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Updated: 51 min 58 sec ago

Logitech and Tencent are making a cloud gaming handheld

Tue, 2022-08-02 10:51

Logitech and Tencent have announced that they're working on a handheld cloud gaming device. They're blending the Logitech G brand's hardware knowhow with Tencent's software prowess. According to a landing page (where you can plug in your email address to receive updates), the device is tentatively called the Logitech G Gaming Handheld.

The system should come to market later this year and it will "support multiple cloud gaming services," Logitech said. Tencent and Logitech are working with the Xbox Cloud Gaming and GeForce Now teams at Microsoft and NVIDIA, respectively, so expect the handheld to support both of those platforms at the very least.

Whether the device actually goes on sale as scheduled remains to be seen, given the ongoing supply chain crisis that's making production difficult for just about every electronics company. However, many cloud gaming services are accessiblethrough web apps on phones, so the device likely wouldn't need a ton of processing might. It probably won't need to be as powerful as, say, the Steam Deck. Using lower-power components that aren't super difficult to come by could make it easier for Logitech and Tencent to actually build the handheld. In any case, we should find out more about the device in the coming months. 

We are delighted to partner with Logitech G to bring a cloud gaming handheld to market later this year that will combine Logitech G’s expertise in hardware with Tencent Games’ expertise in software services. https://t.co/KfcC3US5xa

— Tencent Games (@TencentGames) August 2, 2022

Samsung and iFixit now offer self-repair parts and tools for Galaxy devices

Tue, 2022-08-02 09:46

It took nearly half a year, but Samsung's self-repair program is finally available. The iFixit team-up helps you fix your Galaxy S20, Galaxy S21 or Galaxy Tab S7+ by purchasing officially sanctioned components and tools, complete with guides to walk you through the repair process. The initial selection is limited to screen and batteries, charging ports and back glass, with prices ranging between $67 (for a charging port on any model) to $227 (for a Tab S7+ display).

The kits include a free return label to help you ship the broken parts to Samsung for recycling. The self-repair program is limited to the US at present, but the companies expect to support more countries, devices and part repairs over time.

Samsung's launch comes a few months after Apple's. It's at once better and worse. While Apple doesn't yet offer self-repair kits beyond smartphones, it covers a wider array of components (such as cameras and SIM trays), and is more granular (you can even order screws by themselves). However, Samsung also doesn't require that you rent or buy a separate toolkit, and doesn't require a phone call to complete the repair process. Buy a part and you'll have everything you need, in other words.

The self-repair option doesn't currently cover the Galaxy S22 or Tab S8 families, and Samsung is keen to point its less DIY-oriented users toward regular repair providers. We'd add that this isn't a strictly altruistic gesture — Samsung, Apple and others are facing pressure from federal and state officials who are either implementing or proposing right to repair rules. Vendors might not have much choice but to let you fix devices on your own terms.

Still, this could be an important move. If you're reasonably comfortable with screwdrivers and spudgers, this gives you a way to lengthen the useful lifespan of a Samsung device without worrying about turnaround times or potentially expensive out-of-warranty repair costs. That, in turn, could reduce e-waste and offer more control over when you upgrade your mobile gear.

Insta360's gimbal webcam is a DJI Pocket without a body

Tue, 2022-08-02 09:21

Insta360 is known for its 360 cameras and action cams, so call us surprised when it unveiled its first-ever dedicated webcam product today. The Insta360 Link is a 4K webcam with a 3-axis gimbal, so it's basically like a DJI Pocket 2 without its body. The company touts the 1/2-inch sensor here, which is apparently much larger than what the competition offers. For example, the tried and tested Logitech Brio only has a 1/4-inch sensor, so the Link should perform better in terms of accuracy and dynamic range. Insta360 added two noise-cancelling microphones as well, which are much needed in the age of remote working.

The Link can be hung on a monitor using the built-in screen clip, or you can fit it onto any stand with a standard 1/4-inch mount. Then it's just a matter of letting the device's AI algorithm track your face, so that the camera can pan around and zoom — up to 4x digitally — to keep you centered in frame. When you're done using the Link, it automatically points its camera downwards within 10 seconds of inactivity for the sake of privacy.

Insta360 Link webcam hanging on a laptop screen.Insta360

The Link Controller companion software lets you adjust various image parameters like brightness, exposure, white balance and more. You can also switch to lower resolutions in favor of higher frame rates — 1080p and 720p go all the way to 60fps, instead of just 30fps at 4K. The software also offers various shooting modes. DeskView Mode lets you quickly toggle between your face and your tabletop, which should make your usual show-and-tell a bit more convenient. There are also Whiteboard Mode for tracking your designated whiteboard area (the Link comes with four reusable whiteboard recognition markets), Portrait Mode for live streaming in portrait orientation, and Overhead Mode for pointing your Link downwards to show your subject on the tablet (you'll probably want to mount the device on a tablet stand for this). If needed, you can toggle HDR mode as well in case of strong backlight, though this is only available at 1080p or 720p resolution, and capped at 30fps.

The Insta360 Link is compatible with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Google Meet and more video conference platforms on both macOS and Windows. It's asking for $300 and is available today via the company's website.

The best PC games for 2022

Tue, 2022-08-02 09:16

So how do you categorize a beast like gaming on the PC? With decades of titles to pluck from (and the first port of call for most indie titles, too), there's so much to choose from. Gaming on your PC adds the benefits of (nearly always flawless) backward compatibility and console-beating graphical performance — if you've got the coin for it. The whole idea of what a PC is and where you can play it is shifting, too, with the rise of handheld “consolized” PCs like the Steam Deck. We've tried to be broad with our recommendations here on purpose – there are so many great games out there for your PC, consider these some starting points.

Beat SaberBeat SaberBeat Games

Beat Saber is a euphoric gaming sensation that makes the most of virtual reality. You'll swing your unofficial lightsabers at incoming boxes, slicing and slamming them to the beat of the soundtrack. Similar to iconic rhythm-rail-shooter, Rez, which has its own VR iteration, Beat Saber often makes you feel like you're creating the music as you hit your cues. We might have had initial reservations on the soundtrack at launch but new tracks and customizations continue to add to the challenge. There's even a level creator for PC players, making this the definitive version.

Buy Beat Saber at Steam - $30ControlControl505 Games

Take the weird Twin Peaks narrative of Alan Wake, smash it together with Quantum Break's frenetic powers and gunplay, and you've got Control. Playing as a woman searching for her missing brother, you quickly learn there's a thin line between reality and the fantastical. It's catnip for anyone who grew up loving The X-Files and the supernatural. It's also a prime example of a studio working at their creative heights, both refining and evolving the open-world formula that's dominated games for the past decade.

Buy Control at GOG.com - $40Disco Elysium Final CutDisco ElysiumZA/UM

Disco Elysium is a special game. The first release from Estonian studio ZA/UM, it's a sprawling science-fiction RPG that takes more inspiration from D&D and Baldur's Gate than modern combat-focused games. In fact, there is no combat to speak of, instead, you'll be creating your character, choosing what their strengths and weaknesses are, and then passing D&D-style skill checks to make your way through the story. You'll, of course, be leveling up your abilities and boosting stats with items, but really the game's systems fall away in place of a truly engaging story, featuring some of the finest writing to ever grace a video game.

With the Final Cut, released 18 months after the original, this extremely dialogue-heavy game now has full voice acting, which brings the unique world more to life than ever before. After debuting on PC, PS5 and Stadia, Final Cut is now available for all extant home consoles – including Nintendo’s Switch.

Buy Disco Elysium Final Cut at GOG.com - $40Halo InfiniteHalo Infinite343 Industries

Master Chief's latest adventure may not make much sense narratively, but it sure is fun to play. After the middle efforts from 343 Industries over the last decade, Halo Infinite manages to breathe new life into Microsoft's flagship franchise, while also staying true to elements fans love. The main campaign is more open than ever, while also giving you a new freedom of movement with the trusty grappling hook. And the multiplayer mode is wonderfully addictive (though 343 still needs to speed up experience progression), with a bevy of maps and game modes to keep things from getting too stale. The only thing keeping it from greatness is its baffling and disjointed story.

Buy Halo Infinite at Steam - $60FTL: Faster Than Light Faster Than LightSubset Games

Who hasn't wanted to captain their own spaceship? Well, after a few hours of FTL: Faster Than Light, you might be rethinking your life goals. FTL is a roguelike, which means every game starts from the same spot. All you have to do is travel through a number of star systems, recruiting crew members and collecting scrap as you make your way towards a final showdown against a stupidly overpowered ship. Gameplay is roughly divided between a map view, where you can take as much time as you like to chart the most efficient route to your goal, and combat events which play out in real-time (although you can and will be using a pause button to slow things down).

Where the real fun comes in is in the narrative, which plays out in two ways. There's the structured side, where every so often you'll be asked to make decisions that may improve or hinder your chances of survival. And then there's the natural story you create for yourselves, as you're forced to decide, for example, whether it's worth sacrificing a crew member for the greater good.

Buy FTL: Faster Than Light at GOG.com - $10HadesHadesSupergiant Games

Hades is the first early access title to ever make our best PC game list. It's an action-RPG developed by the team behind Bastion, Transistor and Pyre. You play Zagreus, son of Hades, who's having a little spat with his dad, and wants to escape from the underworld. To do so, Zagreus has to fight his way through the various levels of the underworld and up to the surface. Along the way, you’ll pick up “boons” from a wide range of ancient deities like Zeus, Ares and Aphrodite, which stack additional effects on your various attacks. Each level is divided into rooms full of demons, items and the occasional miniboss.

As Hades is a “roguelike” game, you start at the same place every time. With that said the items you collect can be used to access and upgrade new weapons and abilities that stick between sessions. Hades is on this list not for any reason other than it’s super accessible and very, very fun. You can jump in for 30 minutes and have a blast, or find yourself playing for hours. It's been in early access for well over a year at this point, and is tremendously polished, with a full release expected in the latter half of 2020.

Buy Hades at Steam - $25Half-Life: Alyx AlyxValve

Half-Life: Alyx feels like a miracle. After 13 years away from the franchise, Valve delivered a genuinely thrilling prequel to Half-Life 2 while also charting new territory for VR gameplay. The gravity gloves, its key new feature, is the closest I’ve ever felt to having telekinetic powers. It gives you multiple movement options so you don’t get sick trotting around the expansive environments. Oh yeah, and it’s also absolutely terrifying, banking on the claustrophobic nature of VR. There’s no looking away when a facehugger leaps at you from the dark, or when a horrifically deformed zombie gets in your face. It might sound a bit hyperbolic, but Alyx might end up being one of the most important titles of this generation. Building a big-budget game for a niche VR market doesn’t make much sense for most companies, but for Valve, it’s Tuesday.

Buy Half-Life: Alyx at Steam - $60Nier Automata AutomataSquare Enix

Nier Automata takes the razor-sharp combat of a Platinum Games title and puts it in a world crafted by everyone's favorite weirdo, Yoko Taro. Don't worry, you can mostly just run, gun and slash your way through the game, but as you finish, and finish and finish this one, you'll find yourself pulled into a truly special narrative, that's never been done before and will probably never be done again. It's fair to say that the PC release, as is unfortunately often the case, wasn't exactly the best and is still remarkably lacking in options, but it's at least stable now, and trust us when we say this one is unmissable.

Buy Nier Automata at Steam - $40Microsoft Flight SimulatorMicrosoft Flight SimulatorAsobo Studio

Microsoft Flight Simulator came out at the perfect time, when the world was on lockdown and airline travel was an impossibility for most people. Not only does Flight Sim let players pilot a vast array of aircrafts, but it presents the world on a platter in stunning, ridiculous detail. It’s an escape, it’s educational and it’s entertaining – is that what they mean by E3? – and there’s really nothing else on its level when it comes to realistic physics simulations. Pandemic or no, Microsoft Flight Simulator is an incredible achievement with a long tail both inside and outside of the video game industry.

Buy Microsoft Flight Simulator at Steam - $60Resident Evil 7: Biohazard BiohazardCapcom

Many were ready to write off the Resident Evil series after the disaster that was Resident Evil 6. What started as the horror game on the original PlayStation had become a bloated mess of an action game. Instead of throwing the whole franchise in the trash and forgetting about it, Capcom took a hard look at what wasn't working, which — surprise! — was basically everything, and thoroughly rebooted the formula. Borrowing from Kojima's PT and, in some ways, Creative Assembly's Alien: Isolation, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is horror through powerlessness. For the majority of the game, you're basically unable to do anything but run from or delay your foes. And that's what makes it so good.

Buy Resident Evil 7: Biohazard at Steam - $20Return of the Obra DinnReturn of the Obra Dinn3909

This is an unforgettable ghost-story-slash-murder-mystery with a distinctive old-school graphical style. It's unlike any game we've played in a while, with a low-key musical score and a style of puzzle solving that's like one satisfying, grisly riddle. In Return of the Obra Dinn, you're put aboard a ship, alone. There is, however, a corpse near the captain's cabin. As you track the deceased's final footsteps, leading to yet more grisly ends, you need to figure out what happened. Who killed who? And who is still alive? Special mention to the sound effect that kicks in every time you solve the fates of three of the crew. Goosebumps.

Buy Return of the Obra Dinn at GOG.com - $20The Witcher 3The Witcher 3CD Projekt S.A.

It might be the best open-world RPG out there. Despite now being several years old, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a dense action game that acknowledges the maturity of the player with multiple — occasionally harrowing — storylines, choices that have consequences and almost too much game to wrestle with. It's not perfect; the combat system is rough, frustrating death comes in the form of falling from just a few feet and there's a lot of quest filler alongside many incredibly well thought out distractions. The scope and ambition on display will have you hooked, and once you're done, there are some excellent expansions to check out.

Buy The Witcher 3 at GOG.com - $50Forza Horizon 5Forza Horizon 5Playground Games/Microsoft

Forza Horizon 5 deftly walks a fine line by being an extremely deep and complex racing game that almost anyone can just pick up and play. The game has hundreds of cars that you can tweak endlessly to fit your driving style, and dozens of courses spread all over a gorgeous fictional corner of Mexico. If you crank up the difficulty, one mistake will sink your entire race, and the competition online can be just as fierce.

But if you’re new to racing games, Forza Horizon 5 does an excellent job at getting you up and running. The introduction to the game quickly gives you a taste at the four main race types you’ll come across (street racing, cross-country, etc.), and features like the rewind button mean that you can quickly erase mistakes if you try and take a turn too fast without having to restart your run. Quite simply, Forza Horizon 5 is a beautiful and fun game that works for just about any skill level. It’s easy to pick up and play a few races and move on with your day, or you can sink hours into it trying to become the best driver you can possibly be.

Buy Forza Horizon 5 at Steam - $60

Uber receipts are crashing Microsoft Outlook

Tue, 2022-08-02 08:49

You might not want to check your Uber trip emails at your work computer in the near future. BleepingComputernotes Microsoft has identified a formatting bug that freezes Outlook whenever you open some messages with complex tables, including Uber receipts. The glitch crashes Word, too. The problem began with a recent standard release (Current Channel Version 2206 Build 15330.20196 or newer), but existing beta and Current Channel Preview versions also suffer.

The company has already developed a fix that will reach beta users "shortly," and should reach everyone through a patch arriving August 9th. If you can't wait that long and would rather not check your mail on the web, you can revert to the earlier version in Windows by running Command Prompt instructions in Microsoft's support document (linked above).

This isn't the first significant Outlook bug of the year. Microsoft fixed search bugs in January and July. However, those didn't bring the email client to a screeching halt — this is a flaw you're more likely to notice, particularly if you rely on Uber for business travel.

Sheryl Sandberg officially steps down as COO of Meta

Tue, 2022-08-02 08:32

It's the end of an era at the company formerly known as Facebook. Sheryl Sandberg has officially stepped down as Chief Operating Officer on August 1st, as revealed by a SEC filing noticed by TechCrunch. In the filing, Meta said Javier Olivan is now the company's COO and that Sandberg will only remain an employe until September 30th. After that and going forward, Sandberg will serve as a member of Meta's Board and will receive compensation as a non-employee director. 

Sandberg first announced that she was leaving her role as COO of Meta after 14 years in early June. Mark Zuckerberg revealed at the time that Olivan will take on the COO role, but that his responsibilities will be different from Sandberg's. Olivan will have a "more traditional COO role where [he] will be focused internally and operationally, building on his strong track record of making our execution more efficient and rigorous," the company CEO said. 

As The Wall Street Journal noted in a piece about Sandberg back in June, she joined Facebook in 2008 and led the business side of the company, allowing Zuckerberg to focus on engineering work. In more recent years, she became the face of the social network when it comes to leading public response to controversies, such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Before Sandberg announced her departure, The Journal reported that the Meta COO used company resources to help kill negative reporting about Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, who she was dating at the time. In mid-June, the publication also reported that Meta’s lawyers are investigating Sandberg's use of the company's resources and employees for her foundation and to promote her book Option B

Sandberg is leaving the company just as it has started preparing for "serious times." In a meeting with employees, Zuckerberg revealed that Meta is experiencing "one of the worst downturns [it has seen] in recent history." As a result, Meta had to slash its target number for new engineers this year. In addition, company leadership reportedly told managers to identify poor performers and to "move to exit" them if they can't get back on track. 

Amazon offers same-day Prime delivery for select retail chains

Tue, 2022-08-02 07:17

Amazon is giving some Prime members access to another perk they can take advantage of if they'd like to buy from a store nearby but can't be bothered to put on outside clothes. The e-commerce giant has announced that Prime subscribers in more than 10 metro areas in the US will now be able to shop from select local brick-and-mortar stores through Amazon and then have the items delivered to their home on the same day. At the moment participating retailers include apparel brands PacSun, Superdry and Diesel, as well as popular vitamin retailer GNC. 

To order from the participating retail stores, customers can browse their curated selections on the Amazon app or website and then choose same-day delivery upon checkout. Amazon will forward the order to the customer's local store to be fulfilled by associates. An Amazon delivery partner will then pick up the order from the retail location and deliver it to the customer. Delivery is free for purchases above $25, but will set customers back $3 for orders below that amount. That said, buyers can also choose to buy and pay online but pick up their orders in person, which sounds like a great option if they just don't want to browse in-store and line up to pay. 

As TechCrunch notes, this is the e-commerce giant's latest move to keep up with rival services that offer same-day deliveries, such as Instacart. It also ensures it's not falling behind competitors in any way: Walmart, for instance launched a same-day delivery service for local retailers last year. The new Prime perk is now available in a handful of US cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, Miami, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Seattle and Washington D.C. Amazon says it will expand it to more cities, as well as introduce new retailers into the service, including Sur La Table and 100% Pure, in the coming months. 

The Morning After: Did Microsoft just neg Blizzard Activision?

Tue, 2022-08-02 07:16

In a recent filing, Microsoft told New Zealand’s Commerce Commission that Blizzard Activision produces no “must-have” games. Weird thing to say when the company plans to spend $68.7 billion to buy the gaming giant behind Call of Duty, Overwatch, Diablo, World of Warcraft and plenty more.

In the document, Microsoft said: “There is nothing unique about the video games developed and published by Activision Blizzard that is a ‘must have’ for rival PC and console video game distributors that give rise to a foreclosure concern.”

Attempting to downplay the importance of Call of Duty is just one of the ways Microsoft has tried to placate regulators. In February, the company pledged it would continue to make the franchise available on PlayStation consoles beyond any existing agreements between Sony and Activision.

— Mat Smith

The biggest stories you might have missed

An e-bike sharing company co-founded by Usain Bolt appears to have shut downIt left its equipment in the streets in some cities.

An e-bike- and scooter-sharing startup co-founded by Olympian Usain Bolt appears to have stopped operations. Bolt Mobility offered bikes in five cities, including Portland, Burlington, Vermont and Richmond in California, and others. "We learned a couple of weeks ago (from them) that Bolt is ceasing operations," a transportation planner in Chittenden County, Vermont, told TechCrunch. "They’ve vanished, leaving equipment behind and emails and calls unanswered.”

Continue reading.

Apple's App Store homepage will soon feature adsYou'll also see them on individual app pages.

Apple famously bragged it’ll never invade your privacy to serve ads, but it does have an ad business on its App Store and elsewhere. The company is now expanding that business by adding a new ad slot to its Today homepage tab and on individual app pages. The company says these new ad slots will adhere to Apple's policies on privacy and transparency, by not offering personalized ads to users under 18, never using sensitive data and avoiding hyper-targeting.

Continue reading.

The best Xbox games for 2022Whether you have Series X, Series S, One X or One S, there's something here for you.TMAEngadget

Microsoft’s console strategy is unique. Someone with a nine-year-old Xbox One has access to an almost-identical library of games as the owner of a brand-new Xbox Series X. That makes it difficult to maintain meaningfully different lists for its various consoles — at least for now. But while next-gen exclusives may be few and far between, there are a lot of gamers who simply haven’t experienced much of what Microsoft has had to offer since the mid-'10s.

It’s in that frame of mind that we approach this list, now updated: What games would we recommend to someone picking up an Xbox today? Expect more updated guides to the best games throughout the week.

Continue reading.

Twitter investor sues Elon Musk in a bid to force through $44 billion takeoverThe proposed class action suit accuses Musk of breaching his fiduciary duty to Twitter shareholders.TMAReuters

It's not only Twitter trying to force Elon Musk to buy the company for $44 billion. An investor filed a proposed class action lawsuit to try stopping Musk from backing out of the deal. Luigi Crispo's suit accuses Musk of breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty to Twitter's shareholders. Musk last month claimed the company made “false and misleading representations,” and that it misrepresented the number of bots and fake accounts on its platform. Crispo concurred with Twitter's claims that Musk is using false claims about bots and spam to wriggle out of the deal without a valid legal standing.

Continue reading.

Spotify's latest fancy feature for Premium users is a play buttonPremium features.

It’s 2022 and Spotify is adding the most basic of functions to its iOS and Android apps: dedicated play and shuffle buttons on playlists and album pages. Until now, tapping the button on most playlists started playback, shuffled. This vanilla playback ‘feature,’ however, will only be available to Spotify Premium subscribers.

Continue reading.

TikTok might be working on a music serviceThere’s already a "TikTok Music" trademark application filed.

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, has filed a trademark application with the US Patent and Trademark Office for "TikTok Music." The service would let users "purchase, play, share, download music, songs, albums, lyrics... live stream audio and video... edit and upload photographs as the cover of playlists... [and] comment on music, songs and albums."

Continue reading.

Report: The US organ transplant network is failing desperate patients

Tue, 2022-08-02 06:34

The US network that matches donated kidneys, livers and hearts with desperate patients has serious issues and "needs to be vastly restructured," according to a government review seen by The Washington Post. It reportedly relies on out-of-date technology, has crashed for hours at a time and has never been audited by federal for security or other flaws by federal officials.  

The current system has been administered by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) for 36 years. That non-profit is overseen by the Health Resources and Services Administration. Around 106,000 people are on a waiting list for organs, with most seeking kidneys. Over 41,000 organs were transplanted last year, setting a record, but 22 people die each day waiting, according to the article. 

In its review completed 18 months ago, the White House's US Digital Service recommended that the government "break up the current monopoly" held by UNOS. "In order to properly and equitably support the critical needs of these patients, the ecosystem needs to be vastly restructured." A big sticking point is that the government has never been allowed to inspect the computer code behind the system, because UNOS hasn't allowed it. "The code is extremely large," said UNOS chief executive Brian Shepherd. "They can come in and ask for specific pieces."

The Washington Post obtained the review in draft form as it has yet to be finalized. Leaders of the Senate Finance Committee who saw the report reportedly warned DHS officials that they had "no confidence" in the security of the network, asking the White House to step in to protect it from attacks. "We request you take immediate steps to secure the national Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network system from cyber-attacks," wrote committee chair Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Charles E. Grassley. 

The other main issue is the requirement for manual input that can lead to mistakes or create timing issues for organ matches. "When nearly 100 percent of hospitals use electronic records, the notion that we rely on human beings to enter data into databases is crazy. It should be 85 to 95 percent automatic," a former chair of the UNOS liver transplant policy committee told The Post.

The transplant results are the most disconcerting part of the report. In the US in 2020, 21.3 percent of donated kidneys weren't transplanted, according to a report. That compares to 9.1 percent in France, 10 to 12 percent in the UK and eight percent in the Eurotransplant consortium of eight EU countries including Germany. "You would be hard pressed to think you couldn’t at least get 5 percent better [in the US], which would be thousands of transplants," a former HHS official told The Post. For more, check out the article here

Apple no longer requires most corporate employees to wear masks

Tue, 2022-08-02 05:24

Apple will no longer require corporate employees to wear masks at "most locations," according to an internal email from the company's COVID-19 response team seen by The Verge. "We are writing to share an update to our current protocols," the email reads. "In light of current circumstances, wearing a face mask will no longer be required in most locations."

The company goes on to say that employees can, of course, continue to wear them if they prefer. "We recognize that everyone’s personal circumstances are different. Don’t hesitate to continue wearing a face mask if you feel more comfortable doing so. Also, please respect every individual’s decision to wear a mask or not."

Apple is removing the mask mandate despite the fact that the number of new daily cases in the US currently sits at over 114,000, according to the CDC. Near Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, San Francisco's BART metro system recently brought back its mask mandate, following the spread of the BA.5 COVID-19 variant that can evade immunity from past COVID-19 infection and vaccination. 

Earlier this year, Apple said it would require employees to work at least three days per week at the office by May. However, it later softened that stance, saying that staff can continue to stay at home if they're not comfortable.

Apple Watch Series 7 drops to $280 at Amazon

Tue, 2022-08-02 03:09

This is your chance to get an Apple Watch Series 7 if you've been looking to grab one at a discount. The 41mm version of the smartwatch with green aluminum case and the clover sport band is currently on sale for $280 on Amazon. That's $119 less than its retail price and is just a dollar more than what the device sold for on Prime Day. The Watch Series 7's screen is larger than its predecessors', and Apple even used a refractive edge to make it seem like the display curves along the sides of the case. By doing that, tech giant made the screen appear roomier, which makes a huge difference for a device that generally comes with a smaller display.

Buy Apple Watch Series 7 at Amazon - $280

To take advantage of the larger real estate, Apple shipped the Series 7 with a larger user interface that has larger fonts and a stretched-out keyboard that's much easier to type on. As we mentioned in our review, it's easier to hit the right keys in this model, as well as to read the time and measurements, such as your heart rate, than in the older ones. The tech giant also rolled out watch faces with more information to make use of the watch's bigger screen. 

While the watch's display is its largest upgrade, it also charges faster than previous models. It got to 100 percent in an hour during our tests, whereas the Apple Watch SE only got to about 60 percent. Apple promises the same battery life as previous models, as well, but the Series 7 lasted longer during our tests. Although the only option that's available for $280 is the green Series 7, you can also get the red and the blue watches at a discount. Either color option will set you back $330 when their discounts are applied at checkout.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

NYPD must disclose facial recognition procedures deployed against Black Lives Matter protesters

Mon, 2022-08-01 21:00

New York police must now comply with a public records request related to its use of facial recognition and other surveillance on protestors. A judge has ordered the New York Police Department to release documents pertaining to its monitoring of Black Lives Matters protests during the summer of 2020, requiring it to release 2,700 emails and other documents to the public or state why it fall"and/or allege with specificity that each document falls within one of the enumerated exemptions of Public Officers Law."

The NYPD previously rejected a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request by Amnesty International and the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project for records related to its use of facial recognition and surveillance tools on activists (as well as a subsequent appeal to that FOIL request), leading both groups to sue the law enforcement organization last year. The police agency has argued that the records request would cover over 30 million documents, and that following through would be “unreasonably burdensome."

In a ruling issued on Friday, New York Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Love rejected the NYPD's reasoning. Legal teams for the NYPD and Amnesty International have met since the lawsuit was filed, and narrowed down the number of documents to 2,700 in total, an amount that Love called “far more reasonable." The judge also ordered both Amnesty International and STOP to re-submit its FOIL request, this time tailoring it to cover the 2,700 documents in question.

A number of public records requests from Buzzfeed, Wired and other news outlets revealed that the NYPD has an extensive range of surveillance tools at its disposal. The policy agency has purchased technology such as cell site simulators, gait recognition software, X-ray vans and facial recognition software from notorious vendor Clearview AI.

Amazon's emissions increased dramatically last year despite carbon neutrality goal

Mon, 2022-08-01 19:07

Despite the company's commitment to decrease its carbon footprint, Amazon's emissions grew by 18 percent last year, according to the annual sustainability report it released today. While online shopping increased during the pandemic’s second year, the company also rapidly expanded its number of warehousing operations — faster than consumer demand could support. For the entirety of 2021, the company’s activities emitted the equivalent of more than 71.54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (for comparison, that's one and a half times the amount the U.S. government emitted in 2019.)

But this figure is undoubtedly a drastic undercount. While Amazon does include emissions from its warehouses and logistics network, as Revealreported this year, the company employs a sort of loophole. While other retailers, like Walmart and Target, account for pollution related to any goods they sell, Amazon only counts carbon emissions for Amazon-branded products, which make up around one percent of total sales. Third-party sellers (that is, the entities responsible for the other 99 percent of what's sold through its online marketplace) are left to perform their own carbon emissions accounting independently — regardless of whether those sales are fulfilled through Amazon's warehousing or not. Many of these businesses, however, likely do not meet the minimum threshold for mandatory emissions reporting

Environmental experts have long voiced concerns over the immense climate toll of Amazon’s operations, especially its rush and two-day shipping options. Despite the lack of progress, Amazon’s goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 was noted in the report.

The company doubled its network of fufillment centers during the pandemic to keep up with the spike in demand, at a rate that outpaced consumer sales. Amazon reported a $3.8 billion net loss in the first quarter of 2022, the bulk of which came from an investment in more warehouses and staff. But the company now appears to be scaling back its building efforts amidst a decline in orders. USA Todayreported today that Amazon has paused or delayed the building of 18 warehouses in 12 states.

BMW will bring a more affordable i4 EV to the US next year

Mon, 2022-08-01 17:44

BMW already offers two different versions of its i4 all-electric sedan in the US, but the automaker will add a third, more affordable variant to the mix starting next year. On Monday, BMW announced the 2023 i4 eDrive35. The EV will start at $52,395 – with a $995 destination fee included – when it arrives in the US in the first quarter of 2023.

As the entry-level model in BMW’s i4 line, the eDrive35 features a smaller battery and less powerful motor than its eDrive40 and M50 stablemates. With a usable capacity of 66 kWh, BMW estimates the eDrive35 will be good for an EPA range of about 260 miles. By contrast, you can expect to get about 271 miles from the M50 and 301 miles from the eDrive40. DC fast charging allows the eDrive35’s battery to go from 10 percent to 80 percent in about half an hour.

With a single rear axle motor, the eDrive35 also outputs less power than its two counterparts. It has an estimated horsepower of 281 and 295 lb-ft of torque. That’s 55 less horsepower than the eDrive 40. However, it doesn’t seem the eDrive35 will be much slower than its more expensive sibling. BMW says the car can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. The eDrive40 can achieve the same feat in 5.5 seconds. All things considered, those are reasonable tradeoffs when you consider the eDrive40 and M50 start at $56,395 and $66,895, respectively.

Inside, the eDrive35 features the same dashboard unit found in the eDrive40. Expect a 12.3-inch infotainment display and a 14.9-inch instrument panel behind a single curved glass surface. It should come with all the same safety features as well, including adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking. BMW expects to start production on the 2023 i4 eDrive35 before the end of the year.

Discord’s overhauled Android app will shorten the wait for new features

Mon, 2022-08-01 16:00

Discord has begun rolling out an overhauled Android app that addresses one of the most consistent complaints with the software. If you follow the company, you’ve probably seen it often announce new features only to note they will launch on iOS and desktop first before arriving on Google’s operating system. We saw that recently with the release of Server Profiles. According to Discord, that’s about to become a thing of the past.

In a blog post published on Monday, the company said it recently rebuilt its Android app using React Native. Discord has employed the framework for iOS development ever since Meta first open sourced React in 2015. Now that both of Discord's mobile apps are on the same underlying codebase, the company notes Android users can expect feature consistency.

Comparison screenshot showing Discord's new Android interface. The new UI more broadly aligns with its iOS counterpart thanks to Discord's move to React Native. Discord

Additionally, the company says Discord users will see a more consistent user experience across platforms. As one example, the Android app will feature a larger default font that is more in line with the iOS version of the software. Discord also anticipates it will release future updates faster.

“As Discord continues to grow across platforms, we want to find ways to support you and your communities as quickly and efficiently as possible, regardless of which device or platform you happen to be using,” the company said. “Utilizing React Native across every mobile platform Discord is on is just one of the tools that helps us support what you do, and we can’t wait to show you how.”

If you already have Discord installed on your Android phone, the company says you can expect the overhauled app to arrive on your device in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, new Android users can download the software from the Google Play Store.

Nearly 600 more TV writers call for Netflix, Apple to detail abortion safety policies

Mon, 2022-08-01 15:38

Last week, more than 400 TV showrunners, writers and producers called on streaming giants and traditional Hollywood studios to offer improved protections for workers in states where abortions are banned or limited. Now, 594 other industry figures (many, if not all of whom are male) have pledged their support, as Variety reports. They include Jordan Peele, Taika Waititi, Jason Sudekis, Ryan Murphy, Donald Glover and JJ Abrams.

The signatories said they were standing in solidarity with their “female, trans and non-binary showrunner colleagues [...] in demanding a coordinated and timely response from our employers regarding the imminent workplace-safety crisis created by the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Abortion access doesn’t only affect people who can become pregnant. It affects us all."

In late June, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a ruling that conferred a nationwide right to abortion for almost half a century. Numerous states banned or severely restricted abortion access after the decision.

The initial letter was signed by the likes of Issa Rae, Lilly Wachowski, Lena Waithe, Amy Schumer, Shonda Rhimes, Mindy Kaling and Ava DuVernay. It was sent to Disney, Netflix, Warner Bros. Discovery, Paramount, Apple, NBC Universal, Amazon, Lionsgate and AMC.

The more than 1,000 industry figures who sent the letters are calling for details about studios' abortion travel subsidies, care policies for “ectopic pregnancies and other pregnancy complications” that occur during a production and legal safeguards for those who help a production worker get an abortion. The signatories also demanded that studios “discontinue all political donations to anti-abortion candidates and political action committees immediately.”

Those who signed the letters want the studios to respond by August 10th. The letters did not detail what may happen if the companies don't reply by then. Studios have previously said they would reimburse travel expenses for those who had to leave a state to get an abortion.

Thanks to its generous tax incentives for film and TV productions, Georgia has become a powerhouse in the entertainment industry, which is worth billions of dollars to the local economy. In 2019, several studios, including Netflix, said they'd reconsider setting up projects in the state if a so-called heartbeat law came into effect (the legislation bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected). A federal appeals court allowed the law to take effect last month.

Judge refuses to remove Visa from Pornhub case on child porn

Mon, 2022-08-01 15:32

A federal judge refused to remove Visa from a lawsuit that alleges it aided MindGeek — the parent company of Pornhub — in monetizing child porn. In a decision issued on July 29th, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney accuses the payment processor of refusing to cut business ties with MindGeek, despite being aware that Pornhub and other MindGeek-owned pornography sites distributed child pornography. The lawsuit was filed by a woman whose underage videos were posted on Pornhub without her permission.

“If Visa was aware that there was a substantial amount of child porn on MindGeek’s sites, which the Court must accept as true at this stage of the proceedings, then it was aware that it was processing the monetization of child porn, moving money from advertisers to MindGeek for advertisements playing alongside child porn like Plaintiff’s videos,” wrote Judge Carney.

Visa has argued that it is an “improper defendant” in the case and does not tolerate illegal activity. “Visa condemns sex trafficking, sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse materials as repugnant to our values and purpose as a company. This pre-trial ruling is disappointing and mischaracterizes Visa’s role and its policies and practices. Visa will not tolerate the use of our network for illegal activity. We continue to believe that Visa is an improper defendant in this case,” a Visa spokesperson wrote in a statement to Variety.

Pornhub and other MindGeek-owned porn sites regularly feature nonconsensual or underage porn videos, according to recent reporting in both the New Yorker and the New York Times. MindGeek has maintained that it has protocols in place to prevent the posting and reposting of such illegal material on its site. In 2020, MindGeek banned all unverified users from posting on its sites and removed millions of uploaded videos in the aftermath. In order to post on any MindGeek properties, a user must submit their government ID to a third-party firm and verify their identity. 

 “When the court can actually consider the facts, we are confident the plaintiff’s claims will be dismissed for lack of merit. MindGeek has zero tolerance for the posting of illegal content on its platforms, and has instituted the most comprehensive safeguards in user-generated platform history,” a MindGeek spokesperson wrote to Variety

The Montreal-based company has been in disarray following years of media attention over what critics believe is a flawed moderation process that allows illegal content to thrive on its porn sites. Both the CEO and COO of MindGeek abruptly resigned in June. The company also laid off an unspecified number of employees this summer.

Sega Genesis Mini 2 stock will be extremely limited in the US

Mon, 2022-08-01 14:25

Sega fans who plan to buy the Genesis Mini 2 will need to import the retro console from Japan. What’s more, the company estimates it will have approximately one-tenth of the stock that it had during the Genesis Mini launch in 2019 to sell to US and European consumers. Sega blamed the situation on the ongoing global semiconductor shortage.

A Sega spokesperson told Polygon the company had initially planned to release the Genesis Mini 2 only in Japan, but that by “using Amazon’s ‘Japan Store’ system, we found that at least a small number of units could be sold via Amazon.com, so a portion was allocated to make the North American version.” With $22 shipping from the country, US consumers can expect to pay about $125 to import the retro console once it's available on October 27th.

That’s a hefty price hike considering the original Genesis Mini launched at a more affordable $80. The new console will feature over 50 titles, including Sonic CD, Virtua Racing, OutRun, Shining Force CD and Fantasy Zone. Judging by the packaging, it will also come with a six-button controller. One of the few complaints we had with the original was that it came with a cramped three-button gamepad.

Twitter investor sues Elon Musk in a bid to force through $44 billion takeover

Mon, 2022-08-01 13:58

It's not only Twitter that's trying to force Elon Musk to buy the company for $44 billion. An investor filed a proposed class action lawsuit to try stopping Musk from backing out of the deal. Luigi Crispo's suit accuses Musk of breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty to Twitter's shareholders, according to Bloomberg. It claims he offered feeble "rationales for reneging on his contract." Two “corporate acquisition entities” connected to the deal are also named as defendants.

Musk last month attempted to wash his hands of his bid to buy Twitter, claiming the company made “false and misleading representations” and that it misrepresented the number of bots and fake accounts on its platform. Crispo concurred with Twitter's claims that Musk is using false claims about bots and spam to wriggle out of the deal without a valid legal standing to do so. Also like Twitter, Crispo is seeking a court order that would require Musk to complete the buyout.

After he tried to back out, Twitter swiftly sued Musk in an attempt to make him "honor his obligations" and buy the company. Last week, Musk made a counter filing, which remains sealed for now. A judge granted Twitter's request for an expedited trial, which is scheduled to start on October 17th and last for five days. Its shareholders will vote on the takeover on September 13th.

Meanwhile, Crispo holds 5,500 shares in Twitter. Those are worth nearly $300,000 at the $54.20 per-share offer Musk made to buy Twitter outright back in April. The shares are currently worth $223,000 at Twitter's current share price, which was $40.55 at the time of writing.

Microsoft negs Activision Blizzard to push through $68.7 billion acquisition

Mon, 2022-08-01 13:21

Microsoft is taking an interesting approach to secure regulatory approval for its acquisition of Activision Blizzard. In a recent filing spotted by Rock Paper Shotgun, the company told New Zealand’s Commerce Commission the troubled publisher produces no “must have” games. Yes, you read that right.

“There is nothing unique about the video games developed and published by Activision Blizzard that is a ‘must have’ for rival PC and console video game distributors that give rise to a foreclosure concern,” the company says in the document. Put another way, Microsoft believes owning the rights to best-selling Activision Blizzard franchises like Call of Duty won’t prevent rivals like Sony from competing against it.

At first glance, that would seem to be a nonsensical argument to make about a company Microsoft plans to spend $68.7 billion to acquire. All the same, it’s a claim the tech giant is making in response to its rivals. In a filing with Brazilian regulators, Sony called Call of Duty “an essential game” and an AAA title “that has no rival.” It argues the franchise is so popular that it influences the consoles people buy. Sony is likely speaking from experience. In 2015, the company announced an agreement with Activision that saw some Call of Duty content arrive on PlayStation consoles first.

Downplaying the importance of Call of Duty is just one of the ways Microsoft has tried to placate regulators. In February, the company pledged it would continue to make the franchise available on PlayStation consoles beyond the end of any agreements Sony and Activision had in place before the acquisition was announced. More recently, the company announced a labor neutrality agreement with the Communications Workers of America, which has been organizing video game workers across the industry.

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