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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Amazon Luna now open to all Fire TV users without an invite

 Amazon’s cloud-gaming service, Luna, is now available to try for free in the US on select Fire TV devices without an invitation, the company has announced. Luna launched in early access last year, as an invitation-only service. Originally, customers also needed an invite to buy the Luna Controller, but Amazon now says it’s available to everyone.

Amazon Luna

Amazon’s FAQ says that users can get access to Luna on Fire TV by simply downloading the app. A list of Fire TV devices that are compatible with Luna is available on this Amazon support page. These include the Fire TV Stick Lite, Fire TV Stick (2nd & 3rd generation), Fire TV Stick 4K, Fire TV (3rd generation), Fire TV Cube, Toshiba Fire TV Edition, and Insignia Fire TV Edition.

Signing up for Luna gets you a 7-day free trial of the Luna Plus channel, which costs $5.99 a month thereafter during early access and includes games like ControlMetro Exodus, and Grid. There’s also a Ubisoft Plus channel subscription for $14.99 a month which includes titles like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.

As well as Fire TV devices, Luna’s early access is also available on Windows, Mac, select Android devices, and web browsers on iPhone, iPad, Windows, and Mac, but only after receiving an invitation. “If you don’t have a Fire TV you can still request an invitation to access Luna at amazon.com/Luna,” Amazon’s post reads. The service is currently limited the US mainland, excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and US territories.

Monday, February 22, 2021

New Huawei Mate X2 launched with Samsung like fold design

 Huawei has announced the Mate X2, its first all-new foldable device since 2019’s Mate X. The new phone has received a radical redesign compared to the original device, with a large screen that unfolds from the inside of the device rather than around the outside. For using the phone while folded, the Huawei Mate X2 has a second screen on its outside, similar to Samsung’s approach with the Galaxy Fold series. Images of the phone were leaked minutes ahead of its official announcement by Evan Blass on Voice.

Huawei Mate X2

This being a Huawei device, the Mate X2 will launch without support for Google’s apps or services, which is likely to severely limit its appeal outside of China. According to Huawei’s site, the phone will run on EMUI 11.0 based on Android 10. However, during its live stream, the company said it plans for the Mate X2 to be among the first phones to be updated to its own operating system, HarmonyOS, starting in April.

The internal screen on the Mate X2 measures 8 inches with a resolution of 2480 x 2200, while the exterior screen is 6.45 inches with a 2700 x 1160 resolution. Both are OLED and have refresh rates of up to 90Hz. They’re also both slightly bigger than the 7.6-inch internal display and 6.2-inch external displays found on Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 2. Internally, the phone is powered by the company’s flagship Kirin 9000 chip, the processor that debuted in its Mate 40 Pro last year. This is paired with 8GB of RAM and a battery with a rated capacity of 4,400mAh that can be fast-charged at up to 55W.

There are four cameras on the rear of the phone: a 50-megapixel wide-angle, a 16-megapixel ultrawide, a 12-megapixel telephoto with a 3x optical zoom, and an 8-megapixel “SuperZoom” camera with a 10x optical zoom. The selfie camera on the outside of the phone has a 16-megapixel resolution, and there doesn’t appear to be a selfie camera in or around the foldable inner screen.

The Mate X2 is technically the third phone in Huawei’s foldable lineup. Last year, it released the Mate XS, an updated version of the original Mate X, which featured a more durable display and faster Kirin 990 processor.

Huawei says the Mate X2 will be available in China with 256GB of internal storage for ¥17,999 (around $2,785) or for ¥18,999 (around $2,940) with 512GB of storage. Available colors include blue, pink, black, and white. It’ll be available to buy in China on February 25th, but it’s unclear when the phone could be released outside the country.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Snapchat to start reminding people to clean out their friends list

 Snap is introducing a new feature it’s calling Friend Check Up. On Snapchat, having someone friended could give them access to your story and even possibly your location, depending on your Snap Map settings, so Snap wants to make sure that everyone on your friends list is still someone you actually want to call your friend.

This feature could help make the platform safer for users, if they choose to use it. It could be a good way to help you realize you might still have somebody friended that you don’t want to see your posts. And I know there’ve been plenty of times when I’ve looked at a friend or follower of mine and said “I have no idea who this person is,” or worse: “oops, my ex can see my sadtweeting.”

Snap says that the feature will be rolling out globally on Android “in the coming weeks” and to iOS devices “in the coming months.” The reminder will show up as a notification on your profile screen, as you can see in this GIF

If you’d like to do a check up yourself before the feature rolls out, you can see your friends list by going to your profile and tapping on My Friends. You can remove a friend by tapping and holding on their name until the Block / Remove friend menu appears.

The Friend Check Up feature is part of a push from Snap to make Snapchat a friendlier place, including adding new resources and integrations with the Trevor Project for LGBTQ+ youths, and MindUP for parents trying to understand and support their teenage children. The social network is also getting further integration with the Crisis Text Project for people seeking mental health assistance.

Friday, February 19, 2021

ABC News Australia goes up to #1 on App Store after the Facebook drama

 The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s ABC News app shot to the top of Apple’s App Store charts in Australia over the course of the last few days, not long after Facebook banned Australian news sources on its platform. As Financial Times’ Uma Patel suggests in a tweet thread, that’s possibly because ABC capitalized on Facebook’s news ban with an ad sending users to its app.

ABC News

ABC News currently sits at No. 2 in the App Store’s overall app rankings in Australia, according to the analytics firm App Annie, and No. 1 in the news app charts. When Patel noticed the change, the app was also briefly No. 1 overall, ahead of Instagram, Facebook Messenger, and the Facebook app itself.

Facebook’s ban was in response to an expansive Australian regulatory measure that will force tech platforms to pay Australian media companies for the content users share (and that platforms earn ad revenue from). Facebook took issue with the change and prohibited Australian news and media organizations from sharing news posts, and Australian users from seeing news from international sources as well. The ban also seemed to accidentally wipe out the posts from government pages and some other sites.

Facebook’s ban dramatically shrunk the audience for some Australian news outlets, sending traffic down 93 percent the day after the ban was put in place, according to NiemanLabBut ABC News responded by adding a banner to its home page. “Missing our news on Facebook?  Get the latest news and live notifications with the ABC News app,” it reads. Since then, the app has risen from the high 400s to its current spot at No. 2.

Whatever the reason, readers heading directly to news sources over the social media sites that cannibalize them seems like a positive, and other news organizations could potentially take advantage of the ban in similar ways. It’s an unintended effect of Facebook’s hardline approach compared to its competitor Google, which struck a partnership deal with three of Australia’s largest media companies — Seven West Media, Nine Entertainment, and NewsCorp — for its News Showcase.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

YouTube TV now adding 4K streaming and offline downloads

 If the monthly price for all of these streaming TV services is going to keep going up, the least they can do is throw in some new features and better video quality, right? That’s what YouTube says you can soon expect from YouTube TV; today, the company announced that in the coming weeks, the service will “introduce a new add-on package with 4K streaming, offline viewing, and unlimited concurrent streams at home.”

YouTube TV

Unfortunately, a YouTube TV spokesperson didn’t have much else to share beyond the top-level news of these upcoming additions. It’s not clear whether there will be any limits on what channels or shows support offline downloads, nor is YouTube giving any examples of what content will be available in 4K. One would hope for some sporting events. Currently, customers have a maximum of three concurrent streams, but it seems like YouTube will be removing any such constraints so long as you’re viewing from home.

Offline viewing is pretty rare among the streaming TV apps. Hulu lets you download on-demand TV shows and movies to watch offline, but this doesn’t apply to recordings from its live TV service. Sling TV offers no such functionality, nor does AT&T TV.

The “add-on package” language suggests you’ll have to pay more than the standard $65 monthly subscription to access these features. YouTube TV raised its base subscription to that last June. But the company still advertises that, even as the cost increases, YouTube TV still doesn’t come with any hidden fees and offers unlimited cloud DVR space. The service has over 3 million customers.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

IBM Sets a new climate goal for 2030

 IBM plans to get rid of its planet-heating carbon dioxide emissions from its operations by 2030, the company announced today. And unlike some other tech companies that have made splashy environmental commitments lately, IBM’s pledge emphasized the need to prevent emissions rather than developing ways to capture carbon dioxide after it’s released

IBM 

The company committed to reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the end of this decade, pledging to do “all it can across its operations” to stop polluting before it turns to emerging technologies that might be able to capture carbon dioxide after it’s emitted. It plans to rely on renewable energy for 90 percent of its electricity use by 2030. By 2025, it wants to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent compared to 2010 levels.

“I am proud that IBM is leading the way by taking actions to significantly reduce emissions,” said IBM chairman and CEO Arvind Krishna in a press release.

IBM is putting more emphasis on its cloud computing and AI after announcing in October that it would split into two public companies and house its legacy IT services under a new name. That pivot puts IBM in more direct competition with giants like Amazon and Microsoft in the cloud market, which is notorious for guzzling up energy. Data centers accounted for about 1 percent of global electricity use in 2018, according to the International Energy Agency, and can strain local power grids. All three companies have now made big pledges to rein in pollution that drives climate change.

Microsoft’s climate pledge focuses on driving the development of technologies that suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere; it reached net zero emissions in 2012 but still relies heavily on investing in forests to offset its carbon pollution. Amazon committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2040. Amazon’s emissions, however, continue to grow as its business expands.

There is still room for more ambition in IBM’s new climate commitment since the company so far is not setting targets for reducing emissions coming from its supply chain or the use of its products by consumers. These kinds of indirect emissions often make up a majority of a company’s carbon footprint. IBM does not track all of the pollution from its supply chain, but other indirect emissions (like those from the products it sells) made up the biggest chunk of its carbon footprint in 2019Microsoft and Amazon, on the other hand, consider all of these sources of emissions in their climate pledges.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Carl Pei's Nothing brand acquires The Essential Brand. Don't know why

 Nothing, the recently-launched startup from former OnePlus executive, Carl Pei, has acquired the Essential brand, according to a report from 9to5Google citing filings at the UK Intellectual Property Office. Essential, of course, was the company started by Android creator Andy Rubin after he left Google. It launched a single smartphone before shuttering its doors due to poor sales performance. Nothing’s acquisition, which was completed on January 6th, 2021, ahead of Pei’s formal announcement of Nothing, apparently includes all of the trademarks, logo, and other branding of Essential.

Nothing and Essential Brand

It’s not clear what Pei’s new company plans to do with the Essential brand (or anything else for that matter; the information on what exactly Nothing’s product plans are is as scant as the company’s name itself), but as 9to5Google notes, there isn’t much aside from the brand left at Essential, since the company closed its doors last year. Essential had planned to release a follow up to the one smartphone it did bring to market, as well as launch an ambitious new smart home platform, but neither of those ever made it out of planning phases and were obviously scrapped.

It’s also not clear why exactly Nothing would want to acquire the Essential brand, which can best be described as “tarnished” after a failed product launch and association with Rubin’s name. A 2018 report from The New York Times detailed allegations of sexual misconduct levied against Rubin during his time at Google and a massive $90 million buyout he received for leaving the company.

9to5Google’s article says that Nothing will reveal more information about its forthcoming products in the near future, so perhaps we’ll learn more about what it plans to do with the Essential brand sooner rather than later. We’ve reached out to Nothing for comment on the matter and will update this article should the company respond.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Spotify to allow work from home and now even choose a country they work from

Spotify is jumping on the remote work bandwagon in a big way with an announcement on Friday that it will let its employees choose where they’d like work, both for their preference of coming into the office or staying mostly at home and their geographic location in the world. Spotify is calling the initiative Work From Anywhere and it describes it as a “new way of collaborating that allows Spotifiers to work from wherever they do their best thinking and creating.”

“Through this distributed-first mentality, we are giving employees the opportunity to elect a Work Mode—whether they’d prefer to work mostly at home or in the office—as well as their geographic location,” the company’s blog post reads. Spotify says it will implement the new options this summer, and the choice of how often, if ever, an employee returns to the office will be decided by the employee in conversations with their manager and team.

As for the freedom to work for Spotify anywhere in the world, the company says it will let employees decide their location “with some limitations to address time zone difficulties, and regional entity laws in the initial rollout of this program,” reads a more in-depth post on the company’s human resources blog. “If someone chooses a location that is not near a Spotify office, we will support them with a co-working space membership if they want to work from an office.”

Spotify’s decision comes on the heels of an announcement from Salesforce earlier this week, in which the cloud computing giant said it would give employees the choice to work mostly from home from now on and also give workers more flexibility around their daily schedules for taking care of children or attending to personal matters. Scores of other major tech companies, include Facebook and Microsoft, have similarly announced major commitments to remote work and letting employees make their new COVID-era work environments permanent going forward, if they so choose.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Google News Showcase launches in more countries

 Google’s News Showcase, a program wherein the search giant pays to curate news content from publishers, has launched in the UK and Argentina. In the UK, the service covers over 120 publications, while 40 Argentinian publications have signed up. For readers, the service includes the ability to access select paywalled content for free. News Showcase launched in Germany and Brazil last year, and Australia last week, and now includes content from over 450 publications worldwide.

In the UK, publications available through the service include Reuters, the Financial TimesThe Independent, the New Statesman, and The Telegraph, while Argentinian publications include ClarínLa Nación, and Perfil. An FAQ from Google notes that publishers are paid a monthly fee to curate news stories for the service, as well as for access to paywalled content.

News Showcase is available in the Google News app on iOS, Android, and mobile web, as well as Discover on iOS. On select Android phones, like Google Pixel devices, Discover is available by swiping to the left on the home screen. The interface shows lists of articles from each publication, which you can tap to read in full.

Last week, Google News Showcase launched in Australia, a country where the company is currently locking horns with lawmakers over new rules that could force it to pay news publishers for their content. Google recently threatened to pull its search engine from the country if the News Media Bargaining Code goes into effect. Last week, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he’d held “constructive” talks with Google CEO Sundar Pichai over the new rules.

The situation means that although seven Australian publishers have joined the program, covering over 25 publications, The Guardian reports that one outlet, Nine, chose not to negotiate with Google until the new code is brought in. In an FAQ, Google says it believes News Showcase should be compatible with the new rules, since publishers are free to enter into arbitration if they don’t like Google’s News Showcase deal.

Facebook has a similar news initiative that involves paying publishers to license their content in the form of the News tab, a section of the service that includes a mix of curated and personalized news stories. After launching in the US, the tab recently arrived in the UK. Similar to Google News Showcase, the service involves Facebook paying select publishers to license content, including some that would normally be paywalled.

Beyond the UK and Argentina, Google says it’s also readying to launch News Showcase in France, Canada, and Japan.

Audi reveals the new E-Tron GT powered by Porsche

 Audi has announced the E-Tron GT, an expensive new high-performance electric sedan built on technology developed for Porsche’s first EV, the Taycan.

Image- AUDI

Due out this spring in Europe, the E-Tron GT will start at €99,800 with a top-spec RS version starting at €138,200. It will then come stateside in the summer, with the base GT starting at $99,900 and the RS beginning at $139,900.

For all of that money, buyers will get the most performance that Audi has squeezed out of an electric car to date. The standard E-Tron GT can output 350kW of power, or roughly 470 horsepower, while the RS version boasts 440kW, or about 590 horsepower. In overboost mode, those numbers jump to 522 horsepower and 637 horsepower, respectively. With overboost and launch control, the E-Tron GT can sprint to 100 kilometers per hour in 4.1 seconds, and the RS version makes that run in 3.3 seconds. Not bad for a car that weighs about 5,100 pounds.


Both models achieve that performance with a dual-motor, all-wheel drive setup that’s powered by a 93kWh battery pack (with 85kWh of usable energy). The battery pack uses 800-volt technology, too, which not only lets the GT perform at high levels but will also enable faster charging. Audi says just five minutes will recover 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, of range when hooked up to a high-speed charging network like Volkswagen’s Electrify America.

If those numbers sound familiar, it’s because it’s the exact same setup as the Porsche Taycan. That was the plan from the jump when the GT was first revealed as a concept car at the 2018 LA Auto Show and even made an appearance in Avengers: Endgame. Much like how the larger Volkswagen Group will share the German automaker’s mass-market MEB electric car platform, the powertrain that was developed for Porsche’s first EV was made available to Audi for the GT, which will exist as a halo vehicle of its all-electric E-Tron brand. (To wit, it will even be built on the same assembly line as the R8 sports car.)

Audi says the base E-Tron GT should get “more than 488km” (or 298 miles) of range on a full charge, though that’s according to the European WLTP testing standard. 

Despite being such a pricey car, the base E-Tron GT’s price tag will climb even higher for buyers who want the German automaker’s most advanced tech. Audi’s Matrix LED headlights, which have a complex mirror system that can shape the light in highly specific ways, are an option (though only in Europe). There’s also an optional heads-up display that can project information onto the windshield. All-wheel steering is available, but only as an option. Bang & Olufsen sound system? Optional.

Both E-Tron GTs come fitted with two displays — a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.1-inch touchscreen — that are powered by the latest version of Audi’s infotainment system. That means there’s an LTE Advanced chip for onboard Wi-Fi connectivity, navigation powered by Here maps, a companion smartphone app for controlling door locks and other functions, and wireless CarPlay and Android Auto.

In total, the E-Tron GT is the most loaded up electric Audi to date. It’s the kind of thing that could properly compete (in some respects) with Tesla’s new refreshed Model S, and it gives deep-pocketed customers the option of Porsche Taycan-level performance in a different package.



Audi has already shipped tens of thousands of E-Tron SUVs and Sportbacks, its first electric models released in the wake of the Volkswagen Group’s Dieselgate scandal. But the extra capability afforded by Porsche’s technology could help the automaker steal away luxury car buyers who were previously put off by the lacking range of the original E-Tron (or its most direct competition, the Mercedes-Benz EQC)

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Reddit to double the employees after it has raised $250 million

 Reddit will double the number of employees it has over the course of this year to around 1,400 after raising $250 million in a new funding round, the company has announced. Reddit currently has around 700 employees globally. Over 600 are based in the US, according to CNBCwhere it has offices in San Francisco, New York, LA, and Chicago.

Reddit

The announcement of the new funding round comes as the site’s r/WallStreetBets subreddit gained widespread attention for its role in increasing the share prices of GameStop, AMC, and other companies. Redditors organized to purchase shares in certain companies en-masse, turbocharging their stock prices at the expense of short-selling hedge funds. As of last week the Securities and Exchange commission is reportedly investigating whether misinformation posted on social media could have violated securities laws.

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman tells The Wall Street Journal that the company isn’t planning on “materially changing” its strategy as a result of the funding round. The company says it plans to use the money to invest in video, advertising, consumer products, and international expansion. On Sunday, Reddit said that it spent its entire marketing budget on a single 5-second Super Bowl ad celebrating its role in the GameStop stocks saga. Last year Reddit acquired Dubsmash, a “short-form video social platform” whose video creation tools it plans to integrate into its own platform.

Reddit’s valuation doubled to $6 billion as a result of the new funding, according to the WSJ. Last quarter, the company’s direct advertising revenue was up 90 percent compared to the same period a year earlier, Reddit says.

As of December, Reddit boasted 52 million daily active users, For comparison, Facebook has around 1.85 billion daily users, Snapchat’s parent company Snap has 265 million daily active users, and Twitter recent said it averages 187 million.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Xiaomi Mi 11 has a Snapdragon 888 at $900

 Xiaomi is announcing the international version of its Mi 11 flagship phone today after an earlier release in China. No wild waterfall displays or sci-fi wireless charging here — this device is very much in keeping with the Mi series’ MO of offering high specs at a competitive price.

Xiaomi Mi 11

The Mi 11 has a Snapdragon 888 processor, making it the first phone to launch with Qualcomm’s latest high-end chip (though Samsung’s Galaxy S21 series beat it to market outside China). The 888 has 5G connectivity built in, of course, and the phone has 8GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of storage.

The screen appears to be the same panel — or very similar — to what’s found in the Galaxy S21 Ultra. It’s a slightly curved 6.8-inch 1440p OLED with a refresh rate of 120Hz and peak brightness of 1,500 nits, matching Samsung’s phone spec-for-spec. I don’t have the S21 Ultra to compare side-by-side, but I can tell you that the Mi 11’s screen is extremely good.

The Mi 11 has a 108-megapixel primary camera backed by a 13-megapixel ultrawide and a 5-megapixel “telemacro” camera. The selfie camera is 20 megapixels and tucked inside a small holepunch cutout at the top left of the screen.

The battery is 4,600mAh and can be charged at up to 55W with a cable and up to 50W wirelessly. The Mi 11 also features reverse wireless charging at up to 10W. It runs MIUI 12, based on Android 11.

Xiaomi hasn’t provided a full list of regions or launch dates just yet, but says the Mi 11 will be priced at €749 (~$900) for the 8GB/128GB model. XDA Developers notes the 8GB/256GB model will retail for €799 (~$960). Stay tuned for a full review.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Where to watch the Superbowl 2021

 Super Bowl 2021 — the 55th Super Bowl — is happening today.

Superbowl 2021

The championship game pits the Kansas City Chiefs, the defending Super Bowl champs, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Eric Church and Jazmine Sullivan will sing the national anthem, while The Weeknd will perform in the halftime show.

If you are planning to watch the football game, you have a few options, and many of them are free. Below, we have listed a few ways you can watch this year’s Super Bowl. Keep in mind that, due to production limits imposed by the pandemic, Super Bowl 2021 will not be streaming in 4K resolution.

WHERE IS THE SUPER BOWL BEING PLAYED?

Super Bowl 2021 will take place at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, the home field of the Buccaneers.

WHAT TIME WILL THE SUPER BOWL START?

The broadcast will begin at 6:30PM ET / 3:30PM PT. But if you want to tune in ahead of kickoff, CBS will be running coverage throughout the day.

WHAT NETWORK IS TELEVISING THE SUPER BOWL?

Super Bowl 2021 will be televised on CBS, the “official” network on which viewers in the US can watch the big game. Last year, the game was televised on Fox.

HOW CAN I WATCH THE SUPER BOWL?

While Super Bowl 21 will be televised on CBS, there are a few ways you can view the game. Below is a list of services, streaming and otherwise, you can take advantage of. Some will require a paid subscription, but most of those include a free trial for first-time users.

ON A SMART TV OR COMPUTER:


  • ON A SMARTPHONE OR TABLET:

If you are looking to watch the game on the go or just prefer watching it on a smaller screen, you can stream it using the following apps:

VIA CABLE, ANTENNA, OR SATELLITE:

If you’re feeling old-school, you can tune in to the big game through your local CBS channel, either via cable or using an antenna.

INTERNATIONAL OPTIONS:

If you’re watching from outside the US, many countries will have broadcasts. You can see a full list over on the official NFL website. Here are a few options for viewers overseas to watch the game:

  • Canada: CTV is one of the few channels in Canada broadcasting Super Bowl 2021. You can watch it on TV or through the CTV Go app, which is available on a few platforms, including Android TV, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV.
  • United Kingdom: You can watch the game through Sky Sports, including the official Sky Sports website, or through the Sky Go app (if you are a Sky TV customer).
  • Australia: Super Bowl 2021 will air on two channels in Australia: ESPN and Channel Seven.

Amazon Luna now open to all Fire TV users without an invite

  Amazon’s cloud-gaming service, Luna, is now available to try for free in the US on select Fire TV devices without an invitation,   the com...

Click here to revoke your choice.