Security researchers have busted the encryption in several popular Crucial and Samsung SSDs

Security researchers have busted the encryption in several popular Crucial and Samsung SSDs

11:33am, 5th November, 2018
Researchers at Radboud University have found critical security flaws in several popular Crucial and Samsung solid state drives (SSDs), which they say can be easily exploited to recover encrypted data without knowing the password. The researchers, who detailed their findings in a out Monday, reverse engineered the firmware of several drives to find a “pattern of critical issues” across the device makers. In the case of one drive, the master password used to decrypt the drive’s data was just an empty string and could be easily exploiting by flipping a single bit in the drive’s memory. Another drive could be unlocked with “any password” by crippling the drive’s password validation checks. That wouldn’t be much of a problem if an affected drive also used software encryption to secure its data. But the researchers found that in the case of Windows computers, often the default policy for BitLocker’s software-based drive encryption is to trust the drive — and therefore rely entirely on a device’s hardware encryption to protect the data. Yet, as the researchers found, if the hardware encryption is buggy, BitLocker isn’t doing much to prevent data theft. In other words, users “should not rely solely on hardware encryption as offered by SSDs for confidentiality,” the researchers said. Alan Woodward, a professor at the University of Surrey, said that the greatest risk to users is the drive’s security “failing silently.” “You might think you’ve done the right thing enabling BitLocker but then a third party fault undermines your security, but you never know and never would know,” he said. Matthew Green, a cryptography professor at Johns Hopkins, described the BitLocker flaw as “like jumping out of a plane with an umbrella instead of a parachute.” The researchers said that their findings are not yet finalized — pending a peer review. But the research was made public after disclosing the bugs to the drive makers in April. Crucial’s MX100, MX200 and MX300 drives, Samsung’s T3 and T5 USB external disks, and Samsung 840 EVO and 850 EVO internal hard disks are known to be affected, but the researchers warned that many other drives may also be at risk. The researchers criticized the device makers’ proprietary and closed-source cryptography that they said — and proved — is “often shown to be much weaker in practice” than their open source and auditable cryptographic libraries. “Manufacturers that take security seriously should publish their crypto schemes and corresponding code so that security claims can be independently verified,” they wrote. The researchers recommend using software-based encryption, like the open source software VeraCrypt. , Samsung also recommended that users install encryption software to prevent any “potential breach of self-encrypting SSDs.” Crucial’s owner Micron is said to have a fix on the way, according by the Netherlands’ National Cyber Security Center, but did not say when. Micron did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Yub nub! Students dress a bipedal robot up like an AT-ST

Yub nub! Students dress a bipedal robot up like an AT-ST

9:23am, 5th November, 2018
Students at Oregon State University dressed up their bipedal robot, , in a delightful AT-ST costume. This robot, which everyone said looked like one of the Empire’s two-legged walkers, anyway, can now zap both Rebels and Ewoks in a deadly battle to take control of the forest city of Corvallis. The robot, as you can see, can change its center of gravity for better stability and, because it doesn’t have a torso or arms, can balance in multiple difficult environments. It can also now fire lasers at primitive man-bears stuck in the Stone Age. The Dynamic Robotics Lab at Oregon State University built the original robot and now is mass-producing the bipedal machines, presumably for for Grand Moff Tarkin. You can see Cassie without her costume here, but I think the Star Wars version is far superior.
Review: The iPad Pro and the power of the Pen(cil)

Review: The iPad Pro and the power of the Pen(cil)

7:13am, 5th November, 2018
Laptop users have been focused for a very long time on whether the iPad Pro is going to be forced upon them as a replacement device. Depending on who you believe, Apple included, it has at one point been considered that, or a pure tablet with functions to be decided completely by the app development community, or something all its own. But with the iPad Pro, the Smart Keyboard and the new version of Apple’s some things are finally starting to become clear. The new hardware, coupled with the ability and willingness of companies like Adobe to finally ship completely full-featured versions of Photoshop that handle enormous files and all of the tools and brushes of the desktop version, are opening a new door on what could be possible with iPad Pro — if Apple are ready to embrace it. Pencil Does the double tap gesture feel natural? Yep. I’ve been using electronic drawing surfaces since the first generation Wacom that had a serial port connector. Many of them over the years have had some sort of ‘action button’ that allowed you to toggle or click to change drawing modes, invoke erasers or pallets and generally save you from having to move away from your drawing surface as much as possible. That’s the stated and obvious goal of the Apple Pencil’s new double-tap as well. Many of the internal components are very similar to the first generation Pencil, but one of the new ones is a capacitive band that covers the bottom third of the pencil from the tip upwards. This band is what enables the double tap and it is nicely sensitive. It feels organic and smooth to invoke it, and you can adjust the cadence of tap in the Pencil’s control panel. The panel also allows you to swap from eraser to palate as your alternate, and to turn off the ‘tap to notes’ feature which lets you tap the pencil to you screen to instantly launch the Notes app. When you do this it’s isolated to the current note only, just like photos. One day I’d love to see alternate functions for Pencil tap-to-wake but it makes sense that this is the one they’d start with. I never once double tapped it accidentally and it felt great to swap to an eraser without lifting out of work mode — the default behavior. But Apple has also given developers a lot of latitude to offer different behaviors for that double tap. Procreate, one of my favorite drawing apps, offers a bunch of options including radial menus that reflect the current tool or mode and switching between one tool and another directly. Apple’s guidelines instruct developers to be cautions in implementing double tap — but they also encourage them to think about what logical implementations of the tool look like for users. The new Pencil does not offer any upgrades in tracking accuracy, speed or detection. It works off of essentially the same tracking system as was available to the first Pencil on previous iPad Pros. But, unfortunately, the Pencil models are not cross compatible. The new Pencil will not work on old iPad Pros and the old pencil does not work on the new model. This is due to the pairing and charging process being completely different. Unlike the first one, though, the new Pencil both pairs and charges wirelessly — a huge improvement. There is no little cap to lose, you don’t have to plug it into the base of the iPad like a rectal thermometer to charge and the pairing happens simultaneously as you charge. The ‘top’ (for lack of a better term) edge of the iPad Pro in horizontal mode now features a small opaque window. Behind that window are the charging coils for the Pencil. Inside the Pencil itself is a complimentary coil, flanked by two arrays of ferrite magnets. These mate with magnetic inside the chassis of the iPad. Through the use of shaped magnetic fields, Apple pulls a bit of alignment trickery here, forcing the pencil to snap precisely to the point where the charging coils are aligned perfectly. This enables you to slap the pencil on top quickly, not even thinking about alignment. The magnetic connection is tough — almost, but not quite, enough to hold the larger iPad Pro in the air by the pencil — and it should hold on well, but it’s fairly easy to knock off if you come at it from the side, as you would when pulling it off from the front. There’s also a pleasant on screen indicator now that shows charge level. When the Pencil launched, I , a fine artist who sketches more than anyone I know as a part of his creative process. He liked the tracking and the access to digital tools, but specifically called out the glossy finish as being inferior to matte and the fact that there was no flat edge to rest against your finger. The new Pencil has both a matte finish and a new flat edge. Yes, the edge is there to stop the pencil from rolling and also to allow it to snap to the edge of the iPad for charging, but the ability to register one edge of your drawing instrument against the inside of your control finger is highly under-valued by anyone who isn’t an artist. It’s hugely important in control for sketching. Plenty of pencils are indeed round, but a lot of those are meant to be held in an overhand grip – like a pointing device that you use to shade, for the most part. The standard tripod grip is much better suited to having at least one flat edge. Your range of motion is limited in tripod but it can provide for more precision, where the overhand grip is more capable and versatile, it’s also harder to use precisely. The new Pencil is now better to use in both of these widely used grips, which should make artists happy. These fiddly notions of grip may seem minor, but I (and my drawing callous) can tell you that it is much more than it seems. Grip is everything in sketching. The Pencil is one of the most impressive version 2 devices that Apple has released ever. It scratches off every major issue that users had with the V1. A very impressive bit of execution here that really enhances the iPad Pro’s usability, both for drawing and quick notes and sketches. The only downside is that you have to buy it separately. Drawing and sketching with the new Pencil is lovely, and remains a completely stand-out experience that blows away even dedicated devices like the Wacom Cintiq and remains a far cut above the stylus experience in the Surface Pro devices. Beyond that there are some interesting things already happening with the Pencil’s double tap. In Procreate, for instance, you can choose a different double tap action for many different tools and needs. It’s malleable, depending on the situation. It’s linked to the context of what you’re working on, or it’s not, depending on your (and the developer’s) choices. One minute you’re popping a radial menu that lets you manipulate whole layers, another you’re drawing and swapping to an eraser, and it still feels pretty easy to follow because it’s grounded in the kind of tool that you’re using at the moment. Especially in vertical mode, it’s easy to see why touch with fingers is not great for laptops or hybrids. The Pencil provides a much needed precision and delicacy of touch that feels a heck of a lot different than pawing at the screen with your snausages trying to tap a small button. Reach, too, can be a problem here and the Pencil solves a lot of the problems in hitting targets that are 10” away from the keyboard or more. The Pencil is really moving upwards in the hierarchy from a drawing accessory to a really mandatory pointing and manipulation tool for iPad users. It’s not quiiiite there yet, but there’s big potential, as the super flexible options in Procreate display. There’s an enormous amount of high level execution going on with Pencil, and by extension, iPad. Both the Pencil and the AirPods fly directly in the face of arguments that Apple can’t deliver magical experiences to users built on the backs of its will and ability to own and take responsibility of more of its hardware and software stack than any other manufacturer. Speakers and microphones There are now 5 microphones, though the iPad Pro still only records in stereo. They record in pairs, with the mics being dynamically used to noise cancel as needed. Th speakers are solid, producing some pretty great stereo sound for such a thin device. The speakers are also used more intelligently now, with all 4 active for FaceTime calls, something that wasn’t possible previously without the 5-mic array due to feedback. Let’s talk about ports, baby/Let’s talk about USB-C I’m not exactly an enormous fan of USB-C as a format, but it does have some nice structural advantages over earlier USB formats and, yes, even over Lightning. It’s not the ideal, but it’s not bad. So it’s a pleasant surprise to see Apple conceding that people wanting to use an external monitor at high res, charge iPhones and transfer photos at high speed is more important than sticking to Lightning. The internal and external rhetoric about Lightning has always been that it was compact, useful and perfect for iOS devices. That rhetoric now has an iPad Pro sized hole in it and I’m fine with that. A pro platform that isn’t easily extensible isn’t really a pro platform. It’s not a coincidence that Apple’s laptops and its iPad Pro devices all now run on USB-C. This trickle down may continue, but for now it stems directly from what Apple believes people will want from these devices. An external monitor was at the top of the list in all of Apple’s messaging on stage and in my discussions afterwards. They believe that there is a certain segment of Pro users that will benefit greatly from running an extended (not just mirrored) display up to 5K resolution. In addition, there are a bunch of musical instruments and artist’s peripherals that will connect directly now. There’s even a chance (but not an official one) that the port could provide some externally powered accessories with enough juice to function. The port now serves a full 7.5W to devices plugged in to charge, and you can plug in microphones and other accessories via the USB-C port, though there is no guarantee any of them will get enough power from the port if they previously required external power. Pretty much all MacBook dongles will work on the iPad Pro by the way. So whatever combos of stuff you’ve come up with will have additional uses here. The port is USB 3.1 gen 2 capable, making for transfers up to 10GBPS. Practically, what this means for most people is faster transfer from cameras or SD Card readers for photos. Though the iPad Pro does not support mass storage or external hard drive support directly to the Files app, apps that have their own built in browsing can continue to read directly from hard drives and now the transfer speeds will be faster. There is a USB-C to headphone adapter, for sale separately. It also works with Macs, if that’s something that excites you. The basic answer I got on no headphone jacks, by the way, is that one won’t even fit in the distance from the edge of the screen to the bezel, and that they needed the room for other components anyway. The new iPad Pro also ships with a new charger brick. It’s a USB-C power adapter that’s brand new to iPad Pro. A12X and performance The 1TB model of larger iPad Pro and, I believe, the 1TB version of the smaller iPad Pro, have 6GB of RAM. I believe, according to what I’ve been able to discern, that the models that come with less than 1TB of storage have less than that – around 4GB total. I don’t know how that will affect their performance, because I was not supplied with those models. The overall performance of the A12X on this iPad Pro though, is top notch. Running many apps at once in split-screen spaces or in slideover mode is no problem, and transitions between apps are incredibly smooth. Drawing and sketching in enormous files in ProCreate was super easy, and I encountered zero chugging across AR applications (buttery smooth), common iPad apps and heavy creative tools. This is going to be very satisfying for people that edit large photos in Lightroom or big video files in iMovie. The GeekBench benchmarks for this iPad are, predictably, insane. Check out these single-core/multi-core results: iPad Pro 12.9” 5027 / 18361 MacBook Pro 13” 2018 5137 / 17607 MacBook Pro 15” 2018 6-core 5344 / 22561 iMac 27” 2017 5675 / 19325 As you can see, the era of waiting for desktop class ARM processors to come to the iPad Pro is over. They’re here, and they’re integrated tightly with other Apple designed silicon across the system to achieve Apple’s ends. There has basically been two prevailing camps on the ARM switch. One side is sure Apple will start slowly, launching one model of MacBook (maybe the literal MacBook) on ARM and dribbling it out to other models. I was solidly in that camp for a long time. After working on the iPad Pro and seeing the performance, both burst and sustained, across many pro applications, I’ve developed doubts. The results here, and the performance of the iPad Pro really crystalize the fact that Apple can and will ship ARM processors across its whole line as soon as it feels like it wants to. There are too many times where we have ended up waiting on new Apple hardware due to some vagary of supply chain or silicon focus. Apple is sick of it, I’ve heard grumbling for years about this from inside the company, but they’re stuck with Intel as a partner until they make the leap. At this point, it’s a matter of time, and time is short. Camera and Face ID The camera in the iPad Pro is a completely new thing. It uses a new sensor and a new 5 element lens. This new camera had to be built from the ground up because the iPad Pro is too thin to have used the camera from the iPhone XR or XS or even the previous iPads. This new camera is just fine image quality wise. It offers Smart HDR, which requires support both from the speedy sensor and the Neural Engine in the A12X. It’s interesting that Apple’s camera team decided to do the extra work to provide a decent camera experience, rather than just making the sensor smaller or falling back to an older design that would work with the thickness, or lack thereof. Interestingly, this new camera system does not deliver portrait mode from the rear camera, It only gives you portrait from the True Depth camera on front. iPad photography has always gotten a bad rap. It’s been relegated to jokes about dads holding up tablets at soccer games and theme parks. But the fact remains that the iPad Pro’s screen is probably the best viewfinder ever made. I do hope that some day it gets real feature-for-feature parity with the iPhone, so I have an excuse to go full dad. Of similar note, both hardware and software updates have been made to the True Depth array on the front of the iPad Pro in order to make it work in the thinner casing. Those changes, along with additional work in neural net training and tweaking, also support Face ID working in all “four” orientations of the iPad Pro. No matter what way is up, it will unlock, and it does so speedily — just as fast as the iPhone XS generation Face ID system, no question. I also believe that it works at slightly wider angles now, though it may be my imagination. By nature, you’re often further away from the screen on the iPad Pro than you are on your phone, but still, I feel like I can be much more ‘off axis’ to the camera and it still unlocks. This is good news on iPad because you can be in just about any working posture and you’re fine. Keyboard Like the Pencil, the Smart Keyboard Folio is an optional accessory. And, like the Pencil, I don’t think you’re really getting the full utility of the iPad Pro without it. There have been times where I’ve written more than 11,000 words at a stretch on iPad for very focused projects, and its ability to be a distraction free word production machine are actually wildly under sung, I feel. There are not many electronic devices better for just crashing out words without much else to get in the way than iPad with a good text editor. Editing, however, has always been more of a mixed bag. I’m not sure we’re quite there yet with the latest iPad Pro, but it’s a far better scenario for mixed-activity sessions. With the help of the Pencil and the physical keyboard, it is becoming a very livable situation for someone whose work demands rapid context switching and a variety of different activities that require call-and-response feedback. The keyboard itself is fine. It feels nearly identical to the previous keyboard Apple offered for iPads, and isn’t ideal in terms of key press and pushback, but makes for an ok option that you can get used to. The design of the folio is something else. It’s very cool, super stable and shows off Apple’s willingness to get good stupid with clever implementation. A collection of 120 magnets inside the case are arranged in the same Halbach arrays that hold the pencil on. Basically, sets of magnets arranged to point their force outwards. These arrays allow the case to pop on to the iPad Pro with a minimum of fuss and automatically handle the micr-alignment necessary to make sure the the contacts of the smart connector make a good connection to power and communicate with the keyboard. The grooves that allow for two different positions of upright use are also magnetized, and couple with magnets inside the body of the iPad Pro. The general effect here is that the Smart Keyboard is much much more stable than previous generations and, I’m happy to report, is approved for lap use. It’s still not going to be quite as stable as a laptop, but you can absolutely slap this on your knees on a train or plane and get work done. That was pretty much impossible with its floppier predecessor. One big wish for the folio is that it offered an incline that was more friendly to drawing. I know that’s not the purpose of this device specifically, but I found it working so well with Pencil that there was a big hole left by not having an arrangement that would hold the iPad at around the 15-20 degree mark for better leverage and utility while sketching and drawing. I think the addition of another groove and magnet set somewhere on the lower third of the back of the folio would allow for this. I hope to see it appear in the future, though third parties will doubtlessly offer many such cases soon enough for dedicated artists and illustrators. Design Though much has been made about the curved corners of the iPad Pro’s casing and the matching curved corners of its screen, the fact is that the device feels much more aggressive in terms of its shape. The edges all fall straight down, instead of back and away, and they’re mated with tight bullnose corners. The camera bump on the back does not cause the iPad to wobble if you lay it flat on a counter and draw. There’s a basic tripod effect that makes it just fine to scribble on, for those who were worried about that. The overall aesthetic is much more businesslike and less ‘friendly’ in that very curvy sort of Apple way. I like it, a lot. The flat edges are pretty clearly done that way to let Apple use more of the interior space without having to cede a few millimeters all the way around the edge to unusable space. In every curved iPad, there’s a bit of space all the way around that is pretty much air. Cutting off the chin and forehead of the iPad Pro did a lot to balance the design out and make it more holdable. There will likely be, and I think justifiably, some comparisons to the design of Surface Pro and the new blockier design. But the iPads still manage to come in feeling more polished than most of its tablet rivals with details like the matching corner radii, top of the line aluminum finish and super clever use of magnets to keep the exterior free of hooks or latches to attach accessories like the Smart Keyboard. If you’re debating between the larger and smaller iPad Pro models I can only give you one side of advice here because I was only able to test the new 12.9” model. It absolutely feels better balanced than the previous larger iPad and certainly is smaller than ever for the screen size. It makes the decision about whether to mov e up in size a much closer one than it ever has been before. Handling the smaller Pro in person at the event last week was nice, but I can’t make a call on how it is to live with. This one feels pretty great though, and certainly portable in a way that the last large iPad Pro never did – that thing was a bit of a whale, and made it hard to justify bringing along. This one is smaller than my 13” MacBook Pro and much thinner. Screen The iPhone XR’s pixel masking technique is also at work on the iPad Pro’s screen, giving it rounded corners. The LCD screen has also gained tap-to-wake functionality, which is used to great effect by the Pencil, but can also be used with a finger to bring the screen to life. Promotion, Apple’s 120hz refresh technology, is aces here, and works well with the faster processor to keep the touch experience as close to 1:1 as possible. The color rendition and sharpness of this LCD are beyond great, and its black levels only show poorly against an OLED because of the laws of physics. It also exhibits the issue I first noticed in the iPhone XR, where it darkens ever so slightly at the edges due to the localized dimming effect of the pixel gating Apple is using to get an edge-to-edge LCD. Otherwise this is one of the better LCD screens ever made in my opinion, and now it has less bezel and fun rounded corners — plus no notch. What’s not to like? Conclusion In my opinion, if you want an iPad to do light work as a pure touch device, get yourself a regular iPad. The iPad Pro is an excellent tablet, but really shines when it’s paired with a Pencil and/or keyboard. Having the ability to bash out a long passage of text or scribble on the screen is a really nice addition to the iPad’s capabilities. But the power and utility of the iPad Pro comes into highest relief when you pair it with a Pencil. There has been endless debate about the role of tablets with keyboards in the pantheon of computing devices. Are they laptop replacements? Are they tablets with dreams of grandiosity? Will anyone ever stop using the phrase 2-in-1 to refer to these things? And the iPad hasn’t exactly done a lot to dispel the confusion. During different periods of its life cycle it has taken on many of these roles, both through the features it has shipped with and through the messaging of Apple’s marketing arm and well-rehearsed on-stage presentations. One basic summary of the arena is that Microsoft has been working at making laptops into tablets, Apple has been working on making tablets into laptops and everyone else has been doing weird ass shit. Microsoft still hasn’t been able (come at me) to ever get it through their heads that they needed to start by cutting the head off of their OS and building tablet first, then walking backwards. I think now Microsoft is probably much more capable than then Microsoft, but that’s probably another whole discussion. Apple went and cut the head off of OS X at the very beginning, and has been very slowly walking in the other direction ever since. But the fact remains that no Surface Pro has ever offered a tablet experience anywhere near as satisfying as an iPad’s. Yes, it may offer more flexibility, but it comes at the cost of unity and reliably functionality. Just all the way down. THAT SAID. I still don’t think Apple is doing enough in software to support the speed and versatility that is provided by the hardware in the iPad Pro. While split screening apps and creating ‘spaces’ that remain in place to bounce between has been a nice evolution of the iPad OS, it’s really only a fraction of what is possible. And I think even more than hardware, Apple’s iPad users are being underestimated here. We’re on 8 years of iPad and 10 years of iPhone. An entire generation of people already uses these devices as their only computers. My wife hasn’t owned a computer outside an iPad and phone for 15 years and she’s not even among the most aggressive adopters of mobile first. Apple needs to unleash itself from the shackles of a unified iOS. They don’t have to feel exactly the same now, because the user base is not an infantile one. They’ve been weaned on it — now give them solid food. The Pencil, to me, stands out as the bright spot in all of this. Yes, Apple is starting predictably slow with its options for the double tap gesture. But third party apps like Procreate show that there will be incredible opportunities long term to make the Pencil the mouse for the tablet generation. I think the stylus was never the right choice for the first near decade of iPad, and it still isn’t mandatory for many of its uses. But the additional power of a context-driven radial menu or right option at the right time means that the Pencil could absolutely be the key to unlocking an interface that somehow blends the specificity of mouse-driven computing with the gestural and fluidity of touch-driven interfaces. I’m sure there are Surface Pro users out there rolling their eyes while holding their Surface Pens – but, adequate though they are, they are not Pencils. And more importantly, they are not supported by the insane work Apple has done on the iPad to make the Pencil feel more than first party. And, because of the (sometimes circuitous and languorous) route that Apple took to get here, you can actually still detach the keyboard and set down the Pencil and get an incredible tablet-based experience with the iPad Pro. If Apple is able to let go a bit and execute better on making sure the software feels as flexible and ‘advanced’ as the hardware, the iPad Pro has legs. If it isn’t able to do that, then the iPad will remain a dead end. But I have hope. In the shape of an expensive ass pencil.
‘World of Warcraft: Classic’ demo limited to 60 minutes of playtime

‘World of Warcraft: Classic’ demo limited to 60 minutes of playtime

9:56am, 2nd November, 2018
Put away the Jolt, Blizzard is limiting the time gamers will be able to play the World of Warcraft: Classic demo. Basically, after playing for an hour, players will be logged off and will have to wait 60 minutes before resuming for another hour. The goal is to ensure a mass of players do not crash the servers, which, honestly, if the services crashed randomly, would be the most classic thing Blizzard could do to recreate the original WoW experience. In Blizzard says it hopes to lift the session limits as soon as possible. Here’s some examples Blizzard provided to illustrate the session limits. • If you play for 30 minutes and then log off for 60 minutes, when you come back you’ll have a fresh 60 minutes.• If you play for 60 minutes, you’ll be disconnected and then have to wait 30 minutes before you can play again.• If you play for 20 minutes, log off for 20 minutes, then play 40 more minutes, you’ll be logged off and wait 10 more minutes. Blizzard previously stated the demo players would start out at level 15. The goal is to provide players ample time to feel out the different classes and the best way to do that is with a character with an established skill tree. However, characters are capped at level 19 and will not roll over to the full game once the demo is complete so enjoy it while it lasts.
GoPro shares are tanking after disastrous Q3

GoPro shares are tanking after disastrous Q3

4:36pm, 1st November, 2018
stock is currently trading down 15% and is falling after reporting its third quarter earnings. The company saw revenues dive 13%.3 percent. Overall GoPro reported a net loss of $27.1 million, or 19 cents per share, in the quarter that ended on Sept. 30. Is compared with a profit of $14.7 million, or 10 cents per share, from the previous year. Likewise, GoPro saw revenue fell to $285.9 million from $329.8 million. Developing…
The Autoblow A.I. brings machine learning to your lap

The Autoblow A.I. brings machine learning to your lap

2:26pm, 1st November, 2018
Dearest Martha, I write to you from the cold wastes of Earth on the first day of the New Year, 2023, the third year of war, and so close to your own child’s decanting date that it pains me to think on thee. The machines have been unkind to this planet and I hope you are well situated on Mars where it is safe. The men in the platoon — Dutch, Brooklyn, Dandy and French — all send a cheerful “Hello.” I think they are jealous that you are human. I must tell you something, dearest Martha, as I feel I’ve been remiss in maintaining our marriage smart contract. I met here a machine, an , with which I had the briefest of dalliances. The robot, made by humans in the last century, approached me in a time of great pain. Zimmerman had just been destroyed by an ion cannon and I saw his flesh burn and his lungs become a meaty particulate. I could still taste him when the Autoblow offered me a night of solace and, Martha, I’m sorry to say I took it. It was more human than human, Martha, but my shame will never end. The product, which cost $129 in original Earth dollars, came with two sleeves that simulated different parts of human anatomy. The robot had a unique system that grasped and pulled at my turgidity in ways that simulated real human contact. My body wracked with fear, pain and guilt, I let it stroke me to issue with its A.I.-powered smarts. Then, face burning, I escaped back to the barracks and slept fitfully, exhausted and morally broken. And so I pray, Martha, that you will forgive me. I know that the robots killed your parents and that your hatred for them knows no bounds. But Martha, dear, understand that in that moment, on the streets of Old Singapore where the lights flicker with each cannon blast and the radiation rises like steam from the old sewers, I did not think of anything but my own loss and the deep sadness I feel for having left you and our embryo. This war will be over soon and we will soon return to each other’s arms. I will forget this scandalous experience and I hope you will be able to, as well. Until then, Martha, look to this far blue star and think of me as I was before this disgusting behavior. I dream of the happiness we will share. The Autoblow meant nothing to me and you mean everything. Your husband,Miso Kale Post Malone
Sonos delays Google Assistant integration until 2019, private beta to launch in 2018

Sonos delays Google Assistant integration until 2019, private beta to launch in 2018

10:06am, 1st November, 2018
today announced that Assistant will not be available on its products until at least 2019. The service was supposed to launch in 2018 but the company said in it needs a bit more time. Additional information about timing will be released in early 2019, Sonos says. Eager customers as long as they agree to use the service extensively and respond to surveys within a few days. Sonos products already have access to Alexa. Given Sonos’s long-standing notion of supporting all platforms, it makes sense that the company would want customers to have access to both Alexa and Google Assistant. That’s what makes Sonos compelling: They provide the hardware, and owners use whatever software platform they want. This is clearly critical for Sonos. For a long time, Sonos provided the best-sounding smart speaker system on the market but Amazon, Google and traditional speaker brands are quickly introducing speakers that provide similar sound quality. To keep up and justify the higher price of its hardware, Sonos needs to offer owners the best sound and the best software, and offering Google Assistant on its products is a key part of that goal.
Watch this little robot transform to get the job done

Watch this little robot transform to get the job done

6:56pm, 31st October, 2018
Robots just want to get things done, but it’s frustrating when their rigid bodies simply don’t allow them to do so. Solution: bodies that can be reconfigured on the fly! Sure, it’s probably bad news for humanity in the long run, but in the meantime it makes for fascinating research. A team of graduate students from Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania made this idea their focus and produced both the modular, self-reconfiguring robot itself and the logic that drives it. Think about how you navigate the world: If you need to walk somewhere, you sort of initiate your “walk” function. But if you need to crawl through a smaller space, you need to switch functions and shapes. Similarly, if you need to pick something up off a table, you can just use your “grab” function, but if you need to reach around or over an obstacle you need to modify the shape of your arm and how it moves. Naturally you have a nearly limitless “library” of these functions that you switch between at will. That’s really not the case for robots, which are much more rigidly designed both in hardware and software. This research, however, aims to create a similar — if considerably smaller — library of actions and configurations that a robot can use on the fly to achieve its goals. In their paper , the team documents the groundwork they undertook, and although it’s still extremely limited, it hints at how this type of versatility will be achieved in the future. The robot itself, called SMORES-EP, might be better described as a collection of robots: small cubes (it’s a ) equipped with wheels and magnets that can connect to each other and cooperate when one or all of them won’t do the job. The brains of the operation lie in a central unit equipped with a camera and depth sensor it uses to survey the surroundings and decide what to do. If it sounds a little familiar, that’s because the same team demonstrated a different aspect of this system , namely the ability to identify spaces it can’t navigate and deploy items to remedy that. The current paper is focused on the underlying system that the robot uses to perceive its surroundings and interact with it. Let’s put this in more concrete terms. Say a robot like this one is given the goal of collecting the shoes from around your apartment and putting them back in your closet. It gets around your apartment fine but ultimately identifies a target shoe that’s underneath your bed. It knows that it’s too big to fit under there because it can perceive dimensions and understands its own shape and size. But it also knows that it has functions for accessing enclosed areas, and it can tell that by arranging its parts in such and such a way it should be able to reach the shoe and bring it back out. The flexibility of this approach and the ability to make these decisions autonomously are where the paper identifies advances. This isn’t a narrow “shoe-under-bed-getter” function, it’s a general tool for accessing areas the robot itself can’t fit into, whether that means pushing a recessed button, lifting a cup sitting on its side, or reaching between condiments to grab one in the back. A visualization of how the robot perceives its environment. As with just about everything in robotics, this is harder than it sounds, and it doesn’t even sound easy. The “brain” needs to be able to recognize objects, accurately measure distances, and fundamentally understand physical relationships between objects. In the shoe grabbing situation above, what’s stopping a robot from trying to lift the bed and leave it in place floating above the ground while it drives underneath? Artificial intelligences have no inherent understanding of any basic concept and so many must be hard-coded or algorithms created that reliably make the right choice. Don’t worry, the robots aren’t quite at the “collect shoes” or “collect remaining humans” stage yet. The tests to which the team subjected their little robot were more like “get around these cardboard boxes and move any pink-labeled objects to the designated drop-off area.” Even this type of carefully delineated task is remarkably difficult, but the bot did just fine — though rather slowly, as lab-based bots tend to be. The authors of the paper have since finished their grad work and moved on to new (though surely related) things. Tarik Tosun, one of the authors with whom I talked for this article, explained that he’s now working on advancing the theoretical side of things as opposed to, say, building cube-modules with better torque. To that end he helped author , a simulator environment for modular robots. Although it is tangential to the topic immediately at hand, the importance of this aspect of robotics research can’t be overestimated. You can find a in case you don’t have access to Science Robotics.
Snapchat’s PR firm sues influencer for not promoting Spectacles on Instagram

Snapchat’s PR firm sues influencer for not promoting Spectacles on Instagram

4:46pm, 31st October, 2018
Influcencer marketing could get a lot more accountable if Snapchat’s PR firm wins this lawsuit. Snapchat hoped that social media stars promoting v2 of its Spectacles camera sunglasses on its biggest competitor could boost interest after it only sold 220,000 of v1 and had to take a $40 million write-off. Instead Snap comes off looking a little desperate to make Spectacles seem cool. Snap Inc comissioned its public relations firm PR Consulting (real imaginative) to buy its an influencer marketing campaign on . The firm struck a deal with Grown-ish actor Luka Sabbat after he was seen cavorting with Kourtney Kardashian. Sabbat got paid $45,000 up front with the promise of another $15,000 to post himself donning Spectacles on Instagram. He was contracted to make one Instagram feed post and three Stories posts with him wearing Specs, plus be photographed wearing them in public at Paris and Milan Fashion Weeks. He was supposed to add swipe-up-to-buy links to two of those Story posts, get all the posts pre-approved with PRC, and send it analytics metrics about their performance. But Sabbat skipped out on two of the Stories, one of the swipe-ups, the photo shoots, the pre-approvals, and the analytics. So as first reported, PRC is suing Sabbat to recoup the $45,000 it already paid plus another $45,000 in damages. TechCrunch has attained a copy of the lawsuit filing, embedded below, that states “Sabbat has been unjustly enriched and PRC is entitled to damages.” Snap confirms to us that it hired PRC to run the campaign, and that it also contracted a campaign with fashion blog Man Repeller founder Leandra Medine Cohen. And as a courtesy, I Photoshopped some Spectacles onto Sabbat above. But interestingly, Snap says it was not involved in the decision to sue Sabbat. The debacle brings unwanted attention to the pay-for-promotion deal that brands typically tried to avoid when commissioning influencer marketing. The whole thing is supposed to feel subtle and natural. Instead, PRC’s suit probably cost Snapchat more than $90,000 in reputation. The case could solidify the need for influencer marketing contracts to come with prorated payment terms where stars are paid fractions of the total purse after each post rather than getting any upfront, as writes. PRC’s choice to chase Sabbat even despite the problematic publicity for its client Snap might convince other influencers to abide more closely to the details of their contracts. If social media creators want to keep turning their passion into their profession, they’re going to have to prove they’re accountable. Otherwise brands will slide back to traditional ads.
This gadget adds two USB 3.0 ports to Apple’s power adapter

This gadget adds two USB 3.0 ports to Apple’s power adapter

10:16am, 31st October, 2018
This is clever. Made by HyperDrive, the USB-C Hub slips onto an USB-C power adapter and adds two USB 3.0 ports. That’s all. I love it and it addresses a major shortcoming of Apple’s current notebook lineup. Apple ditched full size USB ports in favor of the versatile USB-C. It makes sense on some levels. USB-C supports nearly every bus format available but there are still a bunch of devices that ship with the older USB plug. Like the iPhone. If a person walks into an Apple store and buys the latest iPhone and the latest MacBook Pro, the iPhone will need a dongle to recharge off the MacBook Pro. Why not make it this dongle? Similar devices have long been on the market but tend to use the power port to add a USB port. This one uses the power of USB-C, which results in an adapter that’s a touch smaller than the alternatives. The HyperDrive USB-C Hub comes in two flavors to match the two versions of Apple’s power adapters. The USB-C Hub for the 61W power adapter costs $39.99 while the USB-C Hub for the 87W power adapter costs $49.99. at a 25% discount from Hyper.
The Google Home Hub is deeply insecure

The Google Home Hub is deeply insecure

8:06am, 31st October, 2018
Security advocate a set of instructions – essentially basic lines of XML – that can easily pull important information off of the and, in some cases, temporarily brick the device. The Home Hub, which is essentially an tablet attached to a speaker, is designed to act as an in-room Google Assistant. This means it connects to Wi-Fi (and allows you to see open Wi-Fi access points near the device), receives video and photos from other devices (and broadcasts its pin), and accepts commands remotely (including a quick reboot via the command line). The command – which consists of a simple URL call via the command line – is clearly part of the setup process. You can try this at home if you replace “hub” with the Home Hub’s local IP address. curl -Lv -H Content-Type:application/json --data-raw '{"params":"now"}' http://hub:8008/setup/reboot I am not an IOT security expert, but I am pretty sure an unauthenticated curl statement should not be able to reboot the home hub. — Jerry Gamblin (@JGamblin) Other one-liners expose further data, including a number of micro services: $ curl -s http://hub:8008/setup/eureka_info | jq{"bssid": "cc:be:59:8c:11:8b","build_version": "136769","cast_build_revision": "1.35.136769","closed_caption": {},"connected": true,"ethernet_connected": false,"has_update": false,"hotspot_bssid": "FA:8F:CA:9C:AA:11","ip_address": "192.168.1.1","locale": "en-US","location": {"country_code": "US","latitude": 255,"longitude": 255},"mac_address": "11:A1:1A:11:AA:11","name": "Hub Display","noise_level": -94,"opencast_pin_code": "1111","opt_in": {"crash": true,"opencast": true,"stats": true},"public_key": "Removed","release_track": "stable-channel","setup_state": 60,"setup_stats": {"historically_succeeded": true,"num_check_connectivity": 0,"num_connect_wifi": 0,"num_connected_wifi_not_saved": 0,"num_initial_eureka_info": 0,"num_obtain_ip": 0},"signal_level": -60,"ssdp_udn": "11111111-adac-2b60-2102-11111aa111a","ssid": "SSID","time_format": 2,"timezone": "America/Chicago","tos_accepted": true,"uma_client_id": "1111a111-8404-437a-87f4-1a1111111a1a","uptime": 25244.52,"version": 9,"wpa_configured": true,"wpa_id": 0,"wpa_state": 10} Finally, this line causes all devices on your network to forget their Wi-Fi, forcing you to reenter the setup process. nmap --open -p 8008 192.168.1.0/24 | awk '/is up/ {print up}; {gsub (/(|)/,""); up = $NF}' | xargs -I % curl -Lv -H Content-Type:application/json --data-raw '{ "wpa_id": 0 }' http://%:8008/setup/forget_wifi As Gamblin notes, these holes aren’t showstoppers but they are very alarming. Allowing unauthenticated access to these services is lazy at best and dangerous at worst. He also notes that these endpoints have been open for years on various devices, which means this is a regular part of the code base and not considered an exploit by Google. Again, nothing here is mission critical – no Home Hub will ever save my life – but it would be nice to know that devices based on the platform have some modicum of security, even in the form of authentication or obfuscation. Today we can reboot Grandpa’s overcomplicated picture frame with a single line of code but tomorrow we may be able to reboot Grandpa’s oxygen concentrator.
The Tissot Seastar 1000 is a low-cost and high-quality Swiss diver

The Tissot Seastar 1000 is a low-cost and high-quality Swiss diver

9:17pm, 30th October, 2018
In the pantheon of watches there are a few that stand out. Looking for your first automatic watch? Pick up a Orange Monster. Looking for a piece with a little history? The Omega Speedmaster is your man. Looking for an entry-level Swiss diver that won’t break the bank? Tissot’s Seastar has always had you covered. The latest version of the is an interesting catch. A few years ago – circa 2010 – the with bold hands and a more staid case style. Now Tissot, a Swatch Group brand, has turned the Seastar into a chunkier diver with massive bar hands and case that looks like a steel sandwich. The contains a Powermatic 80/ETA C07.111 movement with an eighty hour power reserve which means the watch contains a massive mainspring that keeps things going for most of three days without winding. The Seastar is also water resistant to 1000 feet thanks to a huge screw down crown and thick casing. The new model has an exhibition back where you can see the rotor spinning over and balance wheel. The watch also has a ceramic bezel, a fairly top-of-the-line feature in an entry level watch. Tissot has a long and interesting history. Best known for their high-tech T-Touch watches which had touchable crystals, allowing you to activate a compass, barometer, or altimeter with a single tap, the mechanical pieces have always seemed like an afterthought. The company also produces the classic as well as a chronograph that I absolutely loved, the , but that has been discontinued. The Seastar, then, is one of the few mechanical pieces they sell and at sub-$1,000 prices you’re basically getting a Swiss watch with solid power reserve and great looks. Watch folks I’ve talked to over the past few months see a distinct upturn in the Swiss watch market. Their belief that the Apple Watch is driving sales of mechanical watches seems to be coming true, even if it means cheaper fashion watches are being decimated. Tissot sits in that sweet spot between luxury and fashion, a spot that also contains Tag Heuer and Longines. Ultimately this is an entry level watch for the beginning collector but it’s a beautiful and beefy piece and worth a look. [gallery ids="1739155,1739160"]
Can Apple finish 2018 on a high note? We’ll find out Thursday

Can Apple finish 2018 on a high note? We’ll find out Thursday

4:57pm, 30th October, 2018
(NASDAQ: APPL) has had a great 2018. Even as the other slumped, the has continually satisfied Wall Street with quarter-over-quarter revenue growth. But will Apple’s momentum continue after it reports its fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday? The consensus, so far, is yes. is expected to post revenue of $61.43 billion (earnings per share of $2.78), an increase of 17 percent year-over-year and GAAP EPS of $2.78, according to analysts polled by . Investors will be paying close attention to iPhone unit sales, which account for the majority of Apple’s revenue, as well as Mac sales, which accounted for roughly of the company’s revenue in Q3. The company reported its on July 31, posting $53.3 billion in revenue, its best June quarter ever and fourth consecutive quarter of double-digit revenue growth, the company . At today’s in Brooklyn, Apple’s chief executive officer Tim Cook shared that the company’s Mac business had grown to 100 million monthly active users — a big accomplishment for the nearly 10-year-old product. Cook also showcased theand introduced the new and . Not even Lana Del Rey’s at the event was enough to rile up Wall Street. Apple’s stock was unreactive today, as is typically the case with hardware spectacles like these. Apple ultimately closed up about .5 percent. That’s a better outcome than its in September, which despite the highly anticipated announcements of the and forced the company’s stock about 1.2 percent on the news. Apple’s stock performance year to date Year to date, Apple’s stock has risen more than 30 percent from a February low of $155 per share to an October high of $229. If it fails to meet analyst expectations on Thursday, it’s bad news for the stock market: “Apple is the last domino standing,” Market Watch earlier today. “Its FAANG brethren have all crashed, even the mighty Amazon, which has slumped about 25% from all-time highs.” If you missed today’s event, we live-blogged the whole thing and detailed all the new hardware .
A fully loaded iPad Pro will cost you $2,227

A fully loaded iPad Pro will cost you $2,227

12:37pm, 30th October, 2018
This is a public service announcement. The latest and greatest iPad, , will cost you $2,227 to buy in its best configuration and with the basic accessories that make it worth having in the first place. Plus tax, of course. I’m not making a value judgment here, just stating the facts. Tablets are getting pretty damn expensive. To be clear, here’s what you’d be getting for that price. iPad Pro base cost $999 Upgrade from 64GB to 1TB storage: $750 (!) Cellular chip: $150 New Apple Pencil: $129 Smart Keyboard Folio: $199 Tax varies. Shipping’s free, at least. To me the cost of the base device is actually not bad, though I wouldn’t buy it. It really does look like a fine device, if you can get over the curved screen edges and minuscule bezels that will probably make you drop it. I can really see how the 12.9-inch iPad Pro could be a great tool for some artists, assuming they’re already successful enough to afford it. Good stylus surfaces are expensive and the iPad has proven itself to be at the very least competitive. The storage is, as always, the eye-wateringly expensive upgrade that doesn’t really jibe with the cost of the actual components. Good flash storage isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t $750 a terabyte. A good M.2 drive of that capacity and speed is perhaps $150, and that’s including the interface and so on. Apple charging an arm and a leg for upgraded storage is nothing new, but they somehow manage to make it just as shocking every time. The cellular is another upsell that probably isn’t worth it, considering it also incurs a monthly cost. If it was a low-speed Amazon-style free service, I’d do it in a heartbeat to keep my notes and saved articles up to date. But it’s going to run you $150 upfront and probably almost that every year as an added device to your plan. (Could be a nice option to have if you travel a lot, though.) The accessories are expensive, but that new stylus and its snap-on charging (hardly an Apple innovation but nice to have) sure do look nice. You’ll need a keyboard if you’re going to do anything but sketch and read comics on this thing. Tablet computer or computer tablet? And adding the keyboard is really where you start to blur the line between tablet and “real” computer. Of course, the Microsoft Surface, bless its heart and its tiny sales numbers (unflatteringly called out by Apple on stage), is the one that has made strides here over the last few years and Apple is merely drafting it. That’s fine — it’s been the other way around plenty of times. But the difference when you start looking at the apps and features is pretty serious. The iPad Pro is certainly the most productive and professional tablet out there, but as soon as you add a keyboard and set it down on your lap, it starts competing with laptops. And the Surface lineup, while it may lack some of the polish of the iPad, is arguably more powerful both in specs (hard to compare Intel’s chips to Apple’s directly in this case) and certainly in software capability. I suppose that last point is arguable, as well, but let’s try to be honest with ourselves. A Windows computer can do more than an iPad. Microsoft’s device, after all, is a full-blown computer that acts like a tablet when you want it to, not vice versa. That’s important. If I was going to spend $2,000 on a daily driver (though honestly, there’s no need to), I sure as hell wouldn’t pick the one with all kinds of weird, half-formed multitasking gestures, semi-functional cross-app compatibility and app features and selection highly curated and restricted by the people who own the store. And this is coming from someone who likes Macs and iPads! For the same price as the iPad Pro discussed above, you could get a Surface Pro 6 with 16 gigs of RAM (Apple doesn’t specify how much the iPad Pro has, and if it doesn’t crow about it, that usually means it’s nothing to crow about), a better processor (Intel Core i7, same generation) and… well, if you want that terabyte of storage you’re still going to pay through the nose. Maxing it out (including accessories) costs you a couple hundred more than the best iPad you can get, but I think you’d be getting much more value for your dollar. Plus the Surface has a headphone jack. That said, there’s no reason to go all-out on either of these things. That’s the real trap that both companies want you to fall into. Save money and buy last year’s model or the year before, save yourself a thousand bucks and take a vacation instead. You deserve it.
The iPad finally moves to USB-C

The iPad finally moves to USB-C

10:27am, 30th October, 2018
Lightning had a good run, but it’s time to switch everything to USB-C. finally dropped the Lightning port with . And it’s much more versatile than Lightning. For instance, you can plug a 5K display to your iPad Pro and show some video on the external display. It’s still unclear how it’s going to work when it comes to software, but it opens up a lot possibilities. You can also use USB-C dongles to plus all sort of data accessories. SD card readers, Ethernet cables, etc. The iPad Pro is looking more and more like a traditional laptop. Many third-party accessory makers will probably use this opportunity to develop docks and other hubs. Finally, the good thing about USB-C is that you can theoretically turn any device into an external battery pack. Using a USB-C to Lightning, you can now charge an iPhone from your iPad. It’s an expensive battery pack, but it can be useful for those who always carry both at the same time. Now let’s hope this is the first sign that USB-C is coming to the iPhone. I can’t wait to use my laptop charger to charge my phone, or my iPhone charger to charge my Nintendo Switch.
How to watch the live stream for Apple’s iPad and Mac keynote

How to watch the live stream for Apple’s iPad and Mac keynote

3:57am, 30th October, 2018
is holding a keynote today at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House, and the company is expected to unveil a brand new iPad Pro as well as updated Mac computers. The event starts at 10 AM in New York (7 AM in San Francisco, 2 PM in London, 3 PM in Paris), you’ll be able to watch the event as the company is streaming it live. If you live in Europe and already put a note in your calendar, make sure you got the time right as daylight saving time has yet to happen in the U.S. New York is currently 4 hours behind London, 5 hours behind Paris, etc. Apple is likely to unveil a new iPad Pro to replace the 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Rumor has it that it’ll look nothing like your current iPad. The device should get rounded corners, thinner bezels and a Face ID sensor. Apple could also switch to USB-C instead of Lightning and refresh the Apple Pencil. On the Mac front, the MacBook Air could get a refresh. This could be Apple’s new entry-level laptop. But it should sport a retina display for the first time. There could also be a new Mac Mini of some sort after all those years without an update. Finally, maybe Apple will tell us why the charging mat is still not available. Apple might also update the AirPods. But maybe it’ll happen later. If you have a recent Apple TV, you can download the Apple Events app in the App Store. It lets you stream today’s event and rewatch old events. Users with pre-App Store Apple TVs can simply turn on their devices. Apple is pushing out the “Apple Events” channel so that you can watch the event. And if you don’t have an Apple TV, the company also lets you live-stream the event from the on its website. This video feed now works in all major browsers — Safari, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge. So to recap, here’s how you can watch today’s Apple event: On iOS: Safari. On the Mac: Safari, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. On Windows: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Microsoft Edge. An Apple TV with the Apple Events app in the App Store. Of course, you also can read if you’re stuck at work and really need our entertaining commentary track to help you get through your day. We have a big team in the room this year.
At long last, pet portraits with background blur are possible on the iPhone XR

At long last, pet portraits with background blur are possible on the iPhone XR

5:06pm, 29th October, 2018
The new iPhones have some great new photography features, but the XR lacks a couple, for instance portrait mode for non-people subjects, owing to its sadly having only the one camera. So last year! Fortunately third party camera app is here to help you get that professional-looking bokeh in your doggo shots. There’s more to this than simply the lack of a second camera. As you know, since you read my article, — and the present too, really. What’s great about this is that features that might otherwise rely on specific hardware, a chip or sensor, can often be added in software. Not always, but sometimes. In the case of the iPhone XR, the lack of a second camera means depth data is very limited, meaning the slack has to be taken up with code. The problem was that Apple’s machine learning systems on there are only trained to recognize and create high quality depth maps of people. Not dogs, cats, plants, or toy robots. People would be frustrated if the artificial background blur inexplicably got way worse when it was pointed at something that wasn’t a person, so the effect just doesn’t trigger unless someone’s in the shot. The Halide team, not bound by Apple’s qualms, added the capability back in by essentially taking the raw depth data produced by the XR’s “focus pixels,” and applying their own processing and blur effect to make sure it doesn’t do weird things. It works on anything that can realistically be separated from the background — pets, toy robots, etc — because it isn’t a system specific to human faces. As they write , the effect isn’t perfect and because of how depth data is sent from the camera to the OS, you can’t preview the function. But it’s better than nothing at all, and maybe people on Instagram will think you shelled out for the XS instead of the XR (though you probably made the right choice). The update (1.11) is awaiting Apple approval and should be available soon. If you don’t already own Halide, . Small price to pay for a velvety background blur in your chinchilla pics.
Say ‘Hi’ to Nybble, an open-source robotic kitten

Say ‘Hi’ to Nybble, an open-source robotic kitten

2:56pm, 29th October, 2018
If you’ve ever wanted to own your own open-source cat, this . The project, based on something called the , is a laser-cut cat that walks and “learns” and can even connect to a Raspberry Pi. Out of the box a complex motion controller allows the kitten to perform lifelike behaviors like balancing, walking and nuzzling. “Nybble’s motion is driven by an Arduino compatible micro-controller. It stores instinctive ‘muscle memory’ to move around,” wrote its creator, Rongzhong Li. “An optional AI chip, such as Raspberry Pi can be mounted on top of Nybble’s back, to help Nybble with perception and decision. You can program in your favorite language, and direct Nybble walk around simply by sending short commands, such as ‘walk’ or ‘turn left.'” The cat is surprisingly cute and the life-like movements make it look far more sophisticated than your average toy. You can get a single Nybble for $200 and the team aims to ship in April 2019. You also can just build your own cat , but the kit itself includes a motion board and complete instructions, which makes the case for paying for a new Nybble pretty compelling. I, for one, welcome our robotic feline overlords.
Blockchain partners with Ledger for its hardware wallet

Blockchain partners with Ledger for its hardware wallet

11:11am, 26th October, 2018
Blockchain startup shared its for the coming months. The company is launching a hardware wallet in partnership . Blockchain is also launching a new trading platform called Swap — this platform will find the best trading prices across a variety of exchanges and liquidity pools so that you can exchange tokens at a fair price straight from your Blockchain account. Blockchain is one of the most successful cryptocurrency wallets out there. The company has built a solid user base with a software wallet for Bitcoin, and now also Ethereum and Bitcoin Cash. Compared to traditional exchanges, you remain in control of your private keys. Blockchain can’t access your tokens, hackers can’t empty your wallet if Blockchain gets hacked. Blockchain currently manages 30 million wallets, which represent over $200 billion in transaction volume in the last two years. But a software wallet isn’t as secure as a hardware wallet. There have been countless of phishing attempts and scams to take over your private keys. That’s why Blockchain is going to release its own hardware wallet, sort of. The company is partnering with French startup to release the . It looks exactly like the Ledger Nano S, but with a Blockchain logo. It’ll feature a customer Blockchain firmware and integrate with Blockchain’s wallets. Just like Ledger’s own app, you’ll be able to check your balance without connecting your hardware wallet to a computer. But as soon as you want to process a transaction, you’ll need to plug your Ledger wallet to confirm the transaction on the device itself. It’ll be interesting to see how your Blockchain wallet and the one tied to your Blockchain Lockbox work together. The Lockbox could act as a sort of longterm vault while you could keep some coins on your standard Blockchain wallet for frequent transactions. As for Swap, Blockchain is building its own trading product. It’s not going to be a separate exchange as the company plans to integrate with multiple sources. Eventually, Blockchain hopes to add support for decentralized exchange protocols so that you can exchange tokens without going through an exchange. The Blockchain Lockbox will cost $99 and start shipping in November. I hope there will be other versions that support Bluetooth and mobile phones in the future as Blockchain is quite popular on mobile.
Inspired by spiders and wasps, these tiny drones pull 40x their own weight

Inspired by spiders and wasps, these tiny drones pull 40x their own weight

8:02pm, 25th October, 2018
If we want drones to do our dirty work for us, they’re going to need to get pretty good at hauling stuff around. But due to the pesky yet unavoidable restraints of physics, it’s hard for them to muster the forces necessary to do so while airborne — so these drones brace themselves against the ground to get the requisite torque. The drones, created by engineers at Stanford and , were inspired by wasps and spiders that need to drag prey from place to place but can’t actually lift it, so they drag it instead. Grippy feet and strong threads or jaws let them pull objects many times their weight along the ground, just as you might slide a dresser along rather than pick it up and put it down again. So I guess it could have also just been inspired by that. Whatever the inspiration, these “FlyCroTugs” (a combination of flying, micro and tug presumably) act like ordinary tiny drones while in the air, able to move freely about and land wherever they need to. But they’re equipped with three critical components: an anchor to attach to objects, a winch to pull on that anchor and sticky feet to provide sure grip while doing so. “By combining the aerodynamic forces of our vehicle and the interactive forces generated by the attachment mechanisms, we were able to come up with something that is very mobile, very strong and very small,” said Stanford grad student Matthew Estrada, lead author of . The idea is that one or several of these ~100-gram drones could attach their anchors to something they need to move, be it a lever or a piece of trash. Then they take off and land nearby, spooling out thread as they do so. Once they’re back on terra firma they activate their winches, pulling the object along the ground — or up over obstacles that would have been impossible to navigate with tiny wheels or feet. Using this technique — assuming they can get a solid grip on whatever surface they land on — the drones are capable of moving objects 40 times their weight — for a 100-gram drone like that shown, that would be about 4 kilograms, or nearly 9 pounds. Not quickly, but that may not always be a necessity. What if a handful of these things flew around the house when you were gone, picking up bits of trash or moving mail into piles? They would have hours to do it. As you can see in the video below, they can even team up to do things like open doors. “People tend to think of drones as machines that fly and observe the world,” said co-author of the paper, EPFL’s Dario Floreano, in a news release. “But flying insects do many other things, such as walking, climbing, grasping and building. Social insects can even work together and combine their strength. Through our research, we show that small drones are capable of anchoring themselves to surfaces around them and cooperating with fellow drones. This enables them to perform tasks typically assigned to humanoid robots or much larger machines.” Unless you’re prepared to wait for humanoid robots to take on tasks like this (and it may be a decade or two), .