The Amazon Fire Phone's tricks are pretty sophisticated, even if they're never really put to good use
The Amazon Fire Phone's tricks are pretty sophisticated, even if they're never really put to good use
Posted by Augustine at 2:26 PM
Android: Pale Moon is a speed-optimized version of Firefox that we love on the desktop
Pale Moon is optimized for speed and efficiency. Like the desktop version, it supports add-ons from the Mozilla Add-Ons catalog. This Android port comes from XDA developer cyansmoker, and it can be personalized with add-ons from the Firefox add-ons catalog. The browser is free to download and use, but it's not available in Google Play, so you'll need to enable third party app support and sideload it
The download link below is for a copy of the file hosted on Mega. If it proves problematic, take a look at the thread on XDA Developers for mirrors. It's also worth keeping an eye on the thread if you run into problem with the app itself. It is currently in alpha and not guaranteed to work with every device.
Posted by Augustine at 7:51 AM
Just because the sun has set doesn't mean your action-packed antics are over for the day. So an Aussie company called Knog has created the Qudos, a high-intensity camera light that sits next to your GoPro, and other popular action cams, pumping out up to 400 lumens of brightness so you don't miss a single wipeout, even in the dark.
Posted by Augustine at 6:50 PM
What's the internet's most popular game-streaming service worth? About $1 billion, if VentureBeat sources have their story straight. Earlier this year, Variety and the Wall Street Journal reported that Google was in talks to acquire Twitch, but conceded that the two companies were only just starting negotiations. Now, sources familiar with the deal say an agreement has been reached, though its unclear when the reported acquisition will be officially announced. Naturally, there are some concerns that a Google acquisition of Twitch would stifle competition for rival services, but the tried and true platform could certainly bolster Mountain View's own streaming efforts. If nothing else, perhaps the deal will validate emerging market shared gameplay in the eyes of its doubters.
Posted by Augustine at 6:48 PM
LG has just reported a record quarter for mobile phone sales, showing that it's taking advantage of a slump from arch-rival Samsung. LG sold 14.5 million handsets over the last quarter, its highest total ever and 20 percent more than last year -- with more than a third of those LTE models. It chalked up most of the success to its well-reviewed top-of-the-line G3 handset, along with strong sales of its mid-range L products. LG's mobile division scooped up KRW 3.6 trillion ($3.5 billion) and put an end to three straight quarters of losses. Home entertainment also performed well, climbing 3 percent on the strength of higher-margin UltraHD 4K sets. All that resulted in an operating profit of KRW 412 billion ($599 million) -- not nearly Samsung-level numbers, but at least LG's are going up, not down.
You may think that the 3GB of memory in your new smartphone is hot stuff, but that pales in comparison with what Rice University has in store. Its scientists have detailed a form of resistive RAM (RRAM) that can be made using regular equipment at room temperatures, making it practical for everyday gadgets. The trick is the use of porous silicon oxide where metals (such as gold or platinum) fill the gaps. Using the silicon material doesn't just give manufacturers something familiar to work with; it requires much less power than previous techniques, can last through 100 times as many uses and isn't fazed by heat. It's also far denser than earlier RRAM, storing nine bits per cell where even conventional flash storage stops at three. The result should be an easy-to-make RAM chip with the kind of capacity that you'd normally expect from much larger permanent storage, like an SSD -- as the company Crossbar hinted when it first discussed this approach, you could stuff 1TB into a component the size of a postage stamp.
That's just about ideal for mobile devices, and could mean that future phones and tablets won't have to worry about low memory errors for a long, long time. Crossbar's technology is due in later this year in chips destined for embedded uses like appliances and cars, so the breakthrough won't be noticeable at first. Research lead James Tour tells MIT that he expects a deal with an unnamed manufacturer in the next couple of weeks, though, so it's entirely possible that this super-capacious memory will become commonplace.
Source: Rice University
We're not sure how many of the new Oculus Rift VR kits have shipped out to developers already, but it looks like a healthy amount are in San Diego right now. That's where Comic-Con is happening this week and, following the X-Men VR demo we already heard about, Legendary Pictures and Oculus have teamed up for Pacific Rim: Jaeger Pilot. It lets attendees take control of the 250-foot tall Jaeger "Gipsy Danger" (no drift connection necessary) and do battle in a virtual reality combat simulator against the kaiju Knifehead (the first one you see in the movie). The whole experience is built in Unreal Engine 4 using the same assets Industrial Light & Magic worked with for the movie. Sure, you've seen the movie, and maybe even in IMAX 3D, but we're pretty sure even Guillermo del Toro's directing tricks can't add up to feeling like you're there, fighting an 8,700 ton monster off the coast of Alaska. It's all in Legendary's booth #3920 for all four days the show is open, from Thursday through Sunday. Don't have a ticket? There's a video preview embedded after the break, but it can't compare to diving into a VR world with Oculus -- maybe we'll be able to enjoy it at home by April 2017 when Pacific Rim 2 arrives.
Last month Google said that it was tired of mashed-together bug fixes for OpenSSL and decided to create its own fork called BoringSSL. It has now implemented that variant in the latest Chromium build, the open-source software that eventually arrives in Chrome. OpenSSL is software used for secure connections -- created largely by volunteers -- and an overlooked code problem recently caused the infamous Heartbleed bug. When BoringSSL was first announced, there was some grumbling from the security community about yet another flavor of SSL. But Google said that with over 70 patches now in OpenSSL, it was becoming much too unwieldy to implement in Chrome. It added that it wasn't trying to replace OpenSSL and would continue to send any of its own bug fixes to that group. It'll likely be implemented in the next version of Chrome, but you'll be able try the beta soon here, if you're feeling lucky.
[Image credit: AP/Mark Lennihan]
Last night, a company called Ethereum began selling the first batch of its cryptocurrency, called ether.
As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, investors had already bought $2.6 million worth.
We're living in a time when an app that just says Yo is worth $10 million, so this shouldn't be too surprising.
But the digital currency world has been anticipating the first ether sale for more than a year and regards Ethereum's creator, Vitalik Buterin, as potentially the most important person in cryptocurrency since Satoshi Nakamoto.
The goal of Ethereum is to decentralize everything using blockchain technology. We talked a few months ago about what the futuristic version of this could look like. It's similar to the internet of things, having all your machines talking to one another so that you can have driverless taxis figuring what to charge you based on how much traffic there is and how fast you need to get where you're going.
Ethereum seeks to cut out banks, stock exchanges, and even lawyers and replace them with a blockchain, a decentralized ledger of transactions. Individuals or companies will be able to issue "smart" shares or contracts on Ethereum's blockchain that give a user pre-programmed rights or capabilities. Gil Luria, Wedbush Securities' digital currency expert, told us in an email that some Ethereum applications could include exchange-less derivatives trading, "smart" escrow services, and predictions markets.
Ethereum's ether will eventually be mined like Bitcoin, as a way for rewarding people for devoting immense amounts of computing power to making the whole system work. "Without the requirement of payment of ether for every computational step and storage operation within the system, infinite loops or excessive storage demands could bog down ethereum and effectively destroy it," Ethereum says on its website. The ether sale is allowing investor! s to lock in supply at a known price now, with the rate set at 2,000 ether to 1 bitcoin, or $620.
Buterin, a Canadian barely 21 years old, was talking up Bitcoin when the cryptocurrency was still wondering in the wilderness. He founded Bitcoin Magazine and published some of the most incisive pieces on what cryptocurrencies could do beyond simply serving as money. All that rumination eventually inspired Buterin to create his own, modified version.
"Ethereum has vast potential, whereas Bitcoin won't ever do anything well beyond implementing a currency," programmer Nick Szabo, another early Bitcoin proponent who's recently begun tweeting after an extended absence from the internet, told us in an email several weeks ago.
Luria says there are "many more" Ethereum applications "that we have to think about." In other words, Ethereum's immediate use remains mostly limited. But for those who missed out on getting in on Bitcoin early, Ethereum's launch represents something of another chance.
Posted by Augustine at 1:10 PM
The magnetic, interconnecting circuit boards that make up LittleBits' library of electronic modules make it easy to build all sorts of neat (and noisy) devices with almost no technical knowledge at all -- but if you want to create something that connects to the cloud, you're out of luck. Well, you were: today LittleBits is announcing the Cloud Bit, a new module that, as company CEO and founder Ayah Bdeir puts it, allows builders to "just add internet" to almost anything. Bdeir tells me that it's gives the average person an easy and open way to contribute to the Internet of Things without wasting time prototyping devices from scratch. She also says that the module is a landmark in changing the perception of LittleBits from toy, to tool.
"I don't like the LEGO comparison," she says, bemoaning a misconception that LittleBits is little more than an educational child's toy. LEGO was an inspiration when she started the company, she admits, but so was C++ and more complicated hardware projects. "In the beginning... a lot of the stuff you could do with it was sort of more boyish and playful, so that's what the world saw us as. Since the beginning of the year we've been launching more powerful modules." More complex modules -- like the Arduino module and today's WiFi-enabled Cloud Bit -- raise the ceiling of complexity for potential LittleBits projects. It's her hope that the product will be used for rapid prototyping of new ideas in addition to being a fun hobby toy. "If you wanted to recreate a Nest or recreate a Sonos or a DropCam, you could. If you wanted to create the next billion dollar idea, you could do that as well." It's about versatility, and the more modules LittleBits creates, the more it has.
That said, Bdier is quick to clarify that LittleBits isn't competing with Nest -- but explains that LittleBits projects equipped with the new WiFi module can be configured to perform similar functions. As an example, the CEO shows me a simple LittleBits build that makes up a smart doorbell. It's little more than a power source, a button, an LED light and the new WiFi module, but its core functionality hangs on the last component. When the button is pressed, the Cloud Bit sends a signal to IFTTT, which uses a custom script to send the user a text message. Another demo build shows me how a user can create setups to toggle lights or unlock doors (using the appropriate Bits, of course) by activating the Cloud Bit remotely using an included web app or custom API. In total, the new module can communicate three ways, Bdier tells me: bit to web, web to bit or bit to bit -- allowing separate LittleBit builds to talk directly to each other.
Bdier says the Cloud Module is the easiest way to create an internet-connected device, and it really is pretty easy. Using the same components that will be available in the $99 LittleBits Cloud Starter Bundle launching today, I was able to create my own SMS doorbell in a matter of minutes. It's something I lack the technical skills to build the traditional way, and it certainly did come together much faster than it would have if I had to design and prototype it myself. I can see where Bdier is coming from: with the right LittleBits modules, it would be easy to create a working model of a Kickstater-worthy idea before launching into proper development.
Between the Cloud Bit, the Arduino module and the 262 other components available in LittleBits' Pro Library, there's more than enough technology available to remove the product from the "toy" perception it started out with (heck, even we were guilty of making that 'LEGO' comparison). That said, it's still a fun product to tinker with, even if you aren't building the next big Kickstarter success. In addition to launching the $59 Cloud Bit module, the company says that its products will be hitting retail for the first time this fall, and will be available at 2,000 Radio Shack locations by the end of the year.
Filed under: Misc
Posted by Augustine at 11:03 AM
Remember when LG announced that it had managed to create a rollable 18-inch display? Well, here's the proof: a very much flexible OLED display. The resolution might not be there yet (1,200 x 810, alas) but the hopes and dreams of a picnic-blanket TV set -- they're getting more real every day.
Via: OLED Display
Posted by Augustine at 4:46 PM
When you start chugging a series, it's hard to stop, even for trips to the bathroom, or going to work, or catching up on sleep. It's a problem that Netflix loves to exploit, only giving you a few seconds before offering up the next episode of whatever series you're currently immersed in. For some reason, however, this post-play feature didn't work on the Apple TV, until it suddenly did a few days ago, without warning. The Roku-rival has even popped up on Netflix's list of supported devices, so never again will you have the option of stopping House of Cards after a single episode. Well, unless you disable it, of course.
Posted by Augustine at 4:46 PM
You might know eBay as the website where you can buy a rare NES game for a hundred grand, but the company also has its own barcode scanner, called RedLaser. It's been out on Android and iOS for a while, and now the company is bringing it to Google Glass, allowing you to quite literally buy whatever you set your sights on. Like the existing app, the Glass version scans barcodes and spits back a list of current prices at different retailers. From there, you can find a brick-and-mortar store nearby, complete with directions, if you need them. And, of course, like any good online retailer, eBay will show a list of related products, similar to whatever it is you just searched for. All told, we're guessing you can probably spare a few minutes to stop what you're doing and use the phone app instead, but let's be honest: Scanning stuff with your eye sounds pretty fun. Just be aware, though, that if you want to purchase something, you will in fact have to pick up your phone -- the app will send an email notification to your mobile device so you can complete the transaction.
[Image credit: Angel Navarrete/Bloomberg via Getty Images]
Filed under: Google
Posted by Augustine at 4:45 PM
Tried Apple's Passbook and Google's Wallet and not feeling satisfied? Perhaps Amazon's flavor of mobile payment app will strike your fancy. It's also named Wallet, and it arrived in beta form on the Google Play store recently. Like Apple and Google's versions, Amazon Wallet collects your gift cards, loyalty programs, and membership cards in one place -- on your phone -- and pushes them to the cloud. Should you switch from, say, Apple's iPhone to Amazon's Fire phone, all that information would move over with you, tied to your Amazon account.
There's another added benefit with Amazon's service in that your other, far more important financial info is likely already part of Amazon's system and connected to your profile. As a result, when you browse Amazon Wallet through the web, all that extra payment info is all in the same place.
It's not clear when Amazon Wallet is coming out of beta (if ever), but for now, consider yourself a guinea pig if you're jumping in.
Posted by Augustine at 1:21 PM
There were so many TVs on display back at CES, that you'd be forgiven if they all blended together. So allow us to give you a recap: The Samsung UN105S9W was, in the company's own words, the "world's first, largest and most curved 105-inch curved UHD TV." Well then! Sounds like an expensive piece of kit, huh? You have no idea. Sammy just put its flagship TV up for pre-order and it's kind of a doozy. The whole thing costs $120,000 -- also known as a mortgage. For the money, you get 5,120 x 2,160 resolution on an unusually large screen, with an unusually wide aspect ratio of 21:9. Additionally, you'll receive a visit from one of Samsung's "Field Engineers" to walk you through all the features, if that's any consolation. It's also a Smart TV, with all the usual built-in apps, and the ability to separate the screen into four quadrants for watching live TV and surfing the web at once. Honestly, though, we'd be offended if a TV this expensive didn't do that. You can pre-order now if you like, but let's be real: Most of you are probably saving $120,000 for your future child's college tuition.
Posted by Augustine at 1:21 PM
It's not just to drink any more.
Instead of getting wasted, a company called Bevshots is using alcohol to do something amazing: They're crystalizing your favorite beer, wine, cocktails, and liquor and putting tghe results under a microscope. Booze never looked so beautiful.
The drinks were crystallized on a slide and photographed under a polarized light microscope. The light refracts through the drink's crystals and the results speak for themselves.
Posted by Augustine at 1:18 PM
So far, HIV has eluded a cure because it installs its genome into human DNA so insidiously that it's impossible for our immune system to clear it out. While current treatments are effective, a lifetime of toxic drugs are required to prevent its recurrence. But researchers from Temple University may have figured out a way to permanently excise it using a highly-engineered HIV "editor." Here's how it works: the team analyzed a part of our immune system that fights infection and built a "guide RNA" strand consisting of 20 nucleotides (RNA building blocks). Those strands were then injected into cells typically infected with HIV, like T-cells. There, they targeted the end parts of the virus's gene and snipped out all 9,709 nucleotides that made up its genome. Since the guide RNA strand contained no human DNA sequences, it left the host cell intact -- but free from HIV.
Though scientists eliminated the virus from cultured cells, there's still a lot of hurdles to clear before such therapy is ready for human trials. The virus's highly mutative nature means that there are numerous variants that the treatment would have to remove. The other challenge is to deliver the treatment to every infected cell, since complete removal of the virus is required to cure AIDS. However, Temple researcher Kamel Khalili said that "We are working on a number of strategies so we can take the construct into preclinical studies... we want to eradicate every single copy of HIV-1 from the patent. That will cure AIDS."
[Image credit: AP/NIAID]
Source: Temple University
Posted by Augustine at 9:17 AM
Even as cable giant Comcast tries to get bigger by absorbing Time Warner Cable, its own revenue grew in the last quarter to $16.8 billion, up 3.5 percent from last year, and net income hit $1.99 billion. The most important number for a subscription business though is how many customers it has, and through a traditionally slow quarter, it managed to slow the loss of total "customer relationships" to 25,000 from 66,000 for the same period last year -- although my friend Ryan Block recently found out how difficult ending that relationship can be. More of the customers that remain are picking up internet and phone services, as it has over 21 million high speed internet subscribers alone. You can check out the numbers yourself right here, I'll be tuning in for the earnings call in a few minutes to find out if it has any new response to the recent customer service controversy, net neutrality and its battle with Netflix, or an update on the $45 billion TWC acquisition.
[Image credit: Associated Press]
Posted by Augustine at 9:17 AM
It looks like the white dots in this optical illusion are all orbiting an imaginary point in space that, at the same time, is orbiting the center of that red circle. They are not. In reality, they are all moving in straight lines going from one side of the red circle to the opposite one.
Posted by Augustine at 6:09 AM
Our eyes are too slow and our brains are too easily fooled. Just watch this video where Illusionist Eric Leclerc shows off by reading our minds through a simple YouTube video. He plays around with us in the beginning but at the end, he just jumped through the computer screen to peer into our wrinkled brain.
Posted by Augustine at 6:08 AM
Looks like Amazon plans to take advantage of the Fire phone's head-tracking tech at every turn, so it put its Game Studio to work developing two new titles especially for the device. The first one called Saber's Edge is a strategic pirate puzzle game, while the other, called To-Fu Fury, is a puzzle platformer (think 'Splosion Man) that stars a tofu martial artist. They sound like funny, typical mobile games, other than the fact that they support the Fire phone's "Dynamic Perspective" feature that tracks the movements of a user's head. Sadly, you can't exactly control the games by moving your noggin (that might sound silly, but at least that'll make the games truly unique), but you can peek around the corners to see hidden obstacles or bonuses. Of course, you can always just tilt the phone if you don't want to look silly in public. If you don't mind the games' limited support for the feature, you can grab em for $1.99 each -- but only if you're also getting the Fire Phone, which starts shipping this week.
Source: Amazon Games
Posted by Augustine at 6:07 AM
A Florida jury recently awarded Cynthia Robinson $23.6 billion in punitive damages in her lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., filed on behalf of her husband who died of lung cancer at 36 from smoking since he was 13 years old. Robinson had argued R.J. Reynolds intentionally hid the health hazards caused by its product, according to The New York Times.
Although R.J. Reynolds is planning to file a motion for a reduction in the verdict, $23.6 billion is an astounding sum of money for a jury to award one individual, far larger than the $16.8 million in compensatory damages also awarded to Robinson. J. Jeffery Raborn, vice president and assistant general counsel for R. J. Reynolds, called the award a "runaway verdict" in a statement quoted by The New York Times.
"The damages awarded in this case are grossly excessive and impermissible under state and constitutional law," he said. "This verdict goes far beyond the realm of reasonableness and fairness and is completely inconsistent with the evidence presented."
Posted by Augustine at 6:04 AM
Good news for vaporized water fans everywhere: MIT researchers have developed a disc-shaped material structure that generates steam using solar power.
Posted by Augustine at 5:21 PM
Living room trolls, rejoice.
Dan Petro, a security analyst for the Bishop Fox IT consulting firm, built a proof of concept device that’s able to hack into any Google Chromecasts nearby to project Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” or any other video a prankster might choose.
According to a blog post written by Petro (via TechCrunch), the “Rickmote,” which is built on top of the $35 Raspberry Pi single board computer, finds a local Chromecast device, boots it off the network, and then takes over the screen with multimedia of one’s choosing.
Petro’s 20-minute YouTube video breaks down how the Rickmote works, but to briefly summarize, the device employs an unencrypted command called “deauth,” which basically deauthorizes the device from the network. As TechCrunch points out, this isn’t a Chromecast bug, but actually a relatively common quirk among WiFi devices.
When the Chromecast receives the “deauth” command, it returns to its configuration mode, leaving it open for a device — in this case, the Rickmote — to configure it. At that point, the Rickmote tells the Chromecast to connect to its own WiFi network, at which point, Google’s streaming stick is effectively hacked.
When the Rickmote and Chromecast are connected, pranksters can send videos or songs of their choosing to Google's HDMI streaming dongle. But it gets worse for the victims: If the hacker leaves the range of the device, there’s no way to regain control of the Chromecast.
Unfortunately for Google, this is a rather serious issue with the Chromecast device that’s not too easy to fix, as the configuration process is an essential part of the Chromecast experience. We’ve reached out to Google for comment, and we’ll update this story as soon as we learn more.
Petro says he plans on releasing a “step-by-step guide on how to create a Rickmote controller out of a Raspberry Pi,” and will offer some details on August 6 at the Black Hat Tools Arsenal USA at the Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas. However, hackers and pranksters can already get started building their own devices with the open-source code and set of instructions, which is available at the Bishop Fox GitHub page.
“Once it’s ready, using the Rickmote could not be any easier,” Petro writes. “To start rick rolling, boot it up and press the big Rickroll button. One click is all it takes — and Rick Astley runs wild!”
Posted by Augustine at 4:11 PM
Ori Allon built and sold one startup to Google, then another to Twitter. His new company, which turned one in May, is now worth more than both of those startups combined.
Urban Compass has raised a $40 million series B round at a valuation that exceeds $360 million. Investors include Conde Nast's parent company Advance Publications, Joshua Kushner's Thrive Capital, Peter Thiel's Founders Fund, .406 Ventures, American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault and Salesforce founder Marc Benioff. The startup helps New Yorkers buy and rent apartments, and it raised $20 million at a $150 million valuation last October. Allon says his investors encouraged him to take more of their money so he could launch Urban Compass in other cities. Urban Compass is expected to roll out in Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago and possibly San Francisco later this year.
Allon is proud that his business has been making money since its first day. "We've built a real business and we're growing, mostly by word of mouth. We're helping people by giving our customers better real-estate tools," says Allon.
By the end of last summer, Urban Compass was generating $1 million per month and revenue has increased ten times since last June. Urban Compass' home sales business, which launched last fall, has grown five times faster than its initial rental business, Allon says. The startup works with local real-estate agents on a commission basis. Urban Compass currently employs more than 100 people full-time and it expects to double its staff by the end of the year.
Allon says the technology he's built significantly reduces the amount of time it takes to find a home. It's a cleaner experience than Craigslist and the startup prides itself on timely, accurate listings which it displays both online and via mobile app. Addr! esses ar e shown on a Google-like map as well as pictures of the homes.
If you want to see an apartment, you can schedule a viewing on Urban Compass which will put together an itinerary for you (Urban Compass is like ZocDoc – a real-time doctor appointment tool – for house hunting). Urban Compass acts as a broker, taking between 0 and 15% per completed deal.
While Allon has sold his last two startups, he says Urban Compass is different. "I do not want anyone to buy me out this time," Allon says. "Coming up with an idea and creating technology is exciting, but it's more exciting to grow a company — especially one customers like."
Posted by Augustine at 10:02 AM