Tech News Feed

'Far Cry 5' review: Destruction and doomsday in America

Engadget - Wed, 2018-03-28 18:11
By Daniel Howley The Far Cry series is known for dropping players into huge, open-world settings and letting them sew chaos and destruction as they take on each title's menacing villain. But those settings and enemies have always been based in large...

HiBy R3 is a $229 iPod alternative that's rocking Kickstarter - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2018-03-28 18:08
The HiBy R3 may well be the unicorn of the MP3 player world. This cheap, Tidal-compatible and audiophile-friendly portable music player is a hit on Kickstarter.

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec debuts sportier threads in New York - Roadshow

CNET News - Wed, 2018-03-28 18:05
Body kit, bigger wheels and exclusive cabin touches highlight new MDX trim.

We go butt-on with the Blix Komfort Prima electric bike

TechCrunch - Wed, 2018-03-28 14:31

Blix is a new European ebike brand that melds high style, faux leather, and a really nice electric drive train to create a $2,500 ebike that might be too pricey for some but hits most of the buttons when it comes to a fully augmented bike ride. The bike, called the Blix Komfort Prima, runs about 60 miles per charge on Eco mode and essentially adds small boost to your regular pedaling. It includes disc brakes as well as front and rear lights and when you amp it up to High power mode you can really fly at about 20mph.

I rode this bike around Brooklyn including on a 10 mile trek on the city streets and the ride was surprisingly pleasant. The Komfort Prima uses the Shimano Step system to add a boost to your regular peddling, thereby allowing you to take hills with ease and get a little help on straightaways. In fact, the Step system is almost undetectable in Eco mode but it still goes a long way to making your ride more comfortable.

I like the styling of the bike and the high quality accessories. I also like the Step’s removable battery pack – a huge improvement over previous ebikes I’ve ridden. What I don’t love is the price but at $2,500 for a slick, smooth ride you’re on par with similar offerings from Yamaha and Raleigh. The space is changing quickly and it’s nice to see smaller players introducing high style, quality bikes at prices on par with bigger competitors.

Build your own PC inside the PC you built with PC Building Simulator

TechCrunch - Tue, 2018-03-27 18:24

Considering we’ve got simulators for everything from driving a junker (x2) to moving into a neighborhood with a bunch of hot dads in it, I suppose it was only a matter of time until someone made a game where you assemble your own PC. It’s called PC Building Simulator, as you might guess, and it looks fabulous.

I’ve built all my PCs over the years, including my current one, which I really should have waited on, since the early Skylake mobos were apparently trash. I’m sure we can line up the screw holes better than that, MSI!

What was I talking about? Oh yes, the simulator. This is no joke game: it uses real, licensed parts from major manufacturers, which are (or will be) simulated down to their power draws, pins, draw counts and so on. So if you pick a power supply without enough molex connectors to handle your SLI rig and PCIe solid state system drive (or whatever), it won’t start. Or if you try to close the ultra-slim case with an 8-inch-tall heatsink on your overclocked CPU, it’ll just clank. (Some of these features are still in development.)

Add LEDs inside the case, replace the side panel with acrylic (no!), try out a few cooling solutions… the possibilities are endless. Especially since manufacturers like Corsair, AMD, and so on seem hot to add perfectly modeled virtual versions of their components to the selection.

There’s even a “game” aspect where you can start your own PC repair business — someone sends you a machine that won’t boot, or shuts down randomly, and you get to figure out why that is. Run a virus scan, reseat the RAM, all that. Damn, this sounds just like my actual life.

Seriously though, this is great — it might help more people get over the idea that building a PC is difficult. I mean, it is, but at least here you can go through the motions so it isn’t a total mystery when you give it a shot.

The best part is that this game is made by a teenager who put together the original as a lark (it’s free on itch.io) and attracted so much attention that it’s been blown up into a full-blown game. Well, an Early Access title, anyway.

Inquiry finds FBI sued Apple to unlock phone without considering all options

TechCrunch - Tue, 2018-03-27 17:55

The Office of the Inspector General has issued its report on the circumstances surrounding the FBI’s 2016 lawsuit attempting to force Apple to unlock an iPhone as part of a criminal investigation. While it stops short of saying the FBI was untruthful in its justification of going to court, the report is unsparing of the bureaucracy and clashing political motives that ultimately undermined that justification.

The official narrative, briefly summarized, is that the FBI wanted to get into a locked iPhone allegedly used in the San Bernardino bombing in late 2015. Then-director Comey explained on February 9 that the Bureau did not have the capability to unlock the phone, and that as Apple was refusing to help voluntarily, a lawsuit would be filed compelling it to assist.

But then, a month later, a miracle occurred: a third party had come forward with a working method to unlock the phone and the lawsuit would not be necessary after all.

Though this mooted the court proceedings, which were dropped, it only delayed the inevitable and escalating battle between tech and law enforcement — specifically the “going dark” problem of pervasive encryption. Privacy advocates saw the suit as a transparent (but abortive) attempt to set a precedent greatly expanding the extent to which tech companies would be required to help law enforcement. Apple of course fought tooth and nail.

In 2016 the OIG was contacted by Amy Hess, a former FBI Executive Assistant Director, who basically said that the process wasn’t nearly so clean as the Bureau made it out to be. In the course of its inquiries the Inspector General did find that to be the case, though although the FBI’s claims were not technically inaccurate or misleading, they also proved simply to be incorrect — and it is implied that they may have been allowed to be incorrect in order to further the “going dark” narrative.

The full report is quite readable (if you can mentally juggle the numerous acronyms) but the findings are essentially as follows.

Although Comey stated on February 9 that the FBI did not have the capability to unlock the phone and would seek legal remedy, the inquiry found that the Bureau had not exhausted all the avenues available to it, including some rather obvious ones.

Comey at a hearing in 2017.

For instance, one senior engineer was tasked with asking trusted vendors if they had anything that could help — two days after Comey already said the FBI had no options left. Not only that, but there was official friction over whether classified tools generally reserved for national security purposes should be considered for this lesser, though obviously serious, criminal case.

In the first case, it turned out that yes, a vendor did have a solution “90 percent” done, and was happy to finish it up over the next month. How could the director have said that the FBI didn’t have the resources to do this, when it had not even asked its usual outside sources for help?

In the second, it’s still unclear whether there in fact exist classified tools that could have been brought to bear on the device in question. Testimony is conflicting on this point, with some officials saying that there was a “line in the sand” drawn between classified and unclassified tools, and another saying it was just a matter of preference. Regardless, those involved were less than forthcoming even within the Bureau, and even internal leadership was left wondering if there were solutions they hadn’t considered.

Hess, who brought the initial complaint to the OIG, was primarily concerned not that there was confusion in the ranks — it’s a huge organization and communication can be difficult — but that the search for a solution was deliberately allowed to fail in order that the case could act as a precedent advantageous to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Comey was known to be very concerned with the “going dark” issue and would likely have pursued such a case with vigor.

So the court case, Hess implied, was the real goal, and the meetings early in 2016 were formalities, nothing more than a paper trail to back up Comey’s statements. When a solution was actually found, because an engineer had taken initiative to ask around, officials hoping for a win in court were dismayed:

She became concerned that the CEAU Chief did not seem to want to find a technical solution, and that perhaps he knew of a solution but remained silent in order to pursue his own agenda of obtaining a favorable court ruling against Apple. According to EAD Hess, the problem with the Farook iPhone encryption was the “poster child” case for the Going Dark challenge.

The CEAU Chief told the OIG that, after the outside vendor came forward, he became frustrated that the case against Apple could no longer go forward, and he vented his frustration to the ROU Chief. He acknowledged that during this conversation between the two, he expressed disappointment that the ROU Chief had engaged an outside vendor to assist with the Farook iPhone, asking the ROU Chief, “Why did you do that for?”

While this doesn’t really imply a pattern of deception, it does suggest a willingness and ability on the part of FBI leadership to manipulate the situation to its advantage. A judge saying the likes of Apple must do everything possible to unlock an iPhone, and all forward ramifications of that, would be a tremendous coup for the Bureau and a major blow to user privacy.

The OIG ultimately recommends that the FBI “improve communication and coordination” so that this type of thing doesn’t happen (and it is reportedly doing so). Ironically, if the FBI had communicated to itself a bit better, the court case likely would have continued under pretenses that only its own leadership would know were false.

Nvidia stuns by driving a car in real life through virtual reality

TechCrunch - Tue, 2018-03-27 14:45

Today at Nvidia’s GTC conference the company unveiled a wild technology demo and it’s straight out of Black Panther. Simply put, a driver using virtual reality was remotely controlling a car in real life.

“He’s not with us,” Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, said pointing the driver on the stage. “He’s looking at this virtual world through live video.”

The driver was sitting on the stage of the convention center wearing an HTC Vive and seated in a cockpit-like car with a steering wheel. Using Nvidia’s Holodeck software, a car was loaded (the same Lexus used in Black Panther). Then, a video feed appeared showing a Ford Fusion behind the convention center.

The demo at the show was basic but worked. The driver in VR had seemingly complete control over the vehicle and managed to drive it, live but slowly, around a private lot. He navigated around a van, drove a few hundred feet and parked the car.

[gallery ids="1612999,1613009,1613007,1613005,1613004,1613003,1613001,1613000"]

The car was empty the whole time.

Nvidia didn’t detail any of the platforms running the systems nor did he announced availability. The demo was just a proof of concept. Jensen even exclaimed “we don’t know what to call it. What do we call it?”

Self-driving technology is a massive market for Nvidia, and the company is a leader in supplying technology. And demos like this are a great way to keep the attention on the company’s capabilities.

Arm chips with Nvidia AI could change the Internet of Things

TechCrunch - Tue, 2018-03-27 14:05

Nvidia and Arm today announced a partnership that’s aimed at making it easier for chip makers to incorporate deep learning capabilities into next-generation consumer gadgets, mobile devices and Internet of Things objects. Mostly, thanks to this partnership, artificial intelligence could be coming to doorbell cams or smart speakers soon.

Arm intends to integrate Nvidia’s open-source Deep Learning Accelerator (NVDLA) architecture into its just-announced Project Trillium platform. Nvidia says this should help IoT chip makers incorporate AI into their products.

“Accelerating AI at the edge is critical in enabling Arm’s vision of connecting a trillion IoT devices,” said Rene Haas, EVP, and president of the IP Group, at Arm. “Today we are one step closer to that vision by incorporating NVDLA into the Arm Project Trillium platform, as our entire ecosystem will immediately benefit from the expertise and capabilities our two companies bring in AI and IoT.”

Announced last month, Arm’s Project Trillium is a series of scalable processors designed for machine learning and neural networks. NVDLA open-source nature allows Arm to offer a suite of developers tools on its new platform. Together, with Arm’s scalable chip platforms and Nvidia’s developer’s tools, the two companies feel they’re offering a solution that could result in billions of IoT, mobile and consumers electronic devices gaining access to deep learning.

Deepu Tallam, VP and GM of Autonomous Machines at Nvidia, explained it best with this analogy: “NVDLA is like providing all the ingredients for somebody to make it a dish including the instructions. With Arm [this partnership] is basically like a microwave dish.”

Aira’s new smart glasses give blind users a guide through the visual world

TechCrunch - Tue, 2018-03-27 13:30

When it comes to augmented reality technologies, visuals always seems to be a pretty essential part of most people’s definitions, but one startup is offering an interesting take on audio-based AR that also calls on computer vision. Even without integrated displays, glasses are still an important part of the company’s products, which are designed with vision-impaired users in mind.

Aira has built a service that basically puts a human assistant into a blind user’s ear by beaming live-streaming footage from the glasses camera to the company’s agents who can then give audio instructions to the end users. The guides can present them with directions or describe scenes for them. It’s really the combination of the high-tech hardware and highly attentive assistants.

The hardware the company has run this service on in the past has been a bit of a hodgepodge of third-party solutions. This month, the company began testing its own smart glasses solution called the Horizon Smart Glasses, which are designed from the ground-up to be the ideal solution for vision-impaired users.

The company charges based on usage; $89 per month will get users the device and up to 100 minutes of usage. There are various pricing tiers for power users who need a bit more time.

The glasses integrate a 120-degree wide-angle camera so guides can gain a fuller picture of a user’s surroundings and won’t have to instruct them to point their head in a different direction quite as much. It’s powered by what the startup calls the Aira Horizon Controller, which is actually just a repurposed Samsung smartphone that powers the device in terms of compute, battery and network connection. The controller is appropriately controlled entirely through the physical buttons and also can connect to a user’s smartphone if they want to route controls through the Aira mobile app.

Though the startup isn’t planning to part ways with their human assistants anytime soon, the company is predictably aiming to venture deeper into the capabilities offered by computer vision tech. The company announced earlier this month that it would be rolling out its own digital assistant called Chloe that will eventually be able to do a whole lot, but is launching with the ability to read so users can point their glasses at some text and they should be able to hear what’s written. The startup recently showed off a partnership with AT&T that enables the glasses to identify prescription pill bottles and read the labels and dosage instructions to users.

The company is currently in the testing phase of the new headset, but hopes to begin swapping out old units with the Horizon by June.

Apple doubles down on book creation with iPad app

TechCrunch - Tue, 2018-03-27 13:06

Apple’s ebook creation tools – first launched in 2012 – have long played an interesting if minor role in the ecosystem. While Amazon has the indie book world sewn up with Kindle Direct Publishing, the desktop-based iBooks Author has always been the multimedia alternative and a favorite for folks creating one-off texts. Although there are no clear numbers (the last announcement happened in 2015 when Apple claimed seeing 1 million new iBooks users per week), there is some evidence that it behooves indie authors to at least support the platform and with the new iPad Author tools it looks like creators – and educators – will be able to create and distribute their own iPad-based texts.

The app, which is part of Pages and is called Digital Books in new iOS parlance, allows users to create multimedia books just as they would create regular documents. The app also supports group editing and multiple templates allow you to flow images and text into the app seamlessly.

The new application is a direct attack on the current popular educational authoring tool, Google Docs. Anecdotally, the Brooklyn schools my kids attend all finish and turn in their homework via the schools own private Google accounts, a fact that probably keeps iOS educational team leads up at night. This move from a dedicated desktop app mostly aimed at indie authors and higher education to an iPad app aimed at small groups and, presumably, elementary and high school teachers who want to produce their own lightweight content, is a step in the right direction.

Nvidia suspends all autonomous vehicle testing

TechCrunch - Tue, 2018-03-27 12:55

Nvidia is temporarily stopping testing of its autonomous vehicle platform in response to last week’s fatal collision of a self-driving Uber car with a pedestrian. TechCrunch confirmed this with the company, which offered the following statement:

Ultimately [autonomous vehicles] will be far safer than human drivers, so this important work needs to continue. We are temporarily suspending the testing of our self-driving cars on public roads to learn from the Uber incident. Our global fleet of manually driven data collection vehicles continue to operate.

Reuters first reported the news.

The manually driven vehicles, to be clear, are not self-driving ones with safety drivers, but traditionally controlled vehicles with a full autonomous sensor suite on them to collect data.

Toyota also suspended its autonomous vehicle testing out of concern for its own drivers’ well-being. Uber of course ceased its testing operations at once.

Apple is finally selling the Space Gray mouse, keyboard and trackpad without an iMac Pro

TechCrunch - Tue, 2018-03-27 12:41

Surprise! You don’t have to pay $5,000 or more to get a Space Gray Magic Mouse 2, Magic Keyboard or Magic Trackpad 2. You can now buy those devices separately.

And because this is Apple, you’ll have to pay more to get the dark items. The Magic Mouse 2 costs $79 in silver and $99 in Space Gray.

The Magic Keyboard costs $129 for the silver version and $149 for the Space Gray one. This keyboard comes with a numeric keypad. The small version of the keyboard only has one color option. The trackpad costs the same price.

This news is going to make many eBay sellers really sad.

Apple iMac Pro mouse

Apple iMac Pro mouse

Apple introduces a cheap 9.7-inch iPad with Apple Pencil support

TechCrunch - Tue, 2018-03-27 11:27

Apple is holding a press conference right now in Chicago. And the company unveiled a brand new device — well, sort of. Apple is going to sell a brand new 9.7-inch iPad that works with the Apple Pencil.

Before today, only (more expensive) iPad Pro models could take advantage of the Pencil. Today’s new iPad will cost $329 for regular consumers. Schools can buy it for $299, just like the previous 9.7-inch iPad.

Based on the introduction video, it looks and works just like the existing 9.7-inch iPad. The bezels are identical and there’s a Touch ID sensor. Apple Pencil support is the only thing that seems new so far on the hardware front.

Existing iPad users will also get new features as Pages, Numbers and Keynote for iOS are all going to be updated to support the Apple Pencil. It’s surprising that those Apple apps haven’t supported the stylus yet, but now it’s possible.

This feature is going to be called Smart Annotation and is going to be available as a beta. Teachers could use it to grade papers for instance.

Apple showed some tech specs. This new iPad should have an LTE version, an 8MP camera, all the sensors you’d expect in an iPad and an A10 Fusion chip. This chip first appeared in the iPhone 7. This sounds like a nice upgrade from last year’s iPad but not a true departure from this product line.

Apple also said that there are 200,000 education apps in the App Store right now. The company is trying to position the iPad as a more capable device against Google Chromebooks. And in order to attract schools, Apple is offering 200GB per iCloud account instead of 5GB of free storage.

[gallery ids="1612668,1612665,1612671,1612676,1612678"]

Huawei’s P20 is a shiny, extravagant phone

TechCrunch - Tue, 2018-03-27 09:30

Huawei just unveiled its brand new flagship phone — the P20. It’s a solid, well-designed Android phone with a shiny design, an iPhone X-like notch and some extravagant features, such as not one, not two but three cameras on the back of the P20 Pro.

I’ve played with the phone for a few minutes yesterday, and I would consider it one of the most polished Android phones out there. It’s a good successor to the P10, a good alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S9 and a good incarnation of Android.

The P20 and P20 Pro

Huawei is launching two different phones. The P20 is the most affordable version of the devices. It features a 5.8-inch LCD display with an 18.7:9 aspect ratio. In other words, the screen is more or less just like the one on the iPhone X.

The P20 Pro is slightly larger with a 6.1-inch display. And, for the first time in a Huawei phone, it has an OLED display. This feature alone makes the P20 Pro much nicer than the P20.

Phone manufacturers shouldn’t even try selling a phone with a notch combined with an LCD display. It just looks bad.

Both phones have a glass back and an aluminum frame, just like the Samsung Galaxy S9. It doesn’t feel as heavy as the iPhone X with its stainless steel frame, but it feels nice in your hand.

It’s a bit surprising that Huawei opted for a glass back even though the P20 and P20 Pro don’t feature wireless charging. Many manufacturers switched to glass cases to facilitate wireless charging. With those new devices, you get the fingerprints on the back of the device without any additional feature.

There are five colors for the P20 and four colors for the P20 Pro. In addition to standard colors (black, midnight blue for both devices, champagne gold for the P20), Huawei has created two gradient colors that look great — twilight and pink gold.

Another thing that differentiates the Huawei P20 from other Android phones, Huawei has kept the fingerprint sensor on the front, below the display. Many manufacturers have put the fingerprint sensor on the back, which works fine if you have the phone in your hand. But if the phone is on the table, you have to pick it up to unlock it — you don’t have this issue with the P20.

Throwing more cameras at the problem

But the real craziness is on the back of the device. The P20 Pro has three camera sensors because two cameras weren’t enough.

There’s a 40 megapixels lens combined with a 20 megapixels monochrome lens and an 8 megapixels telephoto lens. All of this should help you zoom further, take portait photos and take super slow-motion videos at 960 frames per second.

While that sounds like an overkill, Huawei thinks this is the best physical representation of its work when it comes to photography.

The company automatically detects objects and scenes to adjust the camera settings. The selfie camera automatically enhances your skin so that you feel comfortable sharing selfies with your friends. Long exposures are automatically stabilized for those long dark winter nights.

I could go on and on with Huawei’s special camera features, but it’s hard to judge if it’s actually useful without using the phone for a few days.

The P20 is a bit more reasonable as it only has two rear cameras.

Let’s go through some fine prints. Both devices are powered by an ARM-based Kirin 970 system-on-a-chip designed by Huawei. It runs Android 8.1 with Huawei’s EMUI custom skin.

It comes with 128GB of internal storage, no microSD slot, no headphone jack and a USB Type-C port. There will be dual SIM versions of both devices.

The company says that you can unlock the device with your face, but it’s nowhere near as good as Face ID. It takes a 2D photo of your face so you can easily bypass it with a photo.

Trying to be different

When you see the shiny P20, it has a distinctive look. That hasn’t always been the case with Huawei phones. The company has chosen to embrace the notch. It makes the P20 look much different from the notch-less Samsung Galaxy S9.

In many ways, the P20 isn’t groundbreaking. It’s a faster, more capable smartphone. But it’s hard to keep innovating after more than a decade of smartphones. So the P20 feels like a solid Android phone.

The only issue is that you won’t be able to buy the P20 in the U.S. That’s why Huawei introduced its smartphone in Paris with videos featuring Orange, Vodafone, Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom.

TPCast unveils adapter to enable multiple wireless HTC Vive VR headsets

TechCrunch - Tue, 2018-03-27 09:00

Late last year, TPCast announced an adapter that cut the HTC Vive cords. The company is back with an enterprise version that delivers 2k content to several HTC Vive units with sub 2ms latency.

Unveiled at Nvidia’s GTC 2019 conference in San Jose, the product is aimed at VR uses cases where multiple people are sharing content across different VR headsets. The company says this includes medical, automotive, real estate, and training.

Like the consumer version, the units strap on the back of HTC Vive headsets and streams the content wirelessly from the connected PC to up to four VR headsets. At launch only the HTC Vive is supported though the company says it intends to support more models by the third quarter of 2018.

The unit, called the TPCAST Business Edition Wireless Adapter, will be available directly from TPCast at first and then available from retail channels. Pricing was not announced but it’s logical that it will cost significantly more than the $220 the company charges for the consumer version.

Watch Huawei unveil the P20 live right here

TechCrunch - Tue, 2018-03-27 07:02

Huawei is about to unveil its brand new flagship smartphone — the P20. While many details have already leaked, this is going to be an interesting launch. The conference will begin at 3 PM in Paris, 9 AM in New York, 6 AM in San Francisco.

The company chose to unveil its new device at the magnificent Grand Palais in Paris. This is the first time Huawei chooses Paris to launch a major new device. Carriers and retailers in the U.S. have stopped selling Huawei devices. That might be the reason why the press conference is happening in Europe.

Huawei is now the second largest phone manufacturer in the world behind Samsung and just slightly above Apple. The P10 was a great device, so it’s clear that many Android fans will pay attention to today’s launch.

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