Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Google's Nexus 5X now starts at $349


If you've been looking for an excuse to buy Google's latest entry-level smartphone, the Nexus 5X, here's your chance. Today, the search company announced a permanent price cut for the LG-made device, bringing down the cost of its 16GB and 32GB models to $349 and $399, respectively. This, of course, will make the Nexus 5X even more appealing to people, as it has received nothing but great reviews from the press -- including us, where it tallied a total of 88 in the Engadget Score.

Up until now, Google had offered the Nexus 5X starting at $379, but the recent $30 drop almost pushes it into impulse-buy territory, especially since it is unlocked and free from any carrier contracts. In comparison to rival smartphones, the OnePlus2 is $329, while the Moto X Pure Edition sells for $400 -- both also highly rated and off contract. You can get the cheaper Nexus 5X now from Google's online store.

Via: Android Central

Source: Google Store


Monday, January 11, 2016

New material can store solar energy to warm you up later


Solar projects are usually focused on generating electricity, but we could arguably save more power by storing heat. Scientists from MIT have created a new type of solid material that does exactly that. When exposed to sunlight, it assumes a "charged" state that can be maintained for long periods of time. However, when triggered with a small burst of heat, the material reverts to its original chemical composition, releasing a much larger amount of heat energy. Since the film is thin and transparent, scientists think it could be useful in the near future for defrosting your car's windshield and could one day heat your home or even your clothes.

The film can be made using a two-step process that's "very simple and very scalable," according to grad student Eugene Cho. The scientists start with materials called azobenzenes that change their chemistry when exposed to sunlight. They then modify them so that they can change states with a burst of heat, which in turn releases much more energy. The current prototype can increase the ambient temperature by 10 degrees Celsius (about 18 degrees Fahrenheit), which is enough to break ice off of a windshield, for instance. Since the material is transparent, it could be used on the front windshields of cars, saving a lot of energy over the normal defrosting process.

The team needs to change the tint of the film so that it's less yellow, and is also aiming to double the heat yield to a 20 degree Celcius boost (36 degrees Fahrenheit). However, the existing material is already good enough for defrosting and other heating applications, and could be manufactured relatively easy as-is. "The research is a major advance towards the practical application of solid-state energy-storage/heat-release materials from both a scientific and engineering point of view," says Ted Sargent, a University of Toronto professor not involved in the research.

Source: MIT


Sunday, January 10, 2016

John McAfee on his new startup and why he should be president


Perhaps the only way John McAfee could surprise us again is by doing something as pedestrian as joining another tech company. These days, he's more known for his love of guns and drugs, not to mention fleeing Belize after getting involved in a murder case. McAfee has since settled in Lexington, Tennessee, and he's diving back into the tech world with his incubator Future Tense Central.

He's also serving as the chief evangelist for the security startup Everykey, which has created a tiny dongle that can unlock just about anything in your home. We had the opportunity to chat with McAfee at the Everykey booth during CES about the startup, as well as his presidential run. The result was one of the strangest conversations I've had at a tech show.

McAfee claims Everykey is more secure than passwords, since you don't have to remember anything. You just need to have the Everykey dongle near your computer, car, or house door to unlock them with "military grade" AES 128-bit encryption. When you walk away, the devices lock back down. It's not the first authentication dongle I've seen, but it's one of the first to work wirelessly and with things outside of computers.

Still, even McAfee admits Everykey has an obvious security flaw: If someone steals your key, they'll immediately have access to everything you've integrated with it. While he says Everykey is working on that issue, fixing it will likely involve some sort of biometric authentication, which means the company needs to completely rethink its hardware. You can still remotely disable the dongle if you notice it's stolen, but that's not helpful if someone manages to swipe it secretly. Until Everykey gets this issue fixed, it's actually less secure than just relying on typical passwords and keys.

McAfee also announced yesterday that he's shifting his presidential run over to the Libertarian party, while still maintaining his focus on cybersecurity from his initial campaign. "We're facing a cyberwar," he said. "Our power grid in America is 50 years old, it's aging. The technology, the computers that are running and rationing electricity across the country are completely open and vulnerable to a 13-year-old who wants to hack from anywhere int he world. Technology I think is the biggest problem in the American government. We lack decades behind the Chinese and Russians in weaponized software."

And to be sure, McAfee was quick to point out that having offensive cyber capabilities is an important deterrent against would-be cyberattacker. "We have to have weaponized software," he said. "We have to have the capability to say, 'Look, if you press a button, we'll press a button.'"


Say hello to Panasonic's invisible TV


Often one of the biggest eyesores in an otherwise impeccable living room is the large black expanse of a TV. Panasonic could have a solution for that, however, in the form of transparent displays. The company showed off the tech at CES 2016 in a mock living room, where the screen could shift between "transparent mode," where you could see the shelving behind it, and "screen mode," where you can see the screen. And because the display is on a railing, you can move it up and down the shelf for even greater customizability.

What's even cooler though, is how you can control it. You can use a remote control of course, but Panasonic wants these displays to operate via motion gestures (think waving your hands in front of it a la Minority Report) or voice commands. Right now, the transparent displays tend to be a little dark so it needs under-shelf lighting in order to really work, but this is still in the prototype stage. Check out our video above to see all the other things the transparent display can do.