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Published: Fri, 30 Sep 2016 08:21:51 -0700

Last Build Date: Fri, 30 Sep 2016 08:21:51 -0700

 



HTC launches Viveport, a VR app store focused on non-gaming experiences

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 07:49:00 -0700

After starting off in VR with some killer hardware, HTC's getting into VR software, too. The company recently announced the Viveport app store is now available to Vive users in more than 30 countries including the U.S. Previously, Viveport was only available in China.

Viveport's fairly small right now, with 60 titles currently available. But that's sort of the point, as HTC's app store is a more curated market focused on non-gaming VR experiences.

There are a few games to be sure, such as Cloudlands: VR Minigolf, Everest VR, Fantastic Contraption, and World of Diving. The larger focus, however, is on VR experiences such as cinemas, planetariums, guided meditation, and virtual tours. All of the games that do appear in Viveport could loosely fall into those categories as well. 

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The FCC's plan to replace your cable box with apps hits a snag

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 07:00:00 -0700

First, the Federal Communications Commission had a grand plan to blow up the set-top box and free consumers from the confines of their service provider. Then the FCC tempered that objective by asking the cable companies to create more apps. Now, the FCC has decided on the most moderate move possible: Doing absolutely nothing—at least for now.

The FCC announced on Thursday that a vote on the set-top box proposal would be removed from the September Open Meeting Agenda, after 60 House Democrats sent the commission a letter asking for a delay and more public input. Instead of having the commissioners vote on the proposal it will be placed on the FCC’s “circulation list” where it will “remain under consideration by Commissioners.”

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33% off Kinivo 5 Port HDMI Switch With Auto-Switching & Remote - Deal Alert

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 06:49:00 -0700

This highly rated splitter from Kinivo takes 5 HDMI inputs from your various devices, and outputs them to one HDMI connection. Ideal for TVs that just don't have that many HDMI inputs. 501BN will automatically switch to the currently active input source if there is only one active input. If there are multiple active inputs, you can simply select using the IR remote or using the selector button on the unit itself. Supports video up to 1080p and 3D as well. The item currently averages 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon from over 9,000 customers (read reviews) and its list price of $59.99 is currently discounted 33% to $39.99.

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In pictures: How businesses are turning tech into robot toil

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 06:34:00 -0700

See how businesses are using robots to advance their trades
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Image by Martyn Williams

The RoboBusiness conference in San Jose is all about creating business advantages through the use of robotic helpers. Case in point: the Navii shopping assistant from Fellow Robotics, that can greet customers, ask them if they need help, and then guide them to the item they need. Navii will be working in 11 Lowe’s stores around the San Francisco Bay area beginning this fall.

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Ransomware spreads through weak remote desktop credentials

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 06:31:00 -0700

Stolen or weak remote desktop credentials are routinely used to infect point-of-sale systems with malware, but recently they’ve also become a common distribution method for file-encrypting ransomware.

In March, researchers discovered a ransomware program dubbed Surprise that was being installed through stolen credentials for TeamViewer, a popular remote administration tool. But the trend had started long before that, with some ransomware variants being distributed through brute-force password guessing attacks against Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) servers since 2015.

While this method of infection was initially used by relatively obscure ransomware programs, recently it has been adopted by an increasing number of cybercriminals, including those behind widespread ransomware programs such as Crysis.

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Could Cortana 2.0 be a chatbot? Microsoft's new AI chief hasn't ruled it out

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 03:30:00 -0700

Cortana has a new boss, and he has a problem: If Google’s turning its Google Now digital assistant into a chatbot, should Microsoft do the same with Cortana?

So far, the answer is a definite maybe.

In 2014, Microsoft first unveiled Cortana, the digital assistant within Windows 10. Interacting with Cortana was simple: You asked a question, she responded. In the last few months, however, Google’s Assistant has offered an alternative: a chatbot that interacts with users via an ongoing stream of text and images. 

As of Thursday, Cortana's future lies in the hands of Harry Shum, the executive vice president in charge of Microsoft’s new Microsoft AI and Research Group. In an interview with PCWorld, Shum said he hasn’t ruled out adding a Cortana chatbot to its roster of digital assistants. Shum said Microsoft is also trying to figure out whether to port a successful Asian chatbot, known as XiaoIce, to the American market—while avoiding a repeat of its last, disastrous chatbot initiative, Tay.ai.

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How to watch the MLB playoffs and World Series without cable

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 03:00:00 -0700

Major League Baseball has placed more hurdles in front of cord cutters than any of the four professional sports leagues. It has made baseball broadcasts the exclusive province of cable/satellite networks, even for your local teams. Add to that the league’s draconian blackout policies, and the prospect of watching the Grand Old Game without a pricey TV subscription seems as reachable as a Clayton Kershaw slider.

It doesn’t get much easier come October. This year's postseason games will air nationally across five networks: Fox, Fox Sports 1 (FS1), ESPN, TBS, and Major League Baseball Network (MLBN); all but the first are cable/satellite channels you can't tune into with a TV antenna. Fortunately, with some combination of over-the-air and over-the-top options, you can still watch virtually every at-bat from the Wild Card round to the World Series. Here’s how.

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Vava Voom 20 Bluetooth speaker review: Weatherized style with average sound

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 03:00:00 -0700

Stylish design, NFC pairing, and an evocative name highlight this small outdoor Bluetooth speaker. Audio fidelity, on the other hand, doesn’t make that list. The Voom 20 sounds good. Not great, not bad, just good; albeit with an above-average amount of bass, especially for its svelte dimensions (the speaker is enclosed in an approximately 7.6-inch-long, 2.8-inch-deep, 2.4-inch-tall flattened cylinder).

That’s great if you’re looking for a small, very portable, weather-resistant bass monster. But you’ll also want to know that this speaker’s upper mid-range and high-frequencies are a tad limited. Combine that with the constrained stereo separation that’s inherent in a small standalone speaker and I found myself turning the unit to the side or playing other placement tricks so I could pick out the separate instruments.

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16 useful Windows 10 tools that help you get more done

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 03:00:00 -0700

Getting more done
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Image by Adam Patrick Murray

None of us like wasting time when we’re trying to get stuff done. Every second spent shuffling around open windows or navigating menus is precious time not spent achieving your goals. Fortunately, Microsoft stuffed Windows with all sorts of secretly powerful tools, as we’ve covered in-depth in both 17 obscure Windows tools and tricks too powerful to overlook and 15 simple, secret Windows tips and tricks designed to save you time.

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Logitech's C922 webcam is the revered C920's vastly upgraded successor

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 21:30:00 -0700

The Logitech C920 is a bit of an icon. For nearly five years, its broad rectangular chassis has perched atop people’s computers, a staple of any mid-to-high-level YouTuber or Twitch streamer’s arsenal. And now Logitech’s hoping its new C922 will take over the same role.

Announced today at TwitchCon in San Diego—Logitech knows its audience—the C922 packs a few new features into the C920’s familiar form factor.

Most important is background removal. This is also the lynchpin of Razer’s upcoming RealSense-powered camera, the Stargazer, and it’s set to make even hobby-grade streams look a bit more professional.

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Four state AGs sue to block US decision to cede key internet role

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 20:50:35 -0700

A judge in Texas has fixed for Friday the hearing in a suit filed by four state attorneys general against a decision by the U.S. to transfer by month end oversight of some key internet technical functions to a multistakeholder body.

The attorneys general of Arizona, Oklahoma, Nevada and Texas filed late Wednesday a suit asking the federal court for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction on the proposed transfer of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

ICANN, under contract with the Department of Commerce, administers the IANA functions, which include responsibility for the coordination of the DNS (Domain Name System) root, IP addressing, and other internet protocol resources. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an agency within the Commerce Department, said last month it will go ahead with its plan to transfer supervision of the IANA functions to a multistakeholder body on Oct. 1, in line with a plan first announced in March 2014.

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Salesforce tries to block Microsoft's LinkedIn acquisition

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 16:14:00 -0700

Microsoft made a splash earlier this year when it announced the largest acquisition in its history, signing an agreement to buy LinkedIn for $26.2 billion. But now, Salesforce is trying to convince the European Union to block the deal. 

Salesforce Chief Legal Officer Burke Norton will argue to the EU's competition authority that Microsoft's control of LinkedIn's dataset following an acquisition would be anticompetitive. EU competition chief Margarethe Vestager said in January that her agency would be looking directly at whether a company's use of data is bad for competition, and these complaints seem aimed squarely at those comments. 

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Electric cars light up the Paris Motor Show

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 15:49:00 -0700

The soft whirring was barely audible amid the pounding music and the babble of voices at the Paris motor show on Thursday, but we’ll be hearing a whole lot more of it in the years to come.

The noise was Opel’s Ampera-e all-electric compact car, driven on stage by the company’s CEO, Karl-Thomas Neumann. The Ampera-e is the European equivalent of the Chevrolet Bolt, and will go on sale some time in the first half of next year.

The whir could equally have come from other all-electric vehicles making their debut at the Mondial de l’Automobile, though. Smart and BMW rolled out new production models, while Volkswagen and Mercedes showed striking all-electric concept cars.

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Bounty for iOS jailbreak exploit jumps to $1.5 million

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 14:14:00 -0700

The value for zero-day exploits targeting Apple's iOS software is jumping. On Thursday, a company called Zerodium began offering as much as US $1.5 million for them.

Zerodium is the same company that offered $1 million last year for an exclusive iOS zero-day exploit that can remotely jailbreak a device. However, that bounty was only temporary, and it was eventually awarded last November.

Zerodium's new $1.5 million bounty is asking for a remote jailbreak exploit targeting iOS 10. The bounty will be offered all year long, Chaouki Bekrar, the company's CEO, said in an email. The company's original offer was a maximum of $500,000.

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Google rebrands Apps for Work as G Suite, adds intelligent features

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 13:37:00 -0700

Google rebranded and enhanced its productivity suite Thursday with new intelligent capabilities that help it better compete with Microsoft Office 365.

G Suite is the new name for the group of applications that include Gmail, Google Calendar, Docs, Sheets, and Slides. It's a group of apps that the company is trying to push on organizations looking to make their employees more productive, with an emphasis on collaboration capabilities.

Docs, Sheets, and Slides are each getting new features aimed at making it easier to create files quickly with the help of Google intelligence. In addition, Google Calendar is getting an update to make it easier to schedule meetings, and Drive has a new feature making it easier for teams to use.

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U.S. carriers will look to LTE-U tests to protect Wi-Fi

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 13:21:00 -0700

The biggest U.S. carriers planning to deploy controversial LTE-Unlicensed technology expect to use gear that’s been tested for coexistence with Wi-Fi, their executives said Wednesday.

Speakers from Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA said they expect all the LTE-U devices they use to be vetted through a test plan created by the Wi-Fi Alliance. They also anticipate that gear based on a related technology, LAA (Licensed Assisted Access), will be certified through tests for that system.

That’s good news for anyone worried about LTE networks using some of the same frequencies that carry Wi-Fi traffic. The WFA test plan, despite being developed with input from those carriers and other LTE-U backers, was harshly criticized before its completion last week. Backers of LTE-U, including Verizon and Qualcomm, have demonstrated their own coexistence tests. When it released the plan, WFA warned that anything but the full test suite would be inadequate to ensure that LTE-U devices would be fair to Wi-Fi.

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Researchers make progress toward computer video recognition

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 13:10:00 -0700

Computers can already recognize you in an image, but can they see a video or real-world objects and tell exactly what's going on?

Researchers are trying to make computer video recognition a reality, and they are using some image recognition techniques to make that happen.

Researchers in and outside of Google are making progress in video recognition, but there are also challenges to overcome, Rajat Monga, engineering director of TensorFlow for Google's Brain team, said during a question-and-answer session on Quora this week.

The benefits of video recognition are enormous. For example, a computer will be able to identify a person's activities, an event, or a location. Video recognition will also make self-driving cars more viable.

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Android Wear 2.0 delayed to 2017, Developer Preview 3 out now

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 12:23:00 -0700

If you were hoping your Android Wear watch would get the big 2.0 software update before the holidays, you're going to be disappointed. In a blog post announcing the availability of Developer Preview 3, Google let it slip that the update has been pushed back to next year.

At the end of the post detailing the new developer preview, the company slipped this in: "We’ve decided to continue the preview program into early 2017, at which point the first watches will receive Android Wear 2.0."

Google Play on Android Wear

It's not all bad news. Developer Preview 2 brings a huge new feature to Android Wear 2.0: the Google Play store. 

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Google will shore up one of its biggest cloud weaknesses next year

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 11:28:00 -0700

Google is making a major change to its cloud platform infrastructure that will help shore up one of the company's biggest weaknesses relative to competitors like Microsoft and Amazon.

On Thursday, Urs Hölzle, the company's senior vice president of technical infrastructure, unveiled eight forthcoming regions around the world for the company's cloud services. The regions are all slated to launch in 2017 and will be comprised of multiple data centers for companies looking to run high-availability applications.

Having a broad distribution of cloud infrastructure is important to Google's competitive chances. More and more countries are requiring that some types of data are stored in particular geographic locations. And even with high-speed networks, a large distance between where an application is hosted and where its users are located will lead to a slowdown.

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Microsoft combines Cortana and Bing with Microsoft Research to accelerate new features

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 11:20:00 -0700

On Thursday, Microsoft took the unusual step of combining its Bing and Cortana product teams with Microsoft Research, in a bid to accelerate innovation for both the search engine and the digital assistant.

The move was part of a broader reorganization that saw Microsoft split its Applications and Services Group, which also included Microsoft’s Office applications, into two separate organizations. Office applications will form their own group.

Though Microsoft has asked researchers to work on projects that could eventually be commercialized, combining teams that work on active products, such as Cortana and Bing, with the future-facing teams that comprise Microsoft Research, is in fact unique within Microsoft. Together, Bing and Cortana, plus Microsoft’s Information Platform and Ambient Computing and Robotics teams, will form the Microsoft AI and Research Group. All told, the group will include more than 5,000 computer scientists and engineers, Microsoft said.

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24% off Sphero 2.0, The App-Enabled Robotic Ball - Deal Alert

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 11:16:00 -0700

Sphero 2.0 is the app-enabled ball that does it all. Intelligent and well-rounded, Sphero lets you play, learn, and explore. Create obstacle courses, turn your living room into a video game with augmented reality apps, upgrade family game night with multiplayer fun, or learn to program with their free SPRK lessons. This virtually unstoppable companion is waterproof, pet-proof, and ready for any adventure. It averages 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon from over 300 people (read reviews) and its list price of $130 is currently discounted 24% to $99. At sub-$100, maybe a fun option to kick off the inevitable holiday shopping you're trying not to think about.

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Google Maps for Android adds 'OK Google' voice, navigation commands and other search tricks

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 10:58:00 -0700

Next time you’re wondering where the nearest gas station is, the answer will be just a voice command away.

Google announced that it’s enabling a host of new voice commands in Google Maps for Android that will allow you to search for a locations, get details about your route, or even call your mother without the need to touch your phone.

The impact on you: While there are many good apps to help you go hands-free, Google Maps probably dominates your usage while driving. These features will allow you to mount your phone on the dashboard or set it on the console and not need to touch it while still accessing all of the useful information.

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16% off ChargeTech 27,000mAh Portable Battery Pack with AC Outlet & USB Ports - Deal Alert

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 10:15:00 -0700

Take the power of an AC Outlet with you wherever you go. This battery pack from ChargeTech is the first battery pack not to be limited by USB ports. Compact enough to fit your purse, backpack, or briefcase, it can handle laptops, lights, projectors, and even medical devices up to 85 watts -- almost anything you can think of. The included international adapter allows ChargeTech to work in any country around the globe. Take it on your travels or let your friends from other countries use it while they visit. This product averages 4 out of 5 stars from over 300 people on Amazon (read reviews). Its typical list price has been reduced 16% to $189. See the discounted ChargeTech portable battery pack now on Amazon.

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White House to data scientists: We need you

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 09:45:37 -0700

It's been nearly two years since President Obama created the U.S. chief data scientist role, and the man currently in the job had an urgent message Thursday for attendees at Strata+Hadoop World: We need you.

"We are at the first step in making data work for every American," said DJ Patil in a keynote speech at the show. "It's only going to make a difference when people like you step up and show that it's not just feasible but scalable."

As chief data scientist in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Patil's mission is to "responsibly unleash the power of data to benefit all Americans," he said, with an emphasis on the word "responsibly" and the focus on inclusion.

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Galaxy Note7 battery woes continue as company investigates phones that are running too hot

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 09:10:00 -0700

Samsung just can’t catch a break. The company would rather be touting the one million replacement smartphones it has shipped to customers, which by all accounts is a rather swift response to the exploding phone crisis.

Instead, Samsung is dealing with new reports that replacement Note7 units are running too hot to place next to one’s ear. Samsung told The Wall Street Journal there is no safety concern with these Note7 models, though it may a major irritant for those who had to turn in their phone and wait for a replacement only to find that it has another annoying problem.

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New USB-C audio standard joins the iPhone 7's quest to kill the headphone jack

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 08:15:00 -0700

The future of mobile device audio is here, and if you hated the iPhone 7’s Lightning connector headphones, you’ll loathe this new solution. The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) recently announced the audio specification for USB Type-C was now complete.

Officially named the USB Audio Device Class 3.0 specification, this new release sets the standard for how audio should work over USB Type-C. The USB-IF hopes the new specification will be the “primary solution for all digital audio applications, including headsets, mobile devices, docking stations, gaming set-ups and VR solutions.”

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Meet Pixel, a gorgeous, much-needed visual overhaul for Raspberry Pi's main distro

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 08:04:00 -0700

The Raspberry Pi isn’t exactly known for its polish. The glorious, but bare-bones $35 mini-PC packs humble hardware and even lacks a case in its quest to deliver affordable computing to the masses. That austere design even extended to the no-frills “Raspbian” Linux distro designed specifically for the Pi—until now.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation just revealed “Pi Improved Xwindows Environment, Lightweight,” or Pixel, a beautified new desktop environment for the Raspbian OS. Pixel delivers a much-needed coat of fresh paint to the Raspberry Pi.

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Surface desktop keyboard discovery hints at inbound Surface all-in-one

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 06:56:00 -0700

Rumors of a Microsoft Surface All-in-One PC have been little more than anonymous reports thus far, but some circumstantial evidence just popped up that suggests a Surface AIO announcement may truly be imminent.

German-language site WinFuture recently found a listing for a Surface Ergonomic Keyboard in the Bluetooth Special Interest Group’s database. The Surface keyboard's presumably a desktop peripheral since ergonomic keyboards usually have large, specialized shapes such as split and curved designs—though Microsoft did create a mobile ergonomic keyboard in 2012. There are no details about the Surface keyboard other than its name, and the fact that it will use Bluetooth v4.2.

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21 essential Windows keyboard shortcuts

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 06:12:00 -0700

Despite notable advancements in speech-recognition technology and voice input, and the popularity of tablets, the humble PC continues to be the workhorse device of choice for many workers around the world. And whether you're an office-bound professional slouched behind a desktop PC, or a globetrotting executives armed with the latest ultrabook, the "physical" hardware keyboard continues to play a crucial role in productivity.

The last thing you want in the heat of the moment is to fumble around for a mouse or have to take multiple steps to complete a task that could be done with a quick keyboard shortcut. Of course, learning and remembering such shortcuts can be hard work, and you'll need to take some time to find the appropriate shortcuts for you.

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