Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

[H]ard News

Thursday August 17, 2017

The Worst Cities in America for Cell Service

RootMetric has published their latest mobile network performance report, revealing the best and worst places for cell service: 125 major metropolitan areas have been tested and ranked based on categories ranging from reliability and speed to data and call quality. Overall, Lansing, MI has come out on top while Hudson Valley, NY sits at the bottom of the list.

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Among the largest 125 metropolitan areas in the United States, Lansing, MI, topped our overall mobile performance rankings during first-half 2017 testing, moving up from 20th in the previous round. Lansing also finished the first half of 2017 ranked #1 in network speed and data performance, #3 in call performance, and #4 in network reliability. The only category in which Lansing failed to make a top 5 showing was in text performance, where it was still a top 10 finisher, ranking #7.

Discussion

Bitcoin Is Forking Again

Ready for a third version of bitcoin? A group of bitcoiners, which includes Bitmain (the largest bitcoin infrastructure company in the world) and legendary bitcoin developer Jeff Garzik, has scheduled yet another split for the network in November: the new fork is dubbed Segwit2x and allows for two-megabyte blocks with segregated witness (data, or more specifically, data related to signatures, are removed from bitcoin transactions making them smaller in size).

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According to an announcement posted to the Segwit2x GitHub repository, a bitcoin block between one and two megabytes will be created at block 494,784. After that, anybody who wants to join the New York Agreement signatories on the Segwit2x chain can create bitcoin blocks on top of that one. Thus, a new blockchain with its own set of rules will be created. Bitcoin's timing works via blocks, which can come at unpredictable intervals (although usually around one every ten minutes), and so the exact timing of the hard fork isn't known, but it should occur in November.

Discussion

72% of Consumers Don’t Know What Net Neutrality Is

Streaming services fan site Exstreamist conducted a survey of 768 US citizens to get a general sense of the public’s awareness about the recent Net Neutrality decision and found that 72% of respondents have no idea what Net Neutrality even is. Additionally, 81% did not know that the FCC voted to roll back Net Neutrality.

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Maybe it’s a busy political news cycle, perhaps fatigue, or even worse, it might just be a lack of understanding, but the FCC voted this year to roll back Net Neutrality to much less resistance seen in previous efforts. Despite a fervent tech community voicing concern, very few people seemed able to muster up enough concern to protest this decision. And of course, there is also always the possibility that no matter how many people fought back, once enough Net Neutrality opponents were in power, they would have too much control over the decision, and were going to eventually vote for the rollbacks no matter how much resistance they encountered, even with recent congressional concern being voiced earlier this week.

Discussion

Xbox One X Pre-Orders Reportedly Launch This Weekend

Tweets are going out suggesting that Xbox One X pre-orders will begin this Sunday, August 20, following Microsoft’s Gamescom press conference/livestream event: it doesn’t seem that farfetched, being that the console will launch in just a couple of months. We will supposedly hear more about Xbox One X game support this weekend.

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The Xbox One X will cost US $500 / آ£449 / AU $649. It launches on November 7 worldwide, though it will do so without Crackdown 3 alongside it. Microsoft has delayed the open-world action game once again, this time until next spring. Xbox One X is a more powerful version of the Xbox One. It's capable of powering 4K games and is a step above other console hardware already on the market (including the PS4 Pro). Despite the horsepower, it's Microsoft's smallest console to date.

Discussion

The Essential Phone Is Now Available

Following a number of delays, Andy Rubin’s Essential Phone is finally available to order at Sprint, Best Buy, and direct from the company: the unlocked model will run you $699, and you can get the 360-degree camera add-on for an additional $50 if you purchase the phone through Essential. In his latest blog post, Rubin explains why his handset is special, noting premium materials and long-lasting support (it’ll get two years of Android software updates and three years of security patches). I love the design, but I’m still not sure about that camera notch up top.

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At Essential, we believe that phones are at their best when they serve you, not a company. Our phone comes standard with 128GB of storage, because it’s a small cost for us to absorb and unlike most players in the market, we’re not out to charge customers for incremental upgrades. We’ve made a 360آ؛ camera because we want to unleash the creativity of our customers. And we’ve built in future-proof technology because we want Essential Phone to evolve with our customers’ needs. This is the phone we always wanted, but we didn’t just make it for ourselves. We designed it around you.

Discussion

Deep Silver to Publish Shenmue III

Ys Net’s long-awaited sequel has found its publisher: Metro and Saints Row’s Deep Silver will be releasing Shenmue III for PlayStation 4 and PC sometime in the second half of 2018, both in physical and digital formats. The news follows a crowdfunding campaign that ended at the highest-ever figure for a video game; early 70,000 backers pledged $6,333,295.

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Yu Suzuki, the director of Shenmue III and CEO of Ys Net added, "I am very pleased to secure this global partnership with Deep Silver, which is comprised of incredible men and women who have a deep passion for bringing Japanese titles to the rest of the world. Throughout this process, Deep Silver has expressed a deep passion for Japanese games, the Shenmue franchise and its fans—this gives me further confidence in Shenmue III and that we have found the best partner possible."

Discussion

Samsung, Foxconn Back High-Speed Wireless Transfer Tech

Keyssa, a startup backed by one of the fathers of the Apple iPod, has developed a technology dubbed "kiss" that allows large files such as movies to be transferred in seconds just by holding two computing devices near one another. The standard has already garnered the attention of Foxconn, Intel, Samsung, and other industry giants who wish to implement it in future laptops and mobile devices.

The goal is to remove the need for cumbersome and bulky cable connectors inside devices like phones and laptops, which are growing ever-lighter and thinner. If Keyssa is successful, the wireless data transfer technique could eventually be available in a wide range of devices. Keyssa announced last October, together with Intel Corp (INTC.O), that it had come up with a design that could be embedded in so-called two-in-one laptops which feature detachable touch-screens. The alliance with Samsung and Foxconn is aimed at creating a design for mobile phones.

Discussion

Doom Guy Is in Quake Champions

You’ll be able to play as "Doom Slayer" in Quake Champions when the game leaves closed beta and enters Early Access on Steam and the Bethesda.net launcher on Tuesday (August 22). His active ability, Beserk, lets him smash enemies into bloody piles of gibs with his bare hands, while his passive ability allows for double jumps.

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"The Early Access version of Quake Champions is, obviously, a work-in-progress, but represents a solid and robust version of the game, with four modes, 11 Champions, a variety of maps, and a thriving community of fans," said Tim Willits, studio director at id Software. "Early Access will allow us to work closely with players to improve the game and add additional features before the official launch of Quake Champions in the coming months." The 11 current Champions include Ranger, Visor, Scalebearer, Nyx, Anarki, Clutch, Sorlag, Galena, Slash, BJ Blazkowicz from Wolfenstein and now Doom guy. Go Doom guy!

Discussion

Blur Busters Publishes Test Results of 4K 120Hz Display with 480Hz Mode

Blur Busters has detailed its findings of a unique ZisWorks display that utilizes a custom FPGA board to achieve 120Hz at 4K, along with "bonus" refresh rates such as 240Hz and 480Hz at 1080p and 540p, respectively. The first round of tests discusses the advantages of super high refresh rates, which include reduced phantom array effect, motion blur, and input lag. The site will be releasing tests on the latter next week.

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Going to higher refresh rates can have diminishing points of returns. Humans cannot see individual frames at 480 Hz. However, humans can see other side effects of non-analog motion (discrete frames to represent moving objects). Many researchers including Oculus’ chief scientist Michael Abrash, extoll the benefits of quadruple-digit refresh rates. So even 480 Hz is not the final frontier yet.

Discussion

Cox to Begin Charging $50 Extra to Avoid Usage Caps This Week

Cox Communications is unveiling a new option for customers this week that allows them to avoid usage caps and overage fees for an additional $50 every month. Currently, those in capped markets have to pay $10 for each 50GB of data consumed beyond the one terabyte cap. Customers also have the option of paying an additional $30 per month for 500GB of additional data.

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A memo being circulated among employees on the changes downplays the impact of these restrictions on consumers, repeatedly trying to argue that confusing and unnecessary usage limits aren't a big deal because the majority of Cox customers won't run afoul of them. "An overwhelming majority of data is consumed by a very small percentage of internet users," a memo to employees documenting the changes reads. "The new choices are great options for the small percentage of heavy users who routinely use 1TB+ per month and prefer a flat monthly rate, rather than purchasing additional data blocks."

Discussion

Refurbished Galaxy Note 4 Batteries Are Being Recalled for Overheating Risk

Luckily, this appears to be no fault of Samsung’s (which would be terrible timing, as the debut of the Note 8 is next week): the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a recall for batteries installed in refurbished AT&T Note 4 units due to overheating risks. The origin of the faulty batteries has not been revealed.

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The scale is much smaller than last year’s issues, impacting a little over 10,000 units, and thus far no injuries or property damage has been reported. Instead, there’s only a single case of overheating resulting from the non-OEM batteries. The fact that the Note 4 has a user-replaceable battery should help the whole thing go a bit more smoothly, as well. FedEx will be mailing out a new battery identified with a green dot to users who got a replacement Note 4 as part of an AT&T insurance program between last December and this past April. The company is also mailing out a pre-paid box to send back the old battery.

Discussion

Prey: Hour-Long Trial Available Now

Prey is currently on sale for 50% off ($29.99), but a trial is available for those of you who want to test the waters first: a demo was previously available for PS4 and Xbox One, but now PC gamers can get some free action as well. The trial is better, actually, being that your progress and Trophies/Achievements are retained if you decide to get the full version.

Discussion

Motorola Designed a Phone Screen That Repairs Itself

Motorola has been granted a patent for a phone display that can heal itself when cracked: the filing describes a "shape memory polymer" that regains its form after being subjected to "thermal elements," which can include the phone heating itself up, applying a hair dryer, using body heat, or even leaving the damaged phone out in the sun. The downside is that it may only be effective for smaller cracks or scratches.

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...there's no guarantee that Motorola or parent company Lenovo has something in the cards. And just like Motorola's anti-shatter screens, this may be an exercise in compromise. A polymer screen probably won't feel as nice to the touch as glass, and the technology never completely restores the screen's strength. If you're a butterfingers type, you might still have to take your phone in after enough abuse. This beats having to pay through the nose for a single fix, though, and it could easily make sense for rugged devices where drops are virtually expected.

Discussion

MIT Researchers Use Machine Learning to Kill Video Buffering

Researchers have developed a solution for reducing video rebuffering using machine learning: the system, dubbed "Pensieve," figures out the optimal algorithm to use for delivering video at the best possible resolution while avoiding buffering breaks. Current systems employed on YouTube, Netflix, and similar sites have to make a trade-off between the quality of the video versus how often it has to rebuffer, but Pensieve utilizes AI that knows what works best in various conditions, potentially cutting rebuffering by up to 30 percent.

Pensieve doesn’t need a model or any existing assumptions about things like network speed. It represents an ABR algorithm as a neural network and repeatedly tests it in situations that have a wide range of buffering and network speed conditions. The system tunes its algorithms through a system of rewards and penalties. For example, it might get a reward anytime it delivers a buffer-free, high-resolution experience, but a penalty if it has to rebuffer. "It learns how different strategies impact performance, and, by looking at actual past performance, it can improve its decision-making policies in a much more robust way."

Discussion

Intel Claims i7-8700K to Be 11% Faster Than 7700K

A leaked slide from a retailer training event in China claims that the flagship Coffee Lake CPU, the six-core, twelve-thread i7-8700K, offers 11% higher performance than the Kaby Lake i7-7700K. The image also confirms quad-core i3 and six-core i5 chips.

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Discussion

Blurry Leaked Images Depict Alleged "Apple OLED TV"

Leaked images purport to show a 60" Apple-branded OLED television unit: while the photos were shot with a potato, you can make out a narrow frame design and metal shell, which aligns with the fruit company’s design aesthetic. Assuming this is even real (and goes beyond the testing phase), I wonder how expensive it would be, considering how the Thunderbolt Display was priced.

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It's virtually impossible to say anything definitive about the contents of the photos, and Apple is known to regularly test devices most of which never see the light of day as consumer products. As far as Apple-branded television rumors go, these had been circulating for years before a Wall Street Journal report two years ago essentially confirmed that Apple had shelved its TV set plans back in 2014. The company reportedly spent more than a decade researching the possibility of releasing an ultra high-definition television set before deciding to cancel the project because it couldn't find untapped features that would give it an edge in the television market.

Discussion

Single Handed Joy Con Adapter for Nintendo Switch

Nice story of the day. An engineer by the name of Julio Vazquez created a 3D-printed adapter for the Joy-Con controller for Nintendo's Switch. It was developed for a friend of his who lost the ability to control his right-hand, but still wanted to experience the awesomeness that is the new Zelda.

What a buddy, the best invention a friend ever built for me was a beer bong with "wider funnels" for faster beer extraction, It was a nice gesture and I drunkenly applaud the effort. Plans can be found here on Thingverse.

Discussion

Surkus App Makes Standing in Line a Circus

You know that line outside the fancy new restaurant full of hipsters? Well those folks may not be there for the current food fusion craze, but are actual posers. These "cool people" are getting paid using an app called Surkus to make things look cool. The app acts as a movie casting director, screening out potential event goers and linking them up with promotions and advertisers to get paid.

Next time you see people gathered around that new trendy looking place, remember the idiom "two's a company, three's a crowdsourced." Thanks to maclem8223 for the link.

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After quietly launching two years ago, Surkus members have attended 4,200 events for 750 clients, including big-name brands, hospitality groups, live-ticketed shows, movie castings and everyday people who want to throw a party. George said users can be paid as little as $5 and as much as $100, though the average for most events is between $25 and $40. Prolific users, he said, can earn as much as $4,000 a year. And Surkus takes a portion of the client's budget for each event.

Discussion

AMC Slams MoviePass, Threatening Legal Action

That recent MoviePass deal seemed way to good to be true, it's for reals though, ok. Plenty of people tried to sign up causing the site to slow to a crawl. It turns out AMC Theaters aren't too happy about the pricing model and are threatening the subscription-based service MoviePass. Of course, the company wants a piece of the pie. I'm not sure on what the numbers for AMC's Rewards Program, but they must be terrible because there are no rewards or hardly any.

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"I'm not worried about it killing the sale," he said. "What I'm worried about is it confusing customers and making them believe they can't use this service at AMC theaters."

MoviePass didn't just unveil a new pricing plan on Tuesday. It also announced that had sold a majority stake to Helios and Matheson Analytics Inc., a publicly traded data firm, for an undisclosed price.

Discussion

Toyota Patents Cloaking Device for Cars

Toyota has acquired a patent for the use of a cloaking device on their vehicles. Now that may sound crazy or even dangerous, but it is help turn the pillars inside cars transparent in eliminating blindspots. Although, the patent is only for the left and right A-pillar giving drivers a wider view of the road and pedestrians in front. Maybe they'll develop tech for the B and C pillars next as rear-view cameras are still terrible under certain conditions.

Check out the filing here.

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Making things "invisible" is all about manipulating light. The other invisibility technologies currently being developed do the same thing, albeit using different methods or materials. For instance, researchers from the Max Planck Institute are working on mimicking the biology of moths' eyes to turn lenses and glass invisible. Meanwhile, a group from the University of California, San Diego is controlling how light reflects on objects using a thin "carpet cloak" made form Teflon and ceramic particles.

Discussion

NASA is Sending Bacteria Into the Sky on Balloons During the Eclipse

And the reason why, to figure if certain bacteria will survive space travel between the Earth and onto Mars. Up above the ozone layer is Earth's stratosphere, which is minus 35 degrees. During the total solar eclipse, temperatures would drop even lower to a Mars-like condition as the Moon will help cause ultraviolet rays similar to radiation that affects Mars. We'll see how this experiment works, as we either get the Blob or an alien symbiote.

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The bacteria that will fly to the edge of space is a particular strain called Paenibacillus xerothermodurans. It was first isolated from soil outside a spacecraft-assembly facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 1973, says Parag Vaishampayan, an astrobiologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. These bacteria form shields of spores that allow them to survive even when conditions turn deadly. It takes around 140 hours at 257 degrees Fahrenheit to kill 90 percent of these bacteria

Discussion

Wednesday August 16, 2017

Crackdown 3 Has Been Delayed Until Spring 2018

Microsoft has announced that Crackdown 3 has been delayed until Spring 2018, claiming that the development teams need extra time in order to ensure a quality gameplay experience.

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I can't say I'm all that surprised. The game was first announced at E3 2014, targeting a release at the 2nd half of 2016. Then at Gamescom 2015 was when they announced the "real time destruction" that would be cloud powered using Microsift Azure, an extremely ambitious goal to say the least. I'm quite a big fan of the Crackdown series, but this one may be on the hype-train to Disappointmentville.

"Crackdown 3 is a hugely ambitious game and we want to ensure we deliver the right experiences all the way through every part of the game, whether that’s campaign, co-op multiplayer or our competitive multiplayer mode, Wrecking Zone. Getting the balance right between the three modes is important, and we are going to take the extra development time to ensure that. Gamers can expect Crackdown 3 in Spring of 2018."

Discussion

GPU Buyers Prepare Get Out Your Wallet and Submit to Credit Check

Digitimes reported earlier today that VGA RAM prices have risen over 30% in August. This is not due to a market shortage but rather to Samsung and Hynix moving some of its VGA RAM production capacities to server and handset memory variants. Samsung is rumored to be moving back to up VGA RAM capacities in Q4. On the upside, it is also forecasted that SSD prices look to have finally leveled out for the rest of the year, with a possible drop around the holidays. Thanks cageymaru.

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August quotes for RAMs used in VGA graphics cards have risen to US$8.50, up by 30.8% from US$6.50 in July. Both RAM industry leaders Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix have allocated part of their VGA RAM production capacities to producing memories for servers and handsets, fueling the price rally.

A NYC mayoral candidate was overheard explaining, "The RAM is too damn high!"

Discussion


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