Posts with «author_name|mat smith» label

The Morning After: NVIDIA’s RTX 3050 GPU has landed

Graphics cards are fetching prices normally reserved for limited-run sneakers — even what you might have paid for the rest of your PC. Beyond gamers and power users, cryptocurrency mining has meant unprecedented demand. Coupled with a global chip shortage and supply chain issues, GPU scalpers and resellers are having field days every time a new card appears.

Enter NVIDIA’s $250 RTX 3050. With 2,560 CUDA cores, a boost speed of 1,777 MHz and 8GB of GDDR6 RAM, it's the company's cheapest GPU yet with ray tracing. However, as Devindra Hardawar notes, it's unclear if the 3050 will actually sell for $250 once it hits stores. It’s meant to come in less than the existing RTX 3060, which launched at $329 but now goes for around $1,000 if you shop around online. Yeesh.

Devindra puts the card through its paces right here.

— Mat Smith

 

The biggest news stories you might have missed

Amazon's 'pay-to-quit' program won't cover most US workers this year

It could be due to staff shortages caused by COVID-19.

According to The Information, Amazon has paused its “pay-to-quit” program for the majority of its workers for 2022, and it's unclear if it will be reinstated. The publication has obtained a copy of Amazon's message to its employees, which was then verified by a spokesperson from the company. Typically, Amazon pays its warehouse workers up to $5,000 to quit their jobs after peak seasons as a way to pare down its workforce in the slowdown that follows.

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Streamers can now get pedals to control their feed

Elgato strikes again.

Elgato has released a Stream Deck Pedal that provides three customizable foot pedals to steer your apps and other broadcasting tools hands-free. You can manage Twitch or YouTube, change cameras and start an OBS transition, all with your feet. The set sells for $115, meaning it’s probably not for beginners. But don’t let that stop you!

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You can shut up Google Assistant by saying ‘stop’

Shush.

You can now get Google Assistant to stop talking with just one word: "Stop." That's it — you don't even have to say "Hey, Google". The official Google Twitter account has announced the small but necessary quality-of-life improvement for the company's speakers and smart displays.

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The 'Legacy of Thieves Collection' is a no-brainer for Uncharted fans

For newbies, this collection is a good place to start.

Sony

Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection arrives for the PS5 this Friday, almost five years after Naughty Dog last released a new game in the series. The $50 collection features a number of technical and visual enhancements, but the games themselves are identical to the PS4 versions. Visuals-wise, there are three modes, all of which improve over the original PS4 game. A fidelity setting keeps the frame rate at 30 fps but renders the games in full 4K resolution. Performance mode, on the other hand, runs the games at 60 fps with variable resolution. There’s also a Performance+ mode for people with 120Hz TVs — the games run at 120 fps, but locked at 1080p resolution.

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Android apps come to Windows 11 in 'preview' next month

The free upgrade period for Windows 11 is ending soon, however.

Microsoft's Panos Panay has teased the release of a Windows 11 public preview in February that will bring Android apps to the Microsoft Store. The company didn't say how many apps would be available in this test, but they'll be titles found in the Amazon Appstore.

The preview will also include taskbar upgrades that include call mute controls, simpler window sharing and weather. Microsoft has redesigned the Media Player and Notepad apps, too.

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Valve's Steam Deck goes on sale February 25th

Units will begin shipping February 28th.

Valve

After a two-month delay, Valve's Steam Deck will launch on February 25th. In a blog post, Valve said it would open orders to the first batch of reservation holders that day. They’ll have 72 hours to purchase the gaming handheld, and if they don't, Valve will release their spot to the next person in the reservation queue. Pricing for the Steam Deck starts at $399.

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The Morning After: Neil Young threatens to pull his music from Spotify over Joe Rogan's podcast

Musician Neil Young has asked his management team and record label to remove his songs from Spotify. "I am doing this because Spotify is spreading fake information about vaccines — potentially causing death to those who believe [it]," he said. "They can have [Joe] Rogan or Young. Not both." The content of the letter was confirmed by Young's manager, Frank Gironda, according to The Daily Beast. It’s probably not an empty threat; Young previously removed his music from Spotify due to low audio quality.

The Joe Rogan Experience picks up around 11 million listeners on average, and as you probably already know, some of his guests (and comments) have been controversial. Rogan hosted virologist Dr. Robert Malone, who made baseless claims about COVID-19, saying a "mass formation psychosis" led people to believe the vaccines were effective. This prompted a group of over 1,000 doctors, nurses, scientists and educators to send an open letter to Spotify demanding that it create a misinformation policy.

In an episode that followed, Rogan contended that a rare heart condition had been linked to vaccines when it was actually linked to those that had contracted COVID-19. (You can watch the awkwardness here.) Spotify CEO Daniel Ek previously said he doesn't believe the platform has editorial responsibility for podcasts. The company hasn’t yet responded to Young’s letter.

— Mat Smith

 

The biggest news stories you might have missed

Respawn is making three more Star Wars games

A follow up to ‘Jedi: Fallen Order’ is one of them.

Respawn

EA’s Respawn Entertainment is making three more Star Wars games. The studio — best known for Titanfall and Apex Legends — is working on a follow-up to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, though it’s not clear if the upcoming game is a direct sequel. There will also be a first-person shooter overseen by a former Star Wars Battlefront producer as well as a strategy game from a studio headed up by Greg Foertsch, who previously worked on the XCOM series. Some Star Wars for everyone.

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Samsung built a fingerprint security chip for payment cards, employee IDs and more

It combines a lot of security tech into one chip.

Samsung has announced the "industry's first" all-in-one fingerprint security chip (IC) for payment cards. It can read biometric information via a fingerprint sensor, store and authenticate data with a tamper-proof secure element (SE) and analyze it with a secure processor. While primarily designed for payment cards, it could also be used for "student or employee identification, membership or building access," the company said.

We might have enough payment options, thanks to our phones, but that’s not stopping Samsung. Last year, it announced it was collaborating with Mastercard on a biometric scanning payment card with a built-in fingerprint reader.

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Sony's new soundbar offers virtual surround for $300

There's also a large subwoofer and tight integration with Sony TVs.

Sony has unveiled the HT-S400 soundbar. It has a few tricks while keeping the price down to $300. While it's a 2.1-channel system, it offers virtual surround sound (S-Force Pro Front Surround, if you wanted to know) to provide more immersive audio for your movies and shows. It's also a fairly powerful system for the class, with a rather large 130W wireless subwoofer contributing to a total of 330W output. The soundbar is set to launch in April 2022.

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Report: NVIDIA is preparing to walk away from its ARM acquisition

ARM may be planning an IPO if the deal falls through.

According to a Bloomberg report, NVIDIA is struggling to gain regulatory approval for its $40 billion purchase of ARM and is privately preparing to abandon the deal. Meanwhile, current ARM owner SoftBank is reportedly planning to take ARM public as an alternative to the acquisition. A backlash began soon after the announcement.

The UK, where ARM is based, launched an antitrust investigation into the acquisition in January 2021 while, in the US, the FTC recently sued to block the purchase over concerns it would "stifle" competition in industries like data centers and car manufacturing.

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Google is testing a new replacement for third-party cookies

FLoC seems to have flopped.

With the demise of third-party cookies on the horizon, everyone is scrambling to come up with better ways to get ads in front of our eyes. Google announced FLoC (or Federated Learning of Cohorts) last year. That was then delayed, and the company’s Privacy Sandbox faced regulatory scrutiny. Today, the company announced it's testing out a new approach called Topics API, leaving FLoC by the wayside.

Simplified, Topics API uses the Chrome browser to determine your top five topics. It'll figure out what the topics are by comparing known websites (that you visit) against a list of about 350 topics drawn from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Google's own data. Then, when partner publishers need to know what topics you’re into, they can use Topics API to ping the browser for that data and serve you relevant ads.

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The Morning After: Panasonic's higher-capacity Tesla battery could appear next year

Panasonic’s relationship with Tesla has been a successful one. Last year, the Japanese electronics company was able to spin its $30 million stake in Tesla into $3.6 billion, but the team-up continues. A higher-capacity next-gen battery for Tesla vehicles could go into production next year, boosting EV ranges by over 15 percent.  

Although the battery is said to be twice as big as previous versions, it may have a fivefold increase in energy capacity. Panasonic is reportedly investing around 80 billion yen ($704 million) on new equipment to produce the 4680 cell — just a fraction of that windfall.

The new cell is also apparently cheaper to produce, meaning it could well affect the pricing on future Teslas — in a good way.

— Mat Smith

The biggest stories you might have missed

GOG's New Year Sale includes deals on 'Cyberpunk 2077' and 'The Witcher 3'

Microsoft finally updates the original Surface Duo to Android 11

The James Webb Space Telescope arrives at its final orbit

Washington DC's AG sues Google for 'deceiving users and invading their privacy'

Engadget Deals: Google's Nest Hub Max is down to $169 for today only

Engadget Deals: Sony's WH-XB910N ANC headphones are 49 percent off in Amazon's one-day sale

Google’s next Chromecast with Google TV may be a budget model

It’ll have a remote but only stream at 1080p.

Google is reportedly developing a new Chromecast aimed at folks who haven't yet splurged on a 4K TV. According to Protocol, the low-end device will offer a maximum stream resolution of 1080p.

The device, which could be named Chromecast HD with Google TV, is said to be capable of decoding the AV1 video codec (something the 4K-capable Chromecast with Google TV doesn't support at the hardware level). Given the lower resolution output, the device will cost less than the $50 Chromecast with Google TV.

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Plaid must pay $58 million to users of Venmo, Robinhood and other apps

It reportedly collected "more financial data than was needed" from users.

Even if you've never heard of a company called Plaid, they may owe you part of a multimillion dollar lawsuit settlement. The company connects consumer bank accounts to services like Venmo, Robinhood, Coinbase and other apps and was accused of collecting excessive financial data from consumers. While denying any wrongdoing, it agreed to pay $58 million to all consumers with a linked bank account to any of its approximately 5,000 client apps.

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AT&T is rolling out multi-gig fiber internet to more than 70 cities

New plans will offer symmetrical 2Gbps or 5Gbps data speeds starting at $110 a month.

AT&T is now upgrading its fiber-based broadband service with two new plans that top out at 2Gbps and 5Gbps. The company says its new multi-gig fiber broadband will be available in more than 70 metro areas, including Dallas, LA and Atlanta. The new 2-gig plan is set to start at $110 per month plus tax (or $225 a month for a business fiber), while the faster 5-gig plan will cost $180 per month (or $395 a month for businesses).

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Google’s Pixel smartwatch could finally appear on May 26th

That’d line up with Google I/O.

Engadget

More Google rumors. There have been rumblings for years that Google has been making its own smartwatch. Talk last month suggested a Google-branded watch could arrive sometime in 2022, now the latest murmurs point to the end of May. The smartwatch is expected to have a circular face, like other Wear OS devices seen over the past few years. It will likely have a heart rate sensor and other features adopted from Fitbit, which Google bought last year. But nothing’s confirmed yet — not even that Pixel branding. We’ll share more when we hear more.

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Meta says its new AI supercomputer will be the world's fastest by mid-2022

It's using the AI Research SuperCluster to develop new experiences for the metaverse.

Meta has completed the first phase of a new AI supercomputer. The company believes the AI Research SuperCluster (RSC), once finished, will be the fastest AI supercomputer on the planet, capable of "performing at nearly 5 exaflops of mixed precision compute."

Er, what? Well, Meta says RSC will help researchers develop better AI models that can learn from trillions of examples. Among other things, the models will be able to build better augmented reality tools and "seamlessly analyze text, images and video together."

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The Morning After: The Steam Deck will support Epic's anti-cheat software

Cheating is rife across many gaming platforms, but the biggest cheaters are usually found around PC gaming — despite games companies banning thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of the scamps. Valve's Steam Deck, its upcoming handheld, should make it harder to bend the rules.

Steam

The company announced titles that depend on Epic’s Easy Anti-Cheat (EAC) software can now run on the portable. Valve said adding Steam Deck support to titles that use EAC is “a simple process.” Developers won’t need to update their SDK version or make other time-consuming changes. It joins BattlEye support, meaning, as Valve notes: “The two largest anti-cheat services are now easily supported on Proton and Steam Deck.”

However, it’s still unclear whether some of the most popular multiplayer games on Steam that use BattlEye and EAC, including titles like Rainbow Six Siege and PUBG, will work on day one.

— Mat Smith

Another TV show is making PR problems for Peloton

Must be a hard workout.

Billions

Peloton didn’t need more bad news. The premiere episode of Billions season six includes a scene that, like the Sex and the City follow-up And Just Like That, points a finger at Peloton's Bike for causing a heart attack for Mike "Wags" Wagner (played by David Costabile). Unlike And Just Like That, however, Wagner survives — he even references the AJLT scene, telling staff that he's "not going out" like that character.

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Latest Galaxy S22 leak includes possible pricing for Europe

And less memory for the highest-specced model

Evan Blass

According to WinFuture’s Roland Quandt, European pricing for the Galaxy S22 series will start at €849 (roughly $1,018), with the base models of the Galaxy S22 Plus and Ultra slated to cost €1,049 ($1,188) and €1,249 ($1,414). If accurate, this should mean the 2022 Samsung’s Galaxy S lineup will cost just as much as it did in 2021. In Europe at least, the Galaxy S22 Ultra will ship with 8GB of RAM, while the S21 Ultra packs 12GB of RAM.

And if you thought that was pricey, a separate leak from Android Police earlier this month suggested the company could charge an extra $100 stateside for every model in the Galaxy S22 lineup. We should know more very soon.

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Apple pulls verification requirement for US education shoppers

The move may be temporary.

Earlier this week, Apple began requiring students and teachers in the US to verify their identity through authentication service UNiDAYS before they could take advantage of the company’s discounted education pricing. However, that’s since disappeared. You can once again buy discounted Macs, iPads and other Apple products from the company’s US education website without needing to verify you’re currently a student or a teacher.

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Google claims court ruling would force it to 'censor' the internet

The company appealed to Australia's High Court to overturn a defamation case.

Google has asked the High Court of Australia to overturn a 2020 ruling it warns could have a “devastating” effect on the wider internet. Google claims it will be forced to “act as censor” if the country’s highest court doesn’t overturn a decision that awarded a lawyer $40,000 in defamation damages for an article the company had linked to through its search engine.

In 2016, George Defteros, a Victoria state lawyer, contacted Google to ask the company to remove a 2004 article from The Age. The piece featured reporting on murder charges prosecutors filed against Defteros related to the death of three men. Those charges were later dropped in 2005. The company refused to remove the article from its search results as it viewed the publication as a reputable source.

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The biggest news stories you might have missed


Sony will release a movie made using the PlayStation game-builder 'Dreams'

'We Met in Virtual Reality' finds love in the metaverse

PlatinumGames' long-awaited shoot 'em-up arrives February 22nd

What we bought: A rice cooker whose greatest trick isn't actually rice

The latest 'Star Trek: Picard' season two trailer teases a time-traveling adventure

The Morning After: Peloton denies pausing production on its bikes

New Year fitness resolutions aside, many of us are cautiously making our way back to the gym. What about our home workout spaces? What about your Peloton bike? Following reports from CNBC that the company had put production on hold for its standard Bike and Tread (treadmill) products, as well as looking to cut costs, Peloton says it’s not halted production. However, and note the choice of words, Peloton CEO John Foley said in a letter to employees that the company is "resetting [its] production levels for sustainable growth."

And what to do if you’ve moved on from your Bike? My dad used his stationary bike almost daily when I was growing up. And when he didn’t, it made a pretty functional clothes rack.

— Mat Smith

Why are airlines and telecoms fighting over the 5G rollout?

5G tech has the potential to disrupt sensitive aircraft avionics.

Today, as carriers expand their 5G networks across the country, they’re faced with a dangerous prospect: That one of 5G’s spectrum bands may interfere with the radio altimeters aboard commercial aircraft below 2,500 feet, potentially causing automated landing controls to misjudge the distance from the ground and crash. This forms the basis of a fight between the US airline industry and the country’s phone carriers.

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Oura’s third-generation Ring is more powerful

But not for everybody.

Engadget

Arguably one of the most subtle wearables, the Oura ring is back. It’s smarter, it has a subscription service and it lasts almost a week between charges. But is there enough to recommend it above the Fitbits and the Apple Watches out there? It’s not a device that every fitness person will love, but Oura seems a less ostentatious way of tracking your life. Senior Editor Daniel Cooper slips on the third-generation smart ring.

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Playing Casio’s singing keyboard

Who needs humans?

Engadget

Casio hasn’t been a serious player in the world of synthesizers for some time. Recently, the company teased what seemed like a return to real-deal synths. What we got is the Casiotone CT-S1000V. It looks like a mid-range Casiotone that uses the company’s flagship AiX engine, with vocal synthesis tossed in as a bonus. In short, it’s a singing keyboard.

The novelty of being able to whip up some lyrics in the companion app, send them to the CT-S1000V and play the words as a melody was more than enough to pique Terrence O’Brien’s interest.

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Crypto.com loses $34 million in hack that affected 483 accounts

The cryptocurrency exchange published the results of its investigation.

Crypto.com's Chief Executive Kris Marszalek has admitted that hackers compromised over 400 customer accounts. While the issue was fixed immediately, and the company has fully reimbursed the affected users, unauthorized withdrawals totaled 4,836.26 Ethereum (ETH), 443.93 Bitcoin (BTC) and approximately $66,200 in other currencies. Based on current exchange rates, that's $15.3 million of ETH and $18.7 million of BTC for a total of $34 million in losses.

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Amazon is opening its first physical clothing store

Amazon, but make it fashion.

Amazon is opening its first-ever Amazon Style physical clothing store with the promise of a high-tech shopping experience, confirming a rumor from last year. It will offer brands consumers "know and love," according to Amazon, and an app will let you choose an item, size and color and send it directly to a fitting room or pickup counter. The first store is coming to The Americana at Brand in Los Angeles sometime "later this year," the company said.

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The biggest news stories you might have missed

Consumer Reports now rewards driver monitoring, but only Ford and GM pass muster

'Zero Trust' is the guiding principle of Sikur's latest security-focused smartphone

Wandercraft's latest exoskeleton lets paraplegic patients walk with a more natural gait

Amazon one-day sale knocks up to 40 percent off Anker chargers and accessories

PlayStation's Wrap-Up is back to break down your PS4 and PS5 stats for 2021

Canon's EOS R5C is a hybrid cinema camera with 8K video and 45-megapixel stills

'Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga' will arrive on April 5th

The Morning After: Apple closes education discount loophole

Apple has finally closed a loophole in the US that allowed most buyers to claim education pricing, even if they weren't actually a student or a teacher. First noted on Reddit, the US Apple Store now requires buyers to verify their status via UNiDAYS to be able to purchase MacBooks, iPads and other devices from its education portal. The change appears to have happened over the past few days.

I’m based in the UK, where Apple has long required proof through the UNiDAYS platform to nab that often substantial discount on some of the company’s priciest devices. For legitimate students and teachers, you’ll have to click through to the UNiDAYS' partner page for Apple first and sign in before you get to those discounts. Not that anyone can go too crazy: shoppers are limited to one desktop, one Mac mini, one laptop, two iPads and two accessories per year. Still, that’s a lot of Macs.

— Mat Smith

Anemia could make space travel to Mars a challenge

In space, your body destroys more blood cells than it makes.

NASA

A new study has found that "space anemia" caused by weightlessness in space is not a temporary issue as once thought, the CBC has reported. "As long as you are in space, you are destroying more blood cells than you are making," said the University of Ottawa's Guy Trudel, who led a 14-astronaut study carried out by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

The researchers said anemia could even be an issue for space tourism. The study also noted that "current exercise and nutritional countermeasures of modern space travel did not prevent hemolysis and post-flight anemia" in the astronauts tested.

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Tesla driver in fatal California crash first to face felony charges involving Autopilot

Autopilot was apparently engaged at the time of the crash.

A Tesla owner is facing the first felony charges filed against someone using a partially automated driving system in the US. The defendant, Kevin George Aziz Riad, was driving a Model S when he crashed into a Honda Civic at a California intersection in 2019. It ended up killing the Civic's two passengers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently confirmed the vehicle’s Autopilot mode was switched on at the time of the crash. The NHTSA formally opened a probe into Tesla's driver assistance system in August last year following a string of 17 people killed in 11 crashes involving parked first responder vehicles.

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AT&T and Verizon finally switch on their C-Band 5G networks

Verizon expects to hit over 1,700 cities this month, but AT&T's rollout is more limited.

After a six-week delay — and no availability near many airports for the time being — people in some areas of the US will have access to C-Band services starting today.

AT&T is taking a relatively cautious approach to its rollout, with its C-Band 5G services going live in "limited parts" of eight metro areas, including Detroit and Chicago. Folks in three regions in Florida also use AT&T's C-Band network. Verizon (Engadget's former parent company) says 100 million more people will gain access to its 5G Ultra Wideband network this month.

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Google is discontinuing its old free G Suite tier on July 1st

Affected users will need to move to a paid Workspace plan.

First, it was Google Apps, then G Suite and now it’s Workspace. During all those name changes, Google offered new subscription plans while doing away with older ones. It now plans to sunset a tier that had survived the suite’s most recent rebranding.

In an email spotted by 9to5Google, the company told Workspace administrators it won’t offer G Suite legacy free edition as of July 1st, 2022. This doesn't necessarily mean you have to start paying for GDocs. If you're using Gmail, Docs, Sheets and the rest through a free Google account, you won't be affected by the move. Google will continue to offer free Workspace plans to nonprofits and schools that qualify for its Fundamentals tier.

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Airstream's concept electric camping trailer propels itself

The eStream helps tow itself.

Airstream

According to Autoblog, Airstream’s Thor brand has revealed an eStream concept self-propelling camper. The dual-motor trailer not only reduces the burden on the towing vehicle but can be remote-controlled from your phone to help you hitch up, reverse or simply move camp site. You can even use the motors to shift the weight distribution, so you might not need a special hitch.

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Limited beta brings Google Play Games to Windows

Play some big-name Android titles on your PC.

You can now play Google Play Games on Windows — if you live in the right country. Google has launched registration-based beta access to "popular" Play Games titles on Windows PCs in Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan. Google said it would offer details of later betas and expansions "soon." It previously committed to a generic 2022 rollout.

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The Backbone One made cloud gaming on the iPhone feel natural

It's an expensive controller, though.

Engadget

Whether it’s Xbox Cloud gaming, Stadia, PlayStation Remote Play or just a very severe addiction to Apple Arcade, gamepads are a better way to play many games on your smartphone. Normally that means using some kind of smartphone clip, but there are several options now that snap directly to your phone. The $100 Backbone One is a single-piece controller that extends to fit your iPhone and plugs directly into it.

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The biggest news stories you might have missed

Amazon gives its 'Lord of the Rings' series a redundant name

Microsoft's Xbox Elite Wireless Series 2 controller is $40 off again

I tried Silk's dairy-inspired Nextmilk and wasn't fooled

Apple's WeWork drama 'WeCrashed' premieres March 18th

President Biden signs memo to help improve military cybersecurity

iRobot's Roomba 694 is back down to a record low of $179

GM aims to use hydrogen fuel cells for mobile power generators

The Backbone One made cloud gaming on the iPhone feel natural

Whether it’s Xbox Cloud gaming, Stadia, PlayStation Remote Play or just a very severe addiction to Apple Arcade, gamepads are a better way to play many games on your smartphone of choice. Normally that means using some kind of smartphone clip to attach your phone to your existing controller, propping up your phone and hoping for the best, or choosing from an increasing selection of controllers that snap directly onto your phone. Instead of demanding compatible phone cases or separate pieces that connect either side of the phone, the $100 Backbone One is a single-piece controller that extends to fit it.

Unlike the Razer Kishi, which we tested in detail here, the One is a single device with a telescopic backplate that fits around any iPhone. (With some help: the One isn’t compatible with the iPhone 13 Pro. Backbone has, however, started providing a soft rubberized adapter that slides into the controller, ensuring the latest, bigger iPhones fit snugly and securely.)

Engadget/Mat Smith

So why invest in another controller for your phone when most mainstream console gamepads you probably already own already do the job? There are a few reasons. Backbone One, with its direct Lightning connection, sidesteps the extra jeopardy that comes with Bluetooth-connected controllers, which introduce another latency bump in the road. The company has wisely included a charger pass-through (gaming can burn through your battery) so you can keep your phone plugged in as you play.

The device has a subtle matte black finish, with two collar buttons on each side, a four-button layout on the right side (X, Y, A, B), a slightly-too-spongy d-pad on the left and an analog stick on each side. The sticks feel a little looser than others I’ve used, but they’re accurate and comfortable.

Backbone struck a deal with Microsoft, offering a one-month trial of Xbox’s Game Pass Ultimate for new Backbone owners. It said so on the box, it says it in the app, and it’ll say it in an email if you register the controller. You will get the hint.

The button layout does lean more towards Xbox gamers, but my PlayStation muscle memory meant I didn’t have too many issues using the One to play my PS5 remotely – just the usual drawbacks of playing with a controller that isn’t a DualSense, with its unique tricks and features. Using the touchpad will mean reaching for a section of the iPhone screen, while you’re not going to get any haptic feedback from the triggers or controller itself.

There are a handful of buttons in addition to the stable gaming ones. The orange button launches Backbone’s own game portal (part of the BackBone iOS app), while others offer screen and video sharing shortcuts or what you’d expect when pressing start or menu on console controllers.

The controller’s namesake, the spring-loaded backplate, ensures that once your phone is in place, it all feels solid and unified. The controls aren’t going to pull away, nor is there a chance of your phone slipping out. The more I spent playing through Alan Wake, then Deathloop, as well as Apple Arcade titles like Fallen Knight and Fantasian, the more it started to blur into a handheld – one with a high-resolution OLED screen. Unfortunately, you will have to remove any cases to ensure it fits inside the controller chassis.

The companion app has a few useful tricks. It can capture, edit and upload gaming content, and it’s pretty intuitive. I don’t usually capture gameplay unless it’s for work, but I’ve already used Backbone’s implementation to send short clips to friends. The company has also announced a Backbone+ subscription service that integrates Twitch streaming and even enables cable connections for keyboards and more. (You’ll get a free year of the service when buying the controller.) There’s also the ability to join chat groups and lobbies, populated with other Backbone gamers, but it’s not particularly vibrant in comparison to Discord, Reddit or other existing gamer spaces.

The app also serves as a games library, of sorts, of all the games you can play with the Backbone One, across Xbox, Stadia, Apple Arcade and individual games in Apple’s App Store. Unfortunately, it’s literally all the compatible games, including unremarkable game clones, and Xbox and Stadia titles you might not even have a subscription for. It’s a shame the app couldn’t interface with which games I’d already installed – which would be impossible for PlayStation Remote Play, admittedly. Tapping the Backbone button during a game will log the title into the library for more convenient access next time, at least. There’s deeper functionality here, but your mileage may vary. It will show recommendations of popular titles, but it’s the incredibly familiar sights of Among Us, Genshin Impact and Minecraft.

Engadget/Mat Smith

The Backbone One is a capable iPhone gamepad, so much in fact that sometimes I actively choose to play Stadia and even remote-play PlayStation when I’m in another room. It is, however, an expensive one. $100 can buy a couple of PS5 controllers, or an entire box of third-party Bluetooth gamepads and smartphone clips.

But for that price, you get a slick experience that marries well with your iPhone. Over the holidays, when I visited my family, I was able to effortlessly (aside from reading the tiny text) play Deathloop while being hundreds of miles away from my console. Like several existing split gamer pads for smartphones, it’s like a tiny Switch. The app also tries to pool together all your iOS gaming experiences in a single place, which is a nice idea, even if Backbone doesn’t quite nail the execution.

The Morning After: Microsoft is spending $68.7 billion on the makers of 'Overwatch' and 'Call of Duty'

Microsoft’s been buying up studios for the last couple of years, adding notable developers and game series to the Xbox, righting the wrongs of previous generations of the company’s console — namely the lack of exclusive games. And while the purchase of Bethesda last year seemed the biggest deal made in modern gaming, Microsoft picking up Activision Blizzard blows it out of the water. There’s been a mixed response, however.

First off, the studio is mired in multiple investigations into allegations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination at the company, with calls for CEO Bobby Kotick to step down. Further, as Senior Editor Jessica Conditt lays out, this puts an incredible amount of industry power — and titles — in the hands of one gaming platform. (Two if you include PC.)

Christian Petersen via Getty Images

And what about exclusivity? In his blog post about the acquisition, Xbox’s Phil Spencer didn’t address Sony or Nintendo platforms specifically, but he alluded to the possibility of cross-platform support. “Activision Blizzard games are enjoyed on a variety of platforms, and we plan to continue to support those communities moving forward,” he said, without getting into specifics. Spencer said similar things regarding Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls VI at first, only for his comments to change later.

— Mat Smith

Toddlers and their parents are mad about Google changing its white noise

Nest speakers are now playing a different, shorter sound.

Multiple users noticed that Google recently changed its white noise on its Nest speakers series. A new ambient noise was repeating every 10 minutes, when it used to repeat every hour, with the previously crisp sound file now apparently "muffled" and quieter than before.

There were at least 100 complaints on Nest community forums, with many people saying they use the white noise to get their babies or toddlers to sleep. The feedback reached Google, which has reverted the feature back to how it was. Rest easy, angry toddlers.

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COVIDTests.gov is now accepting orders for free rapid tests

You can request four tests per household, and the USPS will start deliveries later this month.

A little earlier than scheduled, folks in the US can now order free at-home COVID-19 tests from a United States Postal Service website. Households can each request one set of four rapid antigen tests. USPS will start shipping the kits later this month, usually within seven to 12 days of ordering.

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Garmin's new Fenix 7 smartwatches have a flashlight built in

The premium multisport watch has been button-only until now.

Garmin

Garmin’s new Fenix 7 line will now include touchscreens — a first for this series. The great outdoors, with sweat, dirt, gloves and the rest, can usually mess with the proper workings of a touch interface, so it’ll be intriguing to see how this works out. The new watches also include a new multi-LED flashlight, which can alternate between red and white as you run, matching your personal cadence.

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Fortnite's latest update adds climbable monsters

And Tilted Towers are coming back!

Epic

Say hello to Klombos. They’re climbable monsters with blowholes ion their heads to launch you into the sky. They also offer up items if you feed them. Provoke them, however, and they will attack. The latest update also revives Tilted Towers, arguably Fortnite's best-known location. While there appear to be some cosmetic changes, you'll have the chance to revisit the sniper-friendly clock tower.

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The biggest news stories you might have missed


The Kingdom Hearts trilogy is coming to Nintendo Switch on February 10th | Engadget

Weber's 2022 smart grill lineup includes gas and pellet options

Logitech's new Pen is a rechargeable stylus for classroom Chromebooks

'OlliOlli World' is a friendly but deceptively difficult skateboarding game

Roku is making a Weird Al mockumentary starring Daniel Radcliffe

Marvel's 'Moon Knight' series premieres March 30th on Disney+

YouTube (mostly) abandons its original content ambitions

The Morning After: Spain sets rules (and fines) for cryptocurrency promotion

Governments are paying more attention to the rise and rise of cryptocurrencies – and their tax implications – whether it’s the major players like Bitcoin and Ethereum or newcomers looking to pick up users, investors and headlines.

In Spain, influencers and other advertisers with more than 100,000 followers will soon have to notify the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV) at least 10 days before plugging crypto assets. They'll face fines of up to €300,000 (around $342,000) for breaching the rules.

And it’s already happening. Some influencers who have plugged crypto-assets and related products have found themselves in hot water. In July 2021, French authorities fined a reality TV star €20,000 ($22,800) for “misleading commercial practices” over a Bitcoin trading site ad on Snapchat. More recently, Kim Kardashian and Floyd Mayweather were named defendants in a class-action lawsuit that accuses them of taking part in a "pump and dump" scheme earlier this month.

— Mat Smith

Apple may have dropped built-in noise cancellation on the iPhone 13

It's been a long-running accessibility feature on past iPhones.

Engadget

Apple's Noise Cancellation accessibility feature has been a staple on past iPhones but may have been permanently removed from the iPhone 13 series. The feature "reduces ambient noise on phone calls when you are holding the receiver to your ear," a feature that can help make calls easier to hear.

"Phone Noise Cancellation is not available on iPhone 13 models, which is why you do not see this option in [the Accessibility] settings," Apple support told one of 9to5Mac's readers. When the reader asked for clarification, the support team confirmed the feature is "not supported."

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Even Walmart might be getting into cryptocurrency and NFTs

Patents have been filed.

CNBC is reporting that Walmart filed several trademark applications with the US patent office in late December for selling virtual goods. Meanwhile, in another filing, it said it would provide cryptocurrency and NFTs. While the documents don't necessarily guarantee action, they’re surprisingly detailed.

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That time France tried to make decimal time a thing

Days were divided into ten parts.

pjjones via Getty Images

The French Revolution of 1789 set its sights on more than simply toppling the monarchy. Revolutionaries sought to break the nation free of its past, reframing how time itself was measured. In short, it tried to make decimal time happen. Senior Editor Andrew Tarantola explains the attempt.

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Samsung's new mobile processor uses an AMD ray-tracing GPU

It's likely to appear in the upcoming Galaxy S22.

Samsung’s first mobile processor with an AMD RDNA 2-powered GPU will allow ray-tracing and other gaming features. The system-on-chip (SoC) will likely appear in Samsung's upcoming Galaxy S22, rumored to be launching at an Unpacked event on February 8th.

AMD and Samsung announced a collaboration back in 2019, with the expectation that AMD's graphics tech would be used in Exynos smartphone processors. Rumors early last year suggested that AMD-powered Samsung processors were coming soon, and at Computex, AMD subsequently confirmed an upcoming Exynos mobile system-on-chip would feature its RDNA 2 graphics tech.

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Awesome Games Done Quick raised a record $3.4 million for charity

US airlines warn C-Band 5G could cause 'catastrophic disruption'

Samsung's 14-inch Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra may offer equally massive specs

The next iPad Pro will reportedly offer MagSafe charging and a 'brand new chip'

The Morning After: What is Sony’s smartphone plan?

I’m not sure what’s in Sony’s playbook when it comes to selling its phones in the US. Take the Xperia 5 III. After launching in other regions last year, the phone is only now available stateside for $1,000. This is its middle-ish high-end phone, with the flagship Xperia 1 series of smartphones (seen above) both bigger and pricier.

Sony

For that price, this Xperia does have things to offer. The autofocus tricks, courtesy of Sony’s camera arm, are often impressive. The Xperia 5 III can also record 4K video at up to 120 fps; it’s a camera-first smartphone designed for folks who are really into photography or video. But, well, that’s true of all of Sony’s recent phones. And if you’re dying for truly cutting-edge smartphone photography, perhaps the Xperia Pro-I, with a 1-inch camera sensor, would fulfill the brief more clearly. It’s... only $800 more — further evidence of Sony’s smartphone prices feeling entirely separate from its competitors.

— Mat Smith

Sony A7 IV camera review

A powerhouse of a hybrid camera

Engadget

Sony’s A7 IV is a successful followup to its popular mainstream A7 III. Resolution is up considerably to 33 megapixels, and image quality is much improved overall. Video is now on par with rivals with 4K at up to 60p with 10 bit 4:2:2 quality. Autofocus is incredible for both video and stills, and the in-body stabilization does a good job. The biggest drawbacks are the relatively high price and the rolling shutter that limits use of the electronic shutter. Steve Dent puts the newest, best Sony camera to the test. (And I guest star as a voice-over talent.)

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Comcast tests the first multigigabit cable modem

But will you get full use of that bandwidth?

Comcast has successfully tested the first 10G modem capable of multigigabit speeds. The Broadcom-built prototype can provide download and upload bandwidth topping 4Gbps. At those speeds, downloading all 61 gigs of Call of Duty: Vanguard for PC would take just over two minutes.

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'Baby Shark' is the first YouTube video to reach 10 billion views

Sorry, everyone.

YouTube

Doop doop doop doop doop doop. Times 10 billion.

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This is the beginning of the end for the Xbox One

Microsoft is no longer making the consoles.

We learned in July 2020 that Microsoft had discontinued the Xbox One X and Xbox One S Digital Edition. Now, it has emerged the company also quietly stopped making the Xbox One S by the end of that year, “to focus on the production of Xbox Series X/S,” according to Xbox’s senior director of console product marketing.

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Woman sentenced to prison for stealing 3,000 iPods intended for students

The employee also filed fraudulent tax returns to try to cover up her actions.

Kristy Stock was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for her role in a scheme to steal and resell more than 3,000 iPods intended for Native American students. The charges against Stock included both tax fraud and transportation of stolen goods. Stock was supposed to use federal grant money to buy iPods to distribute to students. However, thanks to help from other conspirators James Bender and Saurabh Chawla, the group ended up shipping the stolen iPods to Maryland where they were listed on eBay before being sold at a “substantial” markup.

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Facebook, Google, Twitter and Reddit subpoenaed over January 6th insurrection

Company responses so far have been 'inadequate,' according to the committee.

Facebook owner Meta, Google, Twitter and Reddit have been subpoenaed by the Congressional select committee investigating the January 6th insurrection at the US Capitol. Two key questions for the select committee are how the spread of misinformation and violent extremism contributed to the violent attack on our democracy, and what steps — if any — social media companies took to prevent their platforms from being breeding grounds for radicalizing people to violence,” committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said.

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Samsung's Galaxy Buds 2 are back on sale for $100

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Pioneer DJ debuts DDJ-REV series of battle-style controllers