Month: October 2017

Sony’s new Aibo pet robot goes on sale tonight in Japan

After more than a decade away, Sony's Aibo pet robot is making a return. The original dog-like robot launched in 1999, while Sony says its followup is "capable of forming an emotional bond with members of the household while providing them with love, affection, and the joy of nurturing and raising a companion." Its OLED eyes allow for "nuanced" expressions as fisheye cameras see and recognize individual faces while new actuators allow its body to move smoothly along 22 axes. Pre-orders for the new robot begin tonight via Sony's online store in Japan for 179,000 yen (about $1,739 US), with shipments scheduled to begin on January 11th.

Of course, because this is 2017, not only is the new Aibo powered by AI (that learns and develops a unique personality over time) but it's also connected to the cloud. An Aibo Basic Plan subscription not only backs up your robot's unique identity but also turns on the connection for owners to access their remote via WiFi or a mobile connection. You'll need the subscription for your pet's AI tendencies to develop, and use its accompanying My Aibo app (on iOS, Android and the web) to manage settings, access photos it takes and even play with a virtual version of the dog when you're away. Eventually, you'll be able to buy new tricks from the Aibo Store.


Source: Aibo

Microsoft’s redesigned Mixer mobile app helps you find new streams

Microsoft is continuing its quest to make Mixer as good a livestreaming experience on your phone as it is on your PC back home. It just launched a beta mobile app whose cornerstone is a redesigned Trending section that focuses on finding new game broadcasts. There's a carousel that flips through featured streams, and sections that highlight the hottest games and trending streams. It's now much easier to filter streams by type (such as co-op or interactive), and there's a new Following section to jump directly to the channels you already know.

The beta also gives the Mixer team a chance to revamp much of the app's underlying framework. Many existing features have an updated experience, and the code itself has been ripped apart to boost both performance and reliability.

You can try the Android beta right now, or sign up for one of the handful of iOS test slots. Just be aware that it won't work flawlessly out of the gate. Push notifications may not work consistently, co-op streams may have hiccups and chat won't always be on par with the web experience. With that said, there's enough here that you may find yourself tuning into Mixer more often than you did in the past.

Source: Mixer

Target stores can order your items online if they’re out of stock

Many stores will encourage you to order online if they've run out of stock, but they usually want you to do it yourself. Do you really want to pull out your phone and wade through a website while you're in the store, or hope you'll remember to order when you get home? Target is hoping to do better. It's rolling out an app that lets them order for you using their handheld devices -- you just have to fork over your credit card like you would with any other retail purchase.

The retail chain has been testing the feature since the spring, and expects it to be in wide use in time for holiday shopping. Is this always going to be a huge time saver? Probably not. However, it may give you a bit of a break if you're exasperated and just want to know that sweater you were looking for is on its way to your home.

There are some subtler upgrades that have rolled out recently. There's a "more intuitive" self-checkout system and in-store WiFi with twice the bandwidth. Also, store IT systems now use "bots" that automatically fix some problems. Staff can focus more on helping you and less on fighting their equipment, at least in theory. None of these updates are big in an of themselves, but Target is clearly betting that multiple small tech improvements (plus its more substantial additions) will amount to a noticeable difference.

Source: Target

Black Friday deals: The cheapest gaming PC you can build

The one thing we like more than building our own PCs is doing so for very little cash. Now’s the best time for that: Black Friday deals often include amazingly low prices on components, fantastic combo and bundle deals, and extras like a copy of a video game.

Last year, I decided to see just how low you could go using Black Friday deals. I came up with three budget gaming builds, all based around a Micro Center combo deal on AMD’s FX-8350 and a compatible AM3+ motherboard. The cheapest of them was $350, inclusive of the Windows license.

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Hilton data breaches lead to $700,000 penalty

The attorneys general of New York and Vermont both announced today that their joint investigation into two Hilton data breaches has resulted in a $700,000 penalty and a promise to strengthen security. In February of 2015, Hilton was made aware of a cybersecurity breach that occurred between November and December of 2014. A second breach that exposed sensitive customer data between April and July of 2015 was uncovered that July, but the company waited until November of that year to inform those affected by the breaches. In all, over 363,000 credit card numbers were exposed.

New York's and Vermont's probe into the matter concluded that Hilton took too long to notify its customers of the breach and failed to properly protect their information. The settlement announced today stipulates that New York will receive $400,000 from Hilton while Vermont will receive $300,000. Hilton has also agreed to change its information security program, which includes designating an employee to supervise it, identifying risks to information security as well as implementing risk safeguards and performing regular testing of their effectiveness.

"Businesses have a duty to notify consumers in the event of a breach and protect their personal information as securely as possible," New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. "Lax security practices like those we uncovered at Hilton put New Yorkers' credit card information and other personal data at serious risk. My office will continue to hold businesses accountable for protecting their customers' personal information." TJ Donovan, Vermont's attorney general, said, "We continue to make enforcement of our data breach laws a top priority."

Via: Reuters

Source: New York Attorney General, Vermont Attorney General

Black Friday deals: PC and PC component steals

Diamonds in the rough
PC Laptops on Display in a Store

Image by Thinkstock

You can snag great deals on PCs, PC components, and PC accessories during Black Friday—if you know where to look. Not all cheap laptops are the same, for example. One retailer might offer a newer processor, more storage, or more RAM in a system for the same price as its competition.

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Black Friday deals: Best sales on TVs, speakers, and streaming video devices

It's a jungle out there

Yep, it’s that time of year again. And true to tradition, Black Friday presents its usual challenges for the consumer looking to score a great deal.

To be sure, there are many great deals to be found, but they can often be obscured by loads of “deals” to be leery of.

That seems particularly true of home-theater deals, which can present a minefield of sub-par models from the big brands, outdated tech, and trumped-up “bargains” that aren’t actually that at all.

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Signal’s secure messaging is now available in a desktop app

You can already use Signal for secure chats on the desktop, but you've had to use a Chrome web app to participate in those encrypted conversations. What if you don't like Chrome, or would just prefer something more elegant than a browser? Signal is ready to help. It just released a stand-alone PC app, Signal Desktop, that offers privacy-minded messaging without heading to the web. The experience isn't a radical break from what you've known before, but it will make sure that you don't type in the wrong browser tab and reveal your innermost secrets.

The software is available if you're running at least the 64-bit version of Windows 7, macOS 10.9 Mavericks or a Linux distribution that supports APT (Advanced Package Tool). If you're using a semi-recent computer, you can probably give it a try. And don't fret if you've already been using the Chrome app: you can import your data into the dedicated program to carry on with business as usual.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Signal

Android ‘Fast Pair’ will quickly connect Bluetooth devices

Android devices now have a new option to quickly sync with smartphones. Today, Google developers announced Fast Pair, a process that quickly discovers using Bluetooth Low Energy and connects over traditional Bluetooth. It's an obvious competitor to the quick-pairing that Apple introduced last year for its AirPod headphones, but better late than never.

So long as your smartphone or tablet runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow or above and Google Play services 11.7+, it can use Fast Pair. The process bypasses the need to connect by fiddling with settings: Simply put a Fast Pair-equipped device in pairing mode and any Android phone or tablet will get a prompt to connect.

Thus far, only the Google Pixel Buds and Libratone's Q Adapt On-Ear have Fast Pair equipped, and soon on Plantronics Voyager 8200. Fast Pair functionality is currently rolling out to Android 6.0+ devices.

Source: Android Developer's Blog

Surface Laptop vs. Surface Pro 4: We compare prices, features and more

Updated Oct. 31, 2017 with additional data on the Surface Laptop, including updated color options and a Core i7 with a 1TB SSD.

Microsoft's Surface Laptop is aimed at supplanting the MacBook Air as a college-student favorite. The svelte, stylish clamshell also fills a middle ground between its cousins, the Surface Pro 4 tablet and Surface Book powerhouse 2-in-1, providing a third option that could appeal to many regular consumers. 

We got a good first impression of the Surface Laptop after going hands-on in advance of its June launch. Now that we've reviewed it, we can help you decide whether it's a better choice than the Surface Pro 4, with its promise of a tablet that can be a full-fledged computer. Let’s dig in!

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