Tag: home

Apps and gadgets for the ‘Blade Runner’ future we didn’t ask for

Punks, monks and Harrison Ford running scared through a poisonous cityscape were just a few of the details that made the original Blade Runner feel like its environment was a standalone character in the film. It felt as alien and familiar as the way we live today, with an environment turning against us, a government that couldn't care less, and a corporate ruling class that would make the Tyrell Corporation jealous.

The dystopian world of Blade Runner felt like it had naturally come to be. Unlike the version of Blade Runner we seem to be living in now, which feels like someone threw a switch at New Year's, and surprise, we're living in hell. Suddenly we have to catch up to living in dystopian fiction really fast, lest we die from fires, hurricanes, connected Nazis or nuclear war. So it's probably best that we use every bit of tech to our advantage so we make it to the next noodle bar, as it were.

Roy Batty's survival kit

Despite the best efforts of our federal government to deny it, climate change is real and the planet has had enough of our foolishness. From hurricane destruction to extreme heat and cold, everyone needs to plan for a local disaster -- at the very least. The way things are now, with fires and floods, and even hurricanes hitting Ireland, it seems like we need to prepare for everything. But not everyone can afford a survival pod.

Survival kits start with the basics: A "go bag" to keep by the exit, a kit (or extra supplies) for staying in your house, and an off-site stash in case you have to literally run from disaster (such as a "car kit"). Pick one, or all three if you have the luxury. The American Red Cross has a good starting list, while the Disaster Supply Center has a multitude of readymade kits.

Now that we're living in a Blade Runner future on Krack, we'll have to fill in the details of true life in a future gone wrong. Like many in Northern California, this past week set a record for locals comparing life in San Francisco to existing in the film itself. That had a lot to do with the fires, which have us investing in daily-wear face masks and conditioned to air quality worse than Shanghai. We realize that we're just catching up with the rest of the world in so many ways in terms of life with poisoned air.

Prep your cyberpet

On the Set of 'Blade Runner'

As Pris surely knew, real animals are rare in Blade Runner's universe. Animals were the first to start dying of the pollution which pushed humans Off-World. From fires to dust to gale-force winds, or bombs, your kit needs a face mask with N95 and N100 ratings.

Sure, you can get any old thing at the hardware store or Amazon, but this is the future. You can take advantage of living in a time when even product designers are allergic to everything, and get an air mask fit for a city dweller. In many instances, these nouveau air-pollution masks are better than what you'll get in that prepper survival kit.

Great daily use (or temporary daily use) masks that look good are now a competitive market. For the Cal Fires, a number of SF locals grabbed a Vogmask off Amazon for getting around town. Other recommended masks that will make you actually want to wear it are those from Airinum and the Cambridge Mask Co.

If Pris had survived her encounter with Deckard, she'd surely have an animal companion -- and the gear to make her darling doggo or kitteh ready for anything. For starters, she'd make sure that sweet little manufactured beast stayed far away from any actual blade runners with GPS tracking. One option is the Whistle Pet Tracker; internet famous travel cat Willow stays connected with the Tabcat tracker and a long-range (no cell service needed) MarcoPolo Tracking System.

Pris would also have a Pet First Aid Kit, certainly, but for the oppressive heat in a climate gone wrong, she'd own a swamp cooler pup jacket or a canine cooling harness. Or like me, she'd have read about the woman fleeing the Cal Fires who put her 80-lb pit bull in a backpack and bicycled to safety, and would want a quick escape solution -- like a U-Pet escape pod.

Off-World isn't yet an option

Blade Runner

Fire is one thing, but looking at recent events, everyone will probably need waterproof everything. When you can, get a waterproof (or water-resistant) case for all your devices, or try to invest in the newest versions of things like the Kindle, which is now waterproof.

Harrison Ford's character Deckard drank whiskey -- Johnny Walker Black Label, to be precise -- so that's one way you might be able to avoid the poisonous drinking water of our collective future. For those who may find this impractical for daily applications, a top-end water filtration device is the gadget you want. The most advanced consumer model is the MSR Guardian™ Purifier, but day trippers living in the future-now will want a handheld UV water purifier like the SteriPen.

Your biggest asset in a dystopian climate change emergency might just be your backups. You can make your backup with a reputable cloud service, like Crashplan or iCloud. But to be safe from today's security threats, you should have a secure backup hard drive that you keep at home (or in another safe place) and one that you can grab and go.

This portable drive can hold copies of everything you might have to leave behind, from family photos to scans of your passport. It should also be waterproof, shock-proof, and password protected. The gold standard for this type of external hard drive is IOSafe, which claims to also be fireproof. For a small drive to keep in a bag, in case the replicant hunters come looking for you or a hurricane strikes out of nowhere, consider a Silicon Power drive, with small versions storing up to 4TB.

Power will be a concern, no matter if you're in a sci-fi climate disaster future or just on the go in our Blade Runner day-to-day lives. For those who are oppressed by the sun, solar chargers are now easy to use and take everywhere with you. Adafruit's DIY solar charger tutorials will have your devices constantly charged, and can help you keep others charged as well.

If your modern-day Blade Runner experience doesn't include DIY tinkering, the American Red Cross FRX3+ All Purpose Weather and Radio Charger has it all. It includes a NOAA AM/FM weather alert radio, LED flashlight, a charger via its USB port, and it stays powered for a week when fully charged via hand crank, its solar panel, or its 2600 mAh rechargeable battery.

Alcon Entertainment

Apps for humans and replicants alike

One of the apps that made day to day living safe in the Bay Area over the past two weeks was AirVisual's air quality app. More immediate than local alerts, it let us know when we needed to wear masks to go to the grocery store, and when we'd expect to get a break with some fresh air.

That said, many were stuck inside worrying how fast we were dying from the air in our apartments. That's where the AirVisual Pro would come in handy, showing inside air quality as well as that outside our doors. Yet, inside is really where it counts in polluted dystopias like ours, which is why an air purifier is probably the "coolest" gift anyone can give in this coming holiday season. For the most tech-inclined, Dyson's pricey hot-cool air purifier is definitely the Cadillac of purifiers, and comes with its own app to help you monitor your space.

Radiation wasn't an influence on the original Blade Runner's storytelling, but it might be in ours. In case our dystopia takes a Fallout 4 turn, Idaho National Laboratory scientists created an Android app for detecting radiation -- and they tested it on several different smartphone models (Samsung Nexus S, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung SIII and LG Nexus 4).

The CellRAD app wasn't released to the public, but a similar app called Radiation Alarm works on the same functionality. It uses an Android's camera app to detect gamma radiation, as long as you follow the instructions closely (and keep the camera covered to get a reading).

There are apps I wish I'd had before the fires, and apps I've found that make me glad I'm installing them now. Climate change has made Weather alert apps completely invaluable. Weather Underground, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, RainAware, and Hurricane by the American Red Cross would've helped me decide to get an air purifier in time, and will probably save me and my replicant cat before the next disaster.

It's too bad that IBM's mesh network weather alert app isn't available in America yet, but I'm setting an alert to download it when it can help us out. This will negate the need to have cell service to get alerts, and I wonder how many lives it might've saved this year so far.

Should hurricanes hit San Francisco, or if Deckard comes looking for me and my friends, I've now got the Red Panic Button. This app sends email, text, and GPS coordinates to trusted contacts in the event of an emergency, as well as notifying 911. The "ICE" app (In Case of Emergency) from American Red Cross keeps an unlocked medical alert on the lockscreen of my phone, just in case.

While we're on the subject, the American Red Cross has its problems, but the apps they provide are invaluable. Those include a Shelter Finder app, a hurricane/wildfire/earthquake app, and their first aid apps. The medial aid apps come in both human and pet versions, and they are stored offline should you end up without cell service and need to save a fellow replicant's life.

Some might say that Blade Runner was just a movie. But for the rest of us, it's suddenly a way of life, and also a guide to survival. Hopefully this little guide helps, too.

Images: Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images (Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty); Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images (Joanna Cassidy as Zhora Salome with Snake); Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images (Harrison Ford and Edward James Olmos as Deckard and Gaff); Alcon Entertainment / Blade Runner 2049 (Weather display)


Intel and Amazon partner on voice recognition tech

Intel and Amazon are partnering to put the former's silicon and smarts into the latter's Alexa voice platform. The chipmaker has introduced the Intel Speech Enabling Developer Kit to provide a "complete audio front-end solution for far-field voice control," according to a press release. The idea is that Intel has done the hard work of designing the mic arrays and voice systems and that all developers will need to do is write applications for them. It offers algorithms for echo cancellation and beam forming, wake words, an 8-mic array and the company's dual digital signal processor.

The development kit is up for preorder as of today for $399. And while that might be a little too expensive for a hobbyist developer (a Raspberry Pi is $25) for now, it isn't exorbitantly priced a la some game console development kits. If you wait until after the pre-order window, the cost jumps $100.

Of course, if you don't want to get your hands dirty with hardware -- or spend any money -- you can always make skills for Alexa for free with Amazon's developer portal. That's helped Amazon's voice platform grow by leaps and bounds, so it'll be interesting to see what effect Intel's new kit will have.

Source: Intel (1), (2)


Smart lock company August home purchased by actual lock company Yale

Smart-lock outfit Yale's parent company is buying August Home, in a move that may consolidate some of the smart lock market. Sweden-based Assa Abloy will pick up August Home for a cool $60 million, and the regulatory bodies involved are expected to approve the purchase by year's end. "August Home strengthens our residential smart door strategy with complementary smart locks, expansion into video doorbells and comprehensive solutions for home delivery," ASSA's executive vice president Thanasis Molokotos said in a statement.

"We have always admired the design and quality of Yale locks," August CEO Jason Johnson said in a press release. "This is a great opportunity for us to work with the world's largest lock and access company."

While this might be good news for August, customers now have to deal with a potential oligopoly where a few firms control the entire space and innovations therein.

Source: Assa Abloy


Samsung believes ‘programmable objects’ will blanket your home

While Samsung continues to reap the rewards of being the world's largest Android partner, it also has its eyes set on the future of the connected home. "Samsung is very focused on the internet of things," said David Eun, the president of Samsung Next, the company's investment arm. At the Wall Street Journal's D.Live conference today, he said that there'll come a time when your home will be covered in connected devices.

"We think this could be the third wave where you have programmable objects blanketing your home," he said. Eun said that the company has already been investing in certain companies to help accelerate this effort, such as the purchase of home automation platform SmartThings in 2014. Now, it's the defacto platform for all of Samsung's connected devices, such as the Connect Home router and a cellular smart tag.

Yet, the internet of things hasn't leapt off to a great start. For many, it's still confusing to use, with far too many apps and a laborious set-up process. There's also the recent problem of security, with IoT devices frequently used as a target for botnets.

Eun remains optimistic, however. "The internet of things is an interesting area of growth for us," he said. Connected homes can also prevent theft, he said, by alerting the owner of any disturbances. And while rivals like Amazon and Google are relying on embedding existing devices with their own smart assistants (Alexa and Google Assistant respectively), Samsung has the advantage of making its own hardware too. Imagine a Bixby-powered Samsung fridge, for example, or a Bixby-powered Samsung washing machine.

All of this means heavy investment not just in hardware, but also in software and services, which is what Eun has been focusing on for the past few years. "We have to get the software equation right," he said, adding that it's essential to have a thoughtful integration of both hardware and software.

Part of the idea behind Samsung NEXT is to act as a startup within a very large company, and its job in recent years has been to identify "transformative software and services" and to discover them through investment and VC funds.

"We invested in virtual reality two to three years before coming out with a headset," said Eun. "It turns out investments can be incredibly strategic when you're thinking about innovation."

As for the past year, Eun admits that it's been a rough time at the company as it dealt with the fall out from the Galaxy Note 7 scandal. Still, the recent reception of Galaxy Note 8 was welcome. "It's been a record year," he said. "It's the most gratifying thing."


Engadget giveaway: Win a Sense smart security router courtesy of F-Secure!

With smart home technology proliferating and cybercriminality afoot, adding data security to your home network is a wise move. F-Secure's new Sense router can help monitor your home and provide feedback on the state of your network, IoT gadgets and even mobile devices while providing dual-band WiFi for your home. The Sense router monitors by device type to offer the protection for each connected product, from threats targeting your home PC to checking for unusual activity on IoT products.

Sense stays connected to F-Secure's Security Cloud service to stay up-to-date, apply its file scanning services and AI analysis, while upholding its privacy principles. This week, F-Secure has provided us with three of its new Sense smart security routers -- which include a one-year security subscription -- for three lucky readers. All you need to do is head to the Rafflecopter widget below for up to three chances at winning this one-stop home data-security device.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  • Contest is open to all residents of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec), 18 or older! Sorry, we don't make this rule (we hate excluding anyone), so direct your anger at our lawyers and contest laws if you have to be mad.
  • Winners will be chosen randomly. Three (3) winners will each receive one (1) F-Secure SENSE router including a one (1) year security subscription ($199 value each).
  • If you are chosen, you will be notified by email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen. Make sure that the account you use to enter the contest includes your real name and a contact email. We do not track any of this information for marketing or third-party purposes.
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  • Entries can be submitted until October 18th at 11:59PM ET. Good luck!

Google Assistant can finally control Chromecast from your phone

Google's Assistant app is capable of lots of things, but before today, controlling a cast session by voice wasn't really possible. Android Police reports that now the mobile app can do so, and you can even specify which Chromecast in your house is the target. Adjusting the volume, skipping or repeating tracks and tasking Assistant to play Urfaust's latest on your Chromecast Audio while you beam a Minecraft video to the kids' room all can be done with a simple voice command now -- and all without a Google Home. On our iPhone with the Assistant app it worked as you'd expect, but Android Police says its devices weren't working just yet; the publication received tips from readers about the functionality prior. Are you having any luck? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Android Police


Google Home Mini review: Taking aim at the Echo Dot

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that's true, Amazon must be tickled pink right now. The obvious inspiration for last year's Google Home was the Amazon Echo, and it's just as obvious that the new Google Home Mini is taking cues from the Echo Dot. To be fair, it's a logical strategy: by packaging all of Alexa's features into a smaller and cheaper package, Amazon expanded the Echo ecosystem and made it easier to blanket your house with voice-activated assistants.

Google is now doing the same, right down to the price. The $49 Home Mini does almost everything the larger Home does, at a price that makes the idea of buying three or four to place around the house a lot more palatable. For that to be worthwhile, though, the Google Assistant /and/ the Home Mini hardware both need to seamlessly integrate themselves into your home and make your life easier.

Hardware

Google describes the Home Mini hardware as a donut, and that's not a bad comparison. It's about the same size as my favorite pastry (though there's no hole in the middle). To me, it looks more like someone turned the original Google Home upside-down and flattened it. Instead of having a white top and a colored bottom, the Mini offers the opposite. But the top of the Mini is made of a new fabric that Google designed specifically for its pair of new smart speakers (the Mini and its giant brother the Home Max). The soft look of the light grey fabric and the Mini's rounded corners make this a much friendlier gadget than the Echo Dot, and one that be happy to put just about anywhere in my house.

The company says it designed the fabric to be both acoustically and visually transparent so you can see the Mini's four status lights when it's listening and "thinking." Those lights are much less gaudy than the Echo Dot's bright LED ring, but they're also not quite as good at showing you when the Home is in use. As for the fabric top, one potential downside is that it could get dirtier than a standard plastic shell and won't be as easy to clean. There's also no way to change out the top, unlike the bigger Google Home, which has a swappable base.

That said, I don't think the Home Mini will get too grimy, because I rarely needed to touch it. Tapping the left and right sides of it turns the volume up or down, but it's just as easy to do that with a voice command. Until a few days ago, you could also tap and hold on the center of the Home Mini to activate the Google Assistant, but Google just permanently disabled this feature. A few Home Minis were suffering from a bug where their touch panels activated inadvertently -- this meant the device was able to record audio and transmit it to Google without a user's consent, a privacy nightmare in the making.

Google acted quickly in disabling the feature, and a review of all the voice commands the Home Mini sent showed no unusual activity for me. I believe that Google has fixed the issue, but it's still something to be aware of if you're on the fence about having a voice assistant in your house. For extra privacy, you can mute the device's microphone with a switch on the back. Once muted, the four lights on the top of the Home Mini light up in orange. It's a bit less elegant than the button found on the larger Google Home, but it does the job.

Setup

Setting up the Home Mini is identical to setting up the full-size Home. You plug it in, and the Google Home app walks you through the rest. Punch in your WiFi credentials, assign it to a room and you're ready to roll.

But to get the most out of a Google Home, you'll want to to customize a few things. In the Home app, you can sign into various music and video services including Spotify (free or premium), Pandora, TuneIn or IHeartRadio so that you can tell the Home Mini to play your streaming library. If you use Google-owned services like Play Music and YouTube, they'll be automatically set up. Supported video services include CBS, the CW (both added over the last year) and Netflix.

You can also customize "My Day," a daily briefing that tells you what's on your calendar, what your commute is like, what the weather in the area is like, all pulled from your Google account. It also can follow that up with a quick news program, so it's worth taking a minute to pick your favorite sources. Options include "traditional" news like Bloomberg, NPR and the Wall Street Journal, but you can also get programs focused on specific topics like technology and sports.

In use

Once you're all set up, you can start asking the Home Mini questions and the Google Assistant will answer based on the company's massive knowledge graph. You can also ask it to give you just about any info you've stored in your Google account, like calendar appointments, reminders and your commute, but there's a bit caveat. It only works with personal Google accounts; G Suite is not supported. That's crazy, particularly a year after the first Home arrived. Even Amazon supports G Suite calendars on the Echo! As someone who uses his work calendar much more than the personal one, I'd really like the Mini to work with G Suite accounts.

The Home Mini can stream audio, video or images from Google Photos to any Chromecast-enabled device (including another Google Home). Controlling audio and video was one of my favorite features with the original Google Home and that's still the case here. The speaker is too small for dedicated music playback (more on that later), but I used the Mini to cast music and video to various speakers and TVs in my house with no issues.

Additionally, there's a ton of other services you can talk to across categories like education, productivity, entertainment, games and trivia, news and more. They're similar to Alexa's skills, but you don't have to "enable" these. You can just say, "OK Google, talk to the Wall Street Journal" to get whatever info the publication has posted recently. The best place to see everything you can ask the Google Assistant is currently in the official Assistant app, not the Home app you use for setup. That was a little confusing, but once I had both installed it was pretty easy to learn more about what the Home Mini was currently capable of.

Other features include getting step-by-step recipe directions from the Food Network, Dominos pizza delivery, calling an Uber, making a reservation with OpenTable and more. Naturally, the Home Mini can connect to a variety of smart home devices, as well. Google says that Home supports 1,000 devices from "more than 100" home automation partners. And you can use IFTTT to build your own custom actions, as well. One of the nicer things about the Google Assistant is that you don't need to sign in or set up much before you start using these actions -- I asked the Mini to make me a reservation for dinner tonight and went through the process without having to go back to my phone, which is how it should be.

What's changed

That said, there are some differences to note about the Home Mini compared to the original, almost all of which come down to one thing: audio quality. Obviously, the much smaller Mini has a much smaller speaker, and that makes a huge difference for audio playback. It works fine for voice responses, alarms, timers and the like, but it's not something you'll want to use for music. The bigger Google Home doesn't have outstanding audio, but it's definitely better than your laptop speakers or most cheaper Bluetooth speakers. The Mini, on the other hand, is severely lacking in the bass department and generally lacks the clarity you'd want for listening to music.

For $49, that's totally excusable, but it's something worth being aware of. For what it's worth,, the Mini absolutely outclasses the Echo Dot in audio quality. The Dot sounds tinny and hollow when Alexa speaks to you, and music playback is even worse. I compared the same songs across both devices and the Dot consistently came up short, without even a hint of a bass. I personally wouldn't want to use the Home Mini for music outside of a few limited circumstances -- I could see putting on a few songs while cleaning up the bedroom, for example, but for any longer listening session I'd rather just pop in some headphones than keep the Mini playing. Your milage may vary, of course -- if you listen to a lot of audio through your phone's speaker, the Mini will be an improvement.

The Mini's tiny design also affects microphone performance. The Google Assistant hears me just fine, but voice calling is another story. When I called a few friends with the Mini, they all said that I sounded terrible. At least I could hear things fine on my end. This isn't just a problem with the WiFi calling protocol that Google is using, either. I called the same people on the full-size Google Home and everyone said things sounded significantly better. If you were going to buy a Home product with the intent of using it as a voice-activated speakerphone, you'll be better off springing for the larger model.

In addition to voice calls, new Google Assistant features including adding calendar items and reminders (something that really should have been there day one). Voice Match, which lets multiple users get personalized responses from the Home, was probably the biggest and most useful addition so far. If you want to try shopping with your voice, Google Express now lets your order products from giant retailers like Walmart and Target.

Google also announced a number of new features when it unveiled the Home Mini last week; unfortunately some of the most notable ones aren't live yet. Users can build "routines" that stack a few actions together the way the "my day" briefing gives you a handful of different pieces of info. Saying "good morning" could turn on lights, set your thermostat, turn on the coffee pot and tell you what's first on your calendar (provided you have the right smart devices to do those things, of course).

Another new feature will let you use the Home devices as an intercom — you'll be able to "broadcast" a message from the Google Assistant (on your phone or through Google Home) to all other Home devices in the house. The Home also lets you send info from it to your phone if you need to see something visual, like directions.

The competition

The question everyone will have to ask when considering the Home Mini is how it compares to the Echo Dot. The Mini beats the Dot in terms of audio quality, and I personally prefer its looks. But the Dot still has broader third-party support, with 20,000 "skills" and more added every week. The real question is whether Google supports the smart home products and features that you need, and at this point the Home Mini can control a wide variety of smart home devices. Amazon's head start and the fragmented nature of the smarthome device market gives the Echo a lead, but I'm no longer convinced that going with Amazon is a must to have the best smarthome experience.

If you're deep in Google's ecosystem and prefer using its products and services, the Home Mini is a natural choice -- provided you don't rely heavily on a G Suite account, in which case the Echo is still somehow a better option.. And Google's implementation of voice calling is much better, but the Mini's terrible call quality negates that advantage

Wrap up

There's no doubt that Google Home's capabilities have improved significantly over the last year. I called the original device "little more than a toy" last year, but now it's a legit competitor to what Amazon's Echo and Alexa. The Echo might technically have a lead in compatible devices, but I'd urge you to do some research before committing to a smart speaker -- chances are good that the Home Mini can do what you need it to.

Google's undeniable advantage comes from the amount of info Google has about both the world and your own activities. Its knowledge graph is unrivaled, and Google is very good at answer any query you might have. As for the hardware itself, the Home Mini has a better speaker, a more attractive appearance and superior voice-calling features -- it's just too bad that the microphones don't offer better call quality. Google has done a strong job closing the gap between the Assistant and Alexa over the last year -- as long as the Home Mini works with devices and services you use, it's well worth a look.


Wirecutter’s best deals: Nikon’s Coolpix B700 Superzoom drops to $350

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 their continuously updated list of deals here.

You may have already seen Engadget posting reviews from our friends at Wirecutter. Now, from time to time, we'll also be publishing their recommended deals on some of their top picks. Read on, and strike while the iron is hot -- some of these sales could expire mighty soon.

Eufy HomeVac Duo Stick Vacuum

Street price: $100; Deal price: $80

This is a new low price on a vacuum we like in our best stick vacuum guide. The Eufy HomeVac Duo has a pop-out hand vacuum module, thus the Duo name. Usually between $100 and $110, at $80 for the red model, this deal beats the lowest price we'd previously seen by about $5 dollars. Looking for black or white instead? Both are also discounted at $83, a few dollars below the previous low. Shipping is free with Prime.

The Eufy HomeVac Duo is our versatile and affordable pick in our guide to the best stick vacuums. Liam McCabe wrote, "If you want a budget cordless vacuum with more battery life or the ability to pull double duty as a hand vacuum, check out the Eufy HomeVac Duo (formerly known as the Anker HomeVac Duo). Like the Hoover Linx, the Eufy HomeVac Duo can't compete with the Dyson V6 in cleaning power, but it's useful for tidying up."

Nikon Coolpix B700 Superzoom Camera

Street price: $450; Deal price: $350

If you're looking specifically for a superzoom camera, this is a very solid drop on the Nikon Coolpix B700, our top pick. Usually well over $400, at $350 this is one of the lowest prices we've seen for it new and it's roughly equivalent in price to where we usually see it sold in refurbished condition by a trusted retailer, so grab one while you can. Shipping is free.

The Nikon Coolpix B700 is our top pick in our guide to the best superzoom camera. Ben Keough wrote, "Although none of the models we tested ticked all of the boxes on our checklist, the Nikon Coolpix B700 includes the most important features you could want in a superzoom. In particular, its eye sensor makes switching between the rear screen and the electronic viewfinder a breeze, the articulating rear LCD enables easy off-angle shooting, the raw capture is a great feature for anyone who owns image-processing software, and the impressive lens zooms in to an incredible 1440mm-equivalent focal length, long enough to fill the frame with a building located a mile away. You can find some of the B700's individual attributes in other superzooms, but no competitors combine them all in a reasonably sized camera body. Ken McMahon of Camera Labs agrees, writing that "there's very little that compares with the B700 at this price point."

Aukey USB-C to USB 3.0 Adapter 2-pack

Street price: $10; Deal price: $7 w/ code AUKEYAA1

If you have a computer or peripherals with legacy ports you plan to hold on to, now's the time to start stocking up on adapters as USB-C is rapidly becoming ubiquitous. Right now, thankfully, you can save on a 2-pack of our recommended nub adapters when you use code AUKEYAA1. The code is valid for a 2-pack in the black or white colors and lowers the price from $10 to $7, matching the previous low we've seen. Shipping is free with Prime or a qualifying $25 purchase.

The Aukey USB-C to USB 3.0 Adapter is our top nub adapter pick in our guide to the best USB-C adapters, cables, and hubs. Nick Guy wrote, "Of the models we tested, our favorite nub-style adapter is Aukey's CB-A1-2, available in a two-pack for less than $10. (If you want just one, there's also the CB-A1, but having a handful of these around is useful.) The plastic-bodied dongle is a little over an inch from end to end (including its own USB-C plug), about half an inch wide, and barely thicker than the USB plug that you'll connect to, so you can use two of the adapters side-by-side on a 2016 MacBook Pro, though it's a tight fit. The CB-A1 is nothing fancy, but it works well, and it's cheap enough that you could buy a few packs and just leave the adapters attached to the cables and plugs of your legacy peripherals."

Refurbished DJI Phantom 3 Standard

Street price: $400; Deal price: $314

We've been fans of DJI drone refurbs for some time due to the generous warranty, the same offered for DJI drones when purchased new. This refurbished DJI Phantom 3 standard, sold via the Newegg DJI storefront, is available for $314, about as low as we've seen the Phantom 3 on sale without a coupon code. While we've seen this $314 price a few times, for a beginner, it's an affordable price for a very capable drone. Shipping is free.

The DJI Phantom Standard is our budget pick in our guide to the best drones. Mike Perlman wrote, "If all you want is something to capture aerial footage on occasion for personal use and social-media sharing, and you don't need advanced flight features or collision-avoidance technology, you can save several hundred dollars by getting the DJI Phantom 3 Standard. It has all the important core features you need from a video drone, including high-resolution 2.7K video recording, excellent image and flight stabilization, and limited smart-flight modes like Follow Me (tracks and follows a subject) and Point of Interest (encircles a subject while capturing photos and videos). But it doesn't fold up, it comes with an outdated controller, and it's limited to a half-mile operating range."

Because great deals don't just happen on Thursday, sign up for our daily deals email and we'll send you the best deals we find every weekday. Also, deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go to thewirecutter.com.


Google disables Home Mini’s top button so it won’t record everything

Google hasn't even started shipping the Home Mini yet, but its launch has been marred by an unusual situation where some of the devices would record and upload practically any sound. As a result, Google says it's taking the step of disabling all top touch functionality on the Home Mini. While owners can still control it using their voice and a volume switch on the side -- that's it. A software update for all existing Home Minis should roll out by September 15th, well ahead of the products retail debut on the 19th.

Google:

We take user privacy and product quality concerns very seriously. Although we only received a few reports of this issue, we want people to have complete peace of mind while using Google Home Mini.

We have made the decision to permanently remove all top touch functionality on the Google Home Mini. As before, the best way to control and activate Google Home Mini is through voice, by saying "Ok Google" or "Hey Google," which is already how most people engage with our Google Home products. You can still adjust the volume by using the touch control on the side of the device.

Source: Google Support


Amazon’s Alexa can recognize the voices of multiple users

Echo devices keep getting better, getting multi-room audio, access to Google calendars, and intercom features. Now, though, Amazon just matched one of Google Home's killer features: the ability to recognize multiple voices. In a video on the retailer's help site, you can see how to set up and use Voice Profiles. Alexa can now recognize voices in order to route Messages, Calls, allow access to shopping without a confirmation code, play Flash briefings and access an Amazon Music Unlimited Family plan based on the person speaking.

To set up your own voice profile, you'll need to go through the Amazon app. You'll go to your account settings and tap Your Voice, then tap on your profile name. You'll have to give the app permission to upload contacts to the Amazon service, and then you'll need to say several phrases out loud. If you want to add other people to the same device, you'll need to have them sign into their own account via their own Alexa app, or they can choose the "I'm someone else" option on your mobile Alexa app, then train their voice on the device in the same way.

Ultimately, this makes having Amazon smart speakers in homes with more than one person just that much more useful. Amazon confirmed that the update is rolling out to the Alexa app today.

Source: Amazon