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Should Samsung Galaxy S8 owners buy a Gear VR or Google Daydream?

This week, Google announced a major expansion of its Daydream virtual reality platform. Daydream, currently only available on niche Android phones, is rolling out to the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus this summer. That means that millions of smartphone owners will soon have two huge tech companies trying to sell them VR headsets.

Google is offering the $79 Daydream View, which you’ll need to launch Daydream apps on your phone. Samsung sells the $129 Gear VR, which lets you access Oculus Home, a platform created by Facebook-owned VR company Oculus. Both headsets work the same way: after you clip a phone into the headset, you can interact with VR experiences using a small handheld remote. But they look and feel very different, and each has a completely separate app ecosystem.

Unlike picking between two expensive desktop headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, buying a mobile headset isn’t a huge investment — most of the cost is in the phone itself. Retailers and manufacturers also love offering VR headsets as sweeteners, so you may end up getting one (or maybe both) for free.

But if you’re going to buy a Gear VR or Daydream View, which one is a better use of your money? We’re here to answer that question.

  Photo by Amelia Krales / The Verge

You don’t want to order anything right now — it’ll likely be a couple of months at least until the update. But based on the current app ecosystem, you’ll find more to do on a Gear VR this summer, outweighing its higher price. It’s worth considering getting Daydream too, though, especially as its library expands. Keep an eye out for sales, and you may get both at a deep discount or completely free. And if you’re not wild about either one, you can hold off without feeling too much fear of missing out.

For the rationale behind this verdict, read on.

The case for Daydream

The Daydream View is $50 cheaper, for one thing. It’s more compact and less intimidating than the Gear VR, and it’s quicker and easier to insert your phone and get started. You’ll get access to YouTube VR, which is one of the default locations for posting 360-degree video. (You can access YouTube videos through Samsung’s Gear VR web browser, but it’s a lot less convenient.)

Daydream also connects you to a Google ecosystem that you’re probably already invested in. You don’t have to maintain a separate Oculus account, and Daydream lets you launch VR experiences directly from your home screen instead of going through another app. Daydream also makes it very easy to launch web-based VR experiences, and its VR version of Chrome will let you bookmark them on a desktop and come back to them later in VR.

The case for Gear VR

  Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Games and apps. Daydream boasts of its fast-growing catalog, but it’s still small compared to the Gear VR’s offerings, and it’s unlikely to reach parity by this summer. While it doesn’t have YouTube, there is a Facebook 360-degree video app. And unsurprisingly for a Facebook-owned company, Oculus has a more robust social environment so far, with shared rooms and unusually cool avatars.

The Gear VR hardware also has benefits. Its straps are less elegant but fit on your head more snugly, and it’s got a focus dial for different pupil distances, which can make the image clearer for some people. Its side trackpad also offers a failsafe if your controller runs out of battery, an issue I’ve had with the rechargeable Daydream remote.

The Gear VR isn’t an intrinsically better product or platform, but for now, you’ll find more to do on it, unless you’re specifically invested in YouTube’s 360-degree video. When you’re in a price range between “impulse purchase” and “major investment,” it’s worth paying more for something that will likely get the most use in the short term.

Google Daydream and Gear VR: what apps should you try?

Category Daydream View Gear VR Both
Category Daydream View Gear VR Both
360-degree video Youtube Facebook 360 Jaunt, Within, NextVR
2D video Google Play Movies, HBO Now Oculus Cinema Netflix, Hulu
Web browser Chrome VR Oculus browser, Samsung Internet
Social experience Group YouTube sessions Oculus Rooms AltspaceVR, vTime
Games Virtual Virtual Reality, SculptVR, Need for Speed: No Limits VR Dead Secret, Minecraft, Rangi, Esper, Dead Secret, Hitman Go VR Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, EVE: Gunjack, Wands
Total apps, May 2017 153 772

The Gear VR and Google Daydream have very different ecosystems. Here are some of the games and experiences you should try on each.

The case for neither

Mobile VR headsets are primarily entertainment devices, not vital productivity tools. And the entertainment they offer is fun, but it’s less sophisticated than what you’ll find on more mature mediums, and there’s not nearly as much of it. One of the most popular kinds of content — 360-degree video — is available outside VR, too.

Mobile VR headsets are also less comfortable than desktop ones, because you’re putting the weight of an entire phone on the front of your face. The controllers work impressively well considering the technical challenges involved, but they provide a limited range of motion.

I’d encourage anyone who’s interested in VR and has a Galaxy S8 to get a mobile headset. But it won’t hurt to wait a year or two and see how things develop. Google just opened submissions for Daydream’s Google Play section a few months ago, so the app selection may look very different by then. Besides, in the next generation of VR, the best mobile headsets might not even need phones.

AMD’s next GPU generation is almost ready

AMD already had a huge win this year with its all-new Ryzen CPUs. Now the question is whether AMD can pull off another upset in the GPU space. AMD has been promising its new “Vega” architecture for over a year now, and it’s time to see the results. Well, it’s almost time.

This week AMD announced the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition, a high-end card that’s aimed at professionals and workstations, not necessarily gamers. In fact, AMD explicitly suggests gamers wait “a little while longer” for a Radeon RX Vega card that will be cheaper and gaming-optimized.

The Radeon Vega Frontier Edition has 64 compute units, roughly 25 teraflops of half precision compute performance, and an enormous 16GB of HBM2 (High Bandwidth Memory, the sequel). The card has a huge performance advantage over existing professional AMD cards, even though it’s built with the same 14nm process. The new memory has a lot to do with it, but Vega also adds other architecture optimizations designed to improve common workflows. Anandtech calculates the boost clock speed is around 1.59GHz, which also probably helps. According to AMD, it’s the fastest graphics card in the world.

For instance, AMD claims the Vega Frontier Edition is 30 percent faster than Nvidia’s Tesla P100 at machine learning jobs, and that it has a similar advantage over the current “world’s fastest video card,” Nvidia’s Titan Xp, with popular CAD applications.

Of course, performance wins don’t matter much when your card isn’t on the market yet — Nvidia’s Pascal architecture has been available for over a year, and AMD is definitely playing catchup.

The card will ship in late June, and we’re supposed to get a few more details middle of June — like a price tag, presumably, and power requirements. The rest of the Vega lineup, built for regular humans who want to do this silly thing called “play video games,” is supposed to hit sometime this summer.

Twitter warns Vine users that email addresses and phone numbers were exposed

Vine as we once knew it has already been shut down, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean the information you provided to the Twitter-owned company is secure. Twitter just sent out a mass email to Vine users alerting them of a “bug” that briefly allowed third parties to view email addresses and phone numbers associated with Vine accounts. If you get the email, your information was likely exposed — though that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s being misused by anyone. The company makes no mention of any passwords having been exposed during the window that it claims lasted “less than 24 hours.”

The bug affected the Vine Archive, which the company describes as a “time capsule” (perhaps graveyard?) of all Vines that were uploaded with the service. The Vine Archive remains viewable from web browsers, although no new uploads are supported; Vine’s smartphone app was repurposed into a camera app and can no longer browse the defunct social network.

Twitter is urging users who receive the email to remain alert for suspicious emails or text messages. The full email follows below.

Dear Vine account holder,

We are writing to let you know that we were alerted to — and immediately fixed — a bug that affected the Vine Archive for less than 24 hours. This bug had the potential to expose the email address and phone number associated with a Vine account to third parties under certain circumstances.

In our investigation, we discovered that the email address and phone number linked to your account were exposed. We want to emphasize that this information can’t directly be used to access your account, and we have no information indicating that it has been misused. We take these incidents very seriously, and we’re sorry this occurred.

As a security best practice, we recommend that you be cautious if you receive emails or text messages from unknown senders. Please keep in mind that Vine will only send you communications from @twitter.com, and we will never send emails with attachments or request your password by email.

For more tips on how to avoid fake emails and stay safe online, read the Twitter Help Center and the FTC’s guide on phishing.

– Vine Support

Almost all WannaCry victims were running Windows 7

One week after it first hit, researchers are getting a better handle on how the WannaCry ransomware spread so quickly — and judging from the early figures, the story seems to be almost entirely about Windows 7.

According to data released today by Kaspersky Lab, roughly 98 percent of the computers affected by the ransomware were running some version of Windows 7, with less than one in a thousand running Windows XP. 2008 R2 Server clients were also hit hard, making up just over 1 percent of infections.

Windows 7 is still by far the most common version of Windows, running on roughly four times as many computers as Windows 10 worldwide. Since more recent versions of Windows aren’t vulnerable to WannaCry, it makes sense that most of the infections would hit computers running 7. Still, the stark disparity emphasizes how small of a role Windows XP seems to have played in spreading the infection, despite early concerns about the outdated operating system.

The new figures also bear on the debate over Microsoft’s patching practices, which generated significant criticism in the wake of the attack. Microsoft had released a public patch for Windows 7 months before the attack, but the patch for Windows XP was only released as an emergency measure after the worst of the damage had been done. The patch was available earlier to paying Custom Support customers, but most XP users were left vulnerable, each unpatched computer a potential vector to spread the ransomware further. Still, Kaspersky’s figures suggest that unpatched XP devices played a relatively small role in the spread of the ransomware.

Some help is already arriving for systems infected by WannaCry. Because of sloppy coding, researchers have found that private system encryption keys can often be recovered from infected machines, allowing users to undo the damage done by the ransomware. A researcher from Quark Security has published an automated tool to manage that process, which should work for Windows 7, XP, Vista, and other affected versions.