Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for September 22nd, 2017

This Guy Is Digitizing the VHS History of Video Games

Posted by kenmay on September - 22 - 2017

An anonymous reader shares a report: UK-based gaming journalist and blogger Chris Scullion is on a mission to preserve his collection — and maybe your collection, too — of these old video game VHS tapes. In the 80s and 90s, video game companies and trade magazines made these tapes to accompany popular titles or new issues with bonus material or promotional footage, giving a glimpse into how marketing for games was done in the industry’s early days. Scullion has 18 tapes to upload so far, and plans to provide accompanying commentary as well as the raw video as they go up on his YouTube channel. Scullion’s first upload is a promotional tape for Super Mario All-Stars, given away by Nintendo UK in 1993. It’s hosted by Craig Charles, who played Lister in the British sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf. Digitizing his collection keeps that sweet nostalgia content safe from degradation of the magnetic tape, which starts to go downhill within 10 to 25 years. He’s capturing them in HD using a 1080p upscaler, at a full 50fps frame rate by converting to HDMI before grabbing — a higher frame rate than many standard commercial digitizing devices that capture at 30fps — so that no frames are missed. Some of the tapes he’s planning to digitize have already been converted and uploaded to YouTube by other people, he says, but most are either poor quality or captured with less-advanced grabbing devices. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: reader

Nestle Makes Billions Bottling Water It Pays Nearly Nothing For

Posted by kenmay on September - 22 - 2017

Nestle, the world’s largest food and beverage company, has been bottling water since 1843 and has grown into the largest seller of bottled water. But a detailed report on Bloomberg uncovers the company’s operation in Michigan, revealing that Nestle has come to dominate in the industry in part by going into economically depressed areas with lax water laws. It makes billions selling a product for which it pays close to nothing. Find the Bloomberg Businessweek article here (it might be paywalled, here’s an alternative source). Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: reader

These people revealed their passwords a little too freely

Posted by kenmay on September - 22 - 2017

Earlier this month on Jimmy Kimmel Live , random people on the street were asked to share their main internet password. Amazingly, some did… on camera, no less. ( Viral Viral Videos )

Categories: reader

HTC gives Vive developers all app revenue for the rest of 2017

Posted by kenmay on September - 22 - 2017

Now that HTC is all-in on Vive headsets and letting Google deal with its Pixel smartphone business, it has to deal with another reality: The public still isn’t exactly sold on VR. To keep sales momentum going, it has announced a promotion aimed at attracting Vive app developers and keeping existing ones happy. Rather than taking its usual 30 percent cut, HTC will give 100 percent of app revenue to developers for the entire fourth quarter of 2017, starting in October. The developer promotion will end on December 31st, HTC says. It’s hard to say how much revenue apps could generate during that time, as HTC keeps such info under wraps. It’s no doubt hoping that developers will lower their prices a bit, in turn driving hardware sales. “The holiday is the most important time for developers, and we want to show our appreciation for them, ” HTC Viveport VR’s Rikard Steiber told Venture Beat . The Vive VR headset was one of HTC’s lone financial bright spots last year, and the company recently said sales are still going just fine. Nevertheless, it’s reportedly being outsold by the PlayStation VR, probably because Sony’s PS4 brand is much better known by the gaming public. As such, Sony has arguably the best VR games for its platforms as developers go where the money is. HTC is banking on the social experience of VR Arcades (credit: ©HLenie) HTC will also share more hourly revenue with VR arcade operators , giving them 70 percent instead of 50 percent as before. The company’s Viveport Arcade system, its licensing platform enabling titles to be played in public spaces, is in trial with 700 titles and 50 operators around the globe. The Taiwanese firm also unveiled the Viveport Scene SDK that lets developers create new effects to entice potential buyers to try out apps or games. Developers can also build “VR Previews, ” or movies that run on Vive headsets to show customers what a game is like to play. HTC recently launched a monthly $6.99 subscription service, and unveiled a new standalone headset that works via the cloud rather than a PC (in China only for now). Now that it has an extra billion in the bank, it’s trying a lot of things to push the Vive platform out to more consumers, and the next year or two will crucial for the Vive and VR in general. Source: Venture Beat

Categories: reader

Netflix adds HDR support for iPhone 8, iPhone X and iPad Pro

Posted by kenmay on September - 22 - 2017

Netflix is adding high dynamic range (HDR) support to more mobile devices. A handful of Android handsets are already benefitting from the picture upgrade, including the LG G6 , Sony Xperia XZ Premium , and Samsung Galaxy Note 8 , among others . Now, thanks to the release of iOS 11, iPhone users suffering from FOMO can get in on the action too. You’ll be able to binge watch in Dolby Vision HDR on the newly launched iPhone 8, 8Plus , and the upcoming iPhone X . Along with Apple’s new smartphones, iPad Pro (2nd-gen) owners will also receive the bump in picture quality — that goes for both the 10.5 and 12.9 inch models of the tablet. HDR essentially expands the range of both contrast and color in comparison to standard dynamic range. As a result, bright parts of an image look brighter, and the darker bits also pack more depth. If you’re on Netflix’s premium plan, and you’re selected programme carries the HDR or Dolby Vision tags, then you’re good to go. Source: Netflix

Categories: reader

Uber just lost its London taxi license

Posted by kenmay on September - 22 - 2017

In a surprise announcement today, Transport for London has confirmed that it will not reissue Uber’s private hire operating licence within the city. In a statement, the regulator said that the company operations were not “fit and proper” and noted that it will be allowed to accept new rides in London up until September 30th. Uber can appeal the decision, which will allow its cars to stay on the road until a final ruling is passed. According to Transport for London, Uber’s policies regarding the reporting of serious criminal offences, how it obtains medical certificates and performs driver checks did not meet its standards. It also noted Uber’s use of its “Greyball” software in the capital , which allowed the company to evade authorities all over the world by tagging known officials and serving up dummy versions of the app that were populated with ghost cars. This is a developing story, please refresh for updates.

Categories: reader

The iPhone 8 has a gigabit LTE modem (updated)

Posted by kenmay on September - 22 - 2017

At first blush, iFixit’s tech autopsy on the iPhone 8 didn’t reveal anything particularly notable, besides some different screws and a way to remove the glass backing. So far, so meh. But then when it came to the laundry list of chips and modems all crammed inside Apple’s latest smartphones, we noticed something. It looks like the company has made its first gigabit LTE phone , capable of substantially faster download speeds. Or at least, the iPhone 8 could have, if it had everything else. (Update : As some readers have pointed out, the iPhone 8 (according to iFixit’s teardown) doesn’t appear to have the antennas necessary to harness gigabit LTE. We’ve updated this post to reflect that. Apologies for the mistake.) The latest iPhones do offer support for more LTE bands and networks ( depending on your model ) than ever before, but its rivals appear to be ahead when it comes to gigabit LTE. Samsung’s Galaxy S8, Note 8 phones and even the Essential phone all pack gigabit LTE modems, ready to go. It’ll be a mainstay of nearly all new phones going forward, and Apple’s new phone, available today, starts behind its biggest competitor. Phone carriers haven’t initiated the roll-out of this next-generation LTE. However, all the major US phone networks are all promising to launch gigabit LTE services by the end of 2017. So why didn’t Apple add gigabit LTE to its latest phones? Sources suggest that Apple tapped both Qualcomm and Intel for modems for this year’s iPhones. Because of this, Bloomberg sources back in June , suggested that any gigabit LTE functionality would be disabled, as some phones would be compatible, those with Qualcomm modems, while others (with Intel modems) wouldn’t. Intel does have a gigabit LTE modem in the works — it apparently wasn’t ready for this round of iPhones. There’s also some corporate politics here. In the middle of several of legal scuffles, Qualcomm has alleged that Apple would prevent Qualcomm-equipped iPhones from performing at full capacity so they would work just like Intel versions. For now, your new iPhone 8 can handle all the current LTE services you’re using. It may not, however, be ready for the next wave of upgraded networks at a time when rivals are primed and ready. Source: iFixit

Categories: reader

Beyond the big five, humans have dozens of senses

Posted by kenmay on September - 22 - 2017

The five traditional senses are tied to visible sense organs, but depending on the definition, humans possess dozens of senses , including thermoception (temperature), proprioception (bodily spatial relations), nociception (pain), equilibrioception (balance), and mechanoreception (vibration). (more…)

Categories: reader

Google buys $1.1bn piece of HTC

Posted by kenmay on September - 22 - 2017

Rumored for some time, Google’s purchase of a significant chunk of handset-maker HTC was announced today . The WSJ: Google said an HTC team that helped develop Google’s flagship Pixel smartphone will join the company. The Mountain View, Calif., company will also get a nonexclusive license to HTC intellectual property. HTC was hired by Google to be the contract manufacturer for the Pixel, a high-end smartphone that was launched last year, in part to better compete with Apple Inc. $1.1bn in cash is probably most of HTC. The company’s market share evaporated over the last half-decade but it remains a well-respected manufacturer. Alternative Betteridge headline: “Will Google buying HTC go better than Google buying Motorola?”

Categories: reader

Synthetic muscle breakthrough could lead to ‘lifelike’ robots

Posted by kenmay on September - 22 - 2017

A breakthrough in soft robotics means scientists are now one step closer to creating lifelike machines. Researchers at Columbia Engineering have developed a 3D printed synthetic tissue that can act as active muscle. The material, which can push, pull, bend, and twist (thanks to its use of silicon rubber and ethanol-dispensing micro-bubbles) is also capable of carrying 1, 000 times its own weight. Not only could the invention result in super-strong machines (like a Terminator that works in manufacturing ), but it will also release soft robots from their current shackles. You see, synthetic muscle tech is presently reliant on tethered external compressors or high voltage equipment. But, robots fitted with this new tissue could theoretically be freed up to move around like humans, enabling them to better grip and pick up objects. Which is a big deal, because the plan is to eventually get these bots to help with non-invasive surgeries and to care for the elderly — among other tasks. The researchers are touting the material as the first synthetic muscle that can withstand both high-actuation stress and high strain. “We’ve been making great strides toward making robots minds, but robot bodies are still primitive, ” said lead scientist Hod Lipson. “This is a big piece of the puzzle and, like biology, the new actuator can be shaped and reshaped a thousand ways. We’ve overcome one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots.” After 3D printing it into the desired shape, the team electrically actuated the artificial muscle using a thin resistive wire and low-power (8V). They then tested it in a variety of robotic applications, where it demonstrated significant expansion-contraction ability. The researchers claim the synthetic tissue is also capable of expanding up to 900 percent when electrically heated to 80°C. Building on their initial findings, the team plans to incorporate conductive materials to replace the need for the connecting wire. Further down the line, they intend to combine it with artificial intelligence that can learn to control the muscle, resulting in (they hope) “natural” movement. Source: Columbia Engineering

Categories: reader