The VoCore2 is a Wi-Fi capable computer with a 580 MHz CPU and 128 RAM that supports video, USB, and Ethernet. And it plays Doom. That’s right: this is a computer you can easily swallow and allow your biome flora to play a hard core FPS while you slowly digest the package. The product where it raised $100,000. Now it’s available for $17 for the barebones unit or $24 for the unit with USB and MicroSD card. You can also buy a four inch display for it that lets you display video at 25fps. What is this thing good for? Well, like all single board computers it pushes the limits on what computing means in the 21st century. A computer the size of a Euro coin could fit in all sorts of places and for all sorts of weird projects and even if you don’t use it to build the next unmanned Red-Tailed Hawk nest surveillance drone it could be cool to blast some demons on a computer the size of a joystick button. The VoCore2 is shipping soon and is available for .
has quietly about a year after it launched. In a message on its site, the company said it stopped taking new enrollments on August 31 “after much thought and consideration.” The change does not affect existing customers, however, who will still be covered by their current financing plans. Financed by a Stockholm-headquartered online financial services provider, the Surface Plus financing program . It targeted students and other people who wanted an affordable way to own a Surface device, allowing them to spread payments over 24 months. The Surface Plus plan also enabled customers to upgrade to the latest device after 18 months, as long as they returned their previous device in good working condition. In a FAQ, Microsoft said existing customers will still be able to upgrade their Surface under the plan’s terms. The program’s end also does not affect existing warranty plans. Microsoft’s Surface Plus for Business payment plans launched around the same time as the Surface Plus program and it . TechCrunch has contacted Microsoft for more information.
has always been an odd brand. Aimed at a younger, hipper audience, the headphones always featured wacky graphics and a lower price point. Now, facing competition from multiple players, they’ve decided to step up their game in terms of quality and style. Their two new models, the noise-cancelling , are designed to hit the Bose/B&O/Sony quality point while still maintaining a bit of Beats styling. The Venue are the most interesting of the pair. They are true over-ear noise cancelling headphones that cost a mere $179 – over $100 less than Bose’s best offerings. The Venue’s noise cancellation was excellent as was the sound quality. The headphones were solidly built and last for two five-hour flights, a first for me when it comes to wireless or wired noise-cancelling headphones. Usually in almost every model I’ve tested I’ve had to charge or change the battery after about eight hours. This is a vast improvement. As for audio quality I was quite impressed. Having heard earlier models, I went in expecting tinny sound and muddy bass. I got neither. What I got was a true sound without much modification and very nice noise cancelling. In short, it did exactly what it says on the tin. One peeve is the size of the headphones and the case. Most headphones can fold up to a smaller package that is unobtrusive when it hangs off your back or sits in your lap. These headphones come in a massive, flat case that is not imminently portable. If you’re used to smaller, thinner cases, this might be a dealbreaker. That said, the price and sound are excellent and the Venue is a real step up. [gallery ids="1702440,1702439,1702438"] Then we have the Crusher 360s. These are also well-made headphones that collapse into a slightly smaller package than the Venue’s. They also offer what Skullcandy calls Sensory Bass and 360-degree audio. What that means, in practice, is that these things sound like a bass-lover’s very effusive home theatre system on your head. The Crusher, like the Venue, is wireless and lasts about 30 hours on one charge. They don’t have noise cancelling but what they do have is a set of haptics inside the ear cups that essentially turn bass events into wildly impressive explosions of sound. You can turn this feature up and down using a capacitive touch control on the side of the headphones and, if you’re like me, you probably will probably be using that feature multiple times. How do they work? Well, the bass these things pump out is almost comical. While I don’t want to completely disparage these things – different ears will find them pleasant if not downright cool – the Crushers turn almost everything – from a drama to a bit of dubstep – into a bass-heavy party. I used these on another flight and heard every single bang, boom, and bop in the movies I watched and, oddly, I found the added bass response quite nice in regular music. If you like bass you’ll like these. If you don’t then you’d best stay away. The headphones cost $299. [gallery ids="1702432,1702431,1702430"] Skullcandy isn’t the audiophile’s choice in headphones. That said, their efforts to improve the brand, product, and quality are laudable. I avoided the company for years after a few bad experiences and I’m glad to see them coming back with a new and improved set of cans that truly offer great sound and a nice price. While the Crushers are definitely an acquired taste I could honestly recommend the Venue over any similarly priced noise cancelling headphones on the market, including Bose’s businessperson specials. These headphones aren’t perfect but they’re also not bad.
In addition to models, also got a hold of a photo of the upcoming Apple Watch Series 4. The new Watch, which now sports an edge-to-edge display, is expected to be revealed on September 12, at the , along with the iPhone XS. The photos of the forthcoming Apple Watch (which 9to5Mac notes are “not a render”) show off a watch that’s clearly different from the existing editions. The display now stretches to the edge of the watch face, confirming earlier that said Apple was planning to give the Apple Watch its first big redesign since its launch in 2015. Analysts have been the new watch would sport a 15% larger display, offer extended battery life, and include upgraded health monitoring features. Image credit: Apple is apparently taking advantage of the bigger screen area with a new watch face that packs in a lot more complications. In the image 9to5Mac published (see above), there’s an analog face that’s practically cluttered with extra complications, including the temperature, stopwatch, weather, activity rings, date, music, calendar updates, and even a UVI index. These are both spread around the outside of the clock itself, and inside the clock, underneath the hands. Arguably, it’s a bit much. But the image is likely showing off all the possible complications that could be added to a customizable face at the user’s discretion, rather than a suggestion that one should – well – add them all at once. Of course, we’ve already begun debating the look, with some more enthusiastically in favor of the new face and all its accompanying accoutrement, and others – let’s say, more cautiously optimistic. The photo also shows a new hole underneath the Digital Crown, which seems like an extra mic, the report notes. Other changes, including whatever hardware upgrades and watchOS software features may arrive, aren’t yet known.
The just got more useful for multilingual families. , you’ll be able to set up two languages in the Google Home app and the Assistant on your phone and Home will then happily react to your commands in both English and Spanish, for example. Today’s announcement doesn’t exactly come as a surprise, given that Google announced at its I/O developer conference that it was working on this feature. It’s nice to see that this year, Google is rolling out its I/O announcements well before next year’s event. That hasn’t always been the case in the past. Currently, the Assistant is only bilingual and it still has a few languages to learn. But for the time being, you’ll be able to set up any language pair that includes English, German, French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese. More pairs are coming in the future and Google also says it is working on trilingual support, too. Google tells me this feature will work with all Assistant surfaces that support the languages you have selected. That’s basically all phones and smart speakers with the Assistant, but not the new smart displays, as they only support English right now. While this may sound like an easy feature to implement, Google notes this was . To build a system like this, you have to be able to identify multiple languages, understand them and then make sure you present the right experience to the user. And you have to do all of this within a few seconds. Google says its language identification model (LangID) can now distinguish between 2,000 language pairs. With that in place, the company’s researchers then had to build a system that could turn spoken queries into actionable results in all supported languages. “When the user stops speaking, the model has not only determined what language was being spoken, but also what was said,” Google’s VP Johan Schalkwyk and Google Speech engineer Lopez Moreno write in today’s announcement. “Of course, this process requires a sophisticated architecture that comes with an increased processing cost and the possibility of introducing unnecessary latency.” If you are in Germany, France or the U.K., you’ll now also be able to use the bilingual assistant on a Google Home Max. That high-end version of the Google Home family is going on sale in those countries today. In addition, Google also today announced that a number of new devices will soon support the Assistant, including the tado° thermostats, a number of new security and smart home hubs (though not, of course, Amazon’s own Ring Alarm), smart bulbs and appliances, including the iRobot Roomba 980, 896 and 676 vacuums. Who wants to have to push a button on a vacuum, after all.
is doubling down on the custom in-home audio market with new products and partnerships. The company today announced a new version of the Sonos Amp and a partnership with Sonance that will result in three architectural speakers — in-wall, in-ceiling and outdoor — that Sonos says will gain additional functionality when paired with a Sonos system. Sonos is also announcing upcoming Control APIs that the company says will make it easier to integrate Sonos into the ever-evolving smart home. This jibes with Sonos’ long-standing approach of working with other platforms to offer its customers as many services as possible. The new Amp allows owners to use traditional home audio speakers with a Sonos system. Connect a turntable or stream media with just the Amp and power a set of bookshelf speakers. According to the spec sheet, the Amp has enough power to push most high-end bookshelf speakers. The Amp replaces the Connect:Amp. The new version is more powerful, works with more platforms and is more expensive at $599 rather than $499. This new version outputs 125 watts per channel at 8 ohms; it can power four speakers instead of two. The additional power makes the Amp more versatile than its predecessor, too. Sonos says the Amp can be used to add stereo sound to a TV (thanks in part to HDMI Arc support) or add wireless rears to a Sonos theater setup. Or, two Amps can be used to add a complete surround sound system. Multiple Amp units can be stacked or mounted in a rack. The Amp works with AirPlay 2 and with Alexa when used in conjunction with an Amazon Alexa-enabled Sonos device like a Sonos One or Beam. With a product like the Amp, Sonos has a new offering for those customers looking to integrate the convenient Sonos line into their high-end home theater setup. That’s a serious market, too, and the company’s new partnership with Sonance shows Sonos is committed to addressing the home audio enthusiast while building products to compete with Apple and Amazon. Together, they will produce in-wall speakers that when used with a Sonos Amp will offer additional functionality. The company stopped short of detailing the added functionality. These speakers are set for an early 2019 release. This is Sonos’ first large announcement after going public on August 2.
Surprise, the AirPort Express isn’t dead! While stopped selling AirPort products back in , the company is still updating the firmware of the once beloved AirPort Express. This firmware update is quite significant as it adds support for AirPlay 2 and the Home app. In other words, you can now plug speakers to a dusty AirPort Express and turn them into wireless speakers for your home sound system. The AirPort Express was a pretty basic home router. It hasn’t been updated since 2012, which means that it’s nowhere near as performant as today’s cheap routers. It only supports 802.11n while everybody has moved on to 802.11ac. Its Ethernet ports are limited to 100 Mbps. So if you have fiber internet, the AirPort Express is not a good solution as it caps your internet connection to 100 Mbps. But the AirPort Express also has an audio jack — something that you can’t find in many Apple products these days. Today’s update makes this audio jack relevant again, as it’s a cheap way to get started with AirPlay 2. After updating the device with the AirPort Utility app on your Mac or iOS device, you can launch the Home app and add the router as a new Home accessory. After that, you’ll find the AirPort Express in your AirPlay speaker list. Apple recently released , an update to its audio and video protocol. With AirPlay 2, you can stream music from your Apple devices to multiple speakers at once. On your phone, you can control the volume of each speaker individually and play the same song across your home. While Sonos, Bose and other speaker manufacturers are updating their devices to support AirPlay 2, chances are many devices won’t get an update. The AirPort Express update can help you go through this transition.
published a news item announcing Xbox All Access on the and then unpublished it. But spotted the article before Microsoft could take the post down. So now that the cat is out of the bag, it looks like Microsoft’s new hardware and software subscription is real. There have been over the past few weeks that Microsoft was planning to announce a new subscription. Today’s announcement lines up with those rumors. Microsoft is launching Xbox All Access in the U.S., which includes a console, Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass. You get to choose between an Xbox One S for $22 per month or an Xbox One X for $35 per month. After paying for 24 months, the subscription stops and the console is yours. You can then choose to keep paying for Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass or you can cancel your subscriptions — it’s your console after all. So let’s do the math. You can currently buy an Xbox One S for around $299. Xbox Live Gold lets you play multiplayer games and access free games for $60 per year. The lets you download and play games from a library of 100+ games for $9.99 per month — it’s a sort of Spotify for video games. If you buy a console and subscribe for two years, you’ll end up paying around $659. An Xbox All Access subscription lets you save around $130. If you already planned on subscribing to those two services, it sounds like a good deal. If you didn’t really care about Xbox Game Pass, you’ll end up paying more than buying a console the normal way. The Xbox One X currently costs around $499. If you add two years of Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass, the bottom line is $859. Two years of Xbox All Access with the Xbox One X costs $840. So it’s not that good a deal if you’re interested in the Xbox One X. With this new offering, Microsoft shows that it wants to shift its gaming strategy to subscriptions. Buying a console every few years isn’t as lucrative as buying an all-in-one Xbox subscription. Subscriptions increase customer loyalty and create predictable recurring revenue. More importantly, gaming consoles won’t stick around forever. At some point, games will run on expensive servers in the cloud and you’ll subscribe to a service. Rumor has it that Microsoft is already getting ready to launch to stream games from the cloud. This is what Microsoft is thinking about with Xbox All Access.
A new from Bloomberg confirms and lines up with Ming-Chi Kuo’s from November 2017. It sounds likely that Apple is going to introduce three new phones in September — an updated iPhone X, a bigger phone and a successor to the iPhone 8 with the iPhone X design. The updated iPhone X could be considered as an “S upgrade” with a better system-on-a-chip and better cameras. The phone itself could look exactly the same as the iPhone X you can buy today. But you can expect faster performance thanks to an updated A12 chip designed by and manufactured by TSMC. The bigger device could feature a gigantic 6.5-inch display. It should have exactly the same features as the updated iPhone X — stainless steel edges, two cameras on the back, an OLED display, etc. This model could have two SIM slots in some countries to make it easier to roam in other regions and countries. More interestingly, Apple wants to replace the iPhone 8 with a device inspired by the iPhone X. It could cost around as much as the iPhone 8 today, but it should be a big upgrade for those who are focused on the entry-level model. Of course, there will be some compromises. For instance, Apple will replace the stainless steel edges with aluminum edges. There should be a single camera on the back. And the display won’t be as sharp as it should be a 6.1-inch LCD display. A previous indicated that this new model could come in a wide range of colors including grey, white, blue, red and orange. Bloomberg confirms that the disparition of the home button means that this phone will get Face ID. On the software side, it sounds like the bigger 6.5-inch iPhone could let you run two apps side-by-side, pretty much like opening two apps on the iPad. If Apple follows its usual pattern, the company should unveil these new devices in just a couple of weeks.
have torn the Magic Leap One augmented reality headset all to pieces, and the takeaway seems to be that the device is very much a work in progress — but a highly advanced one. Its interesting optical assembly, described as “surprisingly ugly,” is laid bare for all to see. The head-mounted display and accompanying computing unit are definitely meant for developers, , but the basic methods and construction Magic Leap is pursuing are clear from this initial hardware. It’s unlikely that there will be major changes to how the gadget works except to make it cheaper, lighter and more reliable. At the heart of tech is its AR display, which overlays 3D images over and around the real world. This is accomplished through a stack of waveguides that allow light to pass along them invisibly, then bounce it out toward your eye from the proper angle to form the image you see. The “ugly” assembly in question; pic courtesy of iFixit The waveguide assembly has six layers: one for each color channel (red, blue and green) twice over, arranged so that by adjusting the image you can change the perceived distance and size of the object being displayed. There isn’t a lot out there like this, and certainly nothing intended for consumer use, so we can forgive Magic Leap for shipping something a little bit inelegant by iFixit’s standards: “The insides of the lenses are surprisingly ugly, with prominent IR LEDs, a visibly striated waveguide “display” area, and some odd glue application.” After all, the insides of devices like the iPhone X or Galaxy Note 9 should and do reflect a more mature hardware ecosystem and many iterations of design along the same lines. This is a unique, first-of-its-kind device and as a devkit the focus is squarely on getting the functionality out there. It will almost certainly be refined in numerous ways to avoid future chiding by hardware snobs. That’s also evident from the eye-tracking setup, which from its position at the bottom of the eye will likely perform better when you’re looking down and straight ahead rather than upwards. Future versions may include more robust tracking systems. Another interesting piece is the motion-tracking setup. A little box hanging off the edge of the headset is speculated to be the receiver for the magnetic field-based motion controller. — no doubt there have been improvements, but this doesn’t seem to be particularly cutting-edge tech. An improved control scheme can probably be expected in future iterations, as this little setup is pretty much independent of the rest of the device’s operation. Let’s not judge Magic Leap on this interesting public prototype — let us instead judge them on the farcically ostentatious promises and eye-popping funding of the last few years. If they haven’t burned through all that cash, there are years of development left in the creation of a practical and affordable consumer device using these principles and equipment. Many more teardowns to come!
The largest trend in photography over the last five years or so, not counting smartphones, has been the emergence and maturity of mirrorless camera systems. These operate in a very different manner from traditional SLRs, and as such market leaders with decades embedded in the latter — namely Canon and — have resisted making the shift. That changes for Nikon today with its announcement of the and , which show the company is making the change wholeheartedly. The Z series comprises both these two cameras and a new lens mount, which in many ways is the more important news for photographers. The F mount has been around for decades and boasts some of the world’s best glass. But ultimately a more or less clean break was needed, and the Z mount manages to provide that, as well as solid back-compatibility for those who can’t bear to part with their old standby kit. The cameras themselves, which have been rumored for ages and , are both full-frame, meaning their sensor is as big as a 35mm still-film frame. Full-frame cameras are generally intended for professionals or deep-pocketed hobbyists: bodies generally cost well over $1,000 but offer improved image quality for a variety of reasons. So it’s somewhat ambitious of Nikon to aim at this elevated market, where competition is tough, standards are high and prices are higher. Old favorites like the Canon 5D vie with new challengers like Sony’s a9, and it seems as if slowly but surely the latter are coming out on top, due in no small part to the advantages conferred on them by their mirrorless nature. The Z7 starts at $3,400, which puts it squarely in professional territory. The Z6, at $2,000, sacrifices resolution but offers some other advantages — aside from holding onto that $1,400. If it were me I’d go for the latter, no question. Big and small changes The Z7 is the new flagship, and it closely replicates the ability of the popular Nikon D850, while adding a variety of improvements. Most obvious is body size; the camera is much, much smaller and lighter than its SLR predecessor, but is still far from petite. It also improves on a few stats like burst speed and autofocus in ways that will be appreciated by pros, and a new 10-bit N-LOG video output mode should provide more flexibility in post. Its sibling, the Z6, has a lower megapixel count (24 versus 45) but further improves burst speed and may in fact prove superior in terms of video performance. Both make the switch to an electronic viewfinder, or EVF, and apparently Nikon was very particular about this component. The resolution of the OLED eyepiece is 1280×960, which sounds low compared with phone and VR displays, but should be fine — and really, motion and color are more important. The rear LCD is also OLED, as is a little up-facing status display on the top plate. Both also have in-body stabilization, which means lenses can be lighter and cheaper. The stabilization will work with older lenses too (more on this in a moment) and in cases where a long lens has its own stabilization system, the camera will defer to that at least on some axes. I haven’t had a chance to play with these in person but I expect to soon; in the meantime, as always, . Z-mount into the future For many, the biggest change will be the switch to the new Z-mount system. There will be a series of Z lenses, and bonny lenses they will be, with the new dimensions allowing improved optics across the board. Everyone is hot about a F/0.95 Noct lens Nikon has been teasing for 2019. But with a hundred million F-mount lenses out there, backwards compatibility is a must. For them there is the FTZ adapter, which fits between the Z and the old lens, bridging the old technology and the new. If the lens is relatively new and supports automatic aperture and focus, those will be available. And, in fact, these lenses will benefit from the new autofocus system and may perform better than they did originally, if not identically — slight changes will no doubt emerge from the addition of the new optics. Older lenses, such as classics with manual focus and aperture, will still fit the adapter but can’t be magically endowed with automatic features. The adapter is not inconsiderable in size — more like a pancake lens than a filter. So your favorite lightweight walk-around setup may be impacted negatively. But overall it seems like it should do nicely for most. Nikon has made its play, and the Z series looks like a natural jump for thousands of photographers who have stuck with the brand for years out of loyalty and investment. It doesn’t take much away, it adds quite a bit and in a few years it will probably be a no-brainer rather than a “well, maybe.”
You can tell a lot about what’s going on in a home from how much electricity it’s using — especially when that information is collected every few minutes and recorded centrally. It’s revealing enough that a federal judge has ruled that people with smart meters have a reasonable expectation of privacy and as such law enforcement will require a warrant to acquire that data. It may sound like a niche win in the fight for digital privacy, and in a way it is, but it’s still important. One of the risks we’ve assumed as consumers in adopting ubiquitous technology in forms like the so-called Internet of Things is that we are generating an immense amount of data we weren’t before, and that data is not always protected as it should be. This case is a great example. Traditional spinning meters are read perhaps once a month by your local utility, and at that level of granularity there’s not much you can tell about a house or apartment other than whether perhaps someone has been living there and whether they have abnormally high electricity use — useful information if you were, say, looking for illicit pot growers with a farm in the basement. Smart meters, on the other hand, send exact meter readings at short intervals, perhaps every 15 minutes, and these readings may be kept for years. With that much detail you could not only tell whether someone lives in a house, but whether they’re home, whether the fridge has been opened recently, what room they’re in, how often they do laundry, and so on. The fingerprints of individual devices on the house’s electrical network aren’t that difficult to figure out. To be sure this can help the utility with load balancing, predicting demand and so on. But what if the government wants to do more with it, for example to establish whether someone was home at a certain time in a criminal investigation? A group of concerned citizens sued the city of Naperville, Illinois, which mandated smart readers several years ago, alleging that collection of the data was unconstitutional as it amounted to an unreasonable search. An earlier court decision essentially found that by voluntarily sharing electricity consumption data with a third party, residents surrendered their right to privacy. No privacy means it’s not a “search” to ask for the data. But as the 7th Circuit pointed out in its ruling on appeal (), there isn’t really a third party: the city collects the data, and city authorities want to use the data. And even if there were, “a home occupant does not assume the risk of near constant monitoring by choosing to have electricity in her home.” So it is a search. Collecting the data is not an unreasonable search, however, when it is done with no “prosecutorial intent,” the court ruled. That means that when the city is acting in its own interest as far as administrating and improving the electrical grid, it’s perfectly reasonable for them to collect this information without a warrant. But should it be required for more than that, for instance in a criminal investigation, a warrant would certainly be required. This distinction is important and not always observed. Systematic collection and analysis of metadata can produce remarkably detailed records of a person’s movements and habits, and it can be difficult to find and plug the holes by which that data pours out of protected containers like the Fourth Amendment. Although it’s possible that this could be appealed up to the Supreme Court, it seems unlikely as this is not a major issue of free speech or government access. A warrant for electrical usage is rarely, one presumes, a matter of life or death, but could indeed be critical in a court battle — for which reason requiring a warrant is not an unreasonable requirement. It seems more likely that the city of Naperville, and others in its position, will abide by this decision. That’s a win for your privacy and a foot in the door for other data collection practices like this one.
announced this morning that it has raised $70 million in Series B funding. The round was led by Brookfield Ventures, the investment arm of Brookfield Asset Management. As part of the deal, Brookfield Properties will also be installing systems in its multi-family properties that are currently under development. “We are thrilled to support Latch, the clear market leader in a nearly $25 billion space that is expected to grow at twice the rate of traditional access over the next several years,” said Brookfield’s Josh Raffaelli in the funding announcement. Lux Capital, RRE Ventures, Primary Venture Partners, Third Prime, Camber Creek, Corigin Ventures, Tishman Speyer and Balyasny Asset Management also participated int he new funding. Latch’s smart lock system is designed for apartment buildings rather than single family homes, allowing you to open doors with a smartphone, keycard or door code. It also allows residents to create temporary access codes for guests and service providers. Speaking of service providers, earlier this summer that will allow UPS drivers to receive unique credentials for entering buildings to make deliveries. Latch was founded five years ago, but . It .
According to a report from , Apple has been working on multiple new Macs. In particular, could be planning to release a new entry-level laptop to replace the aging MacBook Air. This isn’t the about a MacBook Air refresh. While Apple has released a 12-inch retina MacBook, it’s not nearly as cheap as the MacBook Air. It’s also not as versatile as it only has a single USB Type-C port. And yet, the MacBook Air is arguably Apple’s most popular laptop design in recent years. Many MacBook Air users are still using their trusty device as there isn’t a clear replacement in the lineup right now. According to Bloomberg, the updated MacBook Air could get a retina display. Other details are still unclear. After Apple updated the MacBook Air in March 2015, the company neglected the laptop for a while. It received an update in June 2017, but it was such a minor update that it looked like the MacBook Air was . It sounds like neither the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro (the one without a Touch Bar) nor the 12-inch MacBook have fostered as much customer interest as the MacBook Air. Bloomberg also says that the Mac Mini is going to receive an update. The story of the Mac Mini is quite similar as the product has been neglected for years. Apple last updated the Mac Mini in October 2014 — it’s been nearly four years. And the fact that Apple still sells the Mac Mini from 2014 is embarrassing. You can find tiny desktop PCs that are cheaper, smaller and more powerful. They don’t run macOS, but that’s the only downside. It’s clear that laptops have taken over the computer market. Desktop computers have become a niche market. That’s why the updated Mac Mini could focus on people looking for a home server and who don’t want to mess around with a Raspberry Pi.
aims to save human lives at our nation’s power plants with its wall-climbing robots. To continue doing so, the startup tells TechCrunch it has just secured $7 million from a cadre of high-profile sources, including Founders Fund, Mark Cuban, The Westly Group, Justin Kan and Y Combinator. We reported on the Pittsburgh-based company when co-founder Jake Loosararian came to the TechCrunch TV studios to show off his device for the camera. Back then, Gecko was in the YC Spring 2016 cohort, working with several U.S. power plants and headed toward profitability, according to Loosararian. You can see the original interview below: The type of robots Gecko makes are an important part of ensuring safety in industrial and power plant facilities as they are able to go ahead of humans to check for potential hazards. The robots can climb tanks, boilers, pipelines and other industrial equipment using proprietary magnetic adhesion, ultra-sonics, lasers and a variety of sensors to inspect structural integrity, according to a company release. While not cheap — the robots run anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 — they are also obviously a minuscule cost compared to human life. Gecko robot scaling the wall for a safety inspection at a power plant. Loosararian also mentioned his technology was faster and more accurate than what is out there at the moment by using machine learning “to solve some of the most difficult problems,” he told TechCrunch. It’s also a unique enough idea to get the attention from several seasoned investors. “There has been virtually no innovation in industrial services technology for decades,” Founders Fund partner Trae Stephens told TechCrunch in a statement. “Gecko’s robots massively reduce facility shutdown time while gathering critical performance data and preventing potentially fatal accidents. The demand for what they are building is huge.” Those interested can see the robots in action in the video below: from on
Nvidia is taking advantage of the in Germany to hold a press conference about its future graphics processing units. The conference will start at 6 PM in Germany, 12 PM in New York, 9 AM in San Francisco. Just a week after the company unveiled its new , Nvidia could share more details about the configurations and prices of its upcoming products — the RTX 2080, RTX 2080 Ti, etc. The name of the conference #BeForeTheGame suggests that Nvidia is going to focus on consumer products and in particular GPUs for gamers. While the GeForce GTX 1080 is still doing fine when it comes to playing demanding games, the company is always working on new generations to push the graphical boundaries of your computer. According to , you can expect two different products this afternoon. The GeForce RTX 2080 is going to feature 2,944 CUDA cores with 8GB of GDDR6. The GeForce RTX 2080 Ti could feature as many as 4,352 CUDA cores with 11GB of GDDR6. Nvidia already unveiled for professional workstations last week. The company is expecting significant performance improvements with this new generation as those GPUs are optimized for ray tracing — the “RT” in RTX stands for ray tracing. While ray tracing isn’t new, it’s hard to process images using this method with current hardware. The RTX GPUs will have dedicated hardware units for this task in particular. And maybe it’s going to become easier to buy GPUs now that the cryptocurrency mining craze is slowly fading away.
It’s been a while since I defragged — years, probably, because these days for a number of reasons computers don’t really need to. But perhaps it is we who need to defrag. And what better way to defrag your brain after a long week than by watching the strangely satisfying defragmentation process taking place on a simulated DOS machine, complete with fan and HDD noise? , which has defrag.exe running 24/7 for your enjoyment. I didn’t realize how much I missed the sights and sounds of this particular process. I’ve always found ASCII visuals soothing, and there was something satisfying about watching all those little blocks get moved around to form a uniform whole. What were they doing down there on the lower right hand side of the hard drive anyway? That’s what I’d like to know. Afterwards I’d launch a state of the art game like Quake 2 just to convince myself it was loading faster. There’s also that nice purring noise that a hard drive would make (and which is recreated here). At least, I thought of it as purring. For the drive, it’s probably like being waterboarded. But I did always enjoy having the program running while keeping everything else quiet, perhaps as I was going to bed, so I could listen to its little clicks and whirrs. Sometimes it would hit a particularly snarled sector and really go to town, grinding like crazy. That’s how you knew it was working. The typo is, no doubt, deliberate. The whole thing is simulated, of course. There isn’t really just an endless pile of hard drives waiting to be defragged on decades-old hardware for our enjoyment (except in my box of old computer things). But the simulation is wonderfully complete, although if you think about it you probably never used DOS on a 16:9 monitor, and probably not at 1080p. It’s okay. We can sacrifice authenticity so we don’t have to windowbox it. The defragging will never stop at TwitchDefrags, and that’s comforting to me. It means I don’t have to build a 98SE rig and spend forever copying things around so I have a nicely fragmented volume. Honestly they should include this sound on those little white noise machines. For me this is definitely better than whale noises.
Most mornings, after sifting through the night’s mail haul and skimming the headlines, I make myself a cup of coffee. I use a simple pour-over cone and paper filters, and (in what is perhaps my ), I grind the beans by hand. I like the manual aspect of it all. Which is why this robotic pour-over machine is to me so perverse… and so tempting. , this gadget, currently raising funds on Kickstarter but seemingly complete as far as development and testing, is basically a way to do pour-over coffee without holding the kettle yourself. You fill the kettle and place your mug and cone on the stand in front of it. The water is brought to a boil and the kettle tips automatically. Then the whole mug-and-cone portion spins slowly, distributing the water around the grounds, stopping after 11 ounces has been distributed over the correct duration. You can use whatever cone and mug you want as long as they’re about the right size. Of course, the whole point of pour-over coffee is that it’s simple: you can do it at home, while on vacation, while hiking or indeed at a coffee shop with a bare minimum of apparatus. All you need is the coffee beans, the cone, a paper filter — although some cones omit even that — and of course a receptacle for the product. (It’s not the simplest — that’d be Turkish, but that’s coffee for werewolves.) Why should anyone want to disturb this simplicity? Well, the same reason we have the other 20 methods for making coffee: convenience. And in truth, pour-over is already automated in the form of drip machines. So the obvious next question is, why this dog and pony show of an open-air coffee bot? Aesthetics! Nothing wrong with that. What goes on in the obscure darkness of a drip machine? No one knows. But this — this you can watch, audit, understand. Even if the machinery is complex, the result is simple: hot water swirls gently through the grounds. And although it’s fundamentally a bit absurd, it is a good-looking machine, with wood and brass accents and a tasteful kettle shape. (I do love a tasteful kettle.) The creators say the machine is built to last “generations,” a promise which must of course be taken with a grain of salt. Anything with electronics has the potential to short out, to develop a bug, to be troubled by humidity or water leaks. The heating element may fail. The motor might stutter or a hinge catch. But all that is true of most coffee machines, and unlike those, this one appears to be made with care and high-quality materials. The cracking and warping you can expect in thin molded plastic won’t happen to this thing, and if you take care of it, it should at least last several years. And it better, for the minimum pledge price that gets you a machine: $450. That’s quite a chunk of change. But like audiophiles, coffee people are kind of suckers for a nice piece of equipment. There is of course the standard crowdfunding caveat emptor; this isn’t a pre-order but a pledge to back this interesting hardware startup, and if it’s anything like the last five or six campaigns I’ve backed, it’ll arrive late after facing unforeseen difficulties with machining, molds, leaks and so on.
I’m a huge fan of single board computers, especially if they’re small enough to swallow. That’s why I like the . This teeny-tiny ARM processor essentially interfaces with your computer via the USB port and contains two LEDs and two buttons. Once it’s plugged in the little computer can simulate a hard drive or mouse, send MIDI data, and even blink quickly. The Tomu runs the Silicon Labs Happy Gecko EFM32HG309 and can also act as a security token. It is completely open source and all the code is on their . I bought one for $30 and messed with it for a few hours. The programs are very simple and you can load in various tools including a clever little mouse mover – maybe to simulate mouse usage for an app – and a little app that blinks the lights quickly. Otherwise you can use it to turn your USB hub into an on-off switch for your computer. It’s definitely not a fully fledged computer – there are limited I/O options, obviously – but it’s a cute little tool for those who want to do a little open source computing. One problem? It’s really, really small. I’d do more work on mine but I already lost it while I was clearing off a desk so I could see it better. So it goes.
Hot on the heels of the wonderful comes Haukur Rosinkranz’s , a site that lets you play Super Nintendo with all your buds. Rosinkranz is Icelandic but lives in Berlin now. He made NES.party a year ago while experimenting with WebRTC and WebSockets and he updated his software to support the SNES. “The reason I made it was simply because I discovered how advanced the RTC implementation in Chrome had become and wanted to do something with it,” he said. “When I discovered that it’s possible to take a video element and stream it over the network I just knew I had to do something cool with this and I came up with the idea of streaming emulators.” He said it took him six months to build the app and a month to add NES support. “It’s hard to say how long it took because I basically created my own framework for web applications that need realtime communication between one or more participants,” he said. He is a freelance programmer. It’s a clever hack that could add a little fun to your otherwise dismal day. Feel like a little Link to the Past? Pop over !