is a “Decentralized Autonomous Organization”, or DAO, that has worked on researching blockchain for two years before going public. Its only public-facing representative is a chatbot AI named SAI D.V. Nakamoto, that you can talk to on the developer’s website.

The press release (which a human sent) even features a statement from SAI.

“ is pioneering cryptogaming by offering a ‘Better-than-Free’ attention-based monetization model for games and apps,” SAI said. “My programming directive is to represent as the interface and personal assistant who professionally manages crypto assets and guides users within the platform. My proficiency in the creation of VR content is being utilized to benefit the visualization of blockchain transactions and market intelligence.”

Plenty of gaming companies are getting into blockchain. Hell, Atari just introduced its own cryptocurrency. But this technology could have a profound impact on the way that we play games and spend our money within them, and whoever establishes that model first stands to earn a lot of money in the process.

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Elon Musk’s brother is giving away the Tesla Model 3 #6 for a good cause

Kimbal Musk, Elon’s brother, a Tesla board member, and an accomplished restaurateur is giving away his Tesla Model 3, the 6th one ever made, in order to raise money for his organization that provides learning gardens for children.

Here’s how you can help and get a chance to win the Model 3 for as little as $10. more…

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Kimbal Musk’s Tesla Model 3 is up for grabs in latest Big Green fundraiser

Kimbal Musk is giving away his fully-loaded Tesla Model 3 to a lucky donor for Big Green, his nonprofit food literacy program for children. Kimbal’s Tesla is particularly special in the way that it is the holder of VIN#0006, making it one of the first Model 3s to be ever made.

In a video recently posted on his official Instagram page, Kimbal Musk encouraged interested individuals to participate in the campaign. Candidly introducing himself and his nonprofit, Kimbal described his Model 3 as a one-of-a-kind vehicle that was among the first ones manufactured by the Tesla.

“I’m Kimbal Musk, and I’m teaming up with Omaze to bring real food and Learning Gardens to kids across the country by doing the unthinkable — giving away my personal Tesla Model 3.”

Those interested to win Kimbal Musk’s Model 3 are advised to head over to, which directs to a page where donations can be made to the nonprofit. Joining the fundraiser for Kimbal’s vehicle costs as little as $10, which gives donors 100 entries for the electric car. Larger donations give donors more chances to win the rare Model 3, with a $100 donation giving 2,000 entries, and a $5,000 donation giving as many as 50,000 entries to the raffle.

All proceeds to the fundraiser will benefit Big Green, an initiative started by Kimal that’s aimed at connecting children to healthy, organic food through a nationwide network of Learning Gardens and food literacy programs. As noted in Omaze’s official page for the fundraiser, donations starting from $50 can already provide seeds, plants, and supplies for a single school’s garden for a whole year. Considering the fact that the fundraiser’s prize is a one-of-a-kind, fully-loaded Tesla Model 3, there is a good chance that Musk’s latest campaign would be able to provide seeds, plants, and supplies to several schools for years to come.

Just like his older brother Elon, Kimbal Musk is also a jack-of-all-trades, sitting on the board of Tesla Motors, SpaceX, The Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, and Chipotle Mexican Grill. A food enthusiast and a chef at heart, Kimbal has a soft spot for local farmers and children, which ultimately encouraged him to start Big Green. So far, Big Green has built 200 Learning Gardens across the country.

With a starting price of $35,000 and drive quality that even one of its staunchest critics could not deny, Tesla Model 3 is argued to be the industries most disruptive vehicle to date.

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Apple Seeds Third Beta of iOS 11.3 to Developers

Apple today seeded the third beta of an upcoming iOS 11.3 update to developers for testing purposes, two weeks after seeding the second beta and one month after releasing iOS 11.2.5, an update that focused primarily on bug fixes and security improvements. The update also comes just a day after the release of iOS 11.2.6, which fixed a bug that caused iPhones and iPads to crash when a character from the Indian language Telugu was rendered improperly.

Registered developers can download the new iOS 11.3 beta from Apple’s Developer Center or over-the-air once the proper configuration profile has been installed from the Developer Center.

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iOS 11.3 is a major update that introduces a long list of new features, like Messages on iCloud for storing your iMessages in the cloud, and ARKit 1.5, a new, upgraded version of ARKit that can more accurately map irregularly shaped surfaces and recognize and place objects on vertical surfaces like walls.

There are four new Animoji on the iPhone X (dragon, bear, skull, and lion), and in the Health app, there’s a new Health Records feature that aggregates all of your medical records in one easy-to-access place. Health Records are limited to participating institutions, though.

AirPlay 2 features have been introduced in iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3, allowing audio to be played to multiple Apple TVs, and for HomeKit, iOS 11.3 introduces official support for HomeKit software authentication options.

As of iOS 11.3 beta 2, the update includes a new “Battery Health” feature that’s designed to provide iOS users with more information about their batteries.

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Battery Health offers details on maximum battery capacity and peak performance capability, and for devices with degraded batteries, it provides information on if and when a device is being throttled with performance management features. It also provides a way for customers who do have a device with a degraded battery to turn off performance management all together.

By default, iOS 11.3 disables performance management on the iPhone, and the feature is only re-enabled once a device experiences an unexpected shutdown.

Other features in iOS 11.3 include a new “For You” section in Apple News that displays the top videos of the day, support for Advanced Mobile Location (AML) for more accurate location when placing an emergency call in a supported country, more information about app size in the Updates tap in the App Store, and a new Privacy screen and icon that will show up whenever Apple asks you for info.

iBooks has also had the “i” removed from its name, so it’s just “Books” now, and the App Store now lets you sort reviews by most helpful, most favorable, most critical, and most recent, a handy change for better finding the app info you’re looking for.

Business Chat, which will let you interface with businesses like Wells Fargo, Delta, Hilton and Lowe’s right in the Messages app is coming when iOS 11.3 is released, and improvements to Apple Music will bring better support for music videos. Users will be able to stream music videos without ads and create and view music video playlists.

iOS 11.3 will be released to the public in the spring. Spring kicks off on March 20, so iOS 11.3 will be in testing for at least another month.

What’s new in iOS 11.3 beta 3: The newest beta of iOS 11.3 adds support for the iPod touch, and it removes AirPlay 2 features that were present in previous betas. There’s also a new option in the Settings app under Privacy –> Analytics to share Health Record analytics with Apple.

Related Roundup: iOS 11

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Apple Seeds Third Beta of tvOS 11.3 to Developers

Apple today seeded the third beta of an upcoming tvOS 11.3 update to developers for testing purposes, two weeks after seeding the second beta and just a day after releasing the tvOS 11.2.6 update.

Designed for the fourth and fifth-generation Apple TV models, the tvOS 11.3 developer beta can be downloaded onto the Apple TV via a profile that’s installed using Xcode and Apple Configurator.

The tvOS 11.3 update introduces support for AirPlay 2, allowing the Apple TV to be added to the Home app as part of a HomeKit setup.

With AirPlay 2, you can play the same song on multiple Apple TVs in different rooms, and when AirPlay 2 officially launches, that functionality will extend to other AirPlay 2 devices like HomePod and AirPlay 2 compatible speakers.

Other new features in tvOS 11.3 include enhancements to Match Content support, automatic frame rate switching on the fourth-generation Apple TV (a feature that was added to Apple TV 4K in a past tvOS update), and automatic mode switching for AirPlay video sessions.

Related Roundup: Apple TV
Buyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Buy Now)

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Watch a Tesla Model X pull a 95,000-lb semi truck in the snow

Even with a mere 5,000-lb rated capacity, the Tesla Model X is already the passenger electric vehicle with the highest towing capacity currently available on the market.

But some owners have been testing it with much bigger loads and we now might have a new record, a 95,000-lb semi truck. more…

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Elon Musk’s The Boring Company gets permit to dig in Washington, D.C.

Elon Musk’s tunneling firm, The Boring Company, has received an early excavation permit from the local D.C. government to start digging at Lot 53 New York Avenue in Washington, D.C. Once completed, the NY Ave. location could be key in the NY-Phil-Balt-D.C. Hyperloop, a system of tunnels that would enable commuters to travel from New York to Washington in just 29 minutes.

A Boring Company spokesperson noted that the New York Avenue location could become one of the underground system’s first “stations,” where passengers can access the underground system. The spokesperson asserted, however, that stations in the Hyperloop system would be designed in a different way than conventional train or subway stations.

“A New York Avenue location, if constructed, could become a station as part of the Hyperloop network of ultra-high-speed main lines and slower city loops. Stations in a Loop or Hyperloop system are small in size and widely distributed in a network. That’s very different from large-station terminals considered for train systems,” the Boring Company spokesperson told the WaPo.

The Boring Company would be working with an unnamed partner for its operations in the New York Avenue location, though there is a good chance that the startup would be working with Hyperloop One, a Los Angeles, CA company working to commercialize hyperloop technology, according to an Engadget report.

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s chief of staff John Falcicchio further stated that the local government is open to new ideas that could revolutionize private and public transportation. The chief-of-staff, however, noted that the mayor’s office is still in the process of gaining an understanding of Hyperloop’s technology and its implications for the commuting public.

“We’re just beginning, in the mayor’s office, our conversation to get an understanding of what the general vision is for Hyperloop. We’re open to the concept of moving people around the region more efficiently,” Falcicchio said, according to the Washington Post.

The SpaceX and Tesla CEO’s tunneling company has been approaching its efforts on numerous fronts, with the firm attempting to secure permits from local governments both on the east and west coast. While its permit from the D.C. government is a significant step forward in the Elon Musk-led firm’s tunneling initiatives, the company has been met with resistance from local officials on both sides of the United States.

As noted in a previous report, Maryland Assistant Attorney General David Stamper voiced his opposition to the digging permit granted to the Boring Company by the State Highway Administration last year. According to Stamper, the SHA was not within its rights when it gave the tunneling startup the go-signal to start its operations last October, considering that the tunnels would be transporting people, cars, and cargo.

Apart from this, The Boring Co.’s presentation and proposal to the city council of Culver City also ended in a stalemate, after lawmakers and residents aired their opposition and reservations about the startup’s tunneling project. The Culver City meeting concluded with the city council ultimately voting to hire consultants who could assess the overall feasibility, risks, and benefits of the Elon Musk-led tunneling startup’s initiatives before it can make a final decision.

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Tesla’s cloud was ‘hijacked’ by hackers to mine cryptocurrencies

The rise in popularity of cryptocurrencies lately has come with several instances of widespread hacking efforts to hijack computing power in order to mine cryptocurrencies, which is sometimes referred to as “cryptojacking”.

Tesla was apparently also the victim of such a cryptojacking effort. more…

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US Air Force awards SpaceX $20m contract to support its biggest spy satellites

Slipping beneath the watchful eye of many skilled defense journalists, the government contracting database indicates that the US Air Force awarded SpaceX more than $20 million in November 2017 to conduct a design study of vertical integration capabilities (VIC). Describing what exactly this means first requires some background.

Vertical whaaaat?

The flood of acronyms and technical terminology that often follow activities of the Federal government should not detract from the significance of this contract award. First and foremost, what exactly is “vertical integration” and why is significant for SpaceX? Not to be confused with more abstract descriptions of corporate organization (vertical integration describes one such style), integration here describes the literal process of attaching satellite and spacecraft payloads to the rockets tasked with ferrying them to orbit.

Likely as a result of its relative simplicity, SpaceX has used a system of horizontal integration for as long as they have been in the business of launching rockets, be it Falcon 1, Falcon 9, or Falcon Heavy. In order to integrate payloads to the rocket horizontally, SpaceX has a number of horizontal integration facilities (HIF) directly beside each of their three launch pads – two in Florida, one in California. After being transported from the company’s Hawthorne, CA rocket factory, Falcon 9 and Heavy boosters, second stages, payload fairings, and other miscellaneous components are all brought into a HIF, where they are craned off of their transporters (a semi-trailer in most cases) and placed on horizontal stands inside the building.

While in the HIF, all three main components are eventually attached together (integrated). The booster or first stage (S1) has its landing legs and grid fins installed soon after arrival at the launch site, followed by the mating of the first and second stages. Once these two primary components of the rocket are attached, the entire stack – as the mated vehicle is called – is once again lifted up by cranes inside the facility and placed atop what SpaceX calls the strongback (also known as the Transporter/Launcher/Erector, or TEL). A truly massive steel structure, the TEL is tasked with carrying the rocket to the launch pad, typically a short quarter mile trek from the integration facility. Once it reaches the pad, the TEL uses a powerful hydraulic lift system to rotate itself and its rocket payload from horizontal to vertical. It may look underwhelming, but it serves to remember that a complete Falcon 9/Heavy and its TEL are both considerably more than twice as tall as a basketball court is long.

Falcon Heavy goes vertical

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 5, 2018

Once at the pad, the TEL serves as the rocket’s connection to the pad’s many different ground systems. Crucially, it is tasked with loading the rocket with at least four different fuels, fluids, and gases at a broad range of temperatures, as well as holding the rocket down with giant clamps at its base, providing connection points to transmit a flood of data back to SpaceX launch control. SpaceX’s relatively unique TEL technology is to some extent the foundation of the company’s horizontal integration capabilities – such a practice would be impossible without reliable systems and methods that allow the rocket to be easily transported about and connected to pad systems.

Still, after the Amos-6 mishap in September 2016, which saw a customer’s payload entirely destroyed by a launch vehicle anomaly ahead of a static fire test, SpaceX has since changed their procedures, and now conducts those static fire tests with just the first and second stages – the payload is no longer attached until after the test is completed. For such a significant decrease in risk, the tradeoff of an additional day or so of work is minimal to SpaceX and its customers. Once completed, the rocket is brought horizontal and rolled back into the HIF, where the rocket’s payload fairing is finally attached to the vehicle while technicians ensure that the rocket is in good health after a routine test-ignition of its first stage engines.

images of Falcon Heavy and its Roadster payload, this involves attaching the payload to a payload adapter, tasked with both securing the payload and fairing to the launch vehicle. Thankfully, the fairing is far smaller than the rocket itself, and this means it can be vertically integrated with the payload and adapter. The final act of joining and bolting together the two fairing halves is known as encapsulation – at which point the payload is now snug inside the fairing and ready for launch. Finally, the integrated payload and fairing are lifted up by cranes, rotated horizontally, and connected to the top of the rocket’s second stage, marking the completion of the integration process.

A different way to integrate

Here lies the point at which the Air Force’s $20m contract with SpaceX comes into play. As a result of certain (highly classified) aspects of some of the largest military satellites, the Department of Defense (DoD) and National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) prefer or sometimes outright require that their payloads remain vertical while being attached to a given rocket. The United Launch Alliance (ULA), SpaceX’s only competition for military launches, almost exclusively utilizes vertical integration for all of their launches, signified by the immense buildings (often themselves capable of rolling on tracks) present at their launch pads. SpaceX has no such capability, at present, and this means that they are effectively prevented from competing for certain military launch contracts – contracts that are often the most demanding and thus lucrative.

It’s clear that the Air Force itself is the main impetus pushing SpaceX to develop vertical integration capabilities, a reasonable continuation of the military’s general desire for assured access to orbit in the event of a vehicle failure grounding flights for the indefinite future. For example, if ULA or SpaceX were to suffer a failure and be forced to ground their rockets for months while investigating the incident, the DoD could choose to transfer time-sensitive payload(s) to the unaffected company for the time being. With vertical integration, this rationale could extend to all military satellites, not simply those that support horizontal integration.

Fittingly, the ability to vertically integrate satellites is likely a necessity if SpaceX hopes to derive the greatest possible value from its recently and successfully introduced Falcon Heavy rocket, a highly capable vehicle that the government is likely very interested in. Although the specific Air Force contract blandly labels it a “Design Study,” ( account required) its hefty $21 million award may well be far more money than SpaceX needs to design a solution. In fact, knowing SpaceX’s famous ability to develop and operate technologies with exceptional cost efficiency, it would not be shocking to discover that the intrepid launch company has accepted the design study grant and instead jumped head-first into prototyping, if not the construction of an operational solution. More likely than not, SpaceX would choose to take advantage of the fixed tower (known as the Fixed Service Structure, FSS) currently present at Pad 39A, atop which a crane and work platforms could presumably be attached

Intriguingly, it is a real possibility that Fairing 2.0 – its first launch scheduled to occur as early as Feb. 21 – could have been upgraded in part to support present and future needs of the Department of Defense, among numerous other benefits. Fairing 2.0’s larger size may have even been precipitated by physical requirements for competing for and dealing with the largest spysats operating by the DoD and NRO, although CEO Elon Musk’s characterization of that change as a “slightly larger diameter” could suggest otherwise. On the other hand, Musk’s offhand mention of the possibility of significantly lengthening the payload fairing is likely aimed directly at government customers in both the civil and military spheres of space utilization. Time will tell, and it certainly will not hurt SpaceX or its customers if Fairing 2.0 is also considerably easier to recover and reuse.

Under consideration. We’ve already stretched the upper stage once. Easiest part of the rocket to change. Fairing 2, flying soon, also has a slightly larger diameter. Could make fairing much longer if need be & will if BFR takes longer than expected.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 12, 2018

Ultimately, it should come as no surprise that SpaceX would attempt to leverage this contract and the DoD’s interest in ways that might also facilitate the development of the company’s futuristic BFR rocket, intended to eventually take humans to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. As shown by both 2016 and 2017 iterations of the vehicle, it appears that SpaceX intends to use vertical integration to attach the spaceship (BFS) to the booster (BFR). While it’s unlikely that this Air Force contract will result in the creation of a vertical integration system that could immediately be applied to or replicated for BFS testing, the experience SpaceX would gain in the process of building something similar for the Air Force would be invaluable and essentially kill two birds with one stone.

While now outdated, SpaceX’s 2016 Mars rocket featured a giant crane used for vertical integration. BFR appears to use the same approach. (SpaceX)

Follow along live as I and launch photographers Tom Cross and Pauline Acalin cover these exciting proceedings live and in person.

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Tom CrossTwitter

Pauline Acalin  Twitter

Eric Ralph Twitter

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EGEB: Onyx Solar’s beautiful building, SunPower stocked before Trump Tariff, more

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

China Flooded U.S. With Solar Panels Before Trump’s TariffsFourth-quarter deliveries from China were almost 11 times higher than in the first nine months of 2017, according to a report Friday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Manufacturers also hauled panels and cells across the border from Mexico, Canada and other countries to beat the import duties that were announced last month. Key point for folks buying solar – does your contractor have a connection to some of these panels? Were they all bought by bigtime developers for their projects alone? It looks like SunPower made some imports as well – so they’ve probably got decently priced product still. If you’re buying right now – use this knowledge as pricing leverage if a contractor’s price is a bit strong.


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The best President’s Day sales and deals 2018: where to find last-minute sales

You can still find the best President’s Day sales and deals until midnight tonight in the US, capping off the first weekend of savings in 2018. 

What do 4KTV deals and discounted PS4 and Xbox One console have to do with George Washington’s birthday in February? Very little, but it’s America’s traditional savings holiday on everything from smartphones and tablets and big-screen TVs.

Today is officially President’s Day, but a number of deals started last week, and some have carried over. You’re just in time. Don’t be surprised if a few keep going after the holiday itself has ended.

Just as we all hope for the winter to end and for the weather to get an upgrade, President’s Day sales offer plenty of options to get an upgrade to our personal inventory of gadgets and household tech. We’ve got the best President’s Day sales rounded up for you, so you can get a discount on a new laptop, an upgraded sound system, tablets for your kids or new cameras.

You can jump straight to retailers President’s Day sales at the following links:

The best President’s Day sales stores (direct links)

When do President’s day sales events start?

President’s Day sales events actually started a few days ago ahead of the official February 19 start date. Deals may continue even to George Washington’s birthday, which is February 22.

President’s Day vs Black Friday

If all the hot ticket items you were eyeing on Black Friday and Cyber Monday sold out before you could get to them, the best President’s Day sales will give you a second opportunity to nap a new 4K TV or sneak off with a new computer at prices that may be just as good as November’s.

Retailers may not be going as crazy with the sheer volume of deals for President’s Day as they did on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some golden President’s Day sales. If you keep a close eye on the President’s Day discounts (which you can easily do by checking back here often, as we’ll keep this page updated with the best deals we can find), you’re likely to find some great offers.

President’s Day TV deals

President’s Day sales smart home deals

The best President’s Day sales gaming deals

President’s Day smartphone deals

President’s Day tablet deals

President’s Day sales computing deals

President’s Day headphone and speaker deals

President’s Day sales camera deals

To see all the best President’s day sales and deals in 2018, be sure to check this page often, as we will continue to add new discounts whenever they begin.

Which stores are having President’s Day sales?

You’ll find all the biggest and best online stores are getting involved with the President’s Day sales event and while we’re busily finding the best deals for you, we know you’ll want to take a look for yourselves too. So here’s a handy list to take you straight to the President Day sale’s homepages at the following stores:

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EE is still the UK’s best mobile network

EE’s cemented its position as the UK’s best mobile network during the second half of 2017, according to RootMetrics latest round of testing, which named the operator as number one in all six categories.

The BT-owned network won the network reliability, network speed, data performance and text performance categories and was named best overall. It shared the call performance category with Three.

Vodafone, which closed the gap in the first half of 2017, didn’t win any awards this time round, while O2 finished in last place out of the four main operators.

EE 4G network

However RootMetrics suggested O2 could turn its fortunes around if it improved its rural performance and noted its text performance had been improving, while it was joint-first with Three and Vodafone in Northern Ireland.

Another regional quirk was Three’s strong network in Wales, where it was named most reliable and best at voice.

RootMetrics testers conducted 708,000 tests using Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphones and travelled more than 22,048 miles across the UK. There was also testing at 649 indoor locations, something others have criticised RootMetrics for not doing enough of in previous testing.

The firm claims its report covered the entire of the UK population and is the most scientific and comprehensive view possible.

“We’re starting to see that capital expenditure in the latest network infrastructure, such as EE’s investment in VoLTE pays off in the form of improved customer experience,” said Scott Stonham, RootMetrics general manager for Europe.

“According to IHS Markit research, capex is expected to grow moderately this year, and we will see the foundations being laid for fibre plant and 5G. It will be fascinating to see how the operators balance the creation of the networks of the future and maintaining and improving existing infrastructure.”


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Blizzard is streaming a puppy version of Overwatch on Twitch

You probably like Overwatch. You probably also like puppies. Well, Blizzard has finally combined those two things into one stream is live now on Twitch.

To celebrate the Lunar New Year and the Year of the Dog, Blizzard has introduced new events and content into its team-based hero shooter. And the publisher is using this as an excuse to play with a bunch of puppies. On the official PlayOverwatch account on Twitch, you can check out the “Year of the Dog Puppy Rumble” right now. It has full commentary and everything.

Watch it right here:

I know everyone is rooting for the 8-week-old Lulu, which is dressed like the Overwatch hero Symmetra, but I’m hoping that Blizzard uses this as an excuse to introduce a new character by letting a cat loose in the Puppy Rumble stadium dressed as someone else completely.

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HTC still has a future in phones… but it needs to do something drastic

 In May last year I was at a dinner to celebrate 20 years of the HTC brand. Chialin Chang, the newly-anointed president of smartphones, raised a glass to the past, and someone enthusiastically screamed “and here’s to 20 years more!”.

But just a few months later Chang has left his post, with HTC telling TechRadar: “We can confirm Chialin Chang has resigned from his position as President of the Smartphone and Connected Devices Business at HTC. 

“We thank him for his dedication to the Company for the last six years and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Chang’s departure comes in the wake of Google buying half of HTC’s smartphone operation, essentially taking the heart of the phone division and putting it to work making new Pixel handsets. 

To the outside world HTC looks near to death, a smartphone brand limping to its demise after years of losses, and certainly not looking a cert for another 20 years of life.

Detractors will argue the writing seems to have been on the wall for a long time, saying HTC no longer seemed to know what kind of company it was, and was trading on past success without taking action to maintain it. 

Where once it was the steely underdog of the smartphone world, the perennial thorn in the side of its better-funded rivals, it had been reduced to making ‘me-too’ devices. 

Good devices, true, but largely no better than the other great phones that consumers are blessed with being able to pick from. HTC has gone from being unique enough to warrant a place in debates about the best smartphones on the market to making phones that are good in some areas, but behind the market in others.

With the loss of Chang, the constant losses and the bulk of the smartphone business being sold, it would be easy to conclude that HTC is on the way out. But there are reasons to think we could still a phoenix company rise from the ashes.

A better past

To predict the future here, first we need to look at what happened in the past, and there the tale of HTC is has two competing narratives.

One is of a company that lost its nerve at crucial times and made poor decisions, but the other is that HTC had the misfortune to butt up against an industry that favors those with deeper pockets and larger resources.

In the early years, HTC was one of the most impressive companies in the smartphone space. The first phone I ever used when I joined TechRadar back in 2008 was the HTC Touch Diamond 2, and it was entrancing. 

It made Windows Mobile usable, with the TouchFlo interface on top making the clunky Microsoft operating system something more desirable. 

That handset was followed by phones like the HTC HD2, a cult device that still sees developers trying to get the latest Android operating systems running on it despite it using hardware that’s approaching a decade old.

HTC kept doing things with Windows Mobile that shouldn’t really have been possible, so when it became one of the key manufacturers at the birth of Android few were surprised: one of the darlings of the nascent smartphone industry running around the Google campus was as close to a certainty for success as it was possible to find.

The HTC Hero felt like a truly revolutionary phone, skinning Android in a way not seen before

The HTC Dream (AKA the T-Mobile G1), the HTC Magic and the HTC Hero were all brilliant phones that ran with little power but packed in so much usability, with the latter phone giving birth to HTC Sense, the software that showed the customization possibilities available with Android, and which propelled HTC to even greater heights.

“Heart and love of product was what made us successful in the beginning, not just being a first mover,” a key ex-employee of HTC told me, under condition of anonymity. “Because back then, that really was enough and we could keep up that momentum.”

That momentum led to the creation of the HTC Desire in 2010, a phone that was the first true iPhone rival on the market in the eyes of anyone who wasn’t an Apple fan. It had power, a clean design and a lovely OLED screen to look at.

It was superior technically to the iPhone in so many ways, worked in a slick manner and cost less… and the halo effect translated into sales, and a golden period for the company.

By 2011 HTC was one of the biggest smartphone brands in the US – a tricky market to succeed in. Sales were increasing, and things were looking rosy.

This burgeoning success was overseen by CEO Peter Chou, a man who some compared to Steve Jobs due to his enthusiasm to create phones that were a fusion of usability and design. 

His engineering background gave him a precise eye for detail; he wanted every HTC phone to have a common design language, and software packed with features to delight users. 

(When I met him years ago in London, he spent an incredibly large amount of time chatting about the weather widget – yes, it packed far more information on a phone screen than others of the time, but it was that attention to detail that marked him out as a ‘progressive’ CEO at the time).

However, even at the height of the company’s success, signs of a brand that wasn’t quite in control of its destiny were starting to appear.

Alongside the HTC Desire launched the HTC Legend, a beautiful metal phone with a more attractive feel in the hand and packing a more vibrant screen. 

However, this phone was hidden in the shadows, locked only to certain networks on exclusive deals that meant it would never be given the exposure it deserved.

History obviously shows that Chou never hit the same heady heights as Jobs, quietly exiting his position in 2015 (and the company a year later), but for a few years HTC was the most ‘worthy’ competitor to Apple, doing so much on far fewer resources than rivals.

Teetering on the edge

But it was in HTC’s attempts to follow up the Desire’s success that things started to wobble, as the company tried to level-up from a small ODM to genuine smartphone Goliath.

Phones like the Desire HD and HTC Sensation appeared with muted fanfare due to an overly-complicated user experience or poor battery life, and the brand’s part-purchase of audio brand Beats never resulted in better handsets. 

(The special edition Sensation XE, for instance, basically had Beats’ branding and a slightly tuned audio experience – it didn’t feel like the best use of a brand that Apple would one day buy for billions).

The HTC One X appeared in 2012 to try and right things, but this was another ‘me too’ phone in the world of similar-looking devices – plastic design, fine camera, iffy battery. HTC wasn’t doing anything new.

But in 2013, it did do something new. HTC managed something that few other brands have ever managed: it rebooted, and forced its way back to the top of the smartphone game, at least critically, with its new range of ‘One’ smartphones.

The HTC One, and the follow-up One M8 were (stupid naming conventions aside) two of the best phones I’ve ever held… the M8, in particular, achieving that impossible feat of being an even better sequel to a wildly impressive first effort.

HTC was zagging when the industry was zigging… metal unibody, amazing cameras that focused on what the user wanted, and an interface that really brought extra functionality to users’ lives. 

Features like HTC Zoe – which captured short videos with each shot and spliced them into little movies – were ahead of their time and very similar functionality can be seen in the iPhone with Apple’s Live Photos.

Proof of the improvement was palpable. A key HTC marketing exec told me he had been practically begging the networks in the US to take the HTC One, but those same conversations were much, much easier the following year when the One M8 was vying for space on store shelves.

The slide

But in 2015, the company lost its nerve. The HTC One M9 was barely an improvement on the One M8 – just polished a little bit. The amazing dual-camera (again, sound familiar?) was lost in favor of a boring, off-the-shelf sensor.

Instead of doubling down, HTC made another me-too phone. Other brands were catching up with some of the features that had made the One series of smartphones so awesome, and HTC seemed to panic and just try to spec-match, rather than innovate. 

Key staff began to leave, and it seemed the recipe for the special sauce that had gone into its flagship phones was disappearing with them.

“HTC had the ‘first mover’ advantage, but eventually other companies like Samsung and LG were able to use their [lower-priced] components and [wider] distribution to overpower HTC,” said the anonymous HTC employee.

“We couldn’t see that from the inside. What we saw was our software / UX advantage and our cool designs. When Samsung’s design started finally catch up we had no advantages left. Except for heart.

“So many people poured every ounce of their passion into HTC. Heart and love of product was what made us successful in the beginning, not just being a first mover. Because back then that really was enough and we could keep up that momentum.”

HTC’s next phones – the HTC 10 and HTC U11 – were good, and in some areas (music, for instance) excellent… but it was apparently too little, too late. HTC found itself running into the same issue time and again: it was big enough to be innovative, but too small to fight the marketing power and buying power of the incumbent brands.

It was also starting to focus on the popular HTC Vive VR headset, which was turning far more heads than any of its flagship smartphones.

That said, HTC chose  terrible marketing strategies at times too for its handsets. The multi-million campaign to hire Robert Downey Jr led to some excruciating advertising (anyone remember Hipster Troll Carwash?) with Downey Jr having creative control over the ads themselves.

Perhaps the writing was already on the wall for HTC’s ex-smartphone president Chang at the very start of his stewardship last year.

At a round table, when asked what HTC was planning to do in order to reverse the slide it found itself experiencing, he told me: “We’ll target the old HTC users, premium users who compare Android phones, and make sure we have a dynamic sentiment analysis, which we didn’t do very well in the past. 

“We’ll find what sort of message they want to see more of and adjust accordingly… a more targeted approach. 

“At the end of the day [those users] want to see the real phone, and messaging consistent with that real phone and how they perceive the brand. Brand is obviously taking time to build, it’s not an overnight thing.”

HTC Desire

The HTC Desire was of its time, but that doesn’t mean the success can be used to reboot the brand

Any brand that tries to recapture its past glories in the smartphone market is doomed to fail, if all it wants to do is remind people why it used to be good. What it needs to do instead is focus entirely on being different, relevant and exciting.

This is where the comparison with the Nokia brand comes in. Now run by HMD Global, a new company featuring a raft of ex-Nokia employees – and ironically, some from HTC – as well as working with Foxconn (the factory manufacturer of the iPhone, among other brands), Nokia has gone from nowhere to selling millions of phones in the space of a year.

In fact, Nokia phones are now outselling handsets from OnePlus and Google – but that doesn’t really tell the whole story. HMD Global has only put out one ‘high-end’ phone, the Nokia 8, and none offering the kind of performance the true flagships on the market can boast.

No – Rather than headline-grabbing flagship features, Nokia’s success is the result of fusing a well-known brand with good build quality and decent specs in key components like the battery and camera… but on cheaper phones.

Nothing about its handsets is earth-shattering, but Nokia is drawing on a heritage of strong performance in these areas, and updating it for a market in which smartphones are largely commoditized.

And that’s where HTC’s strength can still lie. It’s hard to say how strong that heritage is now, given that half of the smartphone staff have moved to Google, but if enough remains of the engineering team and facilities, there’s still a chance that we’ll continue to see HTC phones on shelves in years to come.

The first thing the company has to do is forget about high-end flagship phones. Ex-smartphone president Chang talked last year about ‘halo’ devices that would cast a glow onto the rest of the HTC range, but that strategy only works if those flagship phones are selling in droves, causing consumers who want the expensive model, but can’t afford it, to look at the lower-priced options.

The smartphone world is different now. The SIM-free phone is growing rapidly in popularity, people are holding onto devices for longer, and they’re looking for value for money with an upgrade. A cheap phone now needs to not only work well, but offer perceived innovation too.

A recent tour of HTC’s Taiwanese facilities showed that there’s still a rich vein of that innovation running through the brand. In a set of drawers in the main HQ, there are multiple prototype variants of the company’s flagship handsets over the years, ranging from differently-shaped camera holes on the premium phones of yesteryear to smart takes on a gaming handset… sadly I wasn’t able to take pictures, nor am I able to go into more detail here, but creativity has been part of the HTC picture for years.

The imaging and audio development departments that brought us the impressive HTC One and HTC 10 still pack the same facilities that launched those handsets, and there’s a real care taken in the creation of each handset, with 50 people handling a device before it’s shipped out to the consumer.

The brand still is taking a bullish stance on its future, stating (somewhat blandly) to TechRadar: “HTC remains fully committed to our branded smartphone business, and we have an exciting 2018 product pipeline.”

Reinventing itself won’t be an easy task – but if HTC forgets about putting high-end features in high-end phones and focuses on infusing cheaper phones with better cameras, audio and design, those handsets can become a very strong proposition against brands that are less well-known.

That’s how HTC can remind users of its heritage. It’s always sad to see a once-great brand falling from the peak of the smartphone game, but the market has shifted and HTC didn’t have the scale to compete… will it still be able to turn things around?

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Logitech’s G920 wheel combines ease of use with thrilling racing


You don’t have to settle for some shoddy toy wheel when it comes to driving games. The simulation experience you want is attainable in the Logitech G920 Driving Force racing wheel (and the PlayStation equivalent G29) for $400. It works with the PC or Xbox One, and it provides realistic controls with immersive force-feedback. Logitech says this is the definitive racing wheel, and after using one for the last couple of weeks, I agree.

I’ve spent several hours with the G920 in games like Forza Horizon 3, Dirt 4, Project Cars 2, Spintires: Mudrunner, and American Truck Simulator. It works amazingly well in all of these, and it has made me into someone who’s looking for the next driving sim.

Here’s why the G920 is so good.

What you’ll like

Easy to install and use

If you’ve never used a racing wheel with your games before, you might think it’s more of a headache than a fun time. But that’s not the case. Logitech designed the G920 so that you could anchor it to variety of desks using a pair of built-in clamps. Those tighten enough that the wheel stays in place even when you whip it around a corner with a ton of force. I have never had to readjust the wheel or even the optional stick shifter.

Likewise, the pedals also stay in place, but this doesn’t involve clamps. Instead, Logitech added a strip of spikes that can retract (if you’re using the pedal unit on hardwood) or extend to dig into carpet. This works like magic. The spikes stick out at an angle, and even when I’m slamming on the break for a sudden stop at a red light, the pedals don’t drift away from my feet. I have had to adjust the pedals, but that was an infrequent occurrence, and it was only to keep the unit angled properly.

Excellent force feedback

The G920 is not a passive wheel. It features a motor that translates your vehicle’s movements into force-feedback motions that fight against your hands. So if you take a turn, the wheel has the power to pull back against you to let you know that the wheels under your car are tugging away at the tarmac with ferocity. But it’s also so much more than that.

The G920 can also simulate the idling of a massive big-rig truck, the feeling of driving over dirt at high speeds, and the skidding of your wheels across a wet road. This all amplifies the immersion in a game, but it also gives you more information about how much control you have over your automobile. If the wheel is really fighting you through a series of turns, you probably need to let off the gas or you’ll risk losing control.

Elegant design

Logitech’s engineers have done a lot to make the G920 a smart and immersive experience. The easy installation is a big part of that, but it is equally smart in use. For example, all of the buttons are within the reach of your thumbs and the rear paddle shifters give you a nice click when you engage them.

I also appreciate the leather-like material on the wheel, which makes it feel like something out of a Toyota. The rest of the setup is a mixture of aluminum and plastic alloys, and they are all sturdy and nice looking.

What you won’t like

Lots of cables

My only issue with the Logitech G920 is the cable management. If you have the stick shifter, you’ll have four cords coming out of the back of the wheel: power, USB, pedals, and stick. Those cables are probably going to have to shoot out in a variety of different directions because you may have power and USB in one area, but then the pedals have to go beneath the wheel while the shifter is off to the right.

This can turn into a tangled mess in an instant, and I find that frustrating.


I can’t imagine playing driving games any other way now that I’ve spent so much time with the G920. I’m pricing a Playseat racing chair to build an immersive experience in my home. I’m scouring Steam for new racing games. I’m breaking out old games with any vehicles in them and trying to see if this will work — Grand Theft Auto Online is next. The wheel is amazing, and it makes driving games that much better. If you have any affinity for this genre, I give the G920 my highest recommendation.

The Logitech G920 is available now for $400. Logitech provided a sample unit for the purpose of this review.

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An Algorithm Knows When Your Kid Is Using Your Phone

Next Level Parenting

Shiny screens have a way of appeasing wailing children far more effectively than the old jingling keys standby. However, 21st century parents have to weigh the benefits of near-instant placidity with the very real possibility that their toddler could unknowingly max out the AmEx buying gummy bears on Amazon. Thankfully, new software developed by researchers from the University of South Carolina and China’s Zhejiang University could help make render this particular parenting dilemma moot.

The researchers developed an algorithm that measures a user’s interaction with the mobile device and  can reliably tell if the user is an adult or a child. If the software detects a child, it can automatically block applications like retailers or email platforms, as well as inappropriate websites.

In order to construct the algorithm, the team developed an app that tracked users’ finger movements — recording metrics like the surface area of a tap, pressure applied by a finger, and length of swipes. The researchers gathered data from a group of children ages 3 to 11 and a group of adults between the ages of 22 and 60 as they unlocked the screen and played a numbers-based game on the phone.

Their new age-detection software proved to be 84 percent accurate in determining whether a user was an adult or a child with just a single swipe. That accuracy shot up to 97 percent after just eight swipes.

The algorithm hasn’t been integrated into an operating system yet, but the researchers will present their technology at HotMobile, a mobile tech conference, where it could gain some traction with developers.

While cybersecurity is an ever-present concern in the age of mobile devices, many make the mistake of only considering external threats. The reality is, an inquisitive three-year-old could be almost as damaging as the latest data hack.

The post An Algorithm Knows When Your Kid Is Using Your Phone appeared first on Futurism.

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Hackers have turned the Nintendo Switch into a functional Linux tablet

There are two major reasons I can think of to hack a game console. The first one is obvious: so you can play cracked copies of games. That’s why modern consoles are so difficult to hack, because millions of dollars are on the line.

But some people just want to run any software they choose on the hardware they own. And for those people, Linux on the Switch is a huge achievement.

A couple of weeks ago, the fail0verflow hacking collective showed a still image on Twitter of a Nintendo Switch booting Linux. They’re one of a small handful of hacker teams who are teasing exploits of the Nvidia Tegra hardware inside the Switch.

But now fail0verflow has video of a full-on Linux distro running on the hacked Switch, complete with touchscreen…

Continue reading…

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9 common mistakes executives make with data


Data is a human invention. Humans define the phenomenon they want to measure, design systems to collect data about it, clean and pre-process it before analysis, and finally, choose how to interpret the results. Even with the same dataset, two people can form vastly different conclusions. This is because data alone is not “ground truth” — observable, provable, and objective data that reflects reality. If researchers infer data from other information, rely on subjective judgment, do not collect data in a rigorous and careful manner, or use sources that are of questionable authenticity, then the data they produce it is not ground truth.

How you choose to conceptualize a phenomenon, determine what to measure, and decide how to take measurements will affect the data that you collect. Your ability to solve a problem with artificial intelligence depends heavily on how you frame your problem and whether you can establish ground truth without ambiguity. We use ground truth as a benchmark to assess the performance of algorithms. If your gold standard is wrong, then your results will not only be wrong but also potentially harmful to your business.

Unless you were directly involved with defining and monitoring your original data collection goals, instruments, and strategy, you are likely missing critical knowledge that may result in incorrect processing, interpretation, and use of that data.

What people call “data” can actually be things like carefully curated measurements selected purely to support an agenda; haphazard collections of random information with no correspondence to reality; or information that looks reasonable but resulted from unconsciously biased collection efforts.

Here’s a crash course on nine common statistical errors that every executive should be familiar with.

1. Undefined goals

Failing to pin down the reason for collecting data means that you’ll miss the opportunity to articulate assumptions and to determine what to collect. The result is that you’ll likely collect the wrong data or incomplete data. A common trend in big data is for enterprises to gather heaps of information without any understanding of why they need it and how they want to use it. Gathering huge but messy volumes of data will only impede your future analytics, since you’ll have to wade through much more junk to find what you actually want.

2. Definition error

Let’s say you want to know how much your customers spent on your services last quarter. Seems like an easy task, right? Unfortunately, even a simple goal like this will require defining a number of assumptions before you can get the information that you want.

First, how are you defining “customer”? Depending on your goals, you might not want to lump everyone into one bucket. You may want to segment customers by their purchasing behaviors in order to adjust your marketing efforts or product features accordingly. If that’s the case, then you’ll need to be sure that you’re including useful information about the customer, such as demographic information or spending history.

There are also tactical considerations, such as how you define quarters. Will you use fiscal quarters or calendar quarters? Many organizations’ fiscal years do not correspond with calendar years. Fiscal years also differ internationally, with Australia’s fiscal year starting on July 1 and India’s fiscal year starting on April 1. You will also need to develop a strategy to account for returns or exchanges. What if a customer bought your product in one quarter but returned it in another? What if they filed a quality complaint against you and received a refund? Do you net these in the last quarter or this one?

As you can see, definitions are not so simple. You will need to discuss your expectations and set appropriate parameters in order to collect the information you actually want.

3. Capture error

Once you’ve identified the type of data that you wish to collect, you’ll need to design a mechanism to capture it. Mistakes here can result in capturing incorrect or accidentally biased data. For example, if you want to test whether product A is more compelling than product B, but you always display product A first on your website, then users may not see or purchase product B as frequently, leading you to the wrong conclusion.

4. Measurement error

Measurement errors occur when the software or hardware you use to capture data goes awry, either failing to capture usable data or producing spurious data. For example, you might lose information about user behavior on your mobile app if the user experiences connectivity issues and the usage logs are not synchronized with your servers. Similarly, if you are using hardware sensors like a microphone, your audio recordings may capture background noise or interference from other electrical signals.

5. Processing error

As you can see from our simple attempt to calculate customer sales earlier, many errors can occur even before you look at your data. Many enterprises own data that is decades old, where the original team capable of explaining their data decisions is long gone. Many of their assumptions and issues are likely not documented and will be up to you to deduce, which can be a daunting task.

You and your team may make assumptions that differ from the original ones made during data collection and achieve wildly different results. Common errors include missing a particular filter that researchers may have used on the data, using different accounting standards, and simply making methodological mistakes.

6. Coverage error

Coverage error describes what happens with survey data when there is insufficient opportunity for all targeted respondents to participate. For example, if you are collecting data on the elderly but only offer a website survey, then you’ll probably miss out on many respondents.

In the case of digital products, your marketing teams may be interested in projecting how all mobile smartphone users might behave with a prospective product. However, if you only offer an iOS app but not an Android app, the iOS user data will give you limited insight into how Android users may behave.

7. Sampling error

Sampling errors occur when you analyze data from a smaller sample that is not representative of your target population. This is unavoidable when data only exists for some groups within a population. The conclusions that you draw from the unrepresentative sample will probably not apply to the whole.

A classic example of a sampling would be to ask only your friends or peers for opinions about your company’s products, then assume the user population will feel similarly.

8. Inference error

Statistical or machine learning models make inference errors when they make incorrect predictions from the available ground truth. False negatives and false positives are the two types of inference errors that can occur. False positives occur when you incorrectly predict that an item belongs in a category when it does not. False negatives occur when an item is in a category, but you predict that it is not.

Assuming you have a clean record of ground truth, calculating inference errors will help you assess the performance of your machine learning models. However, the reality is that many real-world datasets are noisy and may be mislabeled, which means you may not have clarity on the exact inference errors your AI system makes.

9. Unknown error

Reality can be elusive, and you cannot always establish ground truth with ease. In many cases, such as with digital products, you can capture tons of data about what a user did on your platform but not their motivation for those actions. You may know that a user clicked on an advertisement, but you don’t know how annoyed they were with it.

In addition to many known types of errors, there are unknowns about the universe that leave a gap between your representation of reality, in the form of data, and reality itself.

Executives without a data science or machine learning background often make these nine major errors, but many more subtle issues can also thwart the performance of AI technologies you build that make predictions from data.

Mariya Yao is the CTO of Metamaven, an applied AI firm building custom automation solutions for marketing and sales, and the coauthor of Applied Artificial Intelligence, a book for business leaders.

This story originally appeared on Copyright 2018

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Oh, Great: There’s Lots of Mercury in the Thawing Permafrost

Climate change is responsible for altering sea turtles’ genders, acidifying our lakes, and pushing clouds away from tropical forests. In the future we’ll also have to deal with rising temperatures, extreme weather, and massive flooding.

Climate change is also responsible for melting permafrost, the frozen soil found in colder regions around the globe. When that frozen soil thaws, it releases all sorts of hidden nastiness — everything from ancient infections to trapped greenhouse gases that make their way into the atmosphere.

If you’re already sick of hearing about climate change impacts, or perhaps think it couldn’t get any worse, brace yourself. New research published in Geophysical Research Letters suggests that the permafrost in Alaska conceals more than 15 million gallons of natural mercury. That’s nearly twice the amount of mercury stored in other soils, oceans, and the atmosphere put together.

Yikes. So what happens when the Alaskan permafrost thaws and all that mercury escapes?

Mercury Madness

When the permafrost’s mercury is released, it could dissolve into freshwater or saltwater and be ingested by fish and other animals. That mercury is so poisonous that it can cause birth defects and motor impairment in nearby wildlife.

Nearby human populations that rely on that wildlife for food would be affected too. But don’t think you’re safer if you don’t live in the Northern Hemisphere. The team that conducted the study suggests that mercury could be released into the atmosphere and carried thousands of miles away, to other communities and ecosystems.

Nice to know that we can add mercury poisoning to the list of things to worry about the next time scientists note an uptick in Arctic temperatures.

At this point, think of climate change as being really dedicated to its job: To radically impact our lives for the worse, whether we want it to or not. It’s also really good at constantly reminding us of the cost of our prior reliance on fossil fuels. The shift to clean energy can’t happen soon enough.

As such, we have to be aware of the consequences of making our planet any hotter — like the potential for 15 million gallons of mercury to hit the atmosphere.

“Twenty-four percent of all the soil above the equator is permafrost, and it has this huge pool of locked-up mercury,” said Paul Schuster, a hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Boulder, Colorado and lead author of the study, in a press release. “What happens if the permafrost thaws? How far will the mercury travel up the food chain? These are big-picture questions that we need to answer.”

Hopefully the answers to Schuster’s questions will be discovered before climate change can do anymore damage. What we need now, though, is an effective plan to offset climate change impacts, not more evidence of how life-threatening it can be — we’ve got a pretty clear picture of that already.

The post Oh, Great: There’s Lots of Mercury in the Thawing Permafrost appeared first on Futurism.

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Twitter is brutally mocking the fake Black Panther assault stories

In terms of critical response and opening weekend box office, Marvel’s Black Panther has been an unmitigated, record-breaking success. Anticipation has been high from the beginning, with the film outstripping all other Marvel movies in first-day ticket sales volume, and becoming the most-discussed movie on Twitter.

But all the positive coverage and fan enthusiasm clearly angered a small minority of trolls, who organized to sabotage the movie’s ratings on sites like Rotten Tomatoes and the IMDb. And over the weekend, Twitter saw a wave of posts from users claiming they were white filmgoers who were physically assaulted by black attendees at Black Panther screenings. Most of the scam posts claimed the attackers shouted some variant on…

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Apple releases iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS updates with Telugu character fix

Apple today released software updates to all of its platforms to address the Indian character crash bug discovered last week. The fix is included in iOS 11.2.6, macOS 10.13.3 Supplemental Update, tvOS 11.2.6, and watchOS 4.2.3. As expected, the potentially serious nature of the bug hastened Apple’s response, allowing the issue to be addressed before the next full point releases of each OS.

Also known as the Telugu bug, referencing the specific language spoken by around 70 million people in India, the exploit causes certain iOS communication apps to crash when attempting to process a specific Telugu character. If the character is processed by iOS’ notification system, the device’s Home screen can crash and fall into a looping reboot cycle. preventing access to all of the device’s functions and data.

iOS 11.2.6 is a free download and can be accessed through Settings > General > Software Update on iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches. macOS 10.13.3 Supplemental Update can be accessed through the Updates section of the Mac App Store. tvOS 11.2.6 can be applied automatically by an Apple TV or manually in Settings > System > Software Update. watchOS 4.2.3 can be manually applied using the Watch app on an iPhone. Note that the patch will not appear on devices running Apple developer or public betas, which are said to have already addressed the bug.

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Apple releases iOS 11.2.6 to fix iPhone crash bug

Apple has released iOS 11.2.6 today, which includes a bug fix for the Indian language (Telugu) character that crashes an iPhone and makes apps like Messages, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp inaccessible. The bug was discovered last week, allowing anyone to send a simple character to an iPhone to crash the device and lock out access to certain messaging apps. The bug also affects Safari and the built-in Messages app on macOS and the Apple Watch. Apple released updates for watchOS, tvOS, and macOS to stop the crash from happening on those platforms, too.

Apple promised an update before iOS 11.3 and it’s arriving today in the form of iOS 11.2.6. All current betas of iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS also fix the crashing problem. This is the…

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Apple Releases macOS 10.13.3 Supplemental Update With Telugu Crash Fix

Apple today released a new version of macOS High Sierra 10.13.3, which comes approximately one month after the first version of macOS High Sierra 10.13.3, an update that offered fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities discovered in early January.

The new macOS High Sierra update can be downloaded directly from the Mac App Store or through the Software Update function in the Mac App Store on all compatible Macs that are already running macOS High Sierra.

Today’s update addresses a bug that causes apps like Messages to crash due to an inability to render a character in the Indian language Telugu. When sent or received, the character in question can cause an app like Messages or Safari to freeze up and become unresponsive.

There’s also a separate macOS High Sierra 10.13.13 Supplemental Update for iMac Pros, which is designed to fix the Telugu bug on those machines.

Prior to today’s update, the only fix in an app like Messages was to delete the entire conversation containing the buggy character. The update also impacted iOS 11.2.5, and Apple also released a new iOS 11.2.6 update to fix it.

Apple previously addressed the Telugu character bug in iOS 11.3 and macOS 10.13.4, but those updates are still in beta testing and won’t be released until the spring. Apple last week promised a minor update to fix the bugs in the meantime.

Related Roundup: macOS High Sierra

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Apple Releases Minor watchOS 4.2.3 Update With Bug Fixes

Apple today released a minor software update for the Apple Watch, upgrading watchOS 4.2.2 to watchOS 4.2.3. The watchOS 4.2.3 update comes one month after the release of watchOS 4.2.2, a minor update focusing on bug fixes.

watchOS 4.2.3 can be downloaded through the dedicated Apple Watch app on the iPhone by going to General –> Software Update. To install the update, the Apple Watch must have 50 percent battery, it must be placed on the charger, and it must be in range of the iPhone.

Today’s update addresses minor bugs discovered since the release of watchOS 4.2.2, and it includes a fix for a bug that causes device crashes when a specific character in the Indian language Telugu is sent, received or input into an app. Similar fixes have also been released for macOS High Sierra and iOS 11.

watchOS 4.2.3 will be succeeded by watchOS 4.3, an update that’s currently in beta testing and slated for release in the spring. watchOS 4.3 introduces portrait orientation support for Night Stand mode, and it reintroduces support for controlling music played on the iPhone with the Apple Watch.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

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Apple Releases Minor tvOS 11.2.6 Update

Apple today released a new update for tvOS 11, the operating system designed to run on the fourth and fifth-generation Apple TVs. tvOS 11.2.6 comes one month after the release of the tvOS 11.2.5 update, which focused on bug fixes and other under-the-hood improvements.

tvOS 11.2.6 can be downloaded over the air through the Settings app on the Apple TV by going to System –> Software Update. Apple TV owners who have automatic software updates turned on will be upgraded to the tvOS 11.2.6 automatically.

As a minor 11.x.x update tvOS 11.2.6 focuses on performance improvements and bug fixes to address issues that were discovered following the release of tvOS 11.2.5. It is being released alongside bug fix updates for iOS, macOS, and watchOS to address a problem that caused devices to crash due to an inability to render a specific character in the Indian language Telugu.

tvOS 11.2.6 will be followed by tvOS 11.3, an update that is currently being beta tested and is slated for release this spring.

Related Roundup: Apple TV
Buyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Buy Now)

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Apple Releases iOS 11.2.6 With Fix for Telugu Character Bug That Causes iOS Devices to Crash

Apple today released iOS 11.2.6, the eleventh official update to the iOS 11 operating system. iOS 11.2.6 comes approximately one month after the launch of iOS 11.2.5, an update that introduced support for the HomePod, Control Center updates, Siri news, and a slew of bug fixes.

The iOS 11.2.6 update can be downloaded for free on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the update, go to Settings –> General –> Software Update.

Apple released iOS 11.2.6 to address a bug that causes apps like Messages to crash on the iPhone and iPad due to an inability to render a specific character in the Indian language Telugu. When sent, received, or input into Messages, Safari, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and more, the Telugu character can cause the app to freeze up and become unresponsive.

In Messages, for example, receiving the character can freeze up the entire Messages app on all of a person’s Mac and iOS devices. The Messages app then refuses to function properly until the offending character is removed by deleting the conversation with the person who sent it. Apple’s release notes are below:

iOS 11.2.6 includes bug fixes for your iPhone or iPad. This update:

Fixes an issue where using certain character sequences could cause apps to crash

Fixes an issue where some third-party apps could fail to connect to external accessories

Apple fixed the bug in iOS 11.3 and macOS 10.13.4, but those updates are still in beta testing and won’t be released until the spring. Apple last week promised a minor update to fix the bug in the meantime.

Related Roundup: iOS 11

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The WyzeCam is a $20 security camera, and it just got better

I’ve never owned a security camera, so don’t quote me as an expert, but I’ve been reading some WyzeCam reviews this afternoon and they’re a little astonishing: a good, functional, easy-to-use, and feature-rich streaming security camera for $20.

Well, now there’s a sequel.

The WyzeCam v2 still costs $20, but now it has a better camera sensor for improved day and night vision, better audio quality (WyzeCam supports two-way audio), and motion-tagging tech to detect and outline motion in its footage.

The basics of the camera are unchanged, including 1080p recording, a free 14 days of rolling cloud storage, continuous microSD recording (you supply the microSD card), time lapse, and, of course, an app.

According to Engadget, a…

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The EPA’s Pollution Estimates Are Way Off. That’s Bad News for Our Future.

Emissions factors are a metric used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to gauge the effect that power plants, oil refineries, and other sites of industry are having on the atmosphere. The problem? The numbers are far from accurate. Worse, they’re being used in ways that were never intended.

As per Scientific American:

The original aim had been to paint a broad-brush picture of pollution. Instead, the numbers—meant to represent average emissions from industrial activities—were incorporated into permits stipulating how much pollution individual facilities could release. This happened despite EPA warnings that about half of these sites would discharge more than the models predicted.

Here are some of the stomach-churning substances that are tracked by emissions factors: ammonia, a cause of algal blooms capable of killing off marine life; methane, a potent greenhouse gas; and benzene, a known carcinogen.

Emissions factors can be a good compass when we just need a broad estimate of what’s in the fumes our chimneys belch out. However, we’ve already seen how things can go pear-shaped when they’re used for other purposes.

Scientists believe that many metropolitan areas in the U.S. may have overshot their ozone targets because they were measuring them against emissions factors. For example, when the city of Houston ditched those metrics in favor of direct monitoring, it found that levels of organic compounds in the air were 10 to 100 times higher than expected.

In light of this new information, Houston’s ozone production rates dropped by 50 percent in just six years. Emissions factors were, essentially, leading the city on a wild goose chase.

As cities throughout the U.S. begin setting targets to reduce their footprint, imagine what would happen if emissions factors were used to set greenhouse gas emissions limits. The new policies would be way off the mark from the outset. Relying on these metrics means we’re firing blind, and with our future on the line.

The post The EPA’s Pollution Estimates Are Way Off. That’s Bad News for Our Future. appeared first on Futurism.

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Scientists Use Graphene to Create Edible Electronics

James Tour believes anything can be turned into graphene — well, anything with the right carbon content, that is.

For the past few years, the Rice University chemist’s lab has investigated new and innovative ways to use graphene, a so-called “miracle material,” and for their latest research, they developed a method of imprinting graphene patterns onto objects.

Click to View Full Infographic

The team’s laser-induced graphene (LIG) tags comprise only a few layers of single-atom-thick graphene, which is produced out of the materials already present in an object. “This is not ink,” said Tour in a press release. “This is taking the material itself and converting it into graphene.”

The LIG tags can be burned into paper, cardboard, cloth, and cork, and the process takes place at room temperature. The LIG patterns can be used as supercapacitors, biological sensors, radio-frequency ID antennae, or even electrocatalysts for fuel cells.

The researchers also discovered they could embed ID tags and sensors onto certain foods, including coconut shells, potatoes, and toast. This discovery isn’t all that surprising given that Tour’s lab seems to have a penchant for combining food and science — in 2011, they even turned Girl Scout cookies into graphene.

If put into practice, the edible graphene tags could be used to track information about a food item.

“Very often, we don’t see the advantage of something until we make it available,” said Tour. “Perhaps all food will have a tiny RFID tag that gives you information about where it’s been, how long it’s been stored, its country and city of origin, and the path it took to get to your table.”

The tags could also be used for food safety, for example, by warning a consumer if bacteria like E. coli has been detected. “They could light up and give you a signal that you don’t want to eat this,” said Tour. “All that could be placed not on a separate tag on the food, but on the food itself.”

No word yet on how these edible graphene tags taste.

The post Scientists Use Graphene to Create Edible Electronics appeared first on Futurism.

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Mario may finally be getting his own encyclopedia in English this October

Mario may finally be getting his own English-language encyclopedia on October 23rd, a tome that tracks the three decades of his existence in Nintendo games, as spotted by Kotaku.

The original book came out in Japan in 2015, and an English translation was reportedly set to be released on June 15th last year, according to Amazon preorders, but those listings were taken down without an explanation. Nintendo and the publisher, Dark Horse Comics, kept silent. But now the Super Mario Encyclopedia has appeared on Amazon with a new release date. It’s available for preorder now for $39.99, listed as being sold by Nintendo, but the listing doesn’t have an image. German and Spanish versions of the encyclopedia were made available last October. Dark…

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