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Monday, December 18, 2017

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Microsoft Gives Productivity Tools More AI Chops

Microsoft Gives Productivity Tools More AI Chops

Microsoft on Wednesday announced new artificial intelligence features and functionality for several of its flagship products and services, including Office 365, Cortana and Bing, at an event in San Francisco. Harry Shum, EVP of Microsoft Artificial Intelligence and Research, demonstrated some of the new capabilities

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Instagram gets more #interesting

The glass facade of the SuperMoon Bakery (#newforkcity, #eatingnyc) has a pleasing symmetry to it. Two black rectangles sit on either side of a square, a neon smiley face suspended upside down in the center. Inside, a few small cylinders of pink marble serve as tables, but seating for customers is limited. Most of the shop is dedicated to a massive counter, along which the day’s selection of colorful, decorative pastries are carefully spaced (#foodgasm, #dessertporn). Behind the counter are rows of tightly packed boxes, stacked to shoulder height, and coated in a reflective silver that produces a rainbow sheen (#iridescent, #myunicornlife).

The croissants and donuts on offer are quite tasty, but for many customers, that isn’t the main attraction. For the steady stream of tourists and bloggers who stopped in while I was there, the shop is first and foremost a visual treat, offering itself up as a backdrop for user’s to craft a winning Instagram post. The content of your photo is important, but as any serious Instagrammer knows, the hashtags you attach are equally important (#postitfortheaesthetic). Someone may have just a few dozen followers, but by grouping their post through hashtags, they can get their images in front of thousands, even millions of potential viewers, all of whom tune in each day for hashtags about food, fashion, and sparkly colors.

Up until now, there were two ways to interact with a hashtag. You could click through a hashtag on a post, or you could search for a specific tag in the Explore section of the app. Today, Instagram is introducing a new way to interact with hashtags. You can now “follow” a hashtag the same way you would follow an account. Instagram’s algorithms will then pick and choose some of the highlights from that collection and surface them in your main feed. It’s a fundamental change to one of the largest social media platforms in the world, elevating your interest in adorable dogs or expensive automobiles to equal status with your friends and family.

I’ve been testing out the feature for the last two weeks, and I find myself spending more time with Instagram as a result. I have always avoided the Explore tab. It felt like a random mishmash of posts personalized for me and generic viral content optimized to be popular. Take a recent experience I had with the “videos you might like” channel: it started with a highlight from a UFC fight, perfect for me, before segueing to a clip of random teens slapping each other at a party, Beyoncé accepting an award, a volcano erupting against the night sky, and a strange-looking fence post that turns out to be a well-camouflaged bird, shared by an account named “ifyouhigh.” It was as discordant as flipping through channels on your cable box.

By contrast, the posts injected into my main feed based on the hashtags I chose to follow (#modernart, #bjj, #ancient) felt carefully curated. There is a lot of variety, even within those categories, but you can train the algorithm on what you do and don’t like. Engage with the post by leaving a heart or a comment, and Instagram will assume you want more. Click the menu button on the top right of the post, and you can downvote the offending image by asking Instagram not to show you similar content for that hashtag again. After a few days of this, the art in my feed, both martial and modern, felt fine-tuned to my taste.

Matthew Ogle, product manager at Instagram, photographed at SuperMoon Bakery.
The man at the helm of this new product is Matthew Ogle (#brutalism, #chinatownnyc, #goatsofinstagram) a British-Canadian who cut his teeth working at music services like and Spotify. He was the product manager most directly responsible for Discover Weekly, which serves up a personalized playlist to each of Spotify’s 140 million listeners every Monday. That product elegantly combined human curation with machine learning, delivering recommendations that felt intimate across a massive audience. Ogle’s goal now is to do the same for the interest communities and visual culture of Instagram, which is rapidly approaching 1 billion monthly active users.

Hashtags and playlists share a number of sensibilities. People use them to collect media under broad umbrellas, making it easier for others to find jazz or rock tracks, or fitness or travel photographs. But they also use them to invent subgenres and forge new tribes. That makes them the perfect fuel for machine learning systems that rely on data labeled by humans.

“Discover Weekly wasn’t about teaching an algorithm to understand and then recommend music. We taught an algorithm to look at what the community was already doing with this building block, the playlist, and to take the best of what the community was doing and extend it in a new direction,” says Ogle. “Hashtags are kind of the same way. You have something that is working organically on the platform, how do we add just enough additional structure so that more people can participate.”
Right now, exploring your interests on Instagram requires active work on your part. You can manually search a hashtag each day, or ask around for recommendations of good accounts to follow. You can scroll through Explore, which is guessing about what you want to see based on accounts you follow and posts you engage with. But you can’t give the Explore page any instructions about what exactly you want to see more of. “My job was to find ways to take the friction out of that process, to bring discovery and community-led goodness to where people already are,” says Ogle. “Hashtags have some really nice properties, because they are already this bottom-up, community-led aggregation.”

Of course, hashtags have some properties that make them tricky to work with as well. “Hashtags can have multiple valid meanings,” says Ogle. I might be interested in #barracuda because I like to fish, while you might follow the tag for images of the classic American muscle car. “There’s also a rich tradition of using hashtags for jokes, sarcasm, and memes. That is something we don’t want to disrupt,” he notes. Ideally, you and I can follow #cougar for very different reasons and both come away with a satisfying experience.

To help solve this problem, any image that appears in your main feed because you follow a hashtag will have a prominent button above it, allowing you to easily tell the service that you don’t want to see more images like this. It won’t unfollow the tag, but it will help to train the system on what aspects of a certain tag appeal to you. The hashtag #dirtykids is used by parents who want to highlight cute photos of their messy toddler. It’s also used by a community of young, homeless adults who ride the rails across the US. “So one of the ways through all that is, over time, personalize the rankings of things we might show you, versus someone else, for the same hashtag,” says Ogle.

From the very beginning, Instagram’s users were finding ways to hack the service so they could organize around interests and communities. “You build a product with few constraints and people will surprise you with the weird stuff they do,” said Mike Krieger, Instagram’s co-founder (#nowspinning, #bermesemountaindog, #fromwhereistand).

Let’s say you wanted to run a contest for photography buffs in San Francisco. “There were no hashtags, so people would create a second account, maybe BestPhotosSF, and then ask people to @ mention that account. Then they would refresh in a frenzy and write down all the submissions. It was this early interest in clustering or organization that went beyond the account level,” explains Krieger. The company quickly embraced the behavior, debuting hashtags in January 2011 so users could organize posts around events, places, or topics.

Born in São Paulo, Brazil, Krieger is now the company’s chief technical officer. We met up recently at the Gramercy Park Hotel (#nyc, #rosebar, #gramercyparkhotel), where he was staying while attending the engineering team’s annual offsite. As an expat, Krieger has always taken a keen interest in the way communities formed on Instagram, and the way users leveraged the service to connect across borders and cultures. “Forums have been around the internet forever, since the BBS days, but they emerged on Instagram in the craziest way,” says Krieger. “Small groups of people who had gotten to know one another would announce a hashtag, and then at some predetermined time, they would all start posting with that tag and in the comment section having forum threads.”

From the very beginning, Instagram’s app had a “Popular Page.” This was a collection of posts from around the service that had garnered the most likes and comments. It was something for users to dip into once they had caught up on their feed, but it wasn’t personalized at all. In June 2012, the Popular tab was combined with the search bar, and renamed as Explore. For the first time, users could dig deeper into certain hashtags and accounts, but by default it still surfaced the posts with the most engagement on a global scale — an approach that meant Explore was usually dominated by posts from celebrities and extremely broad topics.

In 2014, Krieger and his team began to personalize the experience. Along with trending items, Explore now showed you posts that had been liked by people you followed. What your social graph found appealing, the theory went, might also be appealing to you. In 2015, they augmented the explore feed to show you trending hashtags and places, and last year Explore began showing you video channels based on accounts you follow and hashtags you interact with. 

Dan Toffey (#hikingwithdogs, #linework, #woodturning) was Instagram’s 12th employee and fourth community manager. At the time, that role encompassed everything non-technical, from writing blog posts to handling support tickets to moderating comments. Today, he runs Instagram’s Community Lab, a group of social scientists that use machine learning to explore and catalog the many niche communities that have found a home on Instagram.

Lots of broad hashtags, like #food and #fashion, are among the most popular in countries around the world. Part of Toffey’s work is figuring out what’s unique about the different markets where Instagram exists, and finding ways to highlight and support local communities. Hashtags show, for example, that Germany over-indexes for humor, horses, and video gaming, while Japan favors hairstyles, colors, and simplicity.

“When a follow happens on the platform, two things are happening: the follower is getting a more diverse experience, and the creator has a new fan who is discovering what they have to offer,” says Toffey. “Our hope is that through thoughtful categorization and cataloging of these communities, when combined with things like hashtags, we can improve discovery, and make it easier for you to find what you’re looking for, or what you didn’t know you were looking for.”

Of course, turning hashtags into a more prominent part of the Instagram experience is going to make them a more attractive target for spammers, marketers, and attention-hungry influencers. There is already an entire cottage industry built around tips and tricks for getting yourself featured on Instagram’s explore page, and an ever-evolving cheat sheet of hashtags that users can include if they want a better chance at having their post go viral.

“Instagram has been one of the most vital tools for DEFY, building our brand and reaching new customers,” said Chris Tag, a former creative director at an advertising agency in Chicago who left marketing in 2008 to start his own apparel company. “IG is honestly one of the life-bloods of our brand.”

The company uses hashtags like #handcrafted, #madeintheusa, and #military to find new customers. The process is “akin to how back in the day door-to-door salesman would literally go and seek and new customers by knocking on doors. Some would slam the door in their faces, others were open to what they were about and embraced their brand,” says Tag. “But this is even better, as it's an opt-in community.”

Hashtags that begin as marketing sometimes take on a life of their own. Herschel Supply Co. began using #welltraveled as part of a campaign. The descriptor took off, and now has been used in over 1.5 million posts. Social media specialists like HootSuite advise their clients on how many hashtags to use — five is better than nine — and how to attach yourself to popular tags without looking like a spammer. 

Informal cliques known as “boost groups” have emerged, allowing users to trade likes and comments with one another to try. The goal is to push certain posts to the top of a trending hashtag, ensuring they will be seen by a large audience. “I definitely saw a change within a month. I saw a significant change,” said one boost group member, who asked to remain anonymous. “My attitude around social media changed. It was necessary to be seen, to make a profit.”

"“It was in vain if you didn’t use any hashtags.”"

A boost group didn’t require a huge number of members to be effective, but they had to be targeted. “It was in vain if you didn’t use any hashtags or keywords, because those brought you to the attention of specific communities and rankings,” the boost group member told The Verge. “Every day there would be sharing of insights around what hashtags were trending and worth trying to leverage.” With around a dozen members, this group was able to get their posts to the top of hashtags that had hundreds of thousands, even millions, of posts.

Instagram is quick to acknowledge the challenge. “The fundamental tension there is, you build a product with a surface that gets popular, it’s a high target for spam,” says Krieger. “We will look at signals on both the posting side and the consumption side. Since we know the tap-through rate, the follow-through rate, the scroll-through rate, we can start saying, ‘this was a bad insertion,’ and down-ranking it.”

“On any platform, and especially one of our size, those dynamics are always at play. Something that we’re very firm on is that the safety and health of our community is top priority,” said Ogle. “All that being said, one of the cool things about following hashtags is, for the first time, it gives each hashtag an inbuilt audience, that has a stake in what they’re seeing.”

Instagram has earned a reputation as the “nice” social network, a place that hasn’t been marred by election meddling, hate speech, or child exploitation. User growth on the service is still accelerating, so why rock the boat? The overarching goal, left unspoken, is to have people spend more time the service, and to have them engage more deeply. And as Instagram’s growth has increased, the company has grown more aggressive, not less, about experimenting with new features.

"“Can we capture this existing behavior, and make it better?”"

“The way we always looked at this was, at the core of Instagram are your friends and the people you love. The service without that would be in a lot of trouble,” says Krieger. “But we’re not just that. We have the next ring out from that, which is interest accounts and aggregators. The next ring out is accounts you might encounter in passing on Explore. Can we capture this existing behavior, and make it better?”

There is a business logic to this as well. While advertising won’t be connected to the hashtags you follow when the product launches today, marketers will undoubtedly want to target consumers based on the interests they are passionate enough to bring into their main feed. “I think it could make sense down the line,” says Krieger. “Relevancy is the number one thing we think about with advertising. I can imagine incorporating the signal, either implicitly or explicitly, in a way that is clear.”
Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Instagram knows it’s taking a risk by injecting interests into the main feed, because it’s tried this tweak before. “We experimented with putting the best of Explore into your main feed, but it never felt personal enough,” says Krieger. Adding the ability to follow hashtags, “is a big step change,” he adds, but the company is betting that its systems are now smart enough not to disappoint you.

With the recent launch of Direct, it appears that Instagram may want to carve out a separate experience for messaging, leaving the main app to focus on consumption. “It’s not the kind of app that’s going to have an overflow hamburger menu with 50 options,” says Kriger. “We have a feed, the feed is a user-curated view into the world of Instagram.”

"Hashtags are the atomic unit of interest on Instagram"

Discover Weekly turned casual listeners into Spotify superusers, and Instagram is hoping that hashtags might hold the same appeal for its users. “Explore is quite honestly one of the reasons I left Spotify and came here. It’s arguably the largest social discovery platform in the world,” said Ogle. Hundreds of millions of people use Explore every day. “To me that’s a strong signal that Instagram is already good at this, and if we lean into it we can do more.”

Today’s update will be a big change to how Instagram works, but Ogle is just getting warmed up. “For me it’s not a silver bullet,” he said, as we munched on our decorative pastries under the pink glow of SuperMoon’s neon sign. “It’s a first step that next year we can layer all kinds of cool stuff on top of, with hashtags as our atomic unit for interest on Instagram.”

Stop motion animation by Michele Doying

The Verge

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Qualcomm Unveils Powerful New Snapdragon SoC

Qualcomm on Wednesday announced the Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform, a System on a Chip built for immersive multimedia experiences including extended reality (XR), on-device artificial intelligence and high-speed connectivity.

The SoC will power next-generation Android flagship smartphones and Windows 10 notebooks based on ARM architecture.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

What can Apple learn from its terrible week of bugs?

What can you say about Apple’s terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad week last week? A macOS security flaw and an iOS bug led to emergency security fixes, rapid OS releases, and the general sense that Apple’s software is having some serious safety and reliability problems.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Five hidden features of Android 8.0 Oreo you should be using

Google is pushing Android 8.0 Oreo to Nexus and Pixel devices as device makers scramble to get their phones updated. Google's devices will be the only ones running the new software, at least for a while. What's this Oreo update all about, anyway? Everyone knows about the big stuff, like picture-in-picture and autofill apps, but a lot more is going on if you dig deeper. Here are six awesome hidden Oreo features to get you started.

Monday, December 4, 2017

HDMI 2.1 specs and features: Everything you need to know

HDMI 2.1 is here, delivering breathtaking bandwidth and enabling a raft of mouthwatering new capabilities. The new standard won't impact the average user today or even in the near future, but new hardware coming to market within the next year and into the next decade will deliver better experiences with movies, games, virtual reality, and more.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Microsoft Edge browser now available for all Android and iOS users

Testers had to sign-up to get special access to the new browser, but Microsoft is making both the Android and iOS versions generally available today. Microsoft Edge for mobile is mainly useful if you tend to resume a lot of browsing from a phone to a Windows 10 PC.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Why do you rewatch your own Instagram stories?

Why'd You Push That Button? is back. We took a break last week to feast on Thanksgiving side dishes, and now we've returned to break down why we snack on our own Instagram content. More specifically, we want to know why people rewatch their own Instagram stories and obsessively check who's viewed them.

Monday, November 27, 2017

How to buy the perfect PC case

No matter whether you treat your computer as the centerpiece of your home office or just stuff it under your desk, buying the right PC case matters.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

iPhone 8 Plus vs. iPhone X: Which one should you buy?

For the first time, Apple has not just two sizes of its newest iPhone, but two distinctly different iPhones. There’s the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus, which keep the same form-factor we know and love, Retina display, Home button, and all. And then there’s the new hotness, the bleeding-edge iPhone X, with an OLED display and a TrueDepth camera that unlocks the phone when you look at it.

You’ll notice that Apple didn’t call the iPhone X the “iPhone Pro,” to match the naming scheme of the iPad and MacBook lines. That may be because inside, the iPhone X and the iPhone 8 Plus are really pretty similar. They do have some key differences, however. So, which one should you buy? Without further adieu, here’s a complete comparison between the iPhone X and the iPhone 8 Plus.

iPhone 8 Plus vs. iPhone X: Size

The iPhone 8 Plus is the bigger phone physically, even though the iPhone X’s display is actually larger when measured diagonally.

The iPhone 8 Plus has a 5.5-inch screen, but it’s surrounded by a bezel with the FaceTime camera on the forehead and the traditional Home button on the chin.

On the other hand, the iPhone X has a 5.8-inch screen, but it’s in a more compact package with nearly no bezel, no Home button, and a little “notch” for the front-facing TrueDepth camera system. We think the iPhone X form factor is the iPhone’s best size yet, but if you have larger hands and/or like the bezels, the iPhone 8 Plus may be a better fit.

iPhone 8 Plus: 6.24 x 3.07 x 0.30 inch, 7.13 ounces
iPhone X: 5.65 x 2.79 x 0.30 inch, 6.14 ounces

iPhone 8 Plus vs. iPhone X: Display

The biggest difference between these iPhones is the display. The iPhone 8 Plus sports the same Retina display as it has in prior generations, an LCD that in the Plus size is full HD at 1920x1080.

Apple completely changed that with the iPhone X. It has an edge-to-edge OLED display, which gives it a much higher contrast ratio and support for HDR video. It’s got a higher resolution (2436x1125) and pixel density too—Apple’s even calling it “Super Retina.”

When comparing these phones side-by-side, the iPhone X is the clear winner by far. The colors are rich and pop, text looks clean and sharp, and the black is so deep that we find it mesmerizing. This is the best screen we’ve seen on an iPhone.

iPhone 8 Plus: 5.5-inch, 1920x1080 LCD, 401 ppi, 1300:1 contrast ratio
iPhone X: 5.8-inch, 2436x1125 OLED, HDR, 458 ppi, 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio

iPhone 8 Plus vs. iPhone X: Performance

Inside, the differences aren’t so stark. Both phones pack the same processor, Apple’s 64-bit A11 Bionic system-on-a-chip with an embedded M11 motion coprocessor. Both also have a dedicated neural engine to let AI processing happen on the device.

The A11 Bionic has a whopping six cores: Two for high-performance computing, and four efficiency cores for tasks that don’t require as much performance—or as much power. Apple says the A11 is 75 percent faster than the previous generation.

Our benchmarks between the two phones are pretty similar. Obviously, the A11 Bionic is faster than last year’s A10 Fusion, but what’s of note here—and not surprising—is that the iPhone X essentially performs the same as the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. These three phones have the same processor, so if all you want in a new iPhone is faster performance and you could not care less about new features like Face ID or the cameras, get an iPhone 8 Plus. (You can check out our benchmark scores here.)

iPhone 8 Plus: 6-core, 64-bit A11 Bionic, M11 motion coprocessor, neural engine iPhone X: 6-core, 64-bit A11 Bionic, M11 motion coprocessor, neural engine

iPhone 8 Plus vs. iPhone X: Battery

If battery life is the most important to you, the iPhone 8 Plus with its physically bigger battery should eke out a little more life during Internet use and video streaming, although Apple estimates about the same battery life for talk time and audio playback. We’ve found similar results in our own testing, too.

Both of these iPhones support Qi wireless charging, and Apple wil have its own charging pad next year, although plenty of Qi products exist already.

Both phones also support fast charging if you spring for one of Apple’s USB-C power adapters and a USB-C to Lightning cable. It’s speedy, though: Up to 50 percent charge in just half an hour.

And of course you can always charge up the old-fashioned way too: A standard Lightning cable and USB power brick are still included.

Further reading: Apple AirPower wireless charging pad: Everything you need to know

iPhone 8 Plus: Up to 21 hours talk time, 13 hours Internet use, 14 hours video playback, 60 hours audio playback
iPhone X: Up to 21 hours talk time, 12 hours Internet use, 13 hours video playback, 60 hours audio playback

iPhone 8 Plus vs. iPhone X: Rear camera

The iPhone 8 Plus still has an edge over the regular iPhone 8 when it comes to camera features. But the iPhone X has the same dual-lens camera on the back as the iPhone 8 Plus, and the same video recording features too.

The one little difference is that the iPhone X has “dual optical image stabilization,” meaning it works on both of the rear lenses, while the iPhone 8 Plus has just “optical image stabilization,” according to Apple.

Further reading: The iPhone 8 has the best smartphone camera, DxOMark says, but iPhone X will probably beat it

Further reading: iPhone 8 Plus camera test: Is it worth the upgrade from iPhone 7 Plus?

Camera specs

iPhone 8 Plus: 12-megapixel wide-angle (f/1.8) and telephoto (f/2.8) cameras, optical image stabilization, optical zoom, 10x digital zoom, quad-LED True Tone flash with Slow Sync, Portrait mode, Portrait Lighting (beta at launch)
iPhone X: 12-megapixel wide-angle (f/1.8) and telephoto (f/2.8) cameras, dual optical image stabilization, optical zoom, 10x digital zoom, quad-LED True Tone flash with Slow Sync, Portrait mode, Portrait Lighting (beta at launch)

Video recording

iPhone 8 Plus: 4K video recording at 24, 30, or 60 frames per second. 1080p video recording at 30 or 60 fps. Slo-mo recording in 1080p at 120 or 240 fps. Optical image stabilization, optical zoom, up to 6x digital zoom, time-lapse with stabilization.
iPhone X: 4K video recording at 24, 30, or 60 frames per second. 1080p video recording at 30 or 60 fps. Slo-mo recording in 1080p at 120 or 240 fps. Optical image stabilization, optical zoom, up to 6x digital zoom, time-lapse with stabilization.

iPhone 8 Plus vs. iPhone X: Front cameras

The front-facing cameras on these two phones are so different, Apple gave them different names.

The iPhone 8 Plus has the traditional FaceTime camera, but it has been improved. With a f/2.2 aperture, it takes 7-megapixel stills and records 1080p video. Like the rear cameras, it captures wide-gamut color when taking photos and Live Photos. There’s a Retina screen flash to help you get better lighting for your selfies.

The iPhone X has all of those same features, but its TrueDepth camera goes a lot further. Since you log in to your iPhone X with the new Face ID feature, the TrueDepth camera has special sensors that assist in this secure facial recognition. They include an infrared camera to see you in the dark, a proximity sensor, a flood illuminator, and a dot projector that helps make a 3D map of your face to make sure you’re not a photo.

All the tech in the TrueDepth camera is packed into the little “notch” at the top of the iPhone X screen, and it helps this camera have extra features for taking selfies too. Namely, it supports the same Portrait mode and (beta) Portrait Lighting feature as the rear-facing camera. Plus, it has Animoji, a feature that animates an emoji (like a puppy, a unicorn, or yes, a talking poop) with your voice as you speak. It’s a silly way to show off this much technology, but it’s another thing that’ll be fun to demo for friends after you show them how you can unlock your iPhone X by just looking at it.

iPhone 8 Plus: FaceTime HD camera with 7-megapixel photos and 1080p video, f/2.2 aperture, Retina Flash
iPhone X: TrueDepth camera with 7-megapixel photos and 1080p video, f/2.2 aperture, Retina Flash, Portrait mode, Portrait Lighting (beta), Animoji

iPhone 8 Plus vs. iPhone X: Biometrics

The iPhone X is all screen, which means it doesn’t have a Home button, which means it doesn’t have Touch ID. Instead, Apple uses Face ID to unlock the phone as well as to authorize Apple Pay payments. Third-party apps can also support Face ID to log in, just as they can also use Touch ID.

Face ID and Touch ID create a digital hash based on your face or fingerprint, respectively, and securely store it in the Secure Enclave, a separate coprocessor that handles security features on the device. Then when you log in or authorize a payment, the new facial or fingerprint data you’re inputting is compared with the stored data, and if it doesn’t match, you still get the option of entering your passcode (to log in), or your password (to sign in to a third-party app or make an iTunes Store purchase, for example).

Around iOS, Face ID works like Touch ID. You do have to be looking at the iPhone. You can temporarily disable Face ID by squeezing the Sleep and a volume button at the same time. Or you can turn off Face ID for various features (unlocking your phone, for example) in the Face ID & Passcode section of the Settings app.

On the iPhone 8 Plus, it’s Touch ID as normal. The Touch ID sensor is crazy fast, too, and less likely to be fooled, if you’re worried about that. Specifically, Phil Schiller joked onstage at the iPhone X unveiling that an “evil twin” (identical twin, natch) could potentially fool Face ID—but even identical twins have different fingerprints.

In the real world, it all comes down to preference—at this point, Touch ID feels like second nature, but after a few days of using Face ID, it feels like a more seamless experience. Face ID does have its flaws, however—for example, it doesn’t work when your phone is flat on a table or desk, sometimes low-light environments trip it up, and you may have to remove your sunglasses to use it outside. But when it works, it works impressively well.

Further reading: Face ID on the iPhone X: Apple releases Face ID white paper and support document

iPhone 8 Plus: Touch ID sensor embedded in the Home button
iPhone X: Face ID using the TrueDepth camera

iPhone 8 Plus vs. iPhone X: Price and storage

This probably isn’t a surprise, but the iPhone X costs more. After all, the TrueDepth camera is brand-new to Apple, and the edge-to-edge OLED screen must be more expensive and difficult to manufacture.

In fact, if you only know one thing about the iPhone X, it’s probably, “That’s the iPhone that costs $1,000.” And it does—it’s $200 more than the iPhone 8 Plus, and $300 more than the iPhone 8.

To be (a little bit) fair, iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus are Apple’s two most expensive handsets. All the way at the low end, the iPhone SE starts at $349 (buy from Apple), and Apple still offers the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7, and iPhone 7 Plus at various price points in between.

iPhone 8 Plus:

    $799 for 64GB (buy from Apple)
    $949 for 256GB (buy from Apple)

iPhone X:

    $999 for 64GB (buy from Apple)
    $1149 for 256GB (buy from Apple)

iPhone 8 Plus vs. iPhone X: Availability

Both iPhones are technically available now, but the epilogue to this story is this: The iPhone 8 Plus is a lot easier to find. Although wait times are getting shorter, the iPhone X is in high demand and short supply, and will probably continue to be somewhat scarce in stores, being first-generation technology and all. If you try to buy an iPhone X at the Apple store today, you’re faced with a 1 to 2 week wait time. If you’re shopping with a holiday purchase in mind, you’ll find more deals and sales involving the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone 8 (as well as previous years’ models) than the iPhone X, too.

This isn’t to ding the iPhone X, but some shoppers might wind up going with the iPhone 8 Plus because they can buy one, rather than dealing with the hassle of tracking down the iPhone X in the right color, capacity, and carrier.

iPhone 8 Plus vs. iPhone X: Which one should you buy?

After spending ample time using both the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X, it’s hard to pick a clear winner: Both devices offer a top-notch user experience and pack high-end features. You truly can’t go wrong with either device. It all comes down to which features are the most important to you.

Go for the iPhone 8 Plus if:

  • You’re coming from an iPhone 6 or older—many of the iPhone 8 Plus’s features, like the camera, will be brand-new to you.
  • You’re more price-conscious.
  • You really like Touch ID and have no interest in Face ID.
  • You want a familiar user experience in a faster device, and want to skip the learning curve it takes to nail new gestures.
  • You like the large size of the Plus models.

Go for the iPhone X if:

  • You want the latest and greatest technology.
  • You have to have OLED and/or Face ID.
  • You want a new interface and user experience, but want to stay in the Apple ecosystem instead of switching to Android.
  • You’re on a yearly upgrade plan like Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program—the monthly cost difference is reasonable and it’s a good way to try new tech without a complete buy-in.
  • You’re less concerned with cost and are willing to pay for Apple Care or shell out the big bucks if it breaks.

Mac World

When your phone gets snatched: A survival guide

Let's start with a confession: I'm one of those idiots you heard about on the news last year.

Cast your mind back to July 2016. It was the summer of Pokemon Go, the augmented reality game that had us scouring the streets for Hypnos, Jigglypuffs and Seels. It was also a summer plagued with Pokemon-related calamity. Distracted Pokemon hunters crashed into police cars, wandered onto military bases and fell off cliffs. One man even claimed to have been stabbed while playing the game.

Thankfully, in my case the only thing hurt was my bank balance. Well, that and my pride. I was loitering around CNET's London office, trying to capture a gym, when a gloved hand entered my peripheral vision. I only half noticed as it closed around my phone, a leather-clad thumb unhelpfully blocking my view of the Hypno I was trying to defeat. I flexed my fingers, but something felt wrong. It only dawned on me that my hand was empty when I looked up in time to see two people on a moped zoom away with my iPhone.

Losing an expensive piece of tech stung, but the experience was more unnerving than painful. It wasn't a violent mugging, but I still felt violated. Like you, I'd packed my phone with personal information and photographs, not to mention the apps and tools I use every day. Fortunately, if you find yourself in a similar predicament, or you just lose your phone, these simple steps can get you back on your feet.

Call the police

Call the police and report the theft. You should give them the phone's registration number (IMEI), which you can get from your phone provider if you don't know it (CDMA phones, like those from Verizon and Sprint, use a similar number called an ESN). Better yet, look up your IMEI or ESN in your phone's settings menu when you buy it and write it down for safekeeping. And after you report it, keep the police report or crime reference number -- you'll need it if you want to make an insurance claim.

Contact your phone company

Also get in touch with your phone provider right away. If someone is using your phone to make calls, you may be liable if you don't report it. Once your provider knows your phone's been stolen, it will suspend your service. But beware: A thief could still use an unlocked phone over Wi-Fi. You might also get a replacement phone from your provider, but more on that later.

Change all the passwords

Ideally, you'll have protected your phone with a passcode lock and disabled access to any features from the lock screen. If you haven't, do so immediately (for more security, don't rely only on a fingerprint scanner). On an Android phone, I'd opt for an alphanumeric passcode over a swipe pattern as a thief may be able to guess it by following the finger smudges on your display. And if you aren't already using two-step authentication, now's the time to set it up.

Passcode or no, change any passwords for apps or services connected to your phone the minute you get to a computer. To make sure you'll get everything, make a list of accounts connected to your phone and keep it in a separate place. You should also remotely sign out of any websites or apps you had open. Prioritize your email, social media and anything connected to your bank accounts. Then keep going.

Track your phone

If you've installed Find My iPhone, Find My Device for Android or Samsung's Find My Mobile service, you may be able to see the location of your missing phone. These services also allow you to lock your phone remotely with a new passcode or erase it if you don't expect to get it back. Just remember that you won't be able to use any of these features if the phone isn't connected to a cellular or public Wi-Fi network. You can send the commands at any time, though, and the phone will complete them when it reconnects.

You can also use these apps to remotely disable mobile payment services. That should cover you, but you should still warn your bank right away of possible fraudulent charges.

Reach for the cloud

In an age of streaming music and cloud-based storage, most of the precious information you access on your phone might not even be stored there. Google, for example, automatically syncs your device settings, app data and contacts with the cloud. With an iPhone, either you'll have backed it up to your computer (hopefully quite recently) or synced your contacts, calendar information and settings with iCloud. Apps are retrievable, too: Just go back to your app store to download anything you've paid for to a new device.

The bad news: If you've saved anything to your phone that isn't backed up elsewhere, it may not be retrievable.

Learn to love again

After a day or so navigating the city without the help of Google Maps, you'll have to accept that your old phone isn't coming back. So what to do now? If you have insurance from your carrier or credit card, then your journey ends here: You'll get a new phone to replace your lost one.

For the less responsible among us (guilty!) you've got a few options. Depending on how close you are to the end of your contract, you might be able to upgrade right away. If not, there are other options. You could roll the dice on a used phone or, if you're lucky, someone you know could be about to upgrade and you'll be able to snap up a hand-me-down. It all depends on how much you're prepared to pay. 


You will soon be able to listen to Amazon Music through your Samsung Smart TV

Recently, Samsung has been rolling out new features to its lineup of Smart TVs, such support for YouTube TV. Yesterday, the company announced (via Engadget) that owners can soon listen to Amazon Music through their Smart TVs, the first third-party device to connect to the service.

The company says that users will be able to browse their libraries, playlists and access recommendations and stations through the system. The service will also be accessible through other Samsung audio products, such as soundbars and wireless speakers.

While users can listen to streaming services such as Spotify
through Samsung’s SmartTVs, this might be appealing alternative to Prime users who own a Samsung TV, but who don’t have an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot in their home. The company didn’t say exactly when users will be able to begin listening, saying only that it will be “available starting this month.” The functionality is limited to models from 2015 and newer.

The Verge

Saturday, November 25, 2017

macOS High Sierra

macOS High Sierra:
Everything you need to know about Apple’s latest Mac operating system

The next version of Apple’s operating system for the Mac is called macOS High Sierra. While the OS is mostly about software refinements, it also lays the foundation for future innovations in the worlds of VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality).

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Net neutrality repeal means your internet may never be the same

The FCC is about to pull the rug out from under Obama-era rules on net neutrality. That could be just the start of a whole new internet experience for you.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Frankensteins in history. It's alive!

Amazon Key takes deliveries to new level: Inside your home

The new in-home service will roll out to 37 US metro areas next month and eventually allow you to let in a dog walker or house cleaner.

Amazon wants to get even closer to its customers.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Harman Kardon's Cortana-Powered Smart Speaker Underwhelms

Early reviews of the Harman Kardon Invoke with Cortana -- the smart speaker that features Microsoft's personal assistant -- have been lukewarm at best.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Most powerful micro-scale solar cell yet developed

Scientists have developed a micro-scale biological solar cell that generates more power than any existing cell of its kind.

A microfluidic lab-on-a-chip system that generates its own power is essential for stand-alone, independent, self- sustainable point-of-care diagnostic devices to work in limited-resource and remote regions, said Professor Seokheun Choi, from Binghamton University in the US.

Miniaturised biological solar cells (micro-BSCs) can be the most suitable power source for those applications because the technique resembles the earth's natural ecosystem.

"Micro-BSCs can continuously generate electricity from microbial photosynthetic and respiratory activities over day- night cycles, offering a clean and renewable power source with self-sustaining potential," said Choi.

"However, the promise of this technology has not been translated into practical applications because of its relatively low power and current short lifetimes," he said.

Researchers created a microscale microfluidic biological solar cell that can attain high electrical power and long-term operational capability, which will provide a practical and sustainable power supply for lab-on-a-chip applications.

The bio-solar cell generated the highest power density for the longest time among any existing micro-scale bio-solar cells, according to a study published in the journal Lab on a Chip.

"The device will release biological photo-energy conversion technology from its restriction to conceptual research and advance its translational potential toward practical and sustainable power applications for point-of-care diagnostics to work independently and self-sustainably in limited-resource and remote regions," said Choi.


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Monday, October 16, 2017

Ukraine says cyber attack may happen in next few days

Ukraine's state security service SBU and the state-run Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) said the attack could take place Oct 13 to17 when Ukraine celebrates Defender of Ukraine Day. —

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Will backers of failed startup Skully finally get their US$1,500 smart helmets?

Smart helmet startup Skully is attempting a comeback, promising to finally ship products to the thousands of customers burned by the company's spectacular failure last year.

Google plans to upgrade two-factor authentication tool after high-profile hacks

Google plans on upgrading its two-factor authentication tool with an improved, physical security measure aimed at protecting high-profile users from politically motivated cyberattacks, according to a

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

iPhone X: Absolutely everything you need to know

iPhone X: Absolutely everything you need to know

In the few brief moments we spent with the new iPhone X, we got a sense of its truly game-changing potential. Since then, we've taken a close look at the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus and found them to be incremental, high-quality updates to last year's models. They're safe and sensible phones that, for now, remain overshadowed by the potential of the forthcoming iPhone X. Our initial assessment: unless you need a new iPhone before the end of 2017, we think it's worth holding out to see how the iPhone X performs. (Not everyone agrees.)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Apple TV 4K

Apple TV 4K review

iFixit’s iPhone 8 teardown shows that you really don’t want to crack that glass back

iFixit’s iPhone 8 teardown shows that you really don’t want to crack that glass back

The iPhone 8 has finally arrived, and iFixit got a jump on its teardown of the updated device by traveling to Sydney, Australia to pick it up a bit early. Its examination of the phone shows that while it’s similar in some respect to the iPhone 7, you really want to make sure that you don’t break that glass back.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Google’s new Doodle

Google’s new Doodle celebrates the 100th birthday of Indian chemist Asima Chatterjee

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Ford Motor Puts Design Strategy Under the HoloLens

Ford Motor Company on Thursday unveiled details about its use of Microsoft's HoloLens augmented reality technology in the automotive design process. Ford's design teams have swapped out their clay-sculpting tools -- a staple of the automotive world since the 1930s, when Harley Earl introduced them at General Motors -- for mixed reality headsets and visualization software.

Unlike with the clay models, which can weigh 5,000 or more pounds, designers with HoloLens can make instant changes to side mirrors, grilles, interiors and other vehicle elements. And they can do so without even getting their hands dirty.

Ford has been working with Microsoft's HoloLens technology at its Dearborn, Michigan, studios for the past year. The mixed reality tech has allowed designers to consider proposed virtual design elements as if the additions were part of a physical vehicle. It has allowed engineers to see different shapes, sizes and even textures on vehicles. These displays can be rendered in minutes or hours, whereas using clay models to evaluate the same changes would take weeks or even months.

Ford Motor Company on Thursday unveiled details about its use of Microsoft's HoloLens augmented reality technology in the automotive design process. Ford's design teams have swapped out their clay-sculpting tools -- a staple of the automotive world since the 1930s, when Harley Earl introduced them at General Motors -- for mixed reality headsets and visualization software.

Unlike with the clay models, which can weigh 5,000 or more pounds, designers with HoloLens can make instant changes to side mirrors, grilles, interiors and other vehicle elements. And they can do so without even getting their hands dirty.

Ford has been working with Microsoft's HoloLens technology at its Dearborn, Michigan, studios for the past year. The mixed reality tech has allowed designers to consider proposed virtual design elements as if the additions were part of a physical vehicle. It has allowed engineers to see different shapes, sizes and even textures on vehicles. These displays can be rendered in minutes or hours, whereas using clay models to evaluate the same changes would take weeks or even months.

Ford is not the only automaker to utilize HoloLens technology. Microsoft and Volvo Cars in 2015 announced a partnership that would allow buyers to stay in the physical world while being able to browse an augmented reality showroom that highlighted car customization options, and even allowed potential car buyers take part in virtual test drives.

Augmented Designs

Unlike virtual reality, in which everything the viewer sees is simulated, the HoloLens augmented or mixed reality experience lets designers to see photo-quality backdrops along with other elements that merge with a physical object.

Designers wear wireless headsets that allow them to see real objects with virtual elements overlaid. The HoloLens technology, which is compatible with off-the-shelf Windows 10 computers, provides 3D holographic images. For designers, it means speeding the process. For engineers, it means visualizing the effects a design choice could have on driving conditions -- such as how the placement of a side mirror might create blind spots for the driver.

The headsets can be synced so that multiple team members can view a design simultaneously, aiding the collaborative process. Team members can record audio notes as well.

"VR, and now mixed reality, has been gaining a significant amount of traction in most facets of design," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

"The advantage of being able to create a seemingly life-size image you can explore and often place in real settings is reducing substantially the need for and eliminating the time to create physical models," he told TechNewsWorld.

"You can only get so much out of plans and artists' rendering," Enderle added. "With MR, you can now see the object as it will exist before you create it in natural settings. You can even use simulators and then observe the car from the outside long before it is built, let alone ready for track testing."

Commercial Applications

It would seem that virtual reality in its present state would offer more in the way of consumer applications, whereas augmented or mixed reality would serve the commercial world more effectively.

"The collaboration between Ford and Microsoft is an example of the practical application of AR in commercial settings," suggested Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

"While many focus on consumer AR, Microsoft and companies like Epson, ODG, Meta and others have seen a real market in commercial applications," he told TechNewsWorld.

Mixed reality could be not only a time saver, but also a cost and labor saver for designers and engineers alike.

"It has real benefits in the design process to visualize parts of the car before building clay models and sheet metal," added Krewell.
Opportunities for Innovation

A faster design process also would allow auto makers to refocus their efforts on innovation as they strive to beat rivals to the finish line -- or at least to the showroom floor.

Mixed reality technology can't yet replace all physical testing, but it can increase dramatically the pace of development efforts.

"This is critical for firms like Ford, who are trying to catch Tesla and adjust for the coming world of electric autonomous cars," observed Enderle.

Moreover, while mixed reality might not be an entertainment technology for consumers in the way that VR promises to be, it could enhance their experiences on the showroom floor.

"From the consumer perspective, it creates better ways to configure the car, because they can see a configuration even if it doesn't exist in pictures or on the showroom floor, just by donning the VR or MR goggles," Enderle said.

"Because this allows for more experimentation during the design process, the cars they eventually get should be more pleasing and advance more quickly," he suggested. "This could vastly improve not only the quality of cars, but also our satisfaction with them."

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CCleaner hacked with malware: What you need to know

CCleaner hacked with malware: What you need to know

It seems that CCleaner, one of PCWorld’s recommendations for the best free software for new PCs, might not have been keeping your PC so clean after all. In an in-depth probe of the popular optimization and scrubbing software, Cisco Talos has discovered a malicious bit of code injected by hackers that could have affected more than 2 million users who downloaded the most recent update.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

iOS 11's Control Center

iOS 11's Control Center doesn't let you turn off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth

Apple’s new Control Center in iOS 11 is a lot more fully featured, with a customizable layout and a number of new added controls accessible with Force Touch. One aspect of it that may have, at least at first, appeared like a big plus is now proving to be a bit of a security and usability problem: the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi controls.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Nvidia shares hits record

Nvidia shares hits record high as AI takes centrestage

Shares of Nvidia Corp touched a record high for the second straight day on Monday following yet another steep increase in the chipmaker's price target by a Wall Street analyst.
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