May 8, 2017 / Comments Off on Apple will provide free Smart Keyboard repairs for three years because of ‘functional issues’
Apple is going to cover repair costs for its Smart Keyboard iPad accessory for longer than the typical one-year warranty. Now, they’ll be free for up to three years. The company has discovered that some of the keyboards “may experience functional issues during use.” Both MacRumors and 9to5Mac reported on the extended service program.
In an internal memo sent to its retail stores and authorized repair providers, Apple runs through a handful of potential defects that some units have exhibited. They include unresponsive keys, stuck keys (and repeating keystrokes), and problems connecting to the iPad via the tablet’s Smart Connector.
The Smart Keyboard comes in both 12.9- and 9.7-inch versions, which corresponds with the two current iPad Pro sizes. The smaller keyboard retails for $150 and the larger is slightly more expensive at $170. Apple regularly extends the timeframe during which it will conduct free repairs when the company discovers hardware issues affecting one of its products. Customers who might’ve already paid out of pocket for a previous Smart Keyboard repair can expect to be refunded soon.
Alexa is absolutely crushing the smart assistant competition.
Amazon’s line of AI voice-controlled Echo speakers gobbled up a massive 70.7 percent of the marketshare in the first forecast on digital assistant usage by business research firm eMarketer. Alexa-enabled devices lapped the next closest competitor, Google, by nearly 50 percent of the marketshare, as just 23.8 percent of users reported they’ll use the Home speaker. “Others,” which include offerings from Lenovo, LG, Harmon Kardon, and Mattel, hold just 5.6 percent of users.
The forecast reports 35.6 million Americans said they’ll use a voice-activated assistant device — defined as a “standalone device whose core functionality is a voice-enabled digital assistant” — at least once a month this year. This is eMarketer’s first look at the burgeoning smart assistant market, but the firm claims the devices’ usage has ramped up 128.9 percent from last year.
Amazon rules the smart hub roost now, but that could be in large part due to its early entry into the market. The first Alexa-enabled speaker, the Echo, was released back in June 2015, while Google waited until the holiday season of 2016 to roll out the Home, more than a full year later. Because of this head start, eMarketer’s analysts predict Amazon will hold onto that top spot even as Google and other competitors gain ground.
More general virtual assistant usage, factoring in OG Apple AI assistant Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, is growing, too. eMarketer reports 60.5 million Americans said they’ll use one of the virtual assistants at least once a month, up 23.1 percent from last year. That number encapsulates 27.5 percent of smartphone users and nearly a fifth of the entire population of the U.S., almost doubling the number of people using the AI assistants.
Apple’s lurking in the background
Apple is notably missing from the marketshare forecast, but that’s not an oversight. The company offers the AI in the iPhone and other devices with a key component lacking in the Echo and Home systems: screens.
Apple’s SVP Phil Schiller recently went on record about his feelings about the speaker-based voice assistants like Echo and Home in an interview with NDTV’s Gadgets 360, and why Siri won’t ever be just a disembodied voice in a speaker hub.
“Well, I won’t talk to either one specifically, [I] don’t want to,” he said of Google and Amazon. “My mother used to have a saying that if you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing at all.”
OK, Thumper — we all remember that little nugget of wisdom from Bambi.
Schiller continued to talk about his qualms with AI speakers like Home and Echo nonetheless. His main issue: the lack of a screen hampering the usefulness of an AI assistant. “I think voice assistants are incredibly powerful, their intelligence is going to grow, they’re gonna do more for us, but the role of the screen is gonna remain very important to all of this,” he said.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Apple is rumored to be developing its own smart home hub to take on Alexa and Google Assistant. The device, which reliable leaker Sonny Dickson claims could be announced at Apple’s upcoming World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) event in June, is purported to feature Beats technology for the speaker system and, following Schiller’s inclinations, will run a version of iOS with a touchscreen.
Images of what could be Amazon’s next-gen, touchscreen-sporting Alexa hub, internally dubbed “Knight,” also recently leaked, so Alexa surely won’t just be a voice in a box for long. Apple’s waiting in the wings, however — so the competition to be your personal assistant is bound to heat up even more into a three horse race between the biggest companies in the world.
Instagram is taking yet another step to embrace the raw and brave conversations around mental heath that happen on its platform.
On May 8, the social media giant announced the launch of a new awareness campaign called #HereForYou, which highlights how the platform has helped support users struggling with mental illness. The campaign celebrates Instagram users who boldly speak out about their mental health journeys on platform, which in turn creates space for others to do the same and connect in the community.
“Every day, people use Instagram to share their mental health journeys and connect with communities of support,” Instagram said in a release. “From dedicated accounts tackling real issues, to hashtags of support and kind comments, Instagram has become an important community of support. We are inspired by these voices.”
“Through Instagram, I was able to connect with other girls going through similar things.”
A video promoting the campaign, which started appearing to users as a sponsored post from Instagram on May 8, features three Instagrammers who have used the platform to start conversations around mental health. Those advocates include Elyse Fox, who started @SadGirlsClub to support girls of color experiencing mental illness, and Luke Ambler, who started the viral hashtag campaign #ItsOkayToTalk to encourage men to talk about suicidal thoughts and depression.
“Through Instagram, I was able to connect with other girls going through similar things,” Fox says in the video. “My main thing is to bring girls together, and to let the girls know they’re aren’t alone.”
About 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. will experience mental illness in any given year. Getting candid on social media about mental health conditions has become a popular way to challenge stigma and connect with community — and Instagram has long been working to support people who use their platform for this purpose.
About 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. will experience mental illness in any given year.
Throughout the past year, Instagram has rolled out several tools to better support users experiencing mental illness. As of October, users can also anonymously report others who may be in need of mental health support, with Instagram then sending the user a message with mental health resources in their country. These resources also display when someone visits a hashtag for a sensitive topic, like hashtags associated with self-harm, eating disorders, and suicide.
The platform, however, has long been critiqued for policing its app too heavily, including banning some body positive hashtags and removing photos featuring menstrual blood and breasts.
Instagram recently launched the website instagram-together.com to document their efforts to develop tools addressing bullying, mental health, and other sensitive topics with more transparency.
May 8, 2017 / Comments Off on How to delete your data from your old devices
We store the entirety of our digital lives on the devices we use the most like our phones and computers. Unfortunately, when many people trade in their old gadgets for newer, faster ones, they don’t delete that data.
That’s a huge problem. If you’re not careful, a stranger can access not only your photos, but your emails and web history as well. And you don’t want anyone looking at your web history, right? I didn’t think so.
But you don’t want to just delete all of your data and start fresh. Instead, you’ll need to back up your old device, so you carry your info over to your new gadget.
It sounds like a lot of work, but if you follow these steps, you’ll be done in no time.
Let’s start things off with Apple’s iPhone and iPad. You’ve got two options when it comes to backing up your iPhone: Apple’s (AAPL) iCloud or a physical external drive.
Back up your data
To back up your iPhone via to your computer, connect your phone to your PC or Mac and Launch the iTunes app.
Next, click the small “Device” button near the top left corner of the screen and select “Back Up Now” under “Manually Back Up and Restore.” Your computer will automatically begin backing up your phone.
To back up your handset to iCloud, open the Settings app, and tap your name at the top of the screen. From here, select “iCloud” then scroll down and choose “iCloud Backup.” Tap “Back Up Now” and your iPhone will begin backing itself up to the cloud.
Delete your data
Now that you’ve backed up your data, you can reset your old device. To do this, open the Settings app and tap “General.” Scroll down to the bottom of the screen and choose “Reset.”
Next, select “Erase all Content and Settings.” You’ll then be prompted to enter your iPhone’s password. Enter it and select the “Delete iPhone” prompt at the bottom of the screen.
You can now donate, sell or recycle your iPhone or iPad as you please.
Google’s (GOOG,GOOGL) Android is the most widely used mobile operating system in the world, so chances are you or someone you know needs to ditch an old Android smartphone or tablet.
Back up your data
To back up your data, open the Android Settings app, or slide down the Notifications shade and tap the gear icon. From there, scroll down to “Personal” and select “Back up & reset.”
Ensure the “Back up to Google Drive” option is enabled, and tap “Back Up Account.” You’re all set.
Delete your data
With your data backed up, you can now scrub your information from your phone or tablet. To do that, open the Settings app again, scroll down to “Personal” and select “Back up & reset.”
Choose “Factory data reset” and tap “Reset Phone” at the bottom of the screen. Enter your security password, and your data will be completely deleted from your device.
Microsoft Windows 10
Getting rid of your old Microsoft (MSFT) Windows-powered PC? You’re probably going to want to hold on to all of those old photos and files you’ve saved over the year.
Back up your data
If you’ve got a thumb drive or other kind of external storage device, you’ll want to plug it into your computer.
Next, open the Start menu and click the gear icon in the bottom left corner of the screen and select Update & security. Click “Back up” and then select the plus sign next to “Add a drive.”
Now, choose the drive to which you want to back up your data. Next click “More options” under Automatically back up my files and scroll down to “Add a folder.” From here you can choose which files you’d like to back up to your device.
Scroll up the page and click “Back up now,” and you’re set.
Delete your data
With your data all backed up, you can now clear your PC of all of your files. Thankfully, Microsoft has made the process far easier to do this in Windows 10 versus prior versions of the operating system.
Open the Settings app by clicking the gear icon in the Start menu again, and select Update & security. Scroll down to and select Recovery then click “Get started” under Reset this PC.
Select “Remove everything” on the next page and then choose “Remove files and clean the drive.” This will completely remove all of your files, programs and settings from your machine.
Apple’s Mac desktops and MacBook laptops are known for their longevity, but eventually you’re going to have to retire your aluminum-covered machine due to old age. Before you do that, though, you’ll need to back up and delete your data.
Back up your data
Apple’s macOS has a built-in program for backing up your data called Time Machine. To use it, click the Apple icon in the top left corner of any screen and select “System Preferences.” From here select the Time Machine app and choose “Select Backup Disk.”
Connect an external drive to your Mac and then select it from the available list. Back up your data, and your information will be saved to your drive.
Delete your data
Okay, now that you’ve backed your information up, you can delete it from your machine. To do that, Apple suggests beginning by signing out of your iTunes, iMessage and iCloud accounts.
Next, restart your Mac and, while it’s rebooting, hold down the Command and R buttons at the same time until you come to the Disk Utility screen. Select Disk Utility, click your Mac’s main storage model and then choose “Unmount” and “Erase.”
Next, quit the Disk Utility and click “Reinstall” and “Continue.” Follow the on-screen prompts and you’ll have a freshly cleared Mac.
Once you’ve cleaned up your device, you can choose to donate it, sell it or recycle it properly. Then, you can head out and get a totally new gadget. Because why wouldn’t you?
More from Dan:
Email Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.
May 8, 2017 / Comments Off on The Nixie Machine II is a mean-looking clock for serious geeks
Nixie (“Numeric Indicator eXperimental No. 1”) tubes were displays used for digital readouts before the advent of the LED. Popular with James Bond villains who wanted to rule the world yet whose bomb timers stopped at exactly 007 when Bond figured out what wire to cut (and with scientists), the tubes once graced the highest of the high tech circa 1950.
Now, however, they’re a geek oddity and they don’t get any odder than in the MB&F Nixie Machine II, a candelabra-like clock built with the help of artist Frank Buchwald. The clock, which is limited to 12 pieces and costs a mere $30,000, is available in MB&F’s M.A.D. Gallery, an art gallery dedicated to wild machines.
Why are these things so expensive? Buchenwald works with Dalibor Farny, a Czech inventor who makes the Nixie tubes in his workshop by hand. What was once used as a mass-market numerical display for scientific instruments has now become a luxury item. The clock is made of steel and brass and there are flexible tubes that power the tubes. “An orange glow surrounding the visible inner structure of the Nixie tubes provides the piece with both an industrial look and a bio-animated character,” write the creators.
While you can get Nixie clocks online for not much money – a buddy made one for me that is one of my prized possessions – if you’re a petro-oligarch with unlimited henchmen and money then this particular model might be a good addition to your secret underwater lair into which you can lure James Bond only to find out that he has sussed out your evil plan to rule the world.
May 8, 2017 / Comments Off on The Beyerdynamic Xelento Wireless cuts the cords on high-end in-ear headphones
Beyerdynamic has a new version of its top-of-the-line Xelento in-ear headphones: the Xelento Wireless, which true to its same, takes the same design and audio hardware of the original Xelento, and cuts the cord in favor of a Bluetooth connection. That means that the Xelento Wireless still offers the same Tesla transducer technology (and presumably, same audiophile-level sound quality) seen in Beyerdynamic’s wired model, but in an even more portable form.
When it comes to actually taking the Xelento headphones wireless, Beyerdynamic has taken a somewhat inelegant solution: instead of terminating the cord in a 3.5mm headphone jack, the end of the (much shorter) cable features an aluminum cylinder that houses the Bluetooth and battery components, along with a port for connecting a 3.5mm cable once the battery dies. It’s an understandable choice, given that Beyerdynamic likely wished to ensure that the actual earbuds of the Xelento Wireless offered the same hardware and size as the wired version, but it still seems like an awkward workaround to the problem, although the built-in clip should help alleviate that somewhat.
Beyerdynamic notes that the Xelento Wireless has support for Bluetooth aptX HD (assuming you’ve got a phone that works with it), and can intelligently switch to regular aptX or AAC formats for phones that don’t have the higher audio quality standard. The company also claims that the Xelento Wireless will get around five and a half hours off a charge, which is done through a Micro USB port (sadly, no USB-C here).
Considering the $999 price tag on the regular, wired version of the Xelento headphones, Beyerdynamic is charging a hefty premium for the Xelento Wireless at $1,199. That said, my colleague Vlad Savov has been testing the wired Xelento model and reports that the sound is amazing — assuming Beyerdynamic has managed to repeat that experience over a wireless connection, you should expect the sound to be worthy of the cost.
May 8, 2017 / Comments Off on Best smartphones, data plans for grandparents who just want to stay in touch
Picking the right smartphone can be a tedious, and sometimes overwhelming, task. There are scores of phones to choose from at any given moment, and many of them look the same, but differ in terms of storage and performance. If you’re not a tech-savvy grandparent, or you’re shopping for a grandparent that doesn’t know or care about the differences between iOS and Android, simplicity is probably what you want the most out of a modern smartphone.
Sure, the iPhone only has a few physical buttons, but upon startup, the sheer number of icons on the home screen can be intimidating. Similarly, while you can go into the settings and customize various aspects of the device to suit anyone’s needs, navigating the back end can be frustrating when it’s unfamiliar.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves anymore than we already have. For those grandparents that aren’t in touch with their tech side, how much do you want to spend on a smartphone, if you only need one to stay in touch with family, a handful of friends, and to send pictures of your dog to your grandchildren? Or how much are you willing to spend on a phone for grandma and grandpa? Do they need data? Are they aware of what data is and what it’s for?
These are all valid questions and concerns, but we have you covered. Don’t like sifting through phones, and comparing wireless carriers and phone plans? We’ve already done the work for you. Below, you can find the best phones not just for the tech-illiterate senior citizen, but also the best phones and plans for the grandparents that know what’s what. Heads up: They’re surprisingly similar to the best phones and plans for everyone else.
Best smartphones and plans for non-techie grandparents
If you’re not worried about having the latest-and-greatest smartphone, or prefer functionality over features, you can’t go wrong with a prepaid phone. In most cases, you can still get an attractive phone, but the benefit to prepaid phones is that they’re often more affordable that going the pay-per-month route.
For starters, there’s very little chance of being hit with unexpected charges or having to deal with overages, since you pay upfront for the prepaid phone and minutes. If you’re only using the phone to call and text loved ones occasionally, you shouldn’t use more minutes than you actually have at your disposal. In the event you do run out of minutes, however, you can buy prepaid/refill cards, which are readily available at Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and a number of other retailers and websites, including AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint. Watch out, though — if you don’t buy more minutes before your current plan runs out, you can end up paying a higher rate or get hit with overage charges — conditions vary from carrier to carrier.
Here are some prepaid phones from each of the four big carriers, all of which come with the necessary prepaid cards to get you going.
ZTE Cymbal Z-320 ($30+)
Let’s break the traditional mold right out of the gate with the ZTE Cymbal from T-Mobile, a phone that looks nothing like a modern smartphone. Instead, it’s a flip-phone that has no touchscreen or digital assistant, but does offer the basics, such as the ability to make calls, send texts, and take pictures. If you’re more into functionality than other aspects, like aesthetics, the ZTE Cymbal is a good way to go if you’re looking for a straightforward phone for a grandparent. The price of the phone from T-Mobile is $63, but nabbing a SIM card and prepaid card will bring the price to $83.
Now for something that resembles the norm, we have the Samsung Galaxy Express 3 from AT&T. For $50, you can have a decent smartphone that comes with a 4.5-inch HD display, a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. You know, in case you have, or are, a grandparent who has their selfie game on point. Being an Android phone, a wide variety of apps are available through the Google Play Store, and it doesn’t take technical know-how to find apps such as Netflix, YouTube, and the like. Plus, if you get this particular phone by June 22 and buy a $30 prepaid card, you can get the Express 3 for a mere $20.
The LG Tribute may cost more than the aforementioned Galaxy Express 3, but for the additional $10, you get a better 5-inch display, a more effective pair of cameras (8-megapixel rear, 5-megapixel front), and all the power and features afforded by Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The smartphone’s 2,100mAh battery allows for 15 hours of talk time, and the 16GB of storage with MicroSD card support means you’ll have a decent amount of space for housing personal videos and photos.
The Optimus Zone 3 isn’t the most futuristic-looking phone, but that’s okay because that’s not why it’s here. The Zone 3 is here because it has a lot in common with the previous two phones, and even though it doesn’t do anything particularly better than either, you can look at it as another option that can hold its own. It has a 4.5-inch display, front and rear facing cameras, and battery life that allows for up to 11 hours of constant use. The internal storage of 8GB wouldn’t be enough for most people, but it might be enough for grandma or grandpa. If not, it still supports MicroSD cards up to 32GB, which should end up being more than enough space.
Getting a prepaid phone from a major carrier isn’t your only option, however, as there are multiple companies out there that dedicate themselves to giving seniors more convenient ways of buying phones, plans, and refill cards. Places such as Seniors Wireless, Greatcall, and TracFone are a few of the services that make shopping for a phone less of a hassle, and their plans are easy to sift through and compare to one another. Greatcall, specifically, has the Jitterbug smartphone and Jitterbug flip phone, both of which are designed to be simple to use and navigate thanks to their large buttons, screens, and unique emergency buttons.
The FBI shelled out nearly seven figures to break into the infamous San Bernardino iPhone, according to a senator who may have let the world know with a slip of her tongue.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said last week that the FBI paid an outside group $900,000 to access the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook — information that’s supposed to be classified. Farook and his wife killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, on Dec. 2, 2015.
“I was so struck when San Bernardino happened and you made overtures to allow that device to be opened, and then the FBI had to spend $900,000 to hack it open,” Feinstein said said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week. “And as I subsequently learned of some of the reason for it, there were good reasons to get into that device.”
Before the FBI got together with a third party, it appeared they were in for an extended legal fight with Apple, which didn’t want to give the agency access to its phone. The legal fight would have been monumental in the arena of security versus privacy, but, after a few public spats, the FBI avoided the whole thing by finding a third party, and Apple executives no longer had to choose between helping the government and insisting on the integrity of its products.
The FBI has still not identified that third party, despite news publications suing for the information.
May 8, 2017 / Comments Off on Snapchat’s stickers could be coming to AR, patent filing suggests
Why it matters to you
Patents don’t always become real things, but a recently published patent application suggests Snap Inc. is looking at a way to place stickers in augmented reality.
Snapchat’s stickers allow users to place colorful virtual drawings on photos and video — but a recently published patent application suggests that Snap Inc. is also working on an augmented reality version that places two-dimensional stickers on a camera feed in real time. The patent, filed in 2015 when Snap Inc. was still Snapchat, but only published last week on May 4, describes a method for placing virtual objects from a large database into camera data from a smartphone or pair of virtual reality goggles.
The patent application tackles the idea of a sticker-like database for two-dimensional virtual objects, and simplifies the process so that it doesn’t require so much computing power. The system would mix GPS data and a set of images of the location provided by the user to generate depth estimates. That “structure facade data” helps place a two-dimensional “sticker object” pulled from a large library of similar graphics in a realistic way, the patent suggests.
The patent filing appears to tackle still objects and adds moving virtual objects to the scene. Using user-snapped photos simplifies the process of depth mapping, while the database of stickers is pre-designed to be placed into scenes mapped with the camera. The GPS determines where you are looking so the processor can focus on just the direction you are viewing. That potentially translates into a virtual reality system that doesn’t require so much processing power, theoretically making it accessible across a number of devices.
The patent documents says the system could work with mobile phones or from augmented reality helmets, visors, or glasses — the paperwork even includes what appears to be a drawing of an updated Spectacles that would work with the virtual reality system.
Many filed applications for patents don’t ever actually make it to reality, but the paperwork gives us a glimpse into what Snapchat has been researching. Snapchat’s stickers are one of the app’s popular features, now imitated on other apps, and the paperwork suggests a similar sticker database could make it possible for anyone to create an augmented reality scene.