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08-18-2019 Science&Technology
Amazon's New Program To Donate Unsold Products To Charity And Nonprofit Organizations

Amazon on Wednesday launched a new program that will donate unwanted Marketplace products instead of dumping the items into the trash. Fulfillment By Amazon Donations The program called Fulfillment by Amazon Donations will have unsold products from third-party Marketplace sellers that store inventory in Amazon warehouses in the United States and the UK go to US nonprofit organizations and charities. Amazon used to trash products left in its warehouses that the sellers were not able to dispose of. These products are often left in warehouses because they were returned, and some have defects. A French TV documentary estimated that the company has destroyed more than 3 million products in France in 2018. Since Amazon generates most of its sales in the United States, the number of destroyed items in U.S. warehouses is believed to be much larger compared with those in other countries. The donations program is aimed at reducing the amount of inventory that needs to be dumped from Amazon warehouses, which can help the environment and put the otherwise wasted items to good use. Starting Sept. 1, the FBA will become the default option for all sellers once they decide to dispose of their unwanted or unstored products in Amazon warehouses in the United States and the UK, but they can opt out of the program if they want. Unwanted Products To Go To Nonprofits And Charities The donations will be distributed to nonprofits in the United States through a group called Good360, which partners with retailers and consumer goods companies to source needed products and distribute them to nonprofits that help support people in need. "Our partnership with Amazon provides hope and helps transform the lives of those who are facing challenging life circumstances, including survivors of disasters," Good360 CEO Matt Connelly said, according to The Verge. In the UK, Amazon will work charities that include Newlife, Salvation Army, and Barnardo's. "We know getting products into the hands of those who need them transforms lives and strengthens local communities," said Alice Shobe, director of Amazon in the Community. "We are delighted to extend this program to sellers who use our fulfillment services."

Read Original Article     ON:   The Washington Examiner

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08-18-2019 Cars
Total Cost Of Ownership: Tesla Model 3 vs. Toyota Camry & Audi A5

To regular readers of this column, it will be no surprise that Tesla’s Model 3 is cheaper on a total cost of ownership basis than competing luxury sedans from BMW and Mercedes, but a Toyota Camry? Model 3 is a state-of-the-art electric vehicle with a 5-star safety rating and a driving experience that’s gotten rave reviews from every auto mag under the sun. Is it possible that it’s even in the same price class as the entry-level, reliable-but-dull Camry? That’s the surprising conclusion of Loup Ventures, a tech-oriented venture capital firm, which performed a 5-year comparative cost of ownership study. Loup first compared the two vehicles in 2017, and concluded that Model 3, which had a purchase price about 40% higher than that of the Toyota Camry LE, would end up costing 13% more to own and operate over 5 years. Considering that Model 3 includes Autopilot capability, over-the-air updates, and a host of other features that you won’t find on the Camry (or any other Toyota), the Tesla still sounded like a pretty good deal. Now Loup has updated its comparison. Using 2019 figures, the new study reached the astonishing conclusion that, when all relevant factors are taken into account, Model 3, which is indisputably a superior car, is slightly cheaper to own and operate over a 5-year period than Toyota’s mass-market sedan. When it comes to the purchase price (which, unfortunately, is the only number many car buyers will look at), the Camry still wins hands down. In fact, the price gap has widened to 59% since 2017 — the cheapest Model 3 you can order online is $38,990 (a $35,000 version is theoretically available by special order), whereas the Camry LE starts at $24,600. However, when you consider the other costs of ownership, some big differences become apparent. Surprisingly, Loup found typical insurance costs for a Model 3 to be slightly lower than for a Camry — and the gap is expected to widen over the next few years as Tesla’s in-house insurance products become available (the program has already launched in Australia and China, and is expected to come to North America this year). Costs for fuel and maintenance are far lower for any EV, compared to a legacy vehicle — Loup projects that Model 3 owners will save almost six grand on fuel and $2,800 on maintenance over five years, compared to Camry drivers. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Clean Technica

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08-18-2019 Media
Study Says That Heavy Social Media Use May Harm Mental Health Of Teens

Another research has linked the excessive use of social media sites, such as Instagram and Twitter, to psychological distress, especially among teenage girls. A team of researchers interviewed over 12,000 young students ages 13 to 16 in England. They were asked about how often during the day they check Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter. After three years, the same respondents were asked to evaluate their levels of happiness, how anxious they feel, and if they are satisfied with life. Social Media Linked To Psychological Distress The paper published in the journal The Lancet revealed that teenage boys and girls who admitted to using social media more than three times a day reported poorer mental health and greater psychological distress. The girls, in particular, said that they feel less happy and more anxious. However, the researchers explained that the negative impact of social media use to the female respondents' mental health was due to disrupted sleep, lack of exercise, and exposure to cyberbullying. For boys, these factors were also observed but the impact on their mental health was significantly smaller. Further research is needed to find out what is causing psychological distress among male students who use social media. "Our results suggest that social media itself doesn't cause harm, but that frequent use may disrupt activities that have a positive impact on mental health such as sleeping and exercising, while increasing exposure of young people to harmful content, particularly the negative experience of cyberbullying," explained Russell Viner, co-author of the paper. This is not the first time that a study has linked social media use among teenagers to poor mental health. In July, another study warned that spending too much time browsing social media sites and watching television could impact the severity of depressive symptoms that young people experience. What Parents Can Do The researchers clarified that the study does not mean that social media is inherently evil. In fact, Viner said that social media can have positive impacts on teenagers. Parents, however, should make sure that their children's use of social media is not interfering with activities that are known to improve mental health. "But they should worry about how much physical activity and sleep they're getting, because social media is displacing other things," added Dasha Nicholls, one of the authors of the paper. "It's about getting a balance."

Read Original Article     ON:   Tech Times

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08-18-2019 Science&Technology
Google's Pixel 4 Beats Samsung Galaxy Note 10 With Two Features

There’s a reason Samsung includes almost every feature known to man in its smartphones. It’s partly to do with hedging bets, it’s also partly to do with not being out-featured by a rival. But the main reason, I suspect, is because Apple and Google offer far superior proprietary services in their respective devices. Bixby can’t really compete with Google’s Assistant, nor does Samsung command the OS control Apple does over its iPhones that deliver a unique experience. So the Korean company substitutes its relative lack of services with the best hardware. But is it enough? Can Samsung’s Note 10 outgun Google’s upcoming Pixel 4 with high specs? Or does Google’s focus on AI matter more? If the Pixel can nail these features, I think it will have the upper hand. Want to play a gripping, narrative-focused detective game based on real investigative journalism, and *be* in the game? This is your last chance. Vast privacy improvements to Assistant At a Google Nest briefing event earlier this year, a Google exec was at pains to point out that the upcoming Nest Hub Max is more privacy focused than previous devices. The privacy features boiled down to; a physical button to shut the camera off, a green LED light to indicate when the camera is in use and a facial recognition feature that processes accurate matches locally. It’s the latter feature I’m hoping Google expands on and makes specific to Pixel devices. I asked, at that briefing event, how much of Google Assistant could be done locally so owners can use it safely without feeling like they’re hemorrhaging valuable data. I was told that it is possible, but that it isn’t part of Google’s plan. Considering how valuable that data is, that's probably not much of a surprise. But, if Google took some baby steps and offered the ability to control smart home features, toggle settings and perform simple map/web searches without having to fully sign up to having your web activity monitored, that would be a big deal. If Google’s Pixel was the only Android phone with some non data collecting Assistant features, it would have a big advantage over Samsung’s Bixby and other Android devices running Assistant. Back to basics I’m struggling to understand why Google’s very impressive budget Pixel 3A - with a few modest improvements - isn’t Google’s flagship smartphone. The selling point of Google’s Pixel devices are the services - Pixel adverts are all centred around what your phone will do when “hey Google” is uttered. With an industry beating rear camera a close second. Considering the Pixel 3A has virtually the same camera (minus the Visual Core Chip, which means slower processing), and the Pixel 3’s performance issues that did little to justify its higher price tag, Google could make its flagship dramatically cheaper than its competition by perhaps stripping back features elsewhere. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Forbes

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08-18-2019 Games
Nintendo says there is no Switch exchange program

You might not want to buy a first-generation Switch with the assumption Nintendo will replace it with a new model. A Nintendo spokesperson has flatly denied that swaps are available, telling The Verge that "we do not have a Nintendo Switch exchange program." It's not clear why customer service representatives are saying otherwise. We've asked for comment, but it could be a matter of PR and service reps receiving conflicting information. The reported program lets anyone who bought an old Switch after July 17th (when the more efficient model was announced) send in their old console for a replacement as long as they're willing to cover the shipping and insurance costs. The revised Switch is virtually identical to the old model outside of a processor built on a newer manufacturing process that saves energy. For some, though, that makes all the difference. The nine hours of peak battery life could mean the difference between playing games on an entire long-haul flight or having to stop mid-session.

Read Original Article     ON:   Engadget

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08-18-2019 Science&Technology
Apple running early access program for Apple Arcade, here’s what it looks like

Apple announced Apple Arcade back in March when it held its special event dedicated to Services. Apple Arcade will allow iOS, Mac, and Apple TV users to pay a flat monthly fee and access a bundle of otherwise paid apps through the App Store. Apple is currently running an internal early access program for its employees, charging a small subscription of $0.49/mo, with one month free trial. It says the testing program ends with the launch of iOS 13. Today, 9to5Mac was able to gain access to this Apple Arcade early testing program on the Mac App Store. The process starts with a welcome page that highlights some of the content available through the subscription. It’s likely the page will be very similar when the product launches, presumably with the release of iOS 13 to the public in mid-September. There’s a big button that allows the user to start a free 1-month trial of the service, which is also likely to be available to the general public when released. The price will most likely not be the 49¢ per month though. That’s likely just a temporary price for the internal testing period. We don’t have information about the price of the Apple Arcade subscription that will be offered to Apple customers. After the subscription is confirmed and the trial starts, a new page shows up with featured games. To download a game, it’s as easy as clicking the “Get” button, just like downloading a free app or game from the App Store. The game’s product highlights a big artwork with a small section for the game’s title and tagline, with the download button easily accessible. Scrolling down reveals a bar with information such as the age rating, category and size of the game, the rest of the page is similar to any regular App Store product page. Here are some of the games currently highlighted in Apple Arcade: Way of the Turtle: “Play as two curious turtles lost on a cursed island in the middle of nowhere. Obtain shells containing special powers such as dash and attack to defeat enemies and overcome different challenges”. Down in Bermuda: “Adventurous aviator Milton left his loving wife and daughter to voyage across the Atlantic on the journey of a lifetime.” Hot Lava: “Hot Lava transports you back to your childhood imagination. Relive those moments of excitement, joy and chaos. Run, jump, climb and surf in first person across nostalgia-packed environments flooded with hot molten lava.” Other titles currently highlighted are “Sneaky Sasquatch”, “Kings of the Castle”, “Frogger in Toy Town” and “Lame Game 2”. Most games are still in-development builds, as mentioned in their descriptions. When Apple announced the service back at its services event in March, they promised 100+ titles and that number is still highlighted in the marketing copy presented to users.

Read Original Article     ON:   9to5Mac

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08-18-2019 Science&Technology
Ikea goes all in on smart home tech

Ikea is formalizing what has recently become all too obvious: the company is making a major bet on smart home tech as a source of new revenue. To do this, Ikea announced that it will invest heavily in a new “Ikea Home smart” business unit with end-to-end responsibility for its burgeoning portfolio of smart devices. With access to 780 million shoppers who visit Ikea stores each year, the announcement also serves as a wake-up call to smart home incumbents like Google and Amazon. “We have decided to invest significantly in Home smart across Ikea to fast-forward the development. This is the biggest New Business we are establishing since the introduction of Children’s Ikea,” said Peter van der Poel, manager Ikea Range & Supply, aka, the box that sits above Ikea of Sweden within the complicated Ikea Group org chart. The new business unit is helmed by the aptly-named Björn Block, and sits alongside Ikea of Sweden’s ten other business units that include Lighting, Livingroom & Workspace, Textiles, Kitchen and Dining, and Ikea Food. Ikea’s smart home ambitions first became visible in 2015 with the introduction of tables and lamps that could wirelessly charge Qi-compatible phones. In 2017, it expanded into affordable smart lighting, before partnering with Sonos for this month’s launch of relatively inexpensive whole-home audio. Ikea’s first smart blinds will start sales in the US on October 1st. What’s next? Ikea’s just the latest corporate behemoth to wager on smart home riches, joining Google, Apple, and Amazon. Fortunately for them, Ikea has so far taken a platform agnostic approach, supporting the Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa ecosystems through its Tradfri gateway. IDC predicts global sales of about 830 million smart home devices in 2019 before doubling to 1.6 billion in 2023. It’s no wonder then that the company is so optimistic about expanding beyond conventional home furnishings. “By working together with all other departments within Ikea, the business unit of Ikea Home smart will drive the digital transformation of the Ikea range, improving and transforming existing businesses and developing new businesses to bring more diverse smart products to the many people,” said Block in a press release announcing the restructuring. “We are just getting started.” I don’t know about the other many people, but I, for one, can’t wait to see if Ikea can do for the smart home what it did for design.

Read Original Article     ON:   The Verge

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08-18-2019 Science&Technology
Spotify Coming To Tesla Cars Soon, But Here’s How To Get It Now

Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed that Spotify is coming to Tesla cars, but failed to specify when exactly. Musk hinted about it last month but only now confirmed via Twitter that Spotify integration is coming for North American users. In Europe, Tesla users have been enjoying a Spotify app for users, which has been directly integrated into Tesla's system for years. In North American shores, however, Tesla struck a deal with Slacker to provide music streaming services to its fleet of cars. Tesla And Slacker Not every Tesla owner is too enamoured by Slacker, though. Many of them have lodged criticisms against the automaker for the service's performance and quality, and it's unclear why it's taking so long for Tesla to officially integrate what's perhaps the world's most popular music streaming option. Rumor says it has to do with contractual issues, as Electrek notes. Slacker is a very small music service, it's worth noting, and Tesla's fleet integration actually represents an important part of revenue for Slacker Radio's parent company. On several occasions previously, versions of Tesla's Spotify app appeared in the code of North American vehicles, causing drivers to speculate that the integration was imminent. However, the feature was never made available to the U.S. or Canadian fleet. Earlier this year, Musk himself hinted that it could finally be arriving, but he has confirmed as such, taking to Twitter to reply to a user that Spotify Premium support is "coming." Apart from Europe, Tesla owners in Australia and Hong Kong have had Spotify Premium in their vehicles since late 2015. To be fair, Slacker Radio isn't so bad an option. It features customizable radio stations based on the listener's personal music tastes. The free and subscription-based service attempted to differentiate itself from Spotify and Pandora by employing DJs to curate programs and, at one point, even sold a portable music player. Despite these attempts, Slacker remains under the shadow of Spotify, which boasts 232 million monthly active users and 108 Premium customers, and counting. How To Install Spotify On Your Tesla Now Though there's no official Spotify Premium integration on Tesla vehicles just yet, there's a workaround available for users who want to be able to access the app from their dashboard. Of course, it's still possible to control Spotify via one's phone by connecting it to the Tesla with Bluetooth, but for those who want to see their playlists on the car's touchscreen display, read on. YouTuber Tesla Raj created a quick tutorial that explains how to make Spotify work in Tesla cars. All that's needed is a smartphone with Bluetooth, a Spotify Premium subscription, and the latest Tesla car software. Watch the tutorial below:

Read Original Article     ON:   CNBC

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08-16-2019 Cars
Tesla Semi electric truck exceeds range expectation almost fully-loaded, says test driver

A Tesla Semi electric truck prototype was spotted doing some range tests with an almost full load of 75,000 lbs and the test driver said that it was meeting or even “exceeding” range expectations. When launching Tesla Semi in 2017, the automaker said that the production versions of Tesla Semi, which is a class 8 truck with a 80,000 lbs capacity, will have 300-mile and 500-mile range options for $150,000 and $180,000 respectively. However, CEO Elon Musk said that they found opportunities to extend that range during testing. Last year, Musk said that the Tesla Semi production version will have closer to 600 miles of range. Now a Tesla Semi prototype was spotted at a California Highway Patrol Inspection Center during range testing and the test driver reportedly said that the electric truck prototype was “meeting or exceeding the range estimates.” CHP Donner Pass said: “Tesla is out testing the new electric truck tractor. The driver stated the concrete blocks are for testing purposes only. According to the driver the truck is operating at approximately 75,000 lbs and the truck is meeting or exceeding the range estimates. Electric trucks are definitely the future. We look forward to seeing more electric trucks on the road.” They posted some images of the Tesla Semi prototype on Facebook: During the presentation at the unveiling of the truck, Musk said that Tesla’s range estimates were while carrying a load. Tesla Semi was first supposed to go into production in 2019, but Tesla has recently delayed the launch of the production version until the end of next year. More electric trucks are expected to be on the market around the same time. Last week, Daimler started delivering the first Freightliner eCascadia all-electric semi trucks to customers as part of its customer test fleet. Electrek’s Take If Tesla Semi gets anything close to 500 miles with a full load or close to full load, it would be an incredible achievement. In comparison, the eCascadia gets about 250 miles of range, according to Daimler. If Tesla can keep up with its range expectations and its promised price points, it would be an extremely disruptive force in the transportation sector. The cost of operation would be way down and that’s the most important thing for fleet operators. It’s a bummer that they are behind on bringing Tesla Semi to production, but if it means that can do more testing and bring a more reliable product to market, it’s going to be a good thing at the end.

Read Original Article     ON:   Electrek

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08-16-2019 Science&Technology
iPhone 11 Shock: Apple Accident Confirms New Upgrades

Apple’s new iPhones have very few secrets left, and we already know how they will delight fans and frustrate them in equal measure. But Apple did have one big surprise still up its sleeve, right until today when the company accidentally leaked it. Credit for picking up on Apple’s remarkable bundler goes to iHelp BR. The sleuth site, which last year uncovered the iPhone XS Max hidden in a beta of iOS 12, found Apple has not learnt its lesson. This time, Apple has blown the launch of its iPhone 11 range in a new beta of iOS 13. Hidden inside iOS 13 beta 7, iHelp BR discovered a screenshot labelled ‘HoldForRelease’ (below). The image shows the notched home screen of an iPhone and the calendar is set to September 10. If this wasn’t clear enough, it also ties in with a shipping date of September 20, revealed thanks to a slip of the tongue last week. September 10 is also a Tuesday, historically Apple’s preferred date for iPhone launches. 2019 was an exception (a Wednesday) because Tuesday fell on September 11 and Apple skips Monday launches as it complicates the attendance for international press. Could all this be an accident? Highly unlikely. As iHelp BR found last year, for all its talk about secrecy, Apple enjoys hiding easter eggs in iOS betas. Both iOS 11 and iOS 12 pre-release code has leaked iPhone launches in the past and you don’t call a file HoldForRelease unless you want someone to open it’. That said, come launch, iPhone fans are still likely to be surprised at Apple’s (awful) new iPhone branding, impressed by their much larger batteries and frustrated by what’s missing. But if Apple’s well-timed ‘accident’ can distract users from the recent hack of Face ID, complaints about its “user-hostile” battery replacements and open wallets before the company’s big 2020 iPhone redesign, then its mission complete. See Apple, leaks can be useful.

Read Original Article     ON:   Forbes

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08-16-2019 Science&Technology

If you upgraded to Amazon’s latest Echo Dot, you might have been surprised to find that the diminutive voice assistant had shed its USB port. Earlier models of the Dot used a garden variety micro USB port for power, which hackers eventually figured out also provided a helpful way to snoop around inside the device’s firmware. The fact that the USB port was deleted on the latest Echo Dot in favor of a simple barrel connector for power was seen by some as a sign that Amazon was trying to keep curious owners out of their hardware. But as [Brian Dorey] shows, all they did was put a bump in the road. While they removed the external USB connector, the traces for it are still on the board waiting to be accessed. Even better, it turns out the USB data lines are connected to the test points located on the bottom of the Dot. All you need is a simple breakout that will connect through the existing opening in the device’s case, and you’ve got your USB port back. So what can you do with USB on the Echo Dot? Well, not much right now. [Brian] found that the Dot shows up as a Mediatek device under Linux using lsusb, and fastboot can see it and even confirms the presence of a locked bootloader. It’s going to take some work from the community to see how deep this particular rabbit hole goes. Even if you’re not interested in restoring its USB port, [Brian] has uncovered a wealth of fascinating hardware information about the Echo Dot during his deep-dive. He’s mapped out many of the test points located throughout the device’s PCBs, and found a few interesting points that might be worth further investigation. For example, he found that driving one of the pins high would trigger the Dot to mute its microphones; which could be useful for anyone looking to cover Alexa’s ears. [Brian] first cracked open the Echo Dot last month, after scoring one for cheap during Amazon’s Prime Day sale. It looks like he’s making fairly rapid progress on unraveling the mysteries of this popular gadget, and we’re very interested in seeing where this research takes us.

Read Original Article     ON:   Hackaday

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08-16-2019 Politics
Trump has asked aides if it's possible to buy Greenland, sources say

(CNN)President Donald Trump has on multiple occasions brought up buying Greenland from the Danish government and the White House counsel's office has looked into the possibility, two sources told CNN on Thursday. Trump's interest in buying Greenland was first reported on Thursday by The Wall Street Journal. The Journal reported that people familiar with the deliberations said the President has raised the issue during meetings and dinners, asking aides and listening seriously about the possibility and advantages of owning Greenland. He also asked his White House counsel to research the matter, according to two of the people. Two of the people also told the Journal that Trump's aides were divided on the issue, with some praising it as solid economic strategy and others dismissing it as a passing fancy. CNN has contacted the White House and the State Department for comment. Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory, is home to Thule Air Base, the US military's northernmost base, located about 750 miles above the Arctic Circle and built in 1951. The radar and listening post features a Ballistic Missile Early Warning System that can warn of incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles and reaches thousands of miles into Russian territory. Aides expressed both expectation and reservation at the President's still-unclear interest in the idea and had questions about the island's military and research potential, the Journal reported. They pointed to those outside the administration floating a Greenland purchase as a potential legacy-builder for Trump, similar to President Dwight Eisenhower's statehood for Alaska, the paper added. According to the Journal, one person described a dinner last spring where Trump told associates he had been advised to look into buying Greenland because Denmark faced financial trouble from supporting the territory. "What do you guys think about that?" Trump asked the room, the person told the paper. "Do you think it would work?" The person told the paper that Trump's comments seemed like more of a joke about his power than a genuine question. The person thought that the President was interested in Greenland due to its natural resources. Trump's attempt would not be the first American effort to buy Greenland. Though President Harry Truman dodged questions about his pursuit of control in the region, the United States allegedly tried to buy Greenland in 1946, and in 1867, Secretary of State William Seward showed interest in purchasing the island. CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct Eisenhower's role in Alaska's history.

Read Original Article     ON:   CNN

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08-14-2019 Games
Apex Legends community raging over new cosmetic pricing

Respawn Entertainment launched a major update to Apex Legends earlier today, featuring a new event called Iron Crown. The event is running for a limited time, and introduces exclusive cosmetics that players can only unlock while the event is live. Just a few hours after the launch of the event, the Apex Legends community made it clear that they are not happy at all with how these new cosmetics are being doled out. The big issue with players, as expressed on places like the Apex Legends subreddit, seems to be the pricing and availability of the Iron Crown event packs. If you haven’t played Apex Legends in a while, the pricing model can be a little tricky to crack, but the basics are that it’ll run players 700 Apex Coins to open each Iron Crown pack, or about $7 in real money. There are 24 Iron Crown packs in total, two of which can be earned through gameplay, so players looking to unlock everything will have to throw down $140. Ouch. For those that don’t feel like they need every single cosmetic, they’re still at the whims of the RNG of loot boxes, which means they could be $100 in the hole before getting a desired skin, even without duplicates in these boxes. This post on the Apex Legends subreddit from u/HerpMcHerp does a good job summarizing players’ complaints, but it’s one of many posts that have bubbled up to the top of the subreddit since the launch of the Iron Crown event. Given that Apex Legends is a free-to-play game, it’s no surprise that cosmetics would be expensive, but tying a gambling mechanic in the form of loot boxes to time-limited cosmetics seems particularly harsh for players. We’ve reached out to Respawn to see if they have any response regarding the blowback.

Read Original Article     ON:   Polygon

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08-14-2019 Science&Technology
Parallels 15 will let you use your Apple Pencil with Windows

Popular Mac-to-Windows desktop virtualization software Parallels is adding native support for DirectX 11 as well as upcoming macOS Catalina tentpole features like Sidecar, developer Corel announced on Tuesday. The highlight of Parallels Desktop 15 is cross-platform support for DirectX 11 courtesy of Apple's Metal graphics API. With support for Metal in tow, Corel claims the new version of Parallels delivers 15 percent faster 3D graphics performance, in addition to a smoother, more responsive user interface. For frequent Microsoft Office users, the company says Microsoft's suite of productivity apps will launch 80 percent faster with Parallels 15. Beyond improved performance, expanded graphics support means Parallels 15 will allow Mac owners to use programs and play games they weren't able to in the past. Notable highlights include computer-aided design (CAD) programs like Autodesk 3ds Max 2020, as well as recent games like Fallout 4, Anno 1800 and Age of Empires: Definitive Edition. What's most interesting about this release, however, is that once Apple releases macOS Catalinathis fall, Parallels will allow Mac owners to use features like Sidecar and expanded Apple Pencil support within Windows. With Parallels 15, Sidecar, which will allow iPad owners to use their tablet as a secondary display in macOS Catalina, will also work in Windows. Similarly, Apple Pencil owners will be able to use their stylus in Windows programs like Microsoft Sketch Pad.

Read Original Article     ON:   Engadget

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08-13-2019 Games
After two years of delays, Minecraft’s visual upgrade has been canceled

After announcing a plan to completely overhaul Minecraft's visual engine in 2017, the game's developers at Mojang have finally come clean: the "Super Duper Graphics Pack" is no longer coming to the hugely popular sandbox game. The update's E3 2017 announcement sent tongues wagging thanks to an incredible trailer, which bathed the game's familiar, blocky environs with a newly dynamic shadow-and-light model, crepuscular rays, screen-space reflections, material-based lighting, and more. Keeping in line with its description as a "pack," the update left the game's raw assets untouched, which made it seem similar to other existing "texture packs" sold within modern Minecraft games. All of this would even run in 4K resolution on supported hardware, Mojang said, and it promised a free launch by "fall 2017." Once that date slipped, Mojang became wholly mum about the pack's existence until Monday. That's when Mojang confirmed the project's cancellation in a brief, official blog post. In it, the company told fans, "Unfortunately, the pack proved too technically demanding to implement as planned." Instead of offering technical details, Mojang went on to blame the update's problems on "how the pack performed across devices." Thanks to this brief statement, we're forced to read between the lines and remember that the Super Duper Graphics Pack was originally announced as a free update for Minecraft on Windows 10 and Xbox as opposed to power-starved platforms such as Nintendo Switch or smartphones. And we learned in December 2018 that Microsoft was officially done supporting the game on Xbox 360 consoles. This may very well have been a crucial brick to lay in moving forward on "Xbox One-only" console support for the pack. So that "across devices" line may very well point to the non-X version of Xbox One as a performance sticking point. But neither Mojang nor Microsoft is saying. Shortly after the pack's 2017 announcement, Microsoft rolled out a Minecraft "beta test" channel via the Xbox One Insider channel. But that test version of the game never included any hints of Super Duper Graphics Pack bonuses or even a jump to 4K resolution. However, that doesn't mean Microsoft is done pushing Minecraft's limits on its existing platforms. The Monday blog post included a tease of some technical upgrade possibly coming: "We're constantly trying to make the most of the technical architecture of each [platform]. We'll be able to share more on that subject very soon." And in good news, some of the Super Duper update's graphical touches appear to have found a home in the promising spin-off game Minecraft Dungeons, slated to launch sometime next year.

Read Original Article     ON:   Ars Technica

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08-11-2019 Politics
Trump retweets post implying Bill Clinton behind Jeffrey Epstein’s death

President Trump added fuel to the conspiracy theories surrounding multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein's apparent suicide on Saturday when he retweeted a post that implied former President Bill Clinton was linked to Epstein's death. The tweet came from self-described comedian Terrence K. Williams who echoed many on social media in suggesting a connection between the Clintons and Epstein, who previously was an acquaintance of the former president. "Died of SUICIDE on 24/7 SUICIDE WATCH ? Yeah right! How does that happen," the tweet read, alongside a photo of Epstein and one of the Clintons. "#JefferyEpstein had information on Bill Clinton & now he’s dead I see #TrumpBodyCount trending but we know who did this! RT if you’re not Surprised." JEFFREY EPSTEIN DEAD FROM APPARENT SUICIDE IN MANHATTAN JAIL CELL; FBI INVESTIGATING Trump's tweet came shortly after Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., pushed back on the "immediate rush to spread conspiracy theories about someone" in another political party. Williams' video argued that "for some odd reason, people with information on the Clintons end up dead and they usually die from suicide." "C'mon now," he continued incredulously on the video. The Associated Press reported that Epstein had been placed on suicide watch after an incident last month in which Epstein was found with bruising on his neck, though it has never been made clear whether those injuries were the result of a suicide attempt or an assault by a fellow inmate. However, a Bureau of Prisons spokesman told the New York Post Saturday that Epstein was not on suicide watch at the time of his death and AP reported he had been taken off suicide watch at the end of last month. ...

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