Month: December 2017

Twitter pulls conspiracist’s verified badge after celebrity outrage

Twitter's stricter approach to verification isn't just taking checkmarks away from the leaders of racist groups. The social network has pulled the verified badge from conspiracy peddler Liz Conkin after Chrissy Teigen and her husband John Legend reacted to Conkin's unsupported claims that the two were trafficking their child in a Washington, DC pedophile ring. As Teigen explained, it didn't make sense that Twitter would verify someone who was accusing her of horrific acts, especially not when this person has nearly 50,000 followers.

Legend helped elaborate on the concerns. He noted to one of Conkin's supporters that the bogus Pizzagate scandal "almost got someone killed" -- the concern is that a Conkin devotee would believe the unsubstantiated claims at face value and threaten the couple. Legend vowed to sue Conkin if she kept making her claims.

The conspiracist deleted her posts and backtracked in a bid to avoid a lawsuit, claiming that Teigen and Legend "run in circle [sic]" with pedophiles and that they "could be victims themselves." However, that didn't help her case -- Teigen said she still had the evidence and vowed that Conkin would be "going to court."

We've asked Twitter for its comment. From a cursory glimpse, though, it looks like Conkin was a prime candidate for losing verification: her claims violated rules against "inciting or engaging in harassment." Many of her supporters lapped up the accusations without checking the facts, and both Teigen and Legend have been harassed as a result. Twitter has previously said that it doesn't want verification to serve as a tacit endorsement of vile behavior, and this appears to qualify.

With that said, the incident highlights a familiar pattern for Twitter: it tends to respond to an outcry when celebrities or the press draw attention to the issue. There are concerns that others might continue to abuse their verified status unless Twitter is more proactive.

Source: Gizmodo, Billboard


OnePlus 5 beta adds the 5T’s Face Unlock feature

OnePlus really didn't waste any time fulfilling its promise of bringing the 5T's Face Unlock feature to the original 5. The smartphone maker has rolled out an OxygenOS beta that lets OnePlus 5 owners sign in with a quick glimpse at their phone, just like those with newer handsets. This isn't a stable release, so you probably don't want to install this if you can't afford to deal with glitches, but it beats waiting weeks into 2018 to give the feature a try.

As before, Face Unlock isn't strictly secure -- it's not using depth sensors, iris scanning or other methods that reduce the chances of someone fooling the system. This is about convenience more than anything else. OnePlus doesn't pretend otherwise, though, and it's good to see a tentpole feature coming to a not-so-current device.

Via: Android Police

Source: OnePlus


FDA approves first shock wave device made to heal wounds

Using "acoustic shock waves" to promote healing isn't just for Overwatch, as Sanuwave has obtained FDA approval for its Dermapace System (Pulsed Acoustic Cellular Expression = PACE). Its approval is specifically to help heal foot ulcers in diabetic patients, where damage to blood vessels and nerves can lead to reduced circulation, infection and sometimes amputation. The Dermapace mechanically stimulates the wound, which Sanuwave says promotes healing. Like several other "first" FDA approvals we've seen recently, this device went through the de novo review process designed specifically to get new technology on the market.

After two double-blind studies, the results showed an increase in wound healing at 24 weeks with a 44 percent wound closure rate with the real Dermapace device, vs. a 30 percent closure rate for patients treated with a fake system. Now that this device has been approved, it also opens the door for similar technology, if it can show that it's "substantially equivalent."

Source: FDA


Trivia hit HQ arrives on Android in time for New Year’s Eve event

Intermedia Labs' live trivia game HQ has launched a little earlier than expected -- and just in time to mark the end of the year, too. Anyone willing and able to download an early access app can see whether or not the formerly iOS-only title lives up to its reputation. You won't have long to wait before you can give it a shot. HQ is holding a special New Year's Eve game at 11PM Eastern, and there's a chance to win as much as $18,000 if your knowledge is up to snuff.

There's no mention of when a polished version of HQ will reach Android, although Intermedia has been scrambling to fix bugs to get the app ready ahead of its public test.

HQ is ultimately a simple game at its heart: it's an elimination-based challenge where progressively harder questions whittle down the contestant pool from hundreds of thousands to just a handful. The allure is the live, schedule-based nature of gameplay. Instead of interacting with faceless software by yourself, you're participating in a shared experience with a real host (usually fan favorite Scott Rogowsky). And of course, the possibility of winning cash adds real stakes that wouldn't be present if you were simply competing for points or bragging rights. There's no telling whether or not HQ will last once the novelty wears off, but the addition of Android could help its chances.

Via: 9to5Google

Source: Google Play


China halts production of 553 car models over fuel efficiency

The new year is proving to be a headache for some car makers in China. As of January 1st, the country has suspended production of 553 car models that didn't meet its fuel efficiency standards. Some of these come from partnerships with foreign heavyweights, including Beijing Benz Automotive, Chery and FAW-Volkswagen. It's not certain how soon those companies might restart production lines, although that likely involves finding powertrains that meet fuel consumption targets.

There were signs that this crackdown was coming. Regulators had said earlier in December that they would gradually impose stricter emissions standards on new cars, and they recently extended EV tax credits through 2020. Moreover, China hasn't been shy about wanting to eventually ban all fossil fuel cars. Automakers know they can't continue the status quo if they want to continue doing business in China, and that means more efficient engines, hybrids and ultimately pure electric cars.

The production freeze stands in sharp contrast to the US. The recently passed Republican tax plan doesn't include a measure that would have taken away the EV tax credit, but the incentives to move to eco-friendly cars are far from guaranteed to survive when the current administration is determined to protect fossil fuels at all costs. China, meanwhile, is aggressively pursuing greener cars because it has little choice. Air pollution is a serious threat in China, and anything it can do to reduce fossil fuel use can have a tangible impact on the health of its residents.

Via: Reuters

Source: Xinhuanet


Telegram for Android now supports multiple accounts

Telegram has been busy parrying government attempts to collect user data over the past year, but it hasn't forgotten its users. It's ushering in 2018 with a handful of offerings you'll likely find helpful if it's your chat app of choice, starting with the ability to support multiple accounts on Android. The latest version of Telegram for the platform supports up to three accounts with different phone numbers. You can quickly switch between them on the side menu, but you'll get notifications for all of them regardless of which one's active.

While the iOS app remains a step behind its Android sibling and still can't support multiple accounts, the company has something for Apple users, as well. Telegram is finally giving you a way to change what your app looks like under the new Appearance setting. The iOS version now has several themes to choose from, including two dark "night time" themes and a "day" theme with colors you can tweak. That's not quite as useful as having support for more than one account, but fingers crossed that themes' arrival on iOS means Android's other features will soon follow.

Unlike the other two in Telegram's update list, both mobile platforms share version 4.7's last new feature: quick replies. You can simply swipe left on a friend's text bubble to write a reply specifically for that part of the conversation, so you can type up multiple responses without confusing yourself and your friend.

Source: Telegram


UK may tax internet giants to get more help fighting online extremism

The UK still isn't convinced that internet giants are doing enough to curb online extremism, and it's now considering hitting those companies where it really hurts: their bank accounts. In an interview with the Sunday Times, security minister Ben Wallace said the country should use taxes to either incentivize stronger anti-extremist efforts or compensate for "inaction." While Wallace didn't go into detail as to what he'd like, the Times suggested it would be a windfall-based tax that targeted companies' large profits.

Wallace certainly doesn't think very highly of internet companies -- he called them "ruthless profiteers" who put "profit before public safety." They'll sell info to loan sharks and "soft-porn companies," he claimed, but won't give it to the UK's elected government.

The companies in question object to the claims. Facebook's Simon Milner said Wallace was "wrong" that the social network didn't prioritize safety, pointing out "millions of pounds" of investment in people and tech to find and pull terrorist material. YouTube, meanwhile, said it had made "significant progress" thanks to a mix of machine learning, human reviewers and partnerships.

This is only talk at the moment, so it's far from certain that the tech industry will be forced to pay up. And we'd add that Wallace's statements appear to be based more on preconceptions of what the companies are like (he describes them as sitting "on beanbags in T-shirts") than specific complaints. It's easy to claim that Facebook or Google isn't doing enough when you don't have to provide details or consider technical, privacy and free speech issues. This doesn't mean that they are doing everything they can, but the government may have to back up any punitive tax measures with concrete evidence of inaction.

Via: Reuters

Source: Sunday Times (sign-in required)


The best wireless workout headphones

By Lauren Dragan

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter, reviews for the real world. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

After testing 136 sets of headphones and considering an additional 90, we are yet again convinced that the JLab Epic2 is the best pair of wireless workout headphones for most people, because they sound good, fit comfortably, and stay out of your way during rigorous workouts. Our testing showed that these earbuds should withstand abuse, sweat, and moisture when used properly, plus they're backed by a one-year warranty and responsive customer service.

Who should get this

Wireless workout headphones are for people who want to block out external distractions and don't need to hear their surroundings during a workout. You'll need to charge them from time to time, and they're not meant for swimming. If either of those factors are a dealbreaker for you, check out our guide to wired exercise headphones instead. And if you're a biker or runner who needs to be aware of traffic to stay safe, you'd be better off with one of our unsealed picks from the best running headphones guide.

How we picked and tested

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

When researching the best workout headphones, we sifted through the offerings of more than 100 headphone companies, and consulted editorial reviews from a number of publications. We also looked at customer reviews from a handful of major retailers. We eventually settled on this list of crucial features for wireless workout headphones:

  • Sweat and water resistant
  • Comfortable to wear and don't easily fall out
  • An intuitive remote
  • Relatively inexpensive price
  • Noise isolation, with solid audio quality
  • Brand reliability and warranty

We called in every model that met these criteria (and either had positive reviews or was too new to have any feedback) for our expert panel to evaluate. We asked each panelist to consider fit, comfort, ease of use, and sound quality of each set of headphones and to rank their top picks. Then, we brought our favorite pairs along for a workout to test how well they performed in the real world. Finally, we tested for durability by yanking the cords and exposing the headphones to water and sweat. To learn about our testing process in detail, please see our full guide to wireless workout headphones.

Our pick: JLab Epic2

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

The JLab Epic2 is our top pick yet again because these earbuds fit most people comfortably and stay firmly in place during rigorous workouts. They're also easy to use, affordable, and very durable with proper care. And they sound great too. We tested dozens of new headphones in this category, and none of them were as pleasant to use on a regular basis. Many had huge Bluetooth transmitters that slammed against the neck when we bounced, long cables that snagged and made noise, or sound quality so terrible we literally couldn't hear parts of our music. Once we saw just how much junk was out there, the many attributes of the Epic2 became even more appealing.

The Epic2 excels when it comes to durability: Sweat, water, and dirt are no match for these earbuds. We were also impressed with their sound quality. It had a little extra bass, but not so much that it muffled other frequency ranges; the effect was just enough that songs with a solid bassline had a little more oomph. Overall, nothing else available is as well-rounded as the Epic2. These headphones are tough, great sounding, and comfortable, so your focus will stay on completing your workout, not on fiddling with your earbuds.

Runner-up: Jaybird X3

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

If our pick is sold out, or if durability is your top priority, consider the Jaybird X3. With a unique charging system that has no battery door, plus an extra-thick connector cord between the earbuds and a two-year warranty against sweat damage, the X3 is made to take a beating. This set comes with a wide variety of both silicone and Comply memory-foam tips, as well as stabilizing wings, so you can customize your fit. Once in place, the X3 will stay put through high-impact workouts. Plus, you can wear the X3 with the cable threaded over your ear or hanging down, further adapting it to your personal preferences. And in our tests, the sound quality was very good, with a slight sibilance to consonants and a little extra bass.

Although the X3 has a ton of great features, it's the downsides of those features that kept this set from being our top pick. For example, the unique charging system that prevents water from getting inside the battery requires a special adapter that's really small and easy to lose. Additionally, there's a bit of a learning curve involved when figuring out which wings and tips will fit your ears the best.

Budget pick: Aukey Latitude EP-B40

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

If you're looking to spend as little as possible without buyer's remorse, the Aukey Latitude EP-B40 is the way to go. Comfortable for most people, durable, and backed with a two-year warranty, the Latitude bests everything else in its price range. Why? These earbuds stay in place, they're easy to use, and they sound decent. In our tests, so many other workout headphones under $50 were uncomfortable, poorly built, or marred by piercing high-frequency ranges that made turning the volume up past 40 percent literally painful.

The main downfall of the Latitude is the cable length. Although the coating on the cord that connects the two earbuds is textured in a way to make it less likely to snag, it still catches on occasion, and when it does, one of your earbuds will tug loose. Additionally, the cable bounces annoyingly when you run on a treadmill.

This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.


Iran blocks internet services in bid to quash protests

It's a busy weekend for oppressive governments trying to suppress digital communication. Iran has blocked mobile access to at least Telegram and Instagram as it tries to thwart protests that started over economic concerns (particularly inflation), but have extended into broader resistance to the government and clerical rule. Officials claim the censorship is meant to "maintain peace," but the argument doesn't hold water. Telegram founder Pavel Durov noted that his company refused to shut down "peacefully protesting channels," and Instagram is primarily being used to document protests -- Iran clearly doesn't want to reveal the extent of the demonstrations.

There are also numerous reports of Iran blocking mobile internet access in several cities, although the full extent isn't clear. The Iran Student News Agency noted that desktop access to Telegram was working, so this appears to be more of an attempt to disrupt on-the-ground protest coordination and citizen journalism than a blanket ban.

Officials have claimed that the blocks are 'temporary' measures, but it's safe to say they'll continue for as long as the Iranian government believes the protests pose a mounting threat to its authority. The country has a history of blocking Instagram, VPNs and other services that help residents access the uncensored internet. The question is whether or not this will be effective. As Egypt learned early this decade, a sufficiently motivated public isn't going to stay off the streets just because they can't get online. There are frequently ways to get around censorship, too. In short: blocking like this is more of a momentary roadblock than anything else.

Via: Washington Post, CNN

Source: Pavel Durov (Twitter), Al Arabiya


Make the jump to 4K and HDR in 2018

After years of hype, 4K video finally became something that mattered to consumers in 2017. But it wasn't just the pixel bump from HD video that made the difference. HDR, or high dynamic range video, along with support for a wider range of colors, ushered in some massive visual upgrades. Altogether, they add up to the home theater evolution we've been waiting for since the dawn of the high-definition era. And in 2018, it'll be something everyone can enjoy.

4K is the most straightforward step forward: It offers four times as many pixels as 1080p. But while that might sound exciting, it's not a noticeable leap unless you're sitting very close to a large TV set. HDR, on the other hand, is an upgrade you definitely can't miss. It lets you see both brighter and darker elements in an image. Shots of the sun or huge explosions end up looking almost as vibrant as they do in real life. (In fact, on high-end TVs the brightness can sometimes make you squint your eyes.) And while being able to see darker images might not sound exciting, it's a big help for things like Daredevil's nighttime fight scenes.

The benefit of wide color gamut support, or WCG, is immediately noticeably when you're watching something like Planet Earth 2, which shows off seemingly every naturally occurring shade. Until now, home video formats could only display a limited amount of colors. But with WCG, all of the primary pigments — red, green and blue — are bolder and more realistic than ever.

So what makes things better for 4K and HDR next year? The most obvious answer: The TVs supporting those new formats will come even further down in price. Previously, you'd have to spend close to $1,000 to get a decent 50-inch TV. But today, one of the most widely recommended 55-inch models, TCL's P series, goes for just $650. And if you don't mind skimping a bit on picture quality, you can find already similarly sized sets for even less.

That also means that large TVs are becoming more affordable. Vizio's mid-range M series line starts at $1,000 for the 65-inch model, and you can go all the way up to 75 inches for $2,000. That's the sort of TV you previously could only dream of — not something normal people could buy. By next year, many consumers might consider a 65-inch set as their default upgrade, and I wouldn't be surprised if TVs beyond 70-inches become more popular.

And even if you're not just trying to stuff the biggest screen possible into your home, once high-end technology, like OLED, is also becoming more affordable. Not surprisingly, OLED is the upgrade videophiles are really excited about. It offers more contrast than LCD sets and better black levels, plus it doesn't suffer from motion blurring. And if you care about home decor, OLED sets can be shockingly thin. LG's new W series are as thick as two quarters stacked on top of each other -- something that also requires them to be wall mounted, since it's physically impossible to balance them with a traditional table-mounted stand.

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

While OLED TVs are still significantly more expensive than LCDs (LG's cheapest 55-inch model goes for $1,500 now, compared to $650 for TCL's set), the gap between the two is diminishing quickly. And if you're looking for an upgrade that'll completely blow you away, it's worth splurging on an OLED. Naturally, they'll get even cheaper next year, but I wouldn't be surprised if LG had a few surprises in store for CES. LCDs are catching up in terms of quality, so they'll have to make it even clearer why OLEDs are worth the premium.

It's also worth noting that we're currently in the second generation of 4K sets. The first crop, which came out starting in 2014, didn't have the benefit of HDR or much content to justify upgrading from a decent 1080p TV. Today, just about every new show from Netflix and Amazon supports 4K, and most also offer HDR. And since streaming sites are rushing to produce their own original show and films, that means we're going to see a bounty of new 4K content to keep us glued to the couch in 2018.

Apple also finally dipped its toes into ultra-high definition video this year with the Apple TV 4K. It's a decent set-top box, but what's really significant is that Apple chose not to increase pricing for 4K movies on iTunes, making them available for between $15 and $20. Previously, Vudu and Amazon typically charged $30 for a 4K film. It was a move that made buying and renting 4K content much more palatable. And, not surprisingly, the competition has now fallen in line with Apple and lowered their pricing.

So if you ever find a good deal on a 4K movie to stream, you have Apple to thank, regardless of which service you're using. Apple still has one big advantage, though: It automatically upgrades any of your iTunes movie purchases to 4K, assuming they support the new format. For now, that includes most recent big budget releases, but we're starting to see older films get bumped up to 4K as well.

Michele Tantussi/Getty Images

So why does any of this matter? Basically, we now have the ability to watch movies at home at the same quality they're projected in theaters. In fact, most cinemas don't even support HDR yet, so in some respects you're getting a better image in your living room. If you're streaming 4K, you still have to deal with occasional artifacts and buffering. But if you jump aboard the 4K Blu-ray bandwagon, you'll be able to see films at their most pristine. Just be ready to buy a new player, or an Xbox One X or One S to view those discs. And of course, with the rise of streaming video, the days of physical media are arguably over. As I noted last year, 4K Blu-ray was practically dead before it launched. But as a cinephile, I plan to take full advantage of the format until it's officially retired.

Another reason 2018 will be the best year to upgrade your TV? The 4K format likely won't change much over for a while. The world of HDR is still in flux, but even that's beginning to settle. Dolby Vision and HDR10 are the two competing formats, and they're both getting steady improvements. Specifically, the new HDR10+ will bring in some features from Dolby Vision. 8K video is on the horizon as well, but you can ignore that for the next few years. It's going to take a long while before 8K TVs and content are ready, and even when they are, it might not be a huge leap over 4K.

The big takeaway: It's never been a better time to invest in your home theater. (Check out our TV buying primer for some help.) While 4K and HDR has been a tough sell for a while, they've matured to a point where it'll finally be safe to upgrade in 2018.