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Elon Musk is reportedly planning an xAI supercomputer to power a better version of Grok

Elon Musk told investors this month that his startup xAI is planning to build a supercomputer by the fall of 2025 that would power a future, smarter iteration of its Grok chatbot, The Information reports. This supercomputer, which Musk reportedly referred to as a “gigafactory of compute,” would rely on tens of thousands of NVIDIA H100 GPUs and cost billions of dollars to build. Musk has previously said the third version of Grok will require at least 100,000 of the chips — a fivefold increase over the 20,000 GPUs said to be in use for training Grok 2.0.

According to The Information, Musk also told investors in the presentation that the planned GPU cluster would be at least four times the size of anything used today by xAI competitors. Grok is currently in version 1.5, which was released in April, and is now touted to process visual information like photographs and diagrams as well as text. X earlier this month started rolling out AI-generated news summaries powered by Grok for premium users.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/elon-musk-is-reportedly-planning-an-xai-supercomputer-to-power-a-better-version-of-grok-204145785.html?src=rss

Over a million Switch owners have bought the worst mainline Resident Evil game ever

Resident Evil 6 has sold surprisingly well on the Nintendo Switch since it was ported to the console in 2019, despite it being almost universally panned by fans of the series. As spotted by Nintendo Life, RE6 just got added to Capcom’s Platinum Titles list, meaning it’s crossed the threshold of one million units sold. It sits at number 117 on the list, with a million downloads for the Switch (but not any other platforms).

RE6 stands out as a convoluted action game next to the titles that came before it, marking a dramatic shift away from survival horror. It has a lot going on, but not so much of the things people actually love about Resident Evil games. It’s gained some defenders over the years, though, I’ll give it that. Capcom brought Resident Evil 6 to the Switch in October 2019 and bundled it with RE4 and RE5 in the Resident Evil Triple Pack that was released around the same time, which surely helped its sales. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/over-a-million-switch-owners-have-bought-the-worst-mainline-resident-evil-game-ever-170834260.html?src=rss

Uh-oh: ICQ is shutting down on June 26

ICQ, which used to be a very popular messaging app for a short period in the 90s and the early aughts, only has a month left before it joins the other apps and software of old in the great big farm in the sky. It will stop working on June 26, according to it website, which also encourages users to move to VK Messenger for casual chats and to VK WorkSpace for professional conversations. ICQ came into the picture at a time when most people were using IRC to chat. IRC, however, was mostly meant for group conversations — ICQ made it easy to communicate one-on-one. 

Users who signed up for an account got assigned a number that grew longer as time went on, because it was issued sequentially. The shortest numbers had five digits, which means users who got them were there at the very beginning. ICQ peaked in the early 2000s when it reached 100 million registered accounts. And while it didn't take a long time for AIM, Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger to eclipse its popularity, ICQ's iconic "uh-oh!" notification sound remains memorable for a lot of internet users during that era. 

ICQ, derived from the phrase "I seek you," was developed by Israeli company Mirabilis. It was then purchased by AOL and then by the Russian company Mail.Ru Group that's now known as VK, which has its own social networking and messaging services.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/uh-oh-icq-is-shutting-down-on-june-26-153048381.html?src=rss

Meta and Activision face lawsuit by families of Uvalde school shooting victims

The families of the shooting victims at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas have sued Call of Duty publisher Activision and Meta. They alleged that the companies "knowingly exposed the shooter to the weapon [he used], conditioned him to see it as the solution to his problems, and trained him to use it." The plaintiffs also accused the companies of "chewing up alienated teenage boys and spitting out mass shooters." 

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs explained that the Uvalde shooter played Call of Duty, which featured an assault-style rifle made by gunmaker Daniel Defense. They also mentioned that he frequently visited Instagram, which advertised the gunmaker's products. The lawsuit claimed, as well, that Instagram gives gunmakers "an unsupervised channel to speak directly to minors, in their homes, at school, even in the middle of the night." It argued that the shooter was "a poor and isolated teenager" from small town Texas who only learned about AR-15s and set his sights on it, because he was exposed to the weapon from playing Call of Duty and visiting Instagram. In addition, it accused Meta of being more lenient towards firearms sellers than other users who break its rules. Meta prohibits the buying the selling of weapons and ammunition, but users can violate the policy 10 times before they're banned from its platforms. 

"The truth is that the gun industry and Daniel Defense didn’t act alone. They couldn’t have reached this kid but for Instagram," the plaintiffs' lawyer, Attorney Josh Koskoff, said at a news conference. "They couldn’t expose him to the dopamine loop of virtually killing a person. That's what Call of Duty does." Koskoff's law firm was the same one who reached a $73 million settlement with rifle manufacturer Remington for the families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims. 

An Activision spokesperson told The Washington Post and Bloomberg Law that the "Uvalde shooting was horrendous and heartbreaking in every way," and that the company expresses its deepest sympathies to the families, but "millions of people around the world enjoy video games without turning to horrific acts."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/meta-and-activision-face-lawsuit-by-families-of-uvalde-school-shooting-victims-130025901.html?src=rss

Roomba robot vacuums are up to $425 off for Memorial Day

If you’ve been craving some help with cleaning, this Memorial Day Roomba sale may be up your alley. Wellbots has the iRobot Roomba Combo J9+, Engadget’s favorite vacuum-mop combo, for $425 off. The machine not only cleans floors and carpets; its redesigned dock can automatically empty debris and refill it with mopping liquid. Use the exclusive code ENG425 to get iRobot’s top-of-the-line combo cleaner for $974.

Although that’s still a hefty price for a cleaning robot, you’re getting a premium product in return. The Roomba Combo J9+ has an upgraded motor and a four-stage cleaning system that takes multiple passes across your floors and carpets. This latest model, which arrived only last fall, has dual rubber brushes for optimal suction and pressurized scrubbing.

The robot has an updated Clean Base that automatically refills its water tank while looking more like a nice home appliance than a gadget’s charging dock. It automates as much of the setup process as possible, leaving you only to attach its mop pad and add water and cleaning solution. As for upkeep, you merely swap out its mop pads when needed and clean the Roomba’s bristles and bin.

Wellbots also offers the standard Roomba J9+ — the mop-less variant — for $325 off with the code ENG325. This model has all the vacuuming features from the more expensive Combo version. That includes stronger suction, multi-surface rubber brushes and a three-stage cleaning system. Usually $899, the coupon brings its price down to $574.

If you’re looking for a vacuum-mop combination robot for cheaper, the previous-generation Roomba Combo J7+ is $225 off with the code ENG225 (usually $999). This model skips out on some of the high-end features in the J9+ but still offers obstacle avoidance and a four-stage cleaning system. It can return to its base when it’s full and empty itself for up to 60 days before you have to empty its bin.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/roomba-robot-vacuums-are-up-to-425-off-for-memorial-day-130015162.html?src=rss

SpaceX Raptor engine test ends in a fiery explosion

A SpaceX testing stand at the company's McGregor, Texas facilities went up in flames during a test of its Raptor 2 engines on the afternoon of May 23. According to NASASpaceflight, the engine had an anomaly that caused vapors to seep out and lead to a secondary explosion. The news organization's livestream showed the engine shutting down before the fire started and eventually swallowed the stand in flames and smoke. 

SpaceX uses the Raptor engines for its Starship system's Super Heavy booster and upper-stage spacecraft. They use liquid methane and liquid oxygen as fuel, and they were designed to be powerful enough to be able to send Starship to the moon and Mars. As Gizmodo suggests, its gases mixing due to a leak or a similar anomaly could've caused the explosion, though SpaceX has yet to officially address what happened during testing. 

The company is currently preparing for Starship's fourth test flight, which is scheduled to take place on June 5, pending regulatory approval and barring poor weather or other factors that could delay the launch. This explosion likely wouldn't affect the flight's launch window. SpaceX's main goals for the fourth test flight are to make sure that the Super Heavy booster gets a soft splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico and to achieve a controlled entry of the Starship spacecraft. The company said it made several hardware and software upgrades to incorporate what it learned from its third flight test. Starship's upper stage reached space during that flight, but it burned up in the atmosphere upon reentry, while its Super Heavy booster broke apart in the final phases of its descent instead of softly splashing down into the ocean.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/spacex-raptor-engine-test-ends-in-a-fiery-explosion-110052362.html?src=rss

Doctor Who: 73 Yards review: Don’t stand so close to me

The following contains spoilers for “73 Yards.”

Russell T. Davies admits his writing eschews narrative formalism in favor of things that just feel right. Two decades ago, his critics pointed to his use of deus ex machina endings as a stick to beat his reputation with. But we’re in a different era now, where vibes matter just as much as logic — both inside the show’s new more fantastic skew, and in the real world. “73 Yards” is the vibiest episode of new Doctor Who so far, but I even found it easy to sit back and enjoy what it was doing.

Doctor Who is a complicated show to make, and some series have started production on Day 1 a week or more behind schedule. To combat this, the show started making “-lite” episodes that didn’t need the leads to be as involved. There are “Doctor-lite” episodes like “Love and Monsters” and “Blink,” and even “companion-lite” episodes like “Midnight.” This production process enables the star, or stars, to be off shooting Episode A while a guest cast takes the spotlight for the bulk of Episode B.

Production of the new series began while star Ncuti Gatwa was still finishing the last of his work on Netflix’s Sex Education. So while he appears in the opening and closing moments of "73 Yards", he’s otherwise absent as the Doctor has been erased from history. It gives us the chance to see what a modern companion would do if left stranded in uncertain territory without her alien ally. The episode takes hard turns from folk and rural horror to kitchen-sink drama before becoming a light homage to Taxi Driver. Suffice to say, this is another episode you wouldn’t watch with small kids.

Image of the Doctor and Ruby near a fairy ring
Bad Wolf / BBC Studios

The TARDIS lands on a cliff edge in Wales, with the Doctor pointing out it’s another liminal space where magic is allowed to creep in. He even mentions the war between the “land and the sea,” name-checking a rumored spin-off fans discovered after scouring production documents. The Doctor talks about how great a country Wales is, except for Roger ap Gwillam, a Welsh politician who, two decades hence, will lead the UK to the brink of nuclear armageddon. He then steps into a fairy ring, disturbing its web, and disappears while Ruby reads the paper notes tied to it. The notes mention a Mad Jack, a scary figure that sounds like a villain from folklore.

Suddenly, Ruby is alone on the cliff but can now see the blurry figure of an old woman waving her arms at her in the distance. Ruby tries to approach her but the figure remains the same distance away (the titular 73 yards) no matter where she goes. Believing the Doctor has ghosted her, she tries to solve the quandary of this figure on her own. Ruby approaches a hiker (Susan Twist) and tries to work out where she’s seen her before (every episode thus far), but can’t quite put her finger on it. She asks the hiker if she’d be willing to speak to the old woman who is following her, but when the hitchhiker gets there, whatever she says is so horrifying that she sprints away from the scene in terror.

Ruby heads to a pub in the nearby town where the locals mock her — mistaking her hesitancy for condescension. She asks one of the patrons to go speak to the woman and, when he does, the same thing happens. Ruby gets home and asks her mum to try, this time holding a phone so Ruby can hear what she’s saying. But the phone call is disrupted and her mum is similarly horrified by what she hears — locking Ruby out of her home soon after. Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and UNIT are next to offer aid, right up until they encounter the woman, when they all abandon her.

Image of the shadowy figure.
Bad Wolf / BBC Studios

All the time, the old woman remains 73 yards away from wherever Ruby is, unnoticed by everyone else unless Ruby directs their attention to her. She can’t photograph the woman's face — it's blurry — and can’t get close enough to hear her ominous warning. In fact, even to the end of the episode, there’s a lot of unknowns that are never resolved.

Ruby’s strangely resilient, and once she’s gotten beyond the abandonment, she looks to build a new life for herself. She treats her stalker as a friend, wishing her well as we cycle through a montage of the next chapter of Ruby’s life. She gets a job, moves into her own flat and goes through a series of breakups as she gently ages past 30, and then 40. Then, on the TV, she sees Roger ap Gwillam on the TV, who even mentions Mad Jack, and remembers both the Doctor’s warning and the messages in the fairy ring. It takes Ruby no time at all to be sure that her purpose in life is to save the world, and to avert Gwillam’s nuclear catastrophe.

She signs up to Gwillam’s fascist political party as a volunteer and eventually reaches a position where she’s close to the top. Gwillam’s rise is quick and it’s not long before he’s promising to secede from NATO and put his itchy trigger finger on the UK’s nuclear arsenal, ready to wage war on the rest of the world. Gwillam’s inauguration will take place at Cardiff City Stadium, while Ruby follows the politician along, lurking in the crowd.

Image of Gwillam
Bad Wolf / BBC Studios

Ruby then starts to approach Gwillam, walking across the off-limits pitch at the stadium, and you expect her to pull out a weapon. But instead, she whips out her phone and starts measuring the distance between her and Roger until she reaches 73 yards. When she does, she gestures to the villain to notice the woman, and when he notices her, he hears the horrifying thing she says. The shock is enough to send Gwillam racing out of the stadium, resigning from the role of Prime Minister and preventing nuclear armageddon.

But while Ruby hoped that would be the end of it, the figure remains with her for the rest of her life. It’s only on her deathbed she realizes she can project herself back in time to act as a warning for the Doctor to not step in the fairy ring. She does so, preventing the accident in the first place and paradoxically nullifying the entire time stream in the process. History carries on its merry way and all is well… for now. But given the risks of paradoxes in Doctor Who, and the general sense that history is unraveling, it might not augur too well for what’s going to happen in the future.

Millie Gibson and a TARDIS
Bad Wolf / BBC Studios

“73 Yards” is an exercise in putting your character in a hostile world and seeing what they’ll do to deal with it. It’s an episode that, when written down, doesn’t feel like a lot happens, because so much of its runtime is an exploration of Ruby as a character. Doctor Who thrives when the companion role is occupied by someone who wants to grab a fistful of narrative for themselves. And Ruby Sunday seems almost too perfect in her ability to draw out the logic from what she’s experienced and work within it.

Much as you can draw narrative and thematic parallels between the new series and Davies’ original tenure, this episode pulls from “Turn Left.” Both tell the story of what happens to a companion when the Doctor is withdrawn from the narrative and what they do to fix that wrong. And it’s no surprise both suggest that the UK, without the intervention of the Doctor, is only a few days away from tipping over into fascism.

Ruby’s humanity shines, even to the point where she’s trying to treat her tormentor with care. She refuses to fly, or travel by boat, lest she endanger the life of the apparition that’s following her, despite how much damage it causes to her life. And when she sees Roger ap Gwillam on the TV, she’s certain that her destiny is to prevent the nuclear armageddon the Doctor warned her about. This is another useful thread — the idea that Ruby has an instinctive grasp of the genre she exists in — much as she did in “Space Babies.”

As for the ending, it’s probably best we talk about those “vibes,” or the sort of slightly skewed associations in the show’s logic. Ruby, at the end of her life, realizes that she’s able to travel, or project herself somehow, through time to avert the Doctor’s fall. There’s nothing in the episode that points to it, no hint that the ghostly figure is Ruby, or if this is tied to the snow or anything else. But perhaps, the trick to an episode like this is simply to let yourself relax and enjoy seeing the character evolve, rather than anything more.

Susan Twist Corner

Obviously, Susan Twist plays the hiker that Ruby first encounters after the Doctor disappears and, for the first time, Ruby notices the familiarity. In the materials that Disney sends along that Susan Twist’s character is named the “mystery woman.”

And on the subject of twists, you’ll recall at the end of “Church on Ruby Road” that, in the post-credits, Mrs Flood (Anita Dobson) breaks the fourth wall. The annoying neighbor character, who lives next to Ruby’s mum’s flat, turns to the camera and asks if we’ve “Never seen a TARDIS before?” (Given her surprise at seeing it earlier in the episode, it’s clear her history may have been changed during the course of the show.) When Ruby heads back to her mum’s house, Anita Dobson’s Mrs Flood is back sitting on her step with her deckchair out. Interestingly, when she notices the ghostly figure — and Ruby and her Mum’s attempts to deal with it, she declares that it’s “nothing to do with me” and goes inside. Which, again, feels like a hint that Mrs Flood and the mystery woman are separate

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/doctor-who-73-yards-review-dont-stand-so-close-to-me-000018703.html?src=rss

You can now hum to find a song on YouTube Music for Android

YouTube Music for Android is finally releasing a long-awaited tool that lets people hum a song to search for it, in addition to singing the tune or playing the melody on an instrument, according to reporting by 9to5Google. The software has been in the testing phase since March.

All you have to do is tap the magnifying glass in the top-right corner and look for the waveform icon next to the microphone icon. Tap the waveform icon and start humming or singing. A fullscreen results page should quickly bring up the cover art, song name, artist, album, release year and other important data about the song. The software builds upon the Pixel’s Now Playing feature, which uses AI to “match the sound to the original recording.”

The tool comes in a server-side update with version 7.02 of YouTube Music for Android. There doesn’t look to be any availability information for the iOS release, though it’s most likely headed our way in the near future.

This type of feature isn’t exactly new, even if it’s new to YouTube Music. Google Search rolled out a similar tool back in 2020 and the regular YouTube app began offering something like this last year. Online music streaming platform Deezer also has a “hum to search” tool, released back in 2022.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/you-can-now-hum-to-find-a-song-on-youtube-music-for-android-190037510.html?src=rss

Russia can reportedly jam Ukraine’s access to Starlink at will

Russia has reportedly found new, more effective ways to knock out Ukraine’s Starlink service. The New York Times said on Friday that the increased interference has disrupted communications at critical moments and is posing “a major threat to Ukraine,” putting the country further on its heels more than two years into the war. How Russia is jamming Elon Musk’s satellite internet terminals is unclear.

The New York Times said Russia’s ability to jam communications has thrown off Ukraine’s ability to communicate, gather intelligence and conduct drone strikes. Ukrainian soldiers told the paper that jammed Starlink service stunts their ability to communicate quickly, leaving them scrambling to send text messages (often extremely slowly) to share intel about incoming or ongoing Russian maneuvers or attacks.

The jamming was reportedly repeated across Ukraine’s northern front line, often coinciding with Russian advances. The new outages are the first time Russia has jammed Starlink reception that widely and frequently. If it continues, it could “mark a tactical shift in the conflict,” highlighting Ukraine’s dependence on SpaceX’s internet technology. Without competing choices of similar quality, Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s democratic nation is left without many options that could work at the scale Ukraine needs.

Russia has tried to disrupt Ukraine’s comms since the war began, but Starlink service has reportedly held up well in the face of them. Something has changed. Ukraine’s digital minister, Mykhailo Federov, told The New York Times this week that Russia’s recent jamming appeared to use “new and more advanced technology.”

Federov told The NYT that Vladimir Putin’s army is now “testing different mechanisms to disrupt the quality of Starlink connections because it’s so important for us.” The digital minister didn’t specify the exact weapons Russia has been using, but a Russian official in charge of the country’s electronic warfare told state media last month that its military put Starlink on a “list of targets” and that it had developed ways to disrupt the service.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sitting on steps with a partial smile on his face.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Armed Forces of Ukraine

The disruptions highlight the power that one mercurial billionaire can have over the pivotal Eastern European war. Ukrainian officials have reportedly “appealed directly to Mr. Musk to turn on Starlink access during military operations” ahead of crucial drone strikes, and he hasn’t always obliged.

The Wall Street Journal reported in February that concern has grown that Musk could harbor at least some degree of Russian sympathies. He has posted comments on X that could be viewed as taking a pro-Russian stance, and disinformation experts worry that the way he runs the social platform could be friendly to Russian interference in the pivotal 2024 elections, including those in the US.

Musk spoke out earlier this year against the US sending more aid to Ukraine. Putin’s army also reportedly began using its own Starlink service, although Musk says he wasn’t aware of the terminals being sold to the Slavic nation. Ukrainian officials raised concerns earlier this year that Russia was buying Starlink tech from third-party vendors.

However, the Pentagon said earlier this month that the US has been “heavily involved in working with the government of Ukraine and SpaceX to counter Russian illicit use of Starlink terminals,” and a departing space official described SpaceX as “a very reliable partner” in those operations.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/russia-can-reportedly-jam-ukraines-access-to-starlink-at-will-183642120.html?src=rss

The UK passes its version of the EU's Digital Markets Act

The UK has passed a bill that's the country's version of the European Union's Digital Markets Act (DMA). Legislators fast-tracked the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers (DMCC) Bill before parliament dissolves on May 30 ahead of a general election in July.

The overarching aim of the DMCC, which is set to become law once it receives Royal Assent, is to “regulate and increase competition in digital markets.” It will come into force later this year.

The bill is broadly similar to the DMA, which led to the EU designating several large tech companies' services and products as "gatekeepers" and imposing stricter rules on them. The DMCC grants the Digital Markets Unit (DMU), a division of the Competition and Markets Authority, the authority to label companies with “substantial and entrenched market power” and “a position of strategic significance” as having Strategic Market Status (SMS).

Among other things, SMS companies will have to adhere to codes of conduct as determined by the DMU. Those will be based on the foundations of fair trading, openness and trust and transparency. The DMU has a broad canvas for defining the conduct requirements for each business. If a company breaches its code of conduct, it faces a fine of up to 10 percent of its global revenue.

There have been suggestions that the likes of Meta and Google may be forced to pay UK news publishers for using their work in the likes of Google News (and perhaps even for AI products). Others have suggested that Apple may be required to allow sideloading and third-party app stores on iOS, as in the EU. Companies may also be prohibited from prioritizing their own products and services in search results. However, the specific requirements for each SMS haven't been detailed yet. 

The DMCC also has implications for things like subscriptions, junk fees, fake reviews, ticket resales, mergers, antitrust and consumer protection. For the first time, the CMA will have the power to impose a hefty fine if it determines a company has violated a consumer law — and it won't have to go through courts to do so. 

There's already been at least one tangible consequence of the DMCC. Epic Games has pledged to bring its store and Fortnite to iOS in the UK in the latter half of 2025. The publisher previously said it would bring the Epic Games Store to mobile devices in the EU later this year after the DMA came into force.

Update 5/24 4:20PM ET: Added details about Epic Games' plan to bring its store and Fortnite to iOS in the UK.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-uk-passes-its-version-of-the-eus-digital-markets-act-175642166.html?src=rss

Apple built a Tetris clone for the iPod but never released it

Apple once designed a Tetris clone that has been found on a prototype version of the third-generation iPod, indicating the company was experimenting with releasing the game on the music player. It’s called Stacker and, obviously, is controlled via the iPod’s scroll wheel. The software was spotted by X user AppleDemoYT, who is known for finding rare prototype devices.

The prototype iPod is a "DVT" device, meaning it was a mid-stage device that was still in "Design Validation Testing." It has a model number of A1023, which is not a known model number of any iPod version.

The device runs a prototype version of iPodOS 2.0, which is where Stacker comes from. The pieces are moved from left to right using the scroll wheel and they fall when the middle button is pressed. The goal is to clear lines and score points. You know the deal. It’s Tetris.

It’s not the only game found on the prototype iPod. There’s something called Block0, which is likely an early version of Brick. The device also features a game called Klondike, which is likely an early version of Solitaire. The music player did eventually get some games, including the aforementioned Solitaire and Brick. AppleDemoYT asked former Apple VP Tony Fadell why Stacker was never released and he said it was because games didn’t show up until a “later software release.”

Later versions of the iPod got an official version of Tetris, in addition to games like Bejeweled, Mini Golf, Mahjong, Zuma, Cubis 2, and Pac-Man. All of these releases predate the App Store. The iPod Classic was discontinued in 2014 and the iPod Touch was sent to a farm upstate in 2022, ending the era of the standalone music player.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/apple-built-a-tetris-clone-for-the-ipod-but-never-released-it-173810144.html?src=rss

The 'Doge' dog has died

The dog who inspired the famous meme coin Dogecoin has died, according to a post on Instagram by its owner. Kabosu, an adorable Shiba Inu, was likely around 18 years old, though owner Atsuko Sato doesn’t know the exact birthdate of the rescue pup.

“She quietly passed away as if asleep while I caressed her,” she wrote in a blog post published by The Guardian. “I think Kabo-chan was the happiest dog in the world. And I was the happiest owner.”

The Japanese dog not only inspired Dogecoin, but the iconic 2010 photo became the source of a vast collection of internet memes. Some have even called Kabosu the “Mona Lisa of the internet.” Sato snapped the photo two years after rescuing the dog from a puppy farm, in which she would have likely been put down. The image shows Kabosu with her paws on the sofa while giving the camera, well, a sort of grin. 

The photo became an NFT digital artwork that sold for $4 million, back when NFTs were a thing that people paid money for. As for the memecoin, it started as a joke by two software engineers but has now risen to be the eighth-most valuable cryptocurrency with a market capitalization of $23 billion. The price has ticked up today, likely by news of Kabosu’s passing.

Dogecoin was most famously backed by Elon Musk, even becoming available as currency to buy certain Tesla products. Other famous backers include Snoop Dogg, Gene Simmons and Mark Cuban, to name just a few.

Dogecoin has also inspired a bunch of other memecoins, from the spin-off Shiba Inu coin to cryptocurrency coins based on cats, Elon Musk and, sigh, even Donald Trump. These coins are known to be highly volatile, so invest at your own risk. Dogecoin, however, has remained mostly stable for a while now.

Musk has long-been the primary cheerleader behind Dogecoin, even changing the Twitter icon to the image of the Shiba Inu, before he pivoted to X. He also single-handily wiped out most of the coin’s value during his disastrous SNL performance and has been accused of using it to defraud investors and create a pyramid scheme.

A statue of Kabosu was erected in Sakura, Japan in November of last year. Reporting indicates that it cost $100,000 to build. “In the last few years I’ve been able to connect the online version of Kabosu, all these unexpected things seen from a distance, with our real lives,” Sato wrote. She has used the virality of her beloved Shiba inu to donate large sums to charities, including more than $1 million to Save the Children. Godspeed, you adorable pup.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-doge-dog-has-died-162733508.html?src=rss

Nintendo is finally opening a second US store

It's taken Nintendo two decades, but the company is finally ready to open a second store in the US. The new location in San Francisco’s Union Square is set to open its doors in 2025. Details about Nintendo San Francisco are thin for now, but the company said it will allow "visitors from near and far to experience the world of Nintendo, its products and characters." More information will be revealed in the leadup to the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Nintendo opened its New York store at Rockefeller Center 19 years ago this month, though there was previously a Pokémon Center at the same location. Along with merchandise and kiosks where visitors can play some Switch games, the New York store has a mini museum featuring older consoles and a boatload of Amiibo. 

The company didn't open any permanent stores in Japan until 2019, and it now has three in its home country. Nintendo also has a private outlet for employees at its American headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/nintendo-is-finally-opening-a-second-us-store-155001183.html?src=rss

Lucid Motors cuts six percent of its workforce ahead of EV SUV launch

Lucid Motors has cut 400 jobs, according to a regulatory filing. This amounts to around six percent of the workforce. Incidentally, the company also cut a whopping 1,300 jobs last year. This all comes just ahead of the launch of its first electric SUV later this year, a crucial release for the auto manufacturer.

You can likely guess as to the reasoning given for the layoffs. The 400 people got pink slips due to the ever-useful and nebulous term known as “restructuring.” To that end, the company says it expects this restructuring to be completed by the end of the third quarter, though it didn’t say anything about rehiring anyone.

“As always we must remain vigilant about costs. We are optimizing our resources in a way we believe will best position the company for future success and growth opportunities as we focus on achieving our ambitious goals,” CEO Peter Rawlinson said in a company email published by TechCrunch.

Those ambitious goals include the aforementioned EV SUV, named the Lucid Gravity. The company’s calling it the “world’s best SUV” and it’ll feature two electric motors, all-wheel drive and an expected maximum range of 440 miles per charge. Those are some really good specs.

However, the vehicle’s also expected to start at $80,000. EV growth has stalled in North America, so if the EV doesn’t catch on, it’ll likely be time for more restructuring. If that fails, Lucid can always sell more cars to the Saudi government.

Speaking of stalled EV growth, most of the major US manufacturers have laid off staff in the past year. Tesla’s woes are common knowledge but Rivian has also been dramatically cutting its workforce. The same is true of California-based Fisker.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/lucid-motors-cuts-six-percent-of-its-workforce-ahead-of-ev-suv-launch-152746970.html?src=rss

Fortnite's new post-apocalyptic season taps into Fallout, Mad Max and X-Men

Epic Games has an uncanny habit of making sure Fortnite is in tune with the cultural zeitgeist and that's very much the case once again. After a strong season focused on Greek gods and monsters, the latest major revamp of the battle royale is taking a vehicle-heavy, post-apocalyptic turn in Chapter 5 Season 3.

The new season, which is dubbed "Wrecked," seems very much inspired by Mad Max, given the desert vibe and modded vehicles. It includes an official Fallout crossover too. Not only that, a wastelander take X-Men’s Magneto will be unlockable via battle pass quests at some point in July.

This is all very timely given the success of Prime Video's adaptation of Fallout, Furiosa: A Mad Mad Saga hitting theaters and X-Men ‘97 capturing the hearts and minds of '90s kids all over again. The Wrecked season will run until August 16.

The sandstorm that had been looming in the horizon over the last couple of weeks has swept over the island, bringing destruction and a new biome in the south called the Wasteland. (I'm glad my favorite drop site last season, Mount Olympus, has survived for now.) You'll have three new locations to explore in the Redline Rig refinery, the Nitrodrome car arena and Brutal Beachhead, where you'll find a boss named Megalo Don.

Redline Rig churns out Nitro Splash and Nitro Barrels, which you can find all over the island and use to power up your car and yourself. When you're Nitro-fied, you can bash through builds without needing to use your pickax. If you're lucky enough to find Nitro Fists, you can use those as a powerful melee weapon too.

Vehicles can be modded with things like machine gun turrets and spiked bumpers. There's the option to hijack one of two War Buses that are patrolling the island as well. These have cannons and an EMP pulse that can damage enemy shields and disable nearby vehicles.

As for the Fallout collab, that franchise's iconic Nuka-Cola is now in Fortnite. You can slurp some to replenish health and restore shields over time. In addition, you'll be able to unlock a T-60 Power Armor skin through the battle pass. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/fortnites-new-post-apocalyptic-season-taps-into-fallout-mad-max-and-x-men-150816429.html?src=rss

The best gaming monitors in 2024

It’s already pretty complicated to find the best computer monitor for your needs, considering how many options are out there. But as soon as you decide you want one for gaming, things get even more dicey. In addition to all the usual factors like screen size and compatibility, you now also have to think about refresh rates, NVIDIA G-Sync and AMD FreeSync, and much more. To help demystify the market, we wrote this guide to answer some of the biggest questions surrounding the gaming monitor buying process, and help you find the best gaming monitor for your budget.

When shopping for a new gaming monitor, you first need to decide if you want to go with a screen that has an LCD or OLED panel. For most people, that choice will come down to price; OLED gaming monitors are significantly more expensive than their LCD counterparts. But even if money isn’t a concern, the choice might not be as straightforward as you think.

LCD monitors come in three different varieties: twisted nematic (TN), vertical alignment (VA) or in-plane switching (IPS). Without getting too technical, each panel type has its own set of quirks. For the most part, you want to avoid TN monitors unless you’re strapped for cash or want a monitor with the fastest possible refresh rate. TN screens feature the worst viewing angles, contrast ratios and colors of the bunch. After using an IPS monitor for many years and testing an OLED monitor for this guide, I can’t go back to a TN panel.

The differences between VA and IPS panels are more subtle. Historically, VA gaming monitors have featured slower pixel response times than their TN and IPS counterparts, leading to unsightly image smearing. However, that’s improved in recent years. VA panels also frequently sport better contrast ratios than both TN and IPS screens. They’re not dramatically better than their IPS siblings on that front, but when contrast ratios aren’t an inherent strength of LCDs, every bit helps.

On the other hand, IPS panels excel at color accuracy and many offer refresh rates and response times that are as fast as the fastest TN panels. The majority of LCD gaming monitors on the market today feature IPS panels, though you will frequently find VA screens on ultrawide monitors.

In many ways, OLED is the superior display tech. There’s something transformational about the ability of organic light-emitting diodes to produce true blacks. Simply put, every game looks better when there’s no backlight to wash out shadow details. Moreover, if you buy an OLED monitor, you can experience something PC gamers have been missing out on for a while: proper HDR gaming.

Unfortunately, OLED screens also come with a few noteworthy drawbacks. One big one is text legibility. Almost all OLEDs feature sub-pixel layouts that produce noticeable text fringing in Windows. It’s not an issue you will see when gaming, but it does mean they aren’t the best for productivity.

Another issue — and everyone’s favorite topic of conversation whenever OLEDs come up — is burn-in. Organic light-emitting diodes can get “stuck” if they display the same image for long periods of time. Every OLED gaming monitor you can buy in 2024 comes with features designed to prevent burn-in and other image retention issues, but those displays haven’t been on the market long enough for us to know how they handle all the static elements that come with Windows. When you consider those drawbacks, OLEDs are great for gaming but they’re less ideal for everyday PC use.

The best gaming monitor
Photo by Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

After deciding where you fall on the LCD vs OLED debate, you can start thinking about the size of your future gaming monitor. Personal preference and the limitations of your gaming space will play a big part here, but there are also a few technical considerations. I recommend you think about size in conjunction with resolution and aspect ratio.

A 1440p monitor has 78 percent more pixels than a 1080p screen, and a 4K display has more than twice as many pixels as a QHD panel. As the size of a monitor increases, pixel density decreases unless you also increase resolution. For that reason, there tend to be sweet spots between size and resolution. For instance, I wouldn’t recommend buying a FHD monitor that is larger than 24-inches or a QHD one bigger than 27 inches. Conversely, text and interface elements on a 4K monitor can look tiny without scaling on panels smaller than 32 inches.

You also need to consider the performance costs of running games at higher resolutions. The latest entry-level GPUs can comfortably run most modern games at 1080p and 60 frames per second. They can even render some competitive titles at 120 frames per second and higher — but push them to run those same games at 1440p and beyond, and you’re bound to run into problems. And as you’ll see in a moment, a consistently high frame rate is vital to getting the most out of the latest gaming monitors.

If your budget allows for it, 1440p offers the best balance between visual clarity, picture quality and gaming performance. As for 1080p and 4K, I would only consider the former if you’re on a tight budget or you exclusively play competitive shooters like Valorant and Overwatch 2. For most people, the user experience and productivity benefits of QHD far outweigh the performance gains you get from going with a lower resolution screen.

Before the end of last year, I would have said 4K was not a viable resolution for PC gaming, but then NVIDIA came out with its 40 series GPUs. With those video cards offering the company’s DLSS 3 frame generation technology, there’s a case to be made that the technology is finally there to play 4K games at a reasonable frame rate, particularly if you exclusively play big, AAA single-player games like Control and Cyberpunk 2077 or enjoy strategy games like the Total War series. However, even with frame generation, you will need a GPU like the $1,099 RTX 4080 or $1,599 RTX 4090 to drive a 4K display. Plus, 4K gaming monitors tend to cost more than their 1440p counterparts.

If you want an OLED monitor, your choices are more limited. It was only at the end of last year that LG began producing 27-inch OLED panels. What’s more, the first batch of 32-inch 4K OLED gaming monitors won’t arrive until next year. A few companies have released ultrawide monitors with Samsung QD-OLED panels, but expect to pay a hefty premium for one of those.

Speaking of ultrawides, note that not every game supports the 21:9 aspect ratio and fewer still support 32:9. When shopping for a curved monitor, a lower Radius, or ‘R’ number, indicates a more aggressive curve. So, a 1000R monitor is more curved than an 1800R one.

And now finally for the fun stuff. The entire reason to buy a gaming monitor is for their ability to draw more images than a traditional PC display. As you shop for a new screen, you will see models advertising refresh rates like 120Hz, 240Hz and 360Hz. The higher the refresh rate of a monitor, the more times it can update the image it displays on screen every second, thereby producing a smoother moving image. When it comes to games like Overwatch, Valorant and League of Legends, a monitor with a high refresh rate can give you a competitive edge, but even immersive single-player games can benefit.

A monitor with a 360Hz refresh rate will look better in motion than one with a 240Hz or 120Hz refresh rate, but there are diminishing returns. At 60Hz, the image you see on your monitor is updated every 16.67ms. At 120Hz, 240Hz and 360Hz, the gap between new frames shortens to 8.33ms, 4.17ms and 2.78ms, respectively. Put another way, although a 360Hz monitor can display 50 percent more frames than a 240Hz screen in a given time period, you will only see a speedup of 1.14ms between frame intervals. And all that depends on your GPU’s ability to render a consistent 360 frames per second.

Ultimately, a fast monitor will do you no good if you don't have a graphics card that can keep up. For example, with a 1440p 360Hz monitor, you realistically need a GPU like the RTX 4070 or RTX 4080 to saturate that display and really up your gaming experience while playing competitive games like Overwatch 2 and Valorant.

There’s also more to motion clarity than refresh rates alone. Just as important are response times, or the amount of time it takes for pixels to transition from one color to another and then back again. Monitors with slow response times tend to produce smearing that is distracting no matter what kind of game you’re playing. Unfortunately, response times are also one of the more opaque aspects of picking the best gaming monitor for your needs.

Many manufacturers claim their products feature 1ms gray-to-gray (GtG) response times, yet they don’t handle motion blur to the same standard. One of the reasons for that is that many companies tend to cherry pick GtG results that make their monitors look better on paper. The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) recently created a new certification program to address that problem, but the grading system is unwieldy and, as far as I can tell, hasn’t had a lot of pickup from manufacturers.

For now, your best bet is to turn to resources like Rtings and Monitors Unboxed when shopping for a new gaming monitor. Both outlets conduct extensive testing of every screen they review, and present their findings and recommendations in a way that’s easy to understand.

The best gaming monitor
Photo by Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

No matter how powerful your system, it will sometimes fail to maintain a consistent framerate. In fact, you should expect frame rate fluctuations when playing graphically-intensive games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Control. For those moments, you want a gaming display with adaptive sync. Otherwise, you can run into screen tearing.

Adaptive sync technologies come in a few flavors. The two you’re most likely to encounter are AMD FreeSync and NVIDIA G-Sync, and each has its own set of performance tiers. With G-Sync, for instance, they are – from lowest to highest – G-Sync Compatible, G-Sync and G-Sync Ultimate.

The good news is that you don’t need to think too much about which adaptive sync technology a display supports. In the early days of the tech, it was rare to see a gaming monitor that offered both FreeSync and G-Sync, since including the latter meant a manufacturer had to equip their display with a dedicated processor from NVIDIA. That changed in 2019 when the company introduced its G-Sync Compatible certification. If a monitor supports FreeSync, it is almost certainly G-Sync Compatible too, meaning you can enjoy tear-free gaming whether you’re using an AMD or NVIDIA GPU.

In fact, I would go so far as to say you shouldn’t make your purchasing decision based on the level of adaptive sync performance a monitor offers. As of the writing of this guide, the list of G-Sync Ultimate-certified displays is less than two dozen models long, and some are a few years old now.

Almost every gaming display on the market right now comes with at least one DisplayPort 1.4 connection, and that’s the port you will want to use to connect your new monitor to your graphics card. If you own a PS5 or Xbox Series X/S, it’s also worth looking out for monitors that come with HDMI 2.1 ports, as those will allow you to get the most out of your current generation console.

As fast and responsive gaming monitors have become in recent years, there’s one area where progress has been frustratingly slow: HDR performance. The majority of gaming monitors currently on sale, including most high-end models, only meet VESA’s DisplayHDR 400 certification. As someone who owns one such monitor, let me tell you right now it’s not even worth turning on HDR on those screens. You will only be disappointed.

The good news is that things are getting better, albeit slowly. The release of Windows 11 did a lot to improve the state of HDR on PC, and more games are shipping with competent HDR modes, not just ones that increase the brightness of highlights. Unfortunately, if you want a proper HDR experience on PC, you will need to shell out for an OLED monitor.

If you plan to spend a lot on a gaming monitor, I would recommend picking up an affordable colorimeter like the Spyder X Pro alongside your new purchase. A lot of gaming monitors come uncalibrated out of the box, so their colors won’t look quite right. It’s possible to get a decent image with the help of online recommendations and ICC profiles you can download from websites like Rtings, but every panel is different and needs its own set of adjustments to look its best.

I would also recommend a monitor arm if you want to improve the ergonomics of your setup. Many gaming monitors come with subpar stands that don’t offer the full range of adjustments people need to avoid bad posture. A monitor arm can help by offering a wider range of height, tilt and swivel options. Most 16:9 gaming monitors will work with VESA 100-compatible monitor arms. Vivo makes some great affordable options.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-gaming-monitor-140008940.html?src=rss

Crow Country is a darkly meditative callback to survival horror’s past

Is it blasphemous to call a survival horror game “cozy”? Maybe so, but while thinking back on my playthrough of Crow Country, the word popped into my mind more than a few times.

From the jump, there's no question about Crow Country’s PlayStation 1 influences, which its creators at SFB Games have been upfront about: it is very intentionally the creepy-cute child of Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Final Fantasy VII. The game, which was released on Steam, PlayStation 5 and Xbox X/S on May 9, just about checks all the boxes for survival horror, but it takes a gentler approach to the genre, making it feel more like a test of mental endurance against some all-consuming bleakness than a constant fight for your life. (A Hard Mode, however, is apparently on the way).

You play as Mara Forest, who must painstakingly make her way through an abandoned amusement park in the year 1990 to find its elusive and evidently corrupt owner, Edward Crow. Resources, like ammo and health kits, must be scavenged. Skinless monstrosities may emerge from the shadows at any turn to grab at you and puzzles of varying complexity promise to stall your progress. There is an ensemble of characters who — including the protagonist — each seem to have questionable motives.

It’s a familiar formula paired with a familiar style of character design paired with a familiar unsettling atmosphere, yet Crow Country manages not to feel like it’s being propped up by nods to its predecessors. With more of an emphasis on mood and mystery than violence (and some humor sprinkled throughout), it’s just unique enough to stand on its own as a distinct work. The entire experience has this air of reflectiveness to it, and I think the developers describe it perfectly in their own synopsis of what Crow Country offers: “a beautiful, uncanny blend of tension and tranquility.”

The nostalgia did indeed hit me like a truck as I took my cautious first steps around the eponymous Crow Country theme park as Mara. Naturally, she walks at a snail’s pace and comes to a full stop whenever firing a weapon. Her running speed is fine, though, and you have 360-degree control of the camera angle, so it doesn’t weigh you down entirely with PS1-era limitations (a blessing).

I was prepared to be frustrated for the duration of the game by the stop-to-shoot bit, but I got over it once I realized the monsters are also slow as hell. Well, most of them. You can run right by them in almost every situation if you want to. That made killing a choice rather than a necessity, and immediately dialed down the sense of urgency I’d gone into my first enemy encounter with. This is not at all a bad thing. With the stakes lowered, I treated those fleshy monstrosities like target practice and picked them off mostly for the fun of it. That, along with the gradual realization that there weren’t going to be jumpscares every 5 seconds, sucked me into a much cozier experience than I was expecting.

Without anxiety fueling my every decision, I was able to take my time to pick through all the nooks and crannies of the amusement park, making sure to stop and read every notebook or piece of paper and examine every object on the ground or hanging on the walls. I could focus completely on the puzzles before me, some of which were really challenging. I even had to bust out a pen and paper at one point. It also wasn’t very difficult to stay stocked up on necessities like ammunition, health kits and poison antidotes, which could be found randomly all over the park and at vending machines, where they’d sometimes regenerate so I could return for more later.

The soundtrack by Ockeroid (which just got its own separate digital release) is eerily soothing, and helped to create an atmosphere that fully engrossed me. Crow Country’s save mechanism leans fully into the game’s contemplative ambiance, too: you can find respite at different sources of fire, which Mara will stare into before reciting a wistful thought about hope and dread in the face of uncertainty. I played Crow Country on a Steam Deck, snuggled up with my cats on a gray, stormy day, and I can’t think of a better way to take it all in.

A still from Crow Country showing Mara inside a submarine
SFB Games

In typical survival horror form, the environment gets increasingly hostile as you advance in the game; creatures start showing up in heavier numbers, a faster one joins the mix, it starts raining, it gets darker, someone shoots at you from the shadows. But any real heaviness in Crow County is balanced by just the right amount of playfulness. The characters are often so unserious, going back and forth with irreverent dialogue. And you cannot ignore the goofy crow-themed objects that are all over the place — you rely on some of them for resources and insight.

Initially, Crow Country hints that there’s more to Mara than we’re being told but makes no explanation as to who she is or why she’s really in this abandoned theme park. Nor does it explain early on why that park is filled with writhing abominations and conspicuously prevalent references to the number 2106. Those mysteries served to hook me, and keep me progressing deeper as things unfolded. The ending tied everything together in a way that felt really satisfying.

It’s short but not too short, taking in the ballpark of 5 to 10 hours to complete depending how thorough (or slow to figure out puzzles) you are, and has a lot of replay value. This game is full of secrets that aren’t vital to the plot but can make your life a little easier — there is even a map showing you where they are, if you can find it — and these add another layer of challenge to the overall scavenger hunt. The upcoming Hard Mode could also make revisiting it even more interesting. The game currently gives you the option to play in Survival Horror mode (the version I played), or Exploration Mode, in which “you will not be attacked.”

I missed a couple secrets on my first playthrough, so my main goals for the next run are to find the rest of those and hit 100 percent of the achievements. I’m also curious to find out how different choices in my interactions with other characters could affect how the story plays out. In the end, I found myself moved by Crow Country for reasons that had almost nothing to do with nostalgia.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/crow-country-is-a-darkly-meditative-callback-to-survival-horrors-past-130041405.html?src=rss

'Challengers' VFX artists show how they did that tennis ball POV scene

Challengers, the tennis movie starring Zendaya, Mike Faist and Josh O'Connor, is not the first movie you'd think of for visual effects. But the film uses them to a surprising extent: One shot in particular, a 24-second volley between two of the protagonists from the perspective of the ball, used extensive digital and practical effects, as VFX supervisor Brian Drewes explained on X

The live plates were shot with an Arri Alexa LF on a 30-foot technocrane during a period of five hours with stunt doubles, according to Drewes. 23 individual shots were stitched together to create the final sequence. 

"Highly detailed LiDAR and photogrammetry scans of the tennis court environment were captured to help create the final models. 100+ actors and background extras were also photoscanned to populate the stands of our CG environment," according to Drewes.

After that, CG was used to smooth camera motion and correct time of day changes. The stunt doubles' faces were then replaced "with a combination of full CG heads and additional photography," Drewes added. 

So why do all that? The sequence appears designed to convey the speed, chaos and passion in the sport, matching the movie's overall themes. It's also just a cool and exciting way to convey what would otherwise be a routine tennis match. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/challengers-vfx-artists-show-how-they-did-that-tennis-ball-pov-scene-120523596.html?src=rss

The best Memorial Day sale tech deals we could find - Save big on Apple, Anker and Ooni gear

In the midst of beach trips and grilling sessions this weekend, it's worth briefly turning to the internet to see if you can save on any tech you might need. Memorial Day tech deals may not rival those of Black Friday (or even Amazon Prime Day, coming up in July), but they present decent opportunities to save on things like earbuds, chargers, robot vacuums and even season gear like fire pits and pizza ovens. To help you avoid spending too much time indoors on your phone or computer scouring for deals, we collected the best Memorial Day sales on tech here so you can keep your shopping trip quick and efficient.

Our top picks

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-best-memorial-day-sale-tech-deals-we-could-find---save-big-on-apple-anker-and-ooni-gear-115046991.html?src=rss

Engadget Podcast: Microsoft goes Copilot+ crazy

Microsoft is leaning even more into AI after launching a new Copilot+ AI PC initiative earlier this year. It's a new set of standards for PCs with powerful neural processing units (NPUs), and it could be just as significant for Windows as Apple's move towards its M-series chips. In this episode, Cherlynn and Devindra discuss Copilot+ and the potential rise of Arm-based Windows systems, and we dive into the new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop.


Listen below or subscribe on your podcast app of choice. If you've got suggestions or topics you'd like covered on the show, be sure to email us or drop a note in the comments! And be sure to check out our other podcast, Engadget News!

Hosts: Cherlynn Low and Devindra Hardawar
Producer: Ben Ellman
Music: Dale North and Terrence O'Brien

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/engadget-podcast-microsoft-goes-copilot-crazy-113037153.html?src=rss

The Morning After: Samsung’s secret war on repair

Manufacturers may hate independent repair stores, but Samsung and Apple appeared to accept the direction the political wind was blowing in. Sadly, Samsung’s warm-hearted embrace of third party repair may not have been as loving as had originally been suggested. Details of the contract the Korean giant asks repair stores to sign include some pretty user-unfriendly rules.

That includes sending your details and device identification to HQ, including all of the details of your repair issue. And, if your phone is found to be using an aftermarket, or non-Samsung part, the store has to instantly disassemble it and raise the alarm. That’s quite problematic, and also probably in violation of US laws around the right to use third-party parts for repair.

The repair gurus at iFixit announced that it was ending its partnership with Samsung around the same time. iFixit said there were irreconcilable differences between the pair’s philosophies, like the high price of replacement parts and the mostly-unrepairable nature of Samsung’s phones.

— Dan Cooper

OpenAI scraps controversial nondisparagement agreement with employees

Meta and Google want to make AI deals with Hollywood studios

Netflix’s cozy take on Animal Crossing hits Android and iOS in June

Robocaller behind AI Biden deepfake faces charges and hefty FCC fine

Google plans to run a fiber optic cable from Kenya to Australia

Atari just bought Intellivision, putting an end to the very first console war

The next Call of Duty is Black Ops 6

Leica takes on Fujifilm with the compact D-Lux 8

Microsoft's Azure AI Speech lets Truecaller users create an AI assistant with their own voice

​​You can get these reports delivered daily direct to your inbox. Subscribe right here!

The Justice Department and 30 state and district attorneys general have slapped a big pile of legal documents down on Ticketmaster owner Live Nation’s desk. They allege the company has the live entertainment industry in a chokehold, harming fans, promoters and artists. And, if this lawsuit really was prompted by the issues people faced while trying to get tickets to Taylor Swift’s Era’s tour, then we all know who to thank if Live Nation gets broken up.

Continue Reading.

Image of Spotify's Car Thing
Billy Steele for Engadget

Spotify’s Car Thing, a hardware product bringing streaming audio to less well-equipped cars, will soon be no more. The company announced that the product will stop working on December 9, as an attempt to “streamline” its offerings. If you bought a Car Thing, for the admittedly cheap price of $90, before they were discontinued in 2022, there’s not much you can do about it.

Continue Reading.

Image of the Kobo Clara
Amy Skorheim for Engadget

Color e-readers aren’t new, but Kobo has managed to beat Amazon to the punch with its Clara Color. We’ve put this model through its paces and found that it beats the socks off any of its rivals with fast processing and a great display. Unfortunately, the downside is the same as always: It’s not a Kindle, and so you’re losing out on the vastness of Amazon’s library.

Continue Reading.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-morning-after-samsungs-secret-war-on-repair-111508423.html?src=rss

The best online resources for cooking at all skill levels

You probably already know the benefits of cooking at home. It can help save you money, you can learn a new skill and it can often be healthier than eating out all the time. But regardless of if you enjoy being in the kitchen or don’t know where to start, we at Engadget know that advice can be easier said than done. After working all day, taking care of kids and pets and the like, it might feel like an insurmountable task to find a new recipe to cook for dinner. But there are so many online resources available now to home chefs that you can find something to fit all kinds of needs — be it a busy weeknight where you only have a few minutes to whip up a meal, or an evening where you’re feeling adventurous and want to try something new. Here, we’re gathered some of our favorite websites, YouTube channels and more that can help you on your culinary journey.

If you self-identify as a nerd and you’re also into cooking, you probably already know about Serious Eats. The site rose to prominence several years ago under the helm of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, who often takes a decidedly scientific approach to cooking. Lopez-Alt has since transitioned to a consulting role at Serious Eats (he has his own vlog, which is well worth following as well), but the site remains strong under new leadership. It offers tips on basics like food prep and storage, as well as a slew of how-tos and step-by-step instructions for everything from breaking down a chicken to kneading your own bread.

Try this: Quick and Easy Pressure Cooker Black Beans with Chorizo

This is the only recommendation on this list that requires payment — $1.25 a week or $40 a year — but I personally think it’s worth it. The site and accompanying app (for iOS and Android) is well organized and intuitive to use, with bright and colorful photos along with an ever-changing list of curated recipe recommendations and suggestions. I especially like the search function, where you can not only enter in the ingredients you have on hand, but also filter by the sort of meal you want to make iIs it for breakfast? A snack? Or dinner?) along with any dietary restrictions. If you don’t want to cough up the subscription fee, however, NYT’s YouTube channel is a great resource as well.

Try this: Spiced chickpea stew with coconut and turmeric (YouTube)

The Kitchn is a daily food magazine that’s been around since the mid-2000s, and it frequently serves up not just recipes but also fun features like a celebrity recipe showdown (check out this one that compares the pot roast recipes between Alton Brown, Ina Garten, Taste of Home and the Pioneer Woman). Of course, The Kitchn also publishes plenty of tips and tricks to help readers be a better cook. 

Try this: Maple Corn Cakes

“Hello, I’m Chef John, from Food Wishes dot com” is the familiar refrain that you’ll hear at the beginning of every Food Wishes video, and it never fails to warm my heart. His tone is so welcoming and cheerful that it cheers me up every time I hear it. A YouTube favorite (he has over four million subscribers), he’s also a favorite among a few Engadget staffers, and for good reason. Not only is he goofy and charming, his recipes are also almost always geared toward the novice chef, with clear and concise instructions. He also encourages viewers to experiment, use their senses, play around with food, and to think of cooking as art as much as science.

Try this: No-Knead Country Bread

Binging with Babish is a popular YouTube channel (over 9.6 million subscribers) that’s primarily focused on recreating foods from TV shows and movies. Some famous examples include the Krabby Patty from Spongebob Squarepants and ratatouille from, well, Ratatouille. But host Andrew Rea can cook “normal” foods too, and the popularity of his channel led him to host a spin-off series called “Basics with Babish” that’s geared toward the beginner.

Try this: Chickpeas

The Food52 website can be considered a one-stop shop for cooking enthusiasts, as there’s an online store along with recipes and a community board. But the real highlight for me is its YouTube channel, which features excellent shows such as Sweet Heat by Rick Martinez (the former Bon Appetit editor showcases recipes with both a sweet and spicy element), Big Little Recipes (focuses on recipes with a short ingredient list) and Genius Recipes, which, well, shows “genius” recipes created by notable chefs.

Try this: How to Make the Easiest Beefy Mac Rice Cakes

Have a sweet tooth? Then look no further than Claire Saffitz’s YouTube channel, where she bakes up everything from apple pies to oatmeal pecan cookies. Her personality is a combination of cranky and lovable, which I adore, but more importantly, her recipes are excellent. She gives very detailed instructions and the results are almost always delicious. She makes a lot of savory baked goods as well, such as sourdough bread and quiche.

Try this: The Best Oatmeal Cookies

Maagchi has been referred to by The New York Times as the Julia Child of Korean cooking, and the description couldn’t be more apt. Not only does she have a friendly and bubbly personality, she does a wonderful job of demystifying Korean cooking and making it approachable to beginners and advanced cooks alike. From Korean classics like kimchi jjigae and bibimbap to sweet treats like Korean doughnuts, she makes it all seem within reach. 

Try this: Korean Street Toast (Gilgeori-Toast)

For a site that is entirely dedicated to vegetarian cuisine, I highly recommend 101 Cookbooks by Heidi Swanson, which has been an online favorite for decades. I’m a huge fan of her simple, straightforward recipes that are able to turn a carnivore like me into a lover of plant-based meals (a personal favorite is this cauliflower soup).

Try this: Chickpea and Rice soup with Garlic Chile Oil

You don’t need to be on the paleo diet to fall in love with Nom Nom Paleo, a mini-empire that consists of a food blog, two award-winning cookbooks, and a podcast, among other things. The New York Times has referred to Michelle Tam, the creator of the site, as the Martha Stewart of Paleo, because of how accessible she makes it seem. After perusing her site and trying her recipes, you'll no longer think of the paleo diet as restrictive; instead you might find yourself eating more than ever. Tam has also tailored some of her recipes to fit Whole30 or keto diets as well.

Try this: Garbage Stir-Fry with Curried Cabbage

If you’re not strictly vegetarian or paleo, but you still want a healthy diet, check out the Clean and Delicious food blog by Dani Spies. A wellness and weight loss coach, Spies believes in a balanced diet and “clean eating,” but without foregoing the foods you love. For example, there’s a recipe for lemon bars on her site, but it’s made with whole wheat flour and doesn’t have dairy or refined sugar. All of the recipes on her site reflect this philosophy; they’re either gluten-free, paleo, vegan or vegetarian and they are also often low-carb, keto, dairy-free or nut-free. I also like her Instagram and YouTube channel, where she also shares tips on mindful eating and healthy living.

Try this: Healthy Banana Bread Muffins (YouTube)

There are simply way too many food sites on the internet to list them all, but here are a few more that were recommended by our staff that you might find useful.

This is one of the best YouTube channels for learning all the ins and outs of authentic Chinese cooking from people who actually live in China. It’s very detailed, well-produced and offers great advice on recreating these dishes in a Western kitchen. I also love that it teaches technique in addition to just recipes. To this day, I still come back to this video on how to stir-fry any vegetable.

The blog Minimalist Baker features recipes that use 10 ingredients or less and only take about 30 minutes to make. The site also has a wealth of vegetarian recipes to experiment with, like this curried cauliflower lentil soup.

Budget Bytes is a great resource for those watching their wallets, as each recipe gives you a breakdown of estimated costs for each ingredient. It's also a great resource for newbie home cooks.

If you’re looking for vegan recipes, Rainbow Plant Life has a ton of them. The site's founder, Nisha, has a trove of vegan-friendly Instant Pot recipes to try as well.

Another staple for accessible vegan recipes is Pick Up Limes. The Healthiest Ever Granola recipe is a staff favorite, and we appreciate that the Pick Up Limes website makes it easy to filter recipes by type of ingredients, preparation time, allergens and more.

Richard Bertinet’s video on white bread comes highly recommended for its sheer simplicity. It proves that all you need to make bread is bread flour, yeast and salt.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/quarantine-cooking-online-resources-163009672.html?src=rss

A beginner's guide to smart sous vide

French for “under vacuum,” sous vide cooking involves immersing vacuum-sealed food in a temperature-controlled water bath until the food is cooked to your liking. It might sound intimidating, and it’s true that this cooking method was once the province of professional cooks with expensive equipment. But that’s not the case anymore — not only is sous vide cooking more accessible than ever now, but there are a number of sous vide machines out there that don’t cost a fortune. And, like a lot of kitchen tools now, many sous vide devices even have companion apps and Wi-Fi connectivity that make the process even more automated. If you’re curious about giving sous vide cooking a go, we’ll walk you through the process of choosing the right machine for you and share some of the tips and tricks we’ve learned through our own experiments.

If you’re going to choose a sous vide machine, we definitely recommend getting a smart one, which means it either has Bluetooth or WiFi capabilities (or both). That’s because this often adds a whole lot more features than you might otherwise have. We suggest getting models with a companion app that will help you set up and monitor your sous vide temperature remotely. Bluetooth-only models work when you're within 30 to 40 feet of the cooker, while those with WiFi let you supervise your food from anywhere in your home, or as long as you're on the same network. We also tend to prefer apps that come with recipes already on it, especially if you’re new to sous vide cooking and need some help getting started.

Anova

At a minimum, the other items you need to cook sous vide are a large metal pot (big enough to fill with water) and zipper-lock freezer bags to put the food in. Alternatively, you can use reusable silicone bags such as these from Stasher. Rather than using a vacuum sealer to get rid of air, you would use the water displacement method: Immerse the bagged food in the water while partially unsealed, and water pressure will push the air through the opening. Once everything is mostly underwater, you can seal the bag and it'll stay submerged.

If it still floats, you can stick one or two spoons in the bag, and that will hopefully weigh things down. (J. Kenji Lopez-Alt from Serious Eats also suggests using a large binder clip attached to the bottom of the bag along with a heavy spoon.) If you're concerned about water getting in the bag, you can attach the bag tops to the pot with binder clips, thus keeping the bag upright.

If you're really serious about sous vide, you might want to invest in some specialty equipment. Instead of pots, for example, you could opt for large restaurant-grade plastic containers by Cambro or Rubbermaid. Not only is plastic a better insulator than metal, but there's generally more space for more food, which is handy when you're cooking for a crowd.

Whether you use a pot or a plastic container, it's best to cover the vessel with plastic wrap when cooking for long periods, to keep evaporation to a minimum. Some companies, like Chefsteps, offer custom silicone pot lids that are made specially to accommodate their sous vide cookers. Alternatively, Lopez-Alt offers a much cheaper and more ingenious solution: cover your water in ping pong balls. They'll slow down evaporation.

Rubbermaid

Additionally, while zipper-lock bags work well for most tasks, it's still not a bad idea to get a vacuum sealer along with thicker plastic bags designed specifically for sous vide. For one, this lets you sous vide vegetables or braised meats, which typically require a higher temperature. (Zipper-lock bag seams might fail when it's that hot.) This also lets you freeze a bunch of food, vacuum seal them and sous vide packets straight from the freezer, which is convenient for batch cooking.

You likely already have this at your disposal, but another handy tool is a good skillet to sear your meat. That sous vide device might be able to cook your steak to medium rare, but it won't be able to brown it. A cast iron skillet, on the other hand, will. You could also consider a torch like the Bernzomatic TS8000, and we've seen others use a Searzall — but a cast iron skillet is far more affordable than either option. Of course, if you have a grill, you can use that too.

There are other miscellaneous items that could prove useful. Lopez-Alt likes having a pot lid organizer immersed in the container to help separate several submerged bags. If you want to make custard, yogurt or breakfast cups with your sous vide cooker, you should get yourself some mason jars too.

One more indispensable item worth considering: a trivet to rest your water vessel on so you don't destroy your countertop.

Since affordable sous vide cookers have been in the market for a few years now, there’s no shortage of recipes and guidelines online to help you figure out what to do with your newfangled kitchen gadget. The links below are some of our favorites, though bear in mind that a lot of this is based on personal taste. Your mileage may vary.

It only makes sense that the maker of one of the most popular sous vide machines also has a deep library of sous vide recipes. If you're ever at a loss as to what to make via sous vide, simply peek at this website, where you can search for recipes from professionals and amateurs alike.

We've mentioned it several times here already in this guide, but Serious Eats truly is a remarkably useful resource for all things sous vide. Its guide to sous vide steak is a favorite among Engadget staffers, as is its take on slow-cooked sous-vide style eggs, which results in some of the best eggs I've ever had.

Years before making the Joule, Chefsteps made a name for itself as a cooking school with a heavy emphasis on food science, tech and molecular gastronomy. That's probably why the sous vide recipes from Chefsteps are some of the more creative ones we've seen. One recipe, for example, teaches you how to make that perfect chicken breast along with the perfect accompaniment for said chicken breast — perhaps a crunchy apple fennel salad and a buttery carrot puree. Other favorite recipes include wonderfully tender salmon filets, juicy pork chops and Chefsteps' own interpretation of the "sous vide egg bites" you sometimes find in certain Starbucks shops.

This is actually a cookbook from the people behind the Nomiku WiFi sous vide machine (which has since been discontinued), but the recipes in it will work with any sous vide device. Not only does it have beautiful photographs, but it also offers fantastic recipes like jerk chicken wings, duck confit and chocolate pots du creme.

Instant Pot Smart WiFi
Instant Pot / Best Buy

Aside from immersion circulators like the ones mentioned here, you could also opt for multi-purpose appliances that offer sous vide-like functions. Several Instant Pots, for example, offer such a feature. Unfortunately, however, they do not circulate the water like the aforementioned immersion circulators, and the temperatures aren’t quite as precise (which is a definite downside if you need something cooked to a specific temperature). But if you don’t really care about that, or you just want to dabble occasionally in sous vide, this might be a viable option.

If you’re dead set on a multi-tasking appliance and you have the money to spend, consider the Anova Precision Oven. Thanks to its use of steam, you can indeed use it to cook foods via sous vide but without the need for plastic bags. It also uses a fan to circulate the moist air around the food and a probe thermometer helps keep foods at a precise temperature. And, of course, the Precision Oven can be used as a regular oven as well, and is great for baking breads and bagels. It is, however, quite expensive at $700 and takes up a lot of counter space.

Images: Will Lipman for Engadget (Anova / holiday light background)

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/smart-sous-vide-guide-151821790.html?src=rss

OpenAI scraps controversial nondisparagement agreement with employees

OpenAI will not enforce any nondisparagement agreement former employees had signed and will remove the language from its exit paperwork altogether, the company told Bloomberg. Vox recently reported that OpenAI was making exiting employees choose between being able to speak against the company and to keep the vested equity they earned. Employees could lose millions if they choose not to sign the agreement or if they violate it. Sam Altman, OpenAI's CEO, said he was "embarrassed" and didn't know that the provision existed, promising to have the company's paperwork altered. 

According to Bloomberg, the company notified former employees that "[r]egardless of whether [they] executed the agreement... OpenAI has not canceled, and will not cancel, any vested units." It released them from the agreement altogether, "unless the nondisparagement provision was mutual." At least one former employee said they had lost their vested equity that was equivalent to multiple times their family's net worth by refusing to sign when they left. It's unclear if they're getting it back with this change. The company also talked to current employees about this development, easing their worries that they will have to be careful with everything they say if they don't want to lose their stocks. 

"We are sorry for the distress this has caused great people who have worked hard for us," Chief Strategy Officer Jason Kwon said in a statement. "We have been working to fix this as quickly as possible. We will work even harder to be better."

This wasn't the only controversial situation OpenAI has been involved in as of late. The company recently revealed that it was disbanding the team it formed last year to help make sure humanity is protected from future AI systems, which could be so powerful they could cause our extinction. Before that, OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, who was one of the team's leads, left the company. Another team lead, Jan Leike, said in a series of tweets that "safety culture and processes have taken a backseat to shiny products" within OpenAI. In addition, Scarlett Johansson accused OpenAI of copying her voice without permission for ChatGPT's Sky voice assistant after she turned down Altman's request to lend her voice to the company. OpenAI denied that it copied the actor's voice and said that it hired another actor way before Altman contacted Johansson. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/openai-scraps-controversial-nondisparagement-agreement-with-employees-043750040.html?src=rss

Meta and Google want to make AI deals with Hollywood studios

Meta and Google are offering Hollywood studios millions of dollars with the hope of striking licensing deals that could improve their models for AI-generated video, according to a new report in Bloomberg. The companies have reportedly offered “tens of millions of dollars,” though it’s unclear what will come from the talks.

According to the report, Netflix and Disney “aren’t willing to license their content” but have “expressed interest in other types of collaborations.” Warner Brothers Discovery has reportedly indicated “a willingness to license some of its programs.”

A spokesperson for Meta declined to comment. Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The companies, it seems, are hoping such deals would help advance their video generation tools. Google recently showed off a text-to-video model, called Veo, and tapped Donald Glover to promote its capabilities. Meta is also researching AI-generated video.

There’s been something of an arms race among AI firms to forge licensing deals with media companies. OpenAI and NewsCorp announced a multi-year deal to bring news content to ChatGPT earlier this week. Meta is also considering paying publishers to access “news, photo and video content” to train its AI models, Business Insider reported.

But, as Bloomberg points out, Hollywood studios may have some reservations about such deals. Though AI-editing tools may be appealing, there has been widespread concern in the entertainment industry about how AI companies might use their creative work. That tension burst into full view this week when Scarlett Johansson accused OpenAI of copying her voice for its “Sky” assistant in ChatGPT after she declined to partner with the company herself. OpenAI has denied claims that it tried to mimic her voice, though the company has yet to explain that one Sam Altman tweet.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/meta-and-google-want-to-make-ai-deals-with-hollywood-studios-220033138.html?src=rss

Netflix’s cozy take on Animal Crossing hits Android and iOS in June

Netflix’s mobile gaming lineup will soon have one more entry. Cozy Grove: Camp Spirit, the sequel to the 2021 Animal Crossing-esque Cozy Grove, will arrive on Android and iOS on June 25.

The Cozy Grove sequel is the first game from developer Spry Fox since Netflix bought the studio in 2022. In the game, you’ll embark on the high-stakes mission of helping ghostly bears upgrade their haunted island. The developer describes it as a “heartwarming adventure” where you’ll “experience new activities, new ghost stories, new furry companions with stories and abilities of their own and much more.”

Netflix’s mobile gaming portfolio has grown exponentially since it began dabbling in the arena in 2017 with its Stranger Things tie-in. Netflix now has a roster of “nearly 100” mobile games. Cozy Grove: Camp Spirit will be the third game from an in-house studio after the streaming service began scooping up indie studios, including Spry Fox, Night School Studio, Boss Fight Entertainment and Next Games. It’s also building studios in Helsinki and Los Angeles, where it’s working on a AAA game.

You can pre-register for the game on Google Play and the App Store and check out the trailer for the chillaxing title below.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/netflixs-cozy-take-on-animal-crossing-hits-android-and-ios-in-june-204905615.html?src=rss

Samsung reportedly requires independent repair stores to rat on customers using aftermarket parts

If you take in your Samsung device to an independent shop for repair, Samsung requires the store to send your name, contact information, device identifier, and the nature of your complaint to the mothership. Worse, if the repair store detects that your device has been previously repaired with an aftermarket or a non-Samsung part, Samsung requires the establishment to “immediately disassemble” your device and “immediately notify” the company.

These details were revealed thanks to 404 Media, which obtained a contract that Samsung requires all independent repair stores to sign in exchange for selling them genuine repair parts. Here’s the relevant section from the contract: “Company shall immediately disassemble all products that are created or assembled out of, comprised of, or that contain any Service Parts not purchased from Samsung.” It adds that the store “shall immediately notify Samsung in writing of the details and circumstances of any unauthorized use or misappropriation of any Service Part for any purpose other than pursuant to this Agreement. Samsung may terminate this Agreement if these terms are violated.” Samsung did not respond to a request for comment from Engadget.

Samsung’s contract is troubling — customers who take their devices to independent repair stores do not necessarily expect their personal information to the sent to the device manufacturer. And if they’ve previously repaired their devices by using third-party parts that are often vastly cheaper than official ones (and just as good in many cases), they certainly do not expect an repair store to snitch on them to the manufacturer and have their device rendered unusable.

Experts who spoke to 404 Media said that consumers are within their rights to use third-party parts to repair devices they own under the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, a federal law that governs consumer product warranties in the US.So far, Right to Repair legislation exists in 30 states in the country according to the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), a consumer advocacy organization. But in states like New York, Minnesota and California where this legislation goes into effect this year, contracts like the one Samsung makes repair stores sign would be illegal, 404 Media pointed out.

“This is exactly the kind of onerous, one-sided ‘agreement’ that necessitates the right-to-repair,” Kit Walsh, a staff attorney at the Electronic Freedom Foundation told the publication. “In addition to the provision you mentioned about dismantling devices with third-party components, these create additional disincentives to getting devices repaired, which can harm both device security and the environment as repairable devices wind up in landfills.”

This isn’t the only incident around device repair that Samsung has found itself in hot water. Hours before the report from 404 Media, repair blog and parts retailer iFixit announced that it was ending its collaboration with Samsung to launch a “Repair Hub” less than two years into the partnership. “Samsung’s approach to repairability does not align with our mission,” iFixit said in a blog post, citing the high prices of Samsung’s parts and the unrepairable nature of Samsung’s devices that “remained frustratingly glued together” as reasons for pulling the plug.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/samsung-reportedly-requires-independent-repair-stores-to-rat-on-customers-using-aftermarket-parts-203925729.html?src=rss

Robocaller behind AI Biden deepfake faces charges and hefty FCC fine

A political consultant who admitted to using a deepfake of President Joe Biden's voice in a robocall scheme this year is facing several charges as well as a hefty fine from the Federal Communications Commission. Steve Kramer (pictured above) said his aim with the New Hampshire primary robocall was to warn people about the dangers of artificial intelligence, as The Hill notes.

Kramer previously worked for Dean Phillips, a long-shot Democratic presidential candidate who suspended his campaign in March. Kramer has called for "immediate action" on AI "across all regulatory bodies and platforms."

He has now been charged with 13 felony counts of voter suppression and 13 misdemeanor counts of impersonation of a candidate. The phony Biden voice allegedly urged people not to participate in the primary and to “save your vote for the November election.” New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella, who announced the charges, said in February that the robocall reached as many as 25,000 voters.

The FCC has proposed a $6 million fine against Kramer, citing an alleged violation of the Truth in Caller ID Act as the robocall is said to have spoofed a local political consultant's phone number. The agency also proposed a $2 million fine against Lingo Telecom, the telecom carrier that operated the phone lines, for allegedly violating caller ID authentication rules. The FCC banned AI-generated voices in robocalls soon after the Kramer incident.

“New Hampshire remains committed to ensuring that our elections remain free from unlawful interference and our investigation into this matter remains ongoing," AG Formella said. "The Federal Communications Commission will separately be announcing an enforcement action against Mr. Kramer based on violations of federal law. I am pleased to see that our federal partners are similarly committed to protecting consumers and voters from harmful robocalls and voter suppression."

Meanwhile, the FCC may soon require political advertisers to disclose the use of any AI in TV and radio spots. However, chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel is not seeking to ban the use of AI-generated content in political ads. “As artificial intelligence tools become more accessible, the commission wants to make sure consumers are fully informed when the technology is used,” Rosenworcel said in a statement on Wednesday.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/robocaller-behind-ai-biden-deepfake-faces-charges-and-hefty-fcc-fine-201803214.html?src=rss

Google plans to run a fiber optic cable from Kenya to Australia

Google said on Thursday it will build a fiber optic cable to connect Africa and Australia. Named Umoja (a Swahili word meaning “unity”), one end of the cable will start in Kenya and pass through Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa (with access points for the countries) before crossing the Indian Ocean to the land down under.

Google says the project is designed to “increase digital connectivity, accelerate economic growth, and deepen resilience across Africa.” In addition to the cable itself, the company says it will work with the Kenyan government to boost cybersecurity, data-driven innovation, digital upskilling and responsibly and safely deploying AI.

Umoja will join Equiano, Google’s private undersea cable running between Portugal and South Africa (with pitstops in other nations).

Google says the new route is critical to strengthen network resilience in the region, which has a history of “high-impact outages.” In other words, more network redundancy makes outages less catastrophic to the area’s broadband infrastructure.

“The new intercontinental fiber optic route will significantly enhance our global and regional digital infrastructure,” Kenyan President William Ruto wrote about the initiative in a Google blog post. “This initiative is crucial in ensuring the redundancy and resilience of our region’s connectivity to the rest of the world, especially in light of recent disruptions caused by cuts to sub-sea cables. By strengthening our digital backbone, we are not only improving reliability but also paving the way for increased digital inclusion, innovation, and economic opportunities for our people and businesses.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/google-plans-to-run-a-fiber-optic-cable-from-kenya-to-australia-191744476.html?src=rss

Devolver Digital is celebrating its 15th birthday with a livestream on June 7

Devolver Digital is holding a livestream event on June 7 at 2PM ET to celebrate its 15th birthday and drop a bunch of “updates and release dates for upcoming titles.” It’s part of this year’s Summer Game Fest, which also kicks off on June 7 and is quickly becoming the de facto replacement for E3. You can stream the event in a number of ways, including the company's official website

What’s likely to be revealed by Devolver at the livestream? The company remains mum, but more information on Skate Story is practically guaranteed. The game was supposed to come out last year, so a release date is likely. We could also get updates on the action title The Plucky Squire and the bizarre man-baby walking simulator Baby Steps. The company has also promised “exciting new reveals”, which could mean just about anything from Hotline Miami 3 to previously unannounced IPs.

One thing’s for sure. The event will most definitely be quirky and entertaining. This has become Devolver’s trademark, as previous livestreams have included riffs on public access TV, parodies of massive game conferences like E3 and game designer Goichi Suda, sort of, in a mech suit.

There are other events already scheduled around Summer Game Fest. The biggest of the bunch will be the Xbox Games Showcase on June 9. This stream is likely to feature a deep dive into the next Call of Duty entry.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/devolver-digital-is-celebrating-its-15th-birthday-with-a-livestream-on-june-7-184301686.html?src=rss

Spotify’s Car Thing will soon transform into Spotify’s Car Brick

Spotify’s Car Thing, a limited hardware “test” the company began shipping only three years ago, is about to bite the dust. The company wrote on Thursday that the device, which brought Spotify to automobiles without Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, will “no longer be operational” as of December 9.

Car Thing was aimed at drivers who want to listen to Spotify in their cars but don’t have modern systems with built-in streaming apps. The $90 device let you control the service with voice recognition and preset buttons, and it had a four-inch color touchscreen. However, Spotify had already discontinued it by mid-2022.

In our 2021 preview, Engadget’s Billy Steele wrote that the gadget seemed unnecessary at first but proved useful after two weeks of use. “While it seems only Spotify die-hards would be interested in something like this, it does offer an upgrade for older cars,” our audio gear expert wrote. “I’m never getting built-in voice control in [the 2006 Honda] Element, and the ability to keep Waze on my phone and Spotify on another display definitely reduced the need to fiddle with either while driving.”

Left-side view of the Spotify Car Thing mounted in front of a car stereo.
Billy Steele for Engadget

Spotify’s official explanation for ditching its first hardware product is that it’s “part of our ongoing efforts to streamline our product offerings” (read: save money) and that it lets the streaming service “focus on developing new features and enhancements that will ultimately provide a better experience to all Spotify users.”

Those new features and enhancements are anyone’s guess because the company adds that it doesn’t plan on launching a replacement product or a new version of Car Thing. Of course, you can listen to Spotify in your car with your phone connected through Bluetooth or a cable, and many drivers now have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which provide access to much more than a single music app.

Spotify recommends factory resetting the Car Thing and disposing of it after it kicks the bucket in December. The company isn’t offering any refunds or trade-in options — something to keep in mind if it ever rolls out more limited hardware experiments.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/spotifys-car-thing-will-soon-transform-into-spotifys-car-brick-180208232.html?src=rss

Atari just bought Intellivision, putting an end to the very first console war

Atari just announced that it has acquired the Intellivision brand, along with more than 200 games from Intellivision Entertainment LLC. This puts an end to the very first console war, as Atari and Intellivison were bitter rivals going all the way back to 1979. The original Intellivision console, released by Mattel, went up against the Atari VCS (later named the 2600) a full decade before Nintendo and Sega started their beef.

“Uniting Atari and Intellivision after 45 years ends the longest-running console war in history,” said Mike Mika, the studio head at Atari-owned Digital Eclipse.

The deal doesn’t include the long-delayed Intellivision Amico retro console. Intellivision Entertainment LLC will continue working on the Amico as a separate and rebranded company and will use a license provided by Atari to release Intellivision games on it. The company has had a difficult time getting the console funded after originally announcing it back in 2018. It did manage, however, to release a truly bizarre app for iOS and Android devices that requires two smartphones or tablets to work. One device displays the game and the other acts as a controller. It’s a weird idea and, according to Kotaku, "one janky piece of crap."

As for Atari, it’s already making use of the Intellivision brand by adding items like t-shirts to its online store. Atari CEO and chairman Wade Rosen said on X that the acquisition presented a “very rare opportunity to unite former competitors and bring together fans of Atari, Intellivision and the golden age of gaming.” The ColecoVision, another console from the early 1980s, was also part of this golden age of gaming, but has yet to be snatched up by Atari.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/atari-just-bought-intellivision-putting-an-end-to-the-very-first-console-war-172320606.html?src=rss

The next Call of Duty is Black Ops 6

Activision has confirmed that the next Call of Duty game will be Black Ops 6. The publisher updated the website for the military shooter franchise to reveal the title, promising that “official lines of communication have begun,” which essentially means the game’s marketing is shifting from teaser mode to slow-trickle reveal mode.

Xbox’s X (Twitter) account posted in late April that a “[REDACTED] Direct” event would follow the Xbox Showcase on Sunday, June 9. It was never much of a mystery that it would be a Call of Duty reveal: The logo matched the franchise’s military art style, and it had already been reported that the next installment in the long-running series would arrive this year.

On Thursday, a short teaser video on Xbox’s X account removed the redaction to reveal Black Ops 6. So you can look forward to a hype session for the first Call of Duty game unveiled under Microsoft ownership.

Marketing image for Call of Duty: Black Ops 6. Mount Rushmore, except the Presidents' eyes are covered with blindfolds that read
Activision

The Call of Duty website shows additional teasers that capitalize on conspiracy theorists’ worldviews. A shadowy video shows law enforcement body cam footage, building up to the (fairly corny) reveal of Mount Rushmore (Six Grandfathers Mountain before it was carved up) with blindfolds covering each of the four US Presidents’ eyes, reading “The Truth Lies” followed by a logo. Other videos on the website show vandals (also in found-footage style) placing posters with the same slogan around a city.

In other words, marketers are marketing.

Microsoft apparently plans to use the new installment to boost Game Pass subscriptions. The Wall Street Journal reported this month that the title will be the first Call of Duty installment to appear on Game Pass on launch day. We’ll have to wait to see whether that strategy provides enough much-needed lift for the service to justify the (potentially enormous) loss of direct sales to Xbox console owners.

You can hear about Black Ops 6 on June 9, immediately following the Xbox Games Showcase, which starts at 1 PM ET. Engadget will have full coverage of all the day’s reveals.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-next-call-of-duty-is-black-ops-6-161916709.html?src=rss

LG C4 OLED TVs are down to record-low prices ahead of Memorial Day

LG’s latest OLED smart TVs are on sale via Amazon. These are the C4 models and not the pricier G4 flagship displays, but they still boast plenty of bells and whistles for the discerning couch potato. The deals apply to just about every size, from 42-inches all the way up to 83-inches.

The best discount for most people, however, is for the 55-inch evo C4. This model is available for $1,697, which is 15 percent off. The 65-inch model is also 15 percent off, bringing the price down to $2,297.

No matter which size you choose, this is a lot of TV bang for your buck. The LG C4 evo series feature powerful Alpha Gen 7 chips, improved brightness when compared to previous generations and plenty of built-in AI for upscaling and the like. They also include gorgeous OLED panels.

The brightness levels on these panels hit nearly 1,000 nits, which is a fantastic metric for OLED screens. It’s not as bright as Mini LED TVs, but it’s getting there. In addition, these TVs support 144Hz refresh rates for gaming and compatibility for both G-Sync and AMD Freesync. These sets can even pair wirelessly with compatible LG soundbars, for a hassle-free way to experiment with surround sound.

As previously mentioned, all C4 sizes are discounted, but that doesn’t mean they are budget-friendly. Even with today’s discount, the 83-inch model clocks in at a whopping $5,000. The 77-inch model comes in at $3,297 and the diminutive 42-inch version costs $1,297.

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This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/lg-c4-oled-tvs-are-down-to-record-low-prices-ahead-of-memorial-day-160940240.html?src=rss

Ticketmaster owner sued by DOJ and 30 attorneys general over alleged monopoly

The Justice Department and 30 state and district attorneys general are attempting to break up Ticketmaster owner Live Nation. They claim in an antitrust suit filed in the Southern District of New York that the company has created an unlawful monopoly over the live entertainment industry. The suit argues that Live Nation has harmed fans, promoters and artists as its dominance has led to imposing higher ticket prices while stifling innovation and competition.

Live Nation owns and/or operates many venues and festivals. It also sells tickets to concerts and festivals, and manages many of the artists who play at them.

“We allege that Live Nation relies on unlawful, anticompetitive conduct to exercise its monopolistic control over the live events industry in the United States at the cost of fans, artists, smaller promoters and venue operators,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “The result is that fans pay more in fees, artists have fewer opportunities to play concerts, smaller promoters get squeezed out and venues have fewer real choices for ticketing services. It is time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster.”

It was reported back in 2022 amid Ticketmaster's struggle to handle overwhelming demand for Taylor Swift's The Eras Tour that the DOJ had been investigating whether Live Nation held a monopoly in the live music market. The Swift ticket debacle prompted a Senate antitrust hearing.

The DOJ claims that Live Nation established a dominant position by pushing artists to use its services and threatening possible competitors in the live music promotion space. The company is also accused of locking venues into long, exclusive contracts that prevent them from using alternative (and perhaps less expensive) ticketing platforms. The Justice Department says Live Nation handles about 60 percent of concert promotions at major venues in the US, as well as approximately 80 percent of primary ticketing at major concert venues.

According to the lawsuit, Live Nation sought to lock out competitors and protect its so-called "flywheel" model. The DOJ describes this as a "self-reinforcing business model that captures fees and revenue from concert fans and sponsorship, uses that revenue to lock up artists to exclusive promotion deals, and then uses its powerful cache of live content to sign venues into long term exclusive ticketing deals, thereby starting the cycle all over again."

A merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster got the green light from the DOJ in 2010, but the deal was subject to some conditions. After the Justice Department found in 2019 that Live Nation violated a condition that banned it from threatening venues that chose to use a Ticketmaster competitor, the agency extended the consent decree by five years to 2025.

In a statement, Live Nation rejected the assertion that it held a monopoly. "The defining feature of a monopolist is monopoly profits derived from monopoly pricing," it said. "Live Nation in no way fits the profile. Service charges on Ticketmaster are no higher than elsewhere, and frequently lower."

The company argued that breaking it up wouldn't lead to lower ticket prices or service fees. It claims that concert promoters and ticketing companies don't control ticket prices, which have been driven higher by increased production costs and the growing popularity of artists. Live Nation also states that Ticketmaster "retains only a modest portion" of service fees and that its market share has decreased in recent years.

Other parts of the government have put Live Nation and Ticketmaster in their sightlines. The House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would force Ticketmaster and other ticketing companies to show the total price of tickets to buyers up front. There's a separate bill in the Senate that seeks to make ticket pricing more transparent too. Along similar lines, the Federal Trade Commission, has proposed a rule to ban junk fees that companies including Ticketmaster add to the total price at checkout. For their part, Live Nation and Ticketmaster said last year that they'd start showing customers the total price of tickets at the jump.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/ticketmaster-owner-sued-by-doj-and-30-attorneys-general-over-alleged-monopoly-160153725.html?src=rss

The 1TB 14-inch MacBook Pro M3 is cheaper than ever right now

You can pick up a specced-out version of last year’s MacBook Pro M3 for cheaper than ever right now, at $1,800. This is a discount of $200 for Apple’s flagship laptop with 1TB of SSD storage and 16GB of RAM. This deal is only available for the 14-inch Space Gray model. The silver model is also on sale, but with just an eight percent discount.

As for the computer itself, it’s the MacBook Pro M3. It’s one of the best laptops you can buy, particularly for people who do intensive creative work on a computer, like video editing and music-making. The 14-inch screen is gorgeous, the M3 chip is both fast and efficient and the keyboard and trackpad are excellent. It’s heavier and a bit bulkier than the just-released MacBook Air M3 models, but it also boasts more memory, a better selection of ports and a more efficient cooling system.

There are a couple of minor nitpicks here. Like all Apple MacBooks, you won’t be able to make adjustments to RAM or internal storage after the fact, so double-check before smashing that “buy” button. This model is also much more expensive than the Air, though today’s deal makes that a bit easier to swallow.

Speaking of the MacBook Air, there’s also a decent deal to be had for one of those via Amazon. The 2022 M2 model is available for $850, which is a 15 percent discount. This deal is for the 256GB model with 8GB of RAM. If you don’t work in the creative arts and use a laptop just to write, watch content or surf the web, this is a fantastic choice.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-1tb-14-inch-macbook-pro-m3-is-cheaper-than-ever-right-now-150822985.html?src=rss

South Korea aims to bolster local chip production with $19 billion of support

South Korea is the latest country to support its local semiconductor industry in a significant fashion. It's trying to stay competitive with the likes of the US, China and Taiwan with the help of a 26 trillion won ($19 billion) support package. The country will extend tax breaks that were set to expire at the end of this year and provide financial support to chipmakers through the state-run Korea Development Bank, as The Wall Street Journal reports.

Amid large demand for chips to power AI systems and other computing needs, South Korea saw exports of semiconductors rise 56 percent in April compared with a year earlier. That's despite fierce competition from the likes of Intel and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TMSC). SK Hynix said it would bolster its AI chip manufacturing capacity in South Korea with an extra $14.6 billion investment, while Samsung replaced the leader of its semiconductor division to try and become more competitive.

South Korea's moves could help it keep pace with the US, which has been trying to ramp up domestic chip production to reduce its reliance on imports. Through the CHIPS Act, the US is subsidizing manufacturers such as Intel, GlobalFoundreies and TMSC. As it happens, one of the largest recipients of a CHIPS Act subsidy is Samsung, which is receiving up to $6.4 billion in federal funding for a new semiconductor plant in Texas.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/south-korea-aims-to-bolster-local-chip-production-with-19-billion-of-support-145043131.html?src=rss

Leica takes on Fujifilm with the compact D-Lux 8

With small and stylish compact cameras like Fujifilm's X100 VI all the rage for influencers, Leica has decided to jump back into the game. The German brand just unveiled the $1,595 D-Lux 8, a followup to the D-Lux 7 released way back in 2018. While substantially restyled compared to the last model, it carries the same 17-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor and 24-75mm (35mm equivalent) f/1.7-2.8 lens as before. 

The original was effectively a rebadge of Panasonic's LX100 II, but it's not clear if the D-Lux 8 is using exactly the same sensor or an updated version. Other features, like video, autofocus and more have yet to be revealed.

From the images released, we can see some substantial differences from the previous model. It has an all-black finish and leather-style wrap, much like Leica's full-frame Q3 compact. The interface has also been simplified, with only a "play," "menu" and d-pad type control on the rear, along with two unlabeled buttons. On top, there's a power switch in place of the "4K" button. All of this is inspired by the Q lineup, the company said.

Leica takes on Fujifilm with the compact D-Lux 8
Leica

The new camera supports RAW file capture, which is a first for the D-lux lineup. Leica also unveiled new accessories including carrying straps, leather protectors, a flash and a hand grip. It also showed off a new app, without saying exactly what it does.

It would be a bit disappointing if the D-Lux 8 is just a spruced up version of the D-Lux 7, launched to take advantage of compact camera craze created by Fujifilm's X100 series. The old model was a solid camera for its time, but offers contrast-detect instead of phase-detect autofocus, along with tame photo and video specs by today's standards. 

It certainly does look good, though, and that's been a key element in the compact camera renaissance —and the accessories may also tempt style-conscious shooters. For those attracted to the Leica's storied history and that iconic red dot, $1,595 is as low a price as you'll ever see for a new camera from the brand.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/leica-takes-on-fujifilm-with-the-compact-d-lux-8-143210473.html?src=rss

Starliner’s first crew mission will now launch on June 1... maybe

The first crewed flight of Boeing’s Starliner capsule still hasn’t launched more than two weeks after its originally scheduled liftoff date, and there's going to be at least another week of waiting and uncertainty before it does. NASA announced last night that the Starliner team is now targeting a June 1 launch as engineers continue to assess the vehicle in the wake of discovering a helium leak from the propulsion system earlier this month. If the June 1 attempt is scrubbed, it'll have other chances to fly on June 2, June 5 and June 6.

It was at first looking like the mission would be postponed indefinitely after NASA called off the May 25 launch attempt on Tuesday night and didn't set a new date. At that time, NASA said it would “share more details once we have a clearer path forward,” per SpaceNews. In a blog post published Wednesday night, NASA said the leak remains stable, but the teams are still working “to assess Starliner performance and redundancy.” It's also planning to evaluate the propulsion system again “to understand potential helium system impacts on some Starliner return scenarios” and conduct another readiness review of the craft.  

The first launch attempt at the beginning of the month was scrubbed due to the discovery of a faulty oxygen relief valve on the ULA Atlas V rocket carrying Starliner. Engineers replaced the valve and Starliner was slated to fly later that week, but that attempt was postponed, too. On May 14, NASA revealed that engineers were working to resolve a helium leak from the spacecraft’s propulsion system. In an update a few days later, NASA said the leak was “stable and would not pose a risk at that level during the flight.” A new targeted launch date was set at that time and ultimately rescheduled.

Delays have defined Starliner’s development up until this point, but since two astronauts — Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams — will be on board for this mission, the stakes are especially high; now isn't the time to start cutting corners. “There has been a great deal of exceptional analysis and testing over the last two weeks by the joint NASA, Boeing and ULA teams” to address the issues that have popped up, Steve Stich, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, said on Wednesday.

“It has been important that we take our time to understand all the complexities of each issue including the redundant capabilities of the Starliner propulsion system and any implications to our Interim Human Rating Certification,” Stich said. “We will launch Butch and Suni on this test mission after the entire community has reviewed the teams’ progress and flight rationale at the upcoming Delta Agency Flight Test Readiness Review.”

Update, May 23 2024, 10:08AM ET: This story has been updated to reflect new launch opportunities announced by NASA on Wednesday night, and to include additional information relating to the review process ahead of the flight.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/starliners-first-crew-mission-gets-pushed-back-yet-again-this-time-with-no-new-launch-date-163020007.html?src=rss

Microsoft's Azure AI Speech lets Truecaller users create an AI assistant with their own voice

Truecaller, a caller ID app that can block and record calls, has teamed up with Microsoft to give its users a way to create an AI assistant that uses their own voice. The company originally introduced its AI assistant that can answer and screen calls for its users back in 2022. It already offers several voices to choose from, but the personal voice feature of Microsoft's Azure AI Speech gives users the capability to make a custom digital assistant that sounds like them. 

Users will have to record themselves reading a sentence giving Truecaller consent to use their voice. They'll also have to read a training script that the technology will then use to capture their speaking style to be able to create a convincing digital audio replica. When someone calls them, the assistant will then screen it and introduce itself as the "digital" version of the user. In the product demo presented by Truecaller Product Director and General Manager Raphael Mimoun, for instance, his assistant answered a call with: "Hi there! I'm digital Raphael Mimoun! May I ask who's calling?" After the caller responds, the assistant then asks if the call is urgent or if it can wait before pushing it through. 

"By integrating Microsoft Azure AI Speech’s personal voice capability into Truecaller, we've taken a significant step towards delivering a truly personalized and engaging communication experience," Mimoun said in a statement. That said, it could also feel unsettling, maybe even creepy, for callers to interact with a robotic version of their friend or colleague. 

Microsoft demonstrated Azure AI Speech's personal voice at Build this year, where it also revealed that digital creativity company Wondershare is integrating the new feature into its video editing tools. That will also allow Wondershare users to create an AI assistant using their voice, which they can then use to create audiobooks and podcasts. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/microsofts-azure-ai-speech-lets-truecaller-users-create-an-ai-assistant-with-their-own-voice-133019270.html?src=rss

Kobo Clara Colour review: Judging books by their covers is now more fun

Kobo isn’t the first on the color-ereader scene; Boox and Pocketbook have had color ereaders and tablets for years. Both of those companies make beautiful, premium devices that are highly capable and customizable — but they don’t offer the plug-and-play ereader experience of a Kindle or Kobo. Of all the ereaders I’ve tried over the past year, I’ve found Kobos do the best job of combining a user-friendly interface with quality hardware. And now that hardware has a new trick with a color screen on the Clara Colour.

It’s noteworthy that Kobo beat Kindle to the punch in getting a color ereader out the door. To be fair, Amazon is busy doing, well, everything, but it’s safe to bet that a color Kindle will be coming soon. For now, though, Kobo’s Clara Colour is the consumer-friendly color ereader to beat. A beefier processor makes it zippier than its already-fast predecessor, and the addition of color looks lovely, without detracting from the crisp and easy-to-read text. I’ll admit, I’m not an ereader diehard; I often return to my first love, print. But a few weeks with Kobo’s latest has me more excited than ever about reading on this cozy, effortless machine. 

Most e-paper devices rely on a display made by E Ink. The Clara Colour uses the company’s new Kaleido 3 panel, which adds a printed Color Filter Array (CFA) layer on top of the existing black-and-white microcapsule layer. The color layer can display around 4,000 colors, with a resolution of 150 dpi. To be clear, a full color page on the Clara Colour looks nothing like what you’d get from the most basic LED screen. E-paper colors are muted and saturated, reminiscent of ‘70s comic book covers. But, also unlike LED, E Ink color panels actually look better under bright light.

The Kobo Clara Colour and the Kobo Clara 2E sit side by side.
Comparing the two generations at the same settings. Kobo Clara Colour (left) is warmer and slightly dimmer at 100% than the Kobo Clara 2E (right).
Photo by Amy Skorheim / Engadget

The monochrome microcapsule layer creates sharp, 300 dpi text, same as the previous generation. But set side-by-side with the Clara 2E, the Clara Colour’s page does look less sharp. Get close to the screen and you’ll notice noise in the white parts of the page. The warm front light is more amber, too. That’s the nature of the color filter array: since it’s always there, any text you read is filtered through that layer. I have to stress that it’s only something I noticed because I’m writing this review and digging deep into the performance as compared to the previous generation. When it comes to actually reading, I found I preferred the softer, warmer effect of the Colour. It reminds me of the pulpy mass-market Stephen King and Anne Rice paperbacks I grew up reading.

Kobo’s customization options aren’t overly involved, but they grant enough control so you can change things like the typeface, font size, line spacing and margin width, as well as brightness and light warmth. On the outside, the Kobo Clara 2E and the Clara Colour look nearly identical. The screen is slightly more recessed on the Colour model and the soft-touch plastic is more textured, which is actually a benefit because it shows fewer fingerprints. The centimeter-wide bezels are just big enough for your thumb, which, along with the textured back, makes the reader easy to hold from different positions. It’s small enough I can grip it around the back, but I have larger hands, so that might not work for everyone.

With an IPX8 rating, the Clara Colour can handle full submersion in water. I haven’t gone that far with this review unit, but I did survive when I accidentally splashed water on it when washing my hands in the bathroom. Why was it in the bathroom? Because I stash my book near the toilet so I don’t sit there and stare at my phone. It’s the tactic that got me reading again after I had a kid and was temporarily convinced I’d never finish another book. I heartily recommend it, particularly with a reading device like this one that can handle the watery environment of a restroom. 

The Kobo Clara Colour and a trade paperback display the same page of a book.
Photo by Amy Skorheim / Engadget

The Clara Colour’s new chip makes loading menus, performing searches and flipping pages a touch faster than with the previous generation. The speed increase doesn’t amount to a drastically different experience, but quicker page turns keep the action going. Like if Murderbot is protecting its humans from HostileSecUnit1 and suddenly there’s another SecUnit at the bottom of the page, you need to know as fast as technologically possible what goes down next. Browsing for a new book and checking out previews is speedier, too, something I appreciate when everything on my dutifully curated TBR list looks like broccoli and I want ice cream.

The UX is the same as all Kobos that don’t support stylus input, with just four options along a bottom menu bar: Home, My Books, Discover and More. Discover takes you to the Kobo store, where you can look for ebooks, audiobooks and titles from KoboPlus, the company’s monthly subscription for unlimited access to a selection of books (aka Kobo’s answer to Amazon Unlimited).

Discover’s recommendation section has a running list of titles called Just for You and, under Related Reads, suggests books you might like based on works you’ve finished. The connective threads between the titles isn’t anything surprising, but they offer a good place to start if you’re noodling on what to read next.

The Kobo Clara Colour sits on concrete in full sun.
Photo by Amy Skorheim / Engadget

Kobo’s deep integration with OverDrive lets you borrow any title your local library has available with just a few seconds of setup and a library card. Clicking the three dots near the Buy button on any book brings up the option to borrow (or place a hold on) the ebook from your library. I admire how deeply Kobo supports the feature, placing something free and public on par with paid books and subscriptions.

Other features are nice to have, like gathering your Pocket articles from the web so you can read them later in the more focused environment of your Kobo. There’s also a beta web browser that I used to look up the Wikipedia entry on the Mason-Dixon line when I read Percival Everett’s James and the one for rook (the bird) when reading Tana French’s The Hunter. The browser’s not equipped for heavy surfing, but that’s a good thing. The extra effort it takes to browse keeps me on target with my reading. At the same time, I’m happy to dig up a little background info without picking up my phone, where the distractions are plentiful and compulsive.

There’s no escaping the fact that a Kobo ereader is not a Kindle. But the advantages Kindle has over Kobo are mostly in the availability of titles, not in hardware. The Kobo Clara Colour is most directly comparable to the standard Kindle. They have the same basic shape, the same size screen with 300 dpi text and 16GB of storage. But the Kindle is $50 cheaper.

However! Amazon’s device will serve you ads on the lockscreen and it costs $20 extra to remove them. It’s also not waterproof and has no warm light. No Kindle has a color display yet, but there are plenty of rumors suggesting that move is (pretty obviously) on the horizon. For now, though, color is another point in Kobo’s favor.

That said, if you’ve spent the past decade amassing a small library on Amazon, you won’t be able to access it on a Kobo without some major, quasi-unlawful finagling. I only have a few Kindle titles from my past, so starting over with Kobo didn’t feel like a loss.

Amazon’s ebook store is larger than Kobo’s, boosted by Kindle Direct Publishing exclusives and self-published books. Kobo has its own self-publishing program, but it’s far smaller. That said, every in-print book from a major publisher will show up in both the Kindle and the Kobo store. Every title I’ve searched for in the Kobo store was readily available.

The Kobo Clara Colour is propped up on a shelf with decorative doodads nearby. The device displays the cover of a fantasy novel.
Photo by Amy Skorheim / Engadget

Amazon’s subscription program, Kindle Unlimited, is bigger too, with four million combined audio- and ebook titles available. Comparatively, Kobo Plus currently claims 1.5 million ebooks and 150,000 audiobooks. Kobo’s plan is a tad cheaper at $10 per month to both read and listen, or $8 for ebooks only. Kindle Unlimited is $12 monthly and gives you access to both formats. Neither subscription includes bestselling titles from major authors, but there’s still plenty to choose from.

However, Kobo’s ebook access does outmatch Kindle's in two ways: the ability to shop third-party outlets and an easier OverDrive experience. Amazon uses its own digital rights management (DRM) technology, whereas most everyone else relies on Adobe’s DRM. That means if you buy a book from most major publishers on a third-party site (like ebooks.com or Google Books), you won’t be able to read the ePub file on your Kindle. There are a few extra steps for reading those titles on a Kobo, but it's easy enough. As for OverDrive, reading public library books on a Kindle isn’t hard, but you have to first go to OverDrive’s or your library’s site, find your book and select “read on Kindle” as the delivery option. With a Kobo, you click the three dots next to Buy, select Borrow and start reading seconds later on the same device.

The big question is whether the addition of color makes the Kobo Clara Colour better and worth the $10 over the previous generation. The faster processor alone makes up for the price hike and the waterproof build, warm front lights and lack of ads makes for a more premium ereader that justifies the $50 price disparity between the Clara Colour and the basic Kindle.

As for the color screen, it doesn’t make much difference when you’re reading a typical ebook. And the extra layer does add some noise to the whitespace and gives everything a warmer glow. But I didn’t mind the minute drop in clarity and actually preferred the softer, cozier appearance of the page. Colors look lovely on the book covers in my collection and recommended titles draw me to them with their muted blues and washed out reds.

You’ve probably heard of that trick where you switch your phone’s screen to grayscale to reduce its appeal. It seems to actually work, so I have to imagine the opposite is true, too. Anything that makes reading material more attractive — and better able to compete with the technicolor onslaught of digital distraction — is a win in my book.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/kobo-clara-colour-review-judging-books-by-their-covers-is-now-more-fun-130013382.html?src=rss

Google introduces password sharing for family members

Google's Password Manager now allows password sharing, albeit in a limited way with family members, Android Authority has reported. "With this new feature, you can now securely share your passwords with your family group in Google Password Manager. When you share a password, your family members will receive a copy of it in their Google Password Manager, ready to be used," Google wrote in a support document.

Google first announced the feature in February 2024 as part of Safer Internet Day, but it's finally rolling the feature out as part of its May 2024 Google Play Services update v24.20. Password sharing is strictly limited to members of a family group, so you'll need to create one and add any members to use it.

Google password sharing
Android Authority

If you do have a family group, a "share" button should appear as an option in Google's Password Manager. However, Android Authority noted that the feature may not yet be enabled in the desktop version of Chrome. 

Earlier, Google wrote about potential examples of using it, like if "two members of a family are coordinating with daycare through a single account, or a child is letting a parent access their school assignments." 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/google-introduces-password-sharing-for-family-members-123018295.html?src=rss

Sous vide machines aren't haute cuisine, they're Millennial crockpots — and that's why they're perfect

A poker face is among the many qualities I was born without, so when I unwrapped the Anova Precision Cooker Nano about 14 months ago, I'm sure my visibly confused mug completely undermined my attempt at an enthusiastic "wow, uh… thanks!" What on earth was I supposed to do with this goofy thing? For the better part of a year, it sat in a kitchen drawer.

Don't misunderstand me here: I love to cook. And my dear friends who bought me what most closely resembles some sort of food lightsaber are almost pathologically good gift-givers. But there were two complete misconceptions fighting for space in my head.

On one hand, I grew up watching Good Eats, and Alton Brown's axiom of "no unitaskers!" still reverberates skullwise. My limited understanding of sous vide indicated its primary use case was satisfying those in search of the perfect reverse sear. Frankly, steak doesn't do much for me, and unless I'm making it for a partner it's rarely something that graces my kitchen. This was a totem of carnivorous vanity, and I wanted no part in its rituals.

I also associated sous vide methods with the sort of intimidating, molecular gastronomy-style cuisine that is typically a fool's errand for home cooks. Dry ice smoke infused with rosemary. Alginate spheres of sauce. That sort of thing. Would looking up the cook temperature and time laid out in reference tables on Serious Eats feel more like calculating lathe operations than making dinner? Did I really need my proteins cooked within a degree of medium rare just to fulfill my basic goals of "eat things that taste okay" and "don't starve"? Oh my god, I was going to have to buy one of those vacuum sealers and a cambro to cook things in! This had quickly become a culinary albatross around my neck.

Dear reader, by now you've guessed the twist of this story: I'm an idiot. Not only is a sous vide machine neither of those things, it's actually the perfect tool for someone like me who cooks herself a huge batch of something on Sunday and grazes on it through the workweek. Sous vide is just a crockpot for Millennials.

"I can get an actual crockpot for 40 bucks," you might be saying. Oh, you sweet, misinformed angel, we have no use for such trifles any longer. Yes, both of them free up a burner on the stove for fussier cooking activities. But having granular control over temperature means not worrying that what's cooking on the countertop all day is actually safe to eat. It's also next to impossible to burn down your apartment with a sous vide, so I feel significantly more comfortable letting it run for a few hours while I'm at the gym.

Let's say, hypothetically, you're someone whose executive functions aren't always operating at peak performance (couldn't be me!). Mazel tov, you get to experience a sous vide perk so good it feels like cheating: just put the marinade in the bag. Instead of dirtying a bowl and waiting six to 12 hours to even start cooking, I've been shocked at how well flavors infuse from inside a Ziploc. A few sliced chicken breasts with soy sauce, sake, mirin, oil, the usual mix of ginger and alliums and a little juice from a pomelo I had sitting around? Mwah. Delish.

Better still, it adds no extra time or effort to cook in volume with sous vide, so I made two bags of the aforementioned chicken and froze one. When I was having a Depression Week and didn't much feel like cooking, I defrosted it and cut it into chunks for salad.

To get the obvious out of the way, no, I didn't need to buy a bunch of cambros — a standard stockpot does just fine for me. A Ziploc bag and some understanding of displacement also obviated the vacuum sealer. Using one of these is very much in reach for just about any home cook.

That's not to say it can't have lofty applications. I'll most likely use that temperature accuracy to reliably cook some soft boiled eggs whenever I get up the courage to attempt tonkotsu ramen. Some people have even put them to the task of cheesemaking, which, sure, I'll probably do homemade saag paneer at some point. Why not. But for the most part, my Anova gets used every three to four weeks for relatively unfussy stuff that just keeps me alive and reasonably healthy. Thanks again, Marc and Meg, I owe you a dinner soon.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/sous-vide-machines-arent-haute-cuisine-theyre-millennial-crockpots--and-thats-why-theyre-perfect-120011856.html?src=rss

The Morning After: Starliner’s launch pushed back again

Starliner, the Boeing-made vehicle intended to carry the next generation of astronauts, has had its launch scrubbed once again. NASA called off the maiden crewed launch after a number of key engineering faults were discovered, and has declined to announce a new test date. Until then, the two personnel expected to soar into the heavens will just have to standby and hope that engineers are able to address the flaws with the Boeing-made craft.

— Dan Cooper

Bluesky finally has DMs, with encrypted messaging coming ‘down the line’

Snap brings its AR lenses to Chrome through an extension

There’s a new Vision show coming to Disney+ with Paul Bettany

New research places the sun's magnetic field close to the surface, upending decades of theories

INDIKA weaves a mature tale of absurdity, hypocrisy and sexual violence

Volkswagen indefinitely delays the ID.7 electric sedan’s arrival in North America

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Image of Steve Dent holding a Panasonic S9
Photo by Steve Dent / Engadget

Steve Dent, our resident camera expert, has been playing with Panasonic’s new S9, its attempt to out-do Fujifilm’s cameras with film simulation. The S9 comes with a dedicated Look Up Table button, which will let you tweak the stills and video with custom film filters. Unfortunately, that comes at the cost of some other key features that may, or may not, be worth the trade off.

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OpenAI didn't intend to copy Scarlett Johansson's voice, 'The Washington Post' reports

Scarlett Johansson accused OpenAI of using a soundlike when she wouldn’t lend her voice to one of its products. Now, the company has fired back, claiming that its courting of the actress took place long after the “Sky” voice had been cast, and that nothing sinister went down here. Even though OpenAI CEO Sam Altman tweeted “her” as a reference to the character ScarJo played in the movie of the same name.

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This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-morning-after-starliners-launch-pushed-back-again-111527644.html?src=rss

Microsoft outage impacts Bing, Copilot, ChatGPT internet search and other sites

Multiple Microsoft services including Bing and Copilot, along with ChatGPT internet search and DuckDuckGo are down in Europe, Bleeping Computer reported. Bing.com and Copilot return blank pages and 429 errors, while DuckDuckGo simply states: "There was an error displaying the search results. Please try again."

On its @MSFT365Status X page, Microsoft stated that "We're investigating an issue where users may be unable to access the Microsoft Copilot service. We're working to isolate the cause of the issue. More information can be found in the admin center under CP795190." OpenAI also confirmed the issue and said it's investigating. 

Both ChatGPT internet search (available to Plus or corporate users) and DuckDuckGo rely on the Bing API, hence why those sites are down as well. The outage appears to have started at around 3AM ET today (May 23). 

Microsoft was clobbered by another outage in January, when Teams went down across North and South America. The company was also hit by a massive breach that same month, with a US government review board calling Microsoft's security culture "inadequate" and in need of an overhaul.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/microsoft-outage-impacts-bing-copilot-chatgpt-internet-search-and-other-sites-102456872.html?src=rss

The best projector for 2024

If you’ve contemplated getting a home theater projector recently, you’re not alone. Maybe your years-old, 55-inch TV has started to feel stale, or you want to take viewing parties outside to your yard and want something more flexible than a standard set. A projector could be a good option for you, and thanks to recent technological advancements, they’re more viable choices than ever before. No longer the clunky, dim models of the past, the latest machines are brighter, sharper, more compact and easier than ever to install. But most importantly, they have much improved image quality now and they can achieve screen sizes that no regular TV could. If you want a true, big-screen viewing experience, a good home theater projector is the best way to get it.

But there are dozens of projectors to choose from today, with options running from ultra-short-throw to portable to long-throw. There are also a lot of terms to understand, like lens shift, LCD vs. DLP, laser vs. lamp illumination and more. In this buying guide, we’ll help you understand everything you need to know before purchasing the best projector for your needs within your budget, and detail our topic picks across all of the different types of projectors available today.

Since the last time we updated our guide, ultra-short-throw projectors have become the hot new category, offering several benefits. You can mount them close to the wall like a TV, with no need to run wires through the walls and ceiling, but still get an immersive image as large as 120 inches — something that’s impossible with a TV unless you’re very rich. They use brighter lasers that never need to be replaced — and because laser light is collimated, focusing is eliminated.

They’re also physically less awkward to install than a ceiling-mounted projector, though that doesn’t mean installation is super easy. To get the perfect screen fit and alignment, you must place them an exact height and distance from your wall or screen. This can be quite a pain, as I’ve discovered.

You also need a perfectly flat wall or projector screen, because ultra-short-throw projectors beam up at an acute angle, so any imperfections will show as shadows. For that reason, you can’t use a roll-down screen because they have slight ripples.

For the best results, particularly with a lot of ambient light, you should use an ambient light-rejecting (ALR) screen. Those have small ridges that reflect light from below back to your eyes, but absorb any light (ie ambient light) that comes from above. For one of those, you’ll need to budget at least $450 and way up. Some projectors, including models from Epson and HiSense, come with ALR screens.

Elite Starling motorized screen
Elite Starling

Home theater projectors generally range in brightness between 2,000 to 4,000 lumens, but you'll need to take those figures with a grain of salt. Some models might actually hit 3,000 lumens or more, but cranking the lamp to that level will hurt the image quality and lifespan of your bulb. Also, some manufacturers tend to exaggerate maximum brightness.

As a point of reference, many 4K flat panel TVs nowadays can hit 1,000 nits of brightness, but the brightest consumer projectors only display between 100 and 150 nits from the screen. That’s not as big a deal as it might seem, because projector images are much larger and meant to be used in dark rooms, where your eyes will automatically adjust to the light and “brighten” the image.

Contrast is also substantially different on home theater projectors. Unlike OLED TVs, projectors don’t allow for zero black levels because of ambient light, reflections and other reasons. You also can’t have local dimming zones found on LED TVs for true blacks. Some projectors do have a dynamic iris to improve the contrast scene-by-scene, but those can often produce a “pumping” effect, with the image dimming or brightening in mid-scene.

A big advantage of regular long throw projectors is that you can mount the projector and screen on the ceiling, using zero space in your room. If you plan to do that, don’t forget to budget for a mounting bracket and any necessary long cables, including extra power for Google's finicky Chromecast. Also, keep in mind that it's easier to mount a lightweight home theater projector, and DLP models are usually lighter than those with LCD tech.

Some projectors are noisier than others, and usually the more you spend, the less noise you get. Many of the new 4K DLP projectors, when operating in 4K mode, are particularly noisy. There's one other (cool) thing: if you have a portable projector or even one that is relatively easy to take down and put up, you can take it outside for magical night screenings under the stars.

As related to projectors, these things could each take up an entire article. In fact, they have — for a deeper dive, take a look at Projector Central’s excellent takes on HDR and resolution.

On the resolution front, only expensive projectors have native 4K resolution; indeed, most movie theaters still use 2K projectors for various reasons. However, there are many relatively inexpensive DLP projectors that use pixel-shifting to attain 4K resolution. That system emits each pixel four times while moving it to the correct position for a 4K image, all in less than 1/60th of a second. As such, it puts as many pixels on the screen in the same amount of time as a 4K native projector — and visually, it performs nearly as well.

On the other hand, Epson's LCD “4K enhanced” projectors also have 1080p resolution, but the image is just shifted twice, not four times. So, those projectors are not 4K natively or otherwise, but do produce double the pixel count of a 1080p projector. If you really want a 4K native projector, you’ll have to pay: two of the cheapest ones are Sony's VPL-VW295ES ($5,000) and JVC's DLA-NX5 ($5,000).

HDR is a very different animal on projectors compared to TVs. As mentioned, projectors can’t produce anywhere close to the amount of light required (1,000 nits) to qualify as true HDR. Rather, they use a technique called tone-mapping to fit the entire HDR gamut into a lower brightness range.

For that reason, among others, almost all projectors only support HDR10. Only one uses Dolby Vision (the Xiaomi Laser Cinema 2, only available officially in China), and just a couple of models work with Samsung’s HDR10+ — and those are Samsung’s own Premiere 4K models. However, most support a wider 10-bit color gamut that allows for superior color reproduction.

Samsung LSP7T - The Premiere OFI
Samsung

If you're mounting a short- or long-throw projector between five and 25 feet, you might need to consider the zoom range and whether the projector has a lens shift option. A decent zoom range will make it easier to mount the projector where you want with the screen size that you want.

Lens shift, meanwhile, is used if the projector is mounted higher or lower relative to the screen than recommended by the manufacturer (or any horizontal distance off center). That creates a trapezoidal shaped image, but by dialing in some lens shift, you can optically square it up. Otherwise, you might have to use a "keystone correction," which digitally stretches or shrinks part of the image, resulting in noticeable distortion or pixel artifacts. Digital correction might not work in gaming modes either, for some projector models.

If you’re interested in a gaming projector, you’ll want to look up the refresh rate and input lag figures. Some new projectors from Viewsonic, Optoma and others offer up to 240 Hz 1080p refresh rates and input lag settings down to 4 or 5 milliseconds. However, some projectors designed more for home entertainment have very poor input lag and refresh rates at just 60 Hz.

Finally, portable projectors have become popular enough to merit discussion this year. They’re relatively cheap, compact and portable and can run on batteries – making them ideal for entertainment outside or while camping. These outdoor projectors are not nearly as bright as others, of course, but are more designed for a fun night of entertainment under the stars.

As with previous updates, I’m dividing projectors into ultra-short-throw and long-throw categories. As mentioned, ultra-short-throw models have rapidly established themselves in the market due to the extra performance and convenience, and all manufacturers sell at least a couple of models. Within the ultra-short-throw category, We’ll compare two price categories: under $7,000 and $3,500, with three projectors each. In the long-throw category, we’re again looking at projectors under $1,000, $2,000 and $6,000, with three products in each range. Finally, we’ll take a look at the best portable projectors.

If you need the brightest possible image, Epson’s LCD-powered EpiqVision Ultra LS500 ($3,899) delivers. It’s rated at up to 4,000 lumens, making it one of the brightest ultra-short-throw projectors in any price range. It also supports HDR modes in HDR10 and HLG and is sold with both 100-inch and 120-inch ALR screens, making the price effectively lower. The main drawback is that it only offers double the pixels of 1080p, rather than four times like competing DLP tech. It also offers a relatively weak 10-watt built-in speaker system.

This is HiSense’s new $4,300 flagship UST that uses a tricolor laser to achieve high brightness (3,000 ANSI lumens) and an incredible 107 percent BT.2020 HDR coverage, topping even Samsung’s formidable LSP9T. It has a powerful 40W Dolby Atmos sound system and built-in Android TV with Google Assistant and Alexa. Best of all, that price includes a 100-inch ALR Daylight screen, or for an extra $500, you can get it with a 120-inch ALR cinema screen.

Optoma’s $6,000 UHZ65LV also uses a long-lasting laser light source to deliver a 5,000 lumen image, much brighter than any lamp-powered projector. It also delivers true 4K resolution up to 60p, thanks to the TI 0.66-inch DLP chip. The extra brightness and contrast make it ideal for HDR10 or HLG content. It also comes with desirable features for a long-throw laser projector, like a 1.6x zoom and vertical lens shift.

Speaking of long-throw laser projectors, LG’s $3,000 CineBeam HU810PW is another excellent pick at a much lower price point. There are some compromises, as the laser light pushes out a lower 2,700 lumens (that’s still a lot), and it has a smaller 0.47-inch DLP chip that delivers slightly lower perceived resolution. However, it has dual blue and green lasers which help it deliver accurate HDR colors with an excellent 97 percent DCI-P3 coverage. It also offers a 1.6x zoom with lens shift and an HDMI 2.1 port that allows for 4K at 60p with up to 12-bit color depth. It comes with LG’s webOS, so it supports Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services without the need for a dongle.

If you’re looking for a true, native 4K projector, Sony’s $4,500 VPL-VW295ES is the least costly option out there. It’s by far the sharpest 4K projector in this roundup, thanks to Sony’s proprietary 4K SXRD native DCI 4K (4,096 x 2,160) panels. It also delivers extremely accurate colors, with 100 percent DCI-P3 coverage and HDR10/HLG support. You also get niceties like a 2.06 zoom lens with powered zoom, lens shift and focus. The main drawback is a relatively dim 1,500 lumen brightness, but it’s a top pick if picture quality is paramount above all.

Optoma’s CinemaX P2 made our list last year, but it’s one of the best projectors now because the price has dropped considerably. It delivers 3,000 lumen brightness, impressive contrast ratio and accurate colors with 80 percent DCI-P3 coverage. It’s not quite as sharp as the pricier projectors, as it uses TI’s 0.47-inch rather than 0.66-inch DLP tech, though you’ll still get a near-4K image.

The CinemaX P2 may also better match your living room decor, as it comes in white rather than dark grey like the P1. The 40-watt NuForce Dolby Digital 2.0 soundbar is one of the best on any ultra-short-throw projector, as well. On the downside, it does offer apps but they’re not as good as you’ll find on, say, Google’s Chromecast.

BenQ’s first UST laser projector is at the top end of the price scale at $3,500, but it offers some impressive capabilities. Light output is a bright 2,500 ANSI lumens and it delivers a full 98 percent DCI-P3 coverage for as good an HDR experience as you can get on a projector. You also get a Filmmaker Mode to see colors as the directors intended. It’s powered by Android TV so you get all the streaming services and apps you want, along with apps, games and more. The downside is the lack of decent speakers, as it only offers dual 5-watt speakers with clear sound but limited bass.

If you’re okay with 1080p projection, Epson’s EpiqVision Ultra LS300W is a very interesting option because of the design, excellent sound, built-in Android TV and extreme 3,600 ANSI lumen brightness. That allows for a wide color gamut with no rainbow effect, excellent connectivity and very good sound without the need to buy a soundbar or surround sound system. Best of all, it’s priced at just $2,000, making it one of the cheaper short-throw projectors out there.

For extra brightness and speed for gaming, the answer is Optoma’s all-new, $1,600 4K-capable UHD38. It cranks the lumens up to 4,000 and like the Viewsonic PX701-4K, offers 240Hz gaming at 1080p with one of the lowest latency figures we’ve seen yet in a projector at 4.2 milliseconds. Otherwise, you can do 4K 60 Hz gaming with 16.7 milliseconds of lag, which is very quick for 4K. It’s optimized more for gaming than entertainment unlike BenQ’s HT3550i, but it can still handle HDR10 and HLG. It supports both zoom (albeit just 1.1x), but also vertical and horizontal lens shift.

Epson’s $2,000 Home Cinema 4010 4K Pro is the Cadillac of under-$2K home projectors thanks to features like 2,400 lumen brightness, dynamic iris, and motorized zoom (2.1x), focus and lens shift. This Epson projector delivers in picture quality too, covering 100 percent of the DCI-P3 color space in cinema mode with both HDR10 and HLG. It also offers near-4K quality using 1,920 x 1,080 LCD image chips with pixel shifting. The drawbacks are lack of support for 60Hz 4K due to the HDMI 1.4 ports.

If you need that, want to pay a bit less and don’t care about the motorized focus, Epson’s $1,700 Home Cinema 3080 4K Pro is the way to go. It offers similar features like HDR10 and HLG, but supports 4K 60p thanks to the HDMI 2.0b ports. There’s no motorization and the zoom drops to 1.6x, but it supports generous tilt, shift and zoom ranges.

For around $700, the BenQ HT2050A is still one of the best budget 1080p projectors. It delivers where it counts with the best contrast (ANSI 1,574:1) and color accuracy in its class, and is reasonably bright as well, with 2,200 lumens in "vivid" mode. On top of that, it comes with a 1.3x zoom and vertical lens shift option for maximum installation flexibility. The drawbacks include slightly excessive fan noise, rainbow effect and red-tinted 3D.

If you’re looking to spend a little less on a budget projector, the Optoma HD146X is your best option. Using DLP tech, it delivers 1080p at up to 3,600 lumens with excellent brightness, color accuracy, contrast and black levels. You also get decent (16.4-millisecond) input lag for gaming. The drawbacks are a single HDMI port, 1.1x optical zoom and poor built-in audio.

This $470 model is designed specifically for outdoor entertainment, so it’s battery-powered and splash and shock resistant – making it your best bet for backyard movie nights or for watching sports events, camping and more. It’s also one of the brightest portable projectors out there and has a battery life of up to three hours. This outdoor projector only delivers 720p resolution, but it does come with a streaming app in the form of Aptoide TV.

This 1080p projector has a pretty rich feature set considering the $600 price including a battery. This portable projector delivers 400 lumens for reasonably bright outdoor use, has a reasonably powerful 2x3W speaker system with Dolby Digital Plus, comes with Android TV and has a built-in stand for easy adjustment.

Here are the basics: Traditional projectors generally use two types of technology, LCD and DLP. They’re fundamentally different systems, with their own advantages and drawbacks.

The rise of ultra-short-throw projectors and brighter long-throw models, meanwhile, has been powered by falling prices in laser illumination technology. Lasers are a far better solution than lamps, because they’re brighter and last far longer — up to 30,000 hours instead of 6,000. That’s essentially a lifetime of use (about 10 years).

Most projector manufacturers now use DLPs, or digital light processing units, manufactured nearly exclusively by Texas Instruments (TI). The heart of the tech is an optical semiconductor called a digital micromirror device (DMD) that contains millions of aluminum mirrors. Those tilt either toward the light source (on) or away from it (off) at up to 5,000 times per second.

Budget projectors like BenQ’s HT3550i use TI’s 0.47-inch DMD, while higher end models, like the Samsung Premium LSP9T use the 0.66-inch chip. Both use mirrors that tilt by +12 and -12 degrees for white and black, but TI recently unveiled a new 0.47-inch 4K-capable DMD with +/-17 degrees of tilt, which should enhance both brightness and contrast.

DLP projector makers include LG, Optoma, LG, BenQ and Panasonic. The benefits of the tech are portability, high contrast, less fringing and cheaper projectors, especially 4K and ultra-short-throw models. The biggest drawback is the rainbow effect, or bright red/blue/green artifacts that affect some viewers more than others.

LCD tech, meanwhile, uses a prism to split a light source into red, green and blue beams. Those then pass through LCD displays containing the image and converge via another prism before passing through the projector’s lens.

Epson is the primary user of LCD tech, along with Sony, Sanyo and others. LCD projectors tend to be sharper, more efficient and more color accurate, but have lower contrast ratios and can experience image degradation over time. In general, they’re also more expensive.

Yes, because higher resolution is more noticeable on larger screens, so 4K is particularly useful with projectors since they beam images up to 200 inches in size. That being said, brightness and contrast are more important.

Projectors can provide a more immersive experience thanks to the large screen, but they’re not necessarily “better.” Since you usually have to dim the lights with a projector, TVs are superior for everyday use.

Yes, 2000 lumens is easily bright enough, even with some ambient light in the room. However, the image will still be hard to see with the windows open on a bright day.

That depends on your budget and needs. If your budget is below $1,000, look for a 1080p projector with the best brightness and contrast. Between $1,000-$2,000, you’ll need to weigh whether brightness or 4K resolution is most important. Above that, choose the brightest 4K projector you can afford.

The best projectors in daylight are ultra short throw (UST) models, as they have the brightest and sharpest image. However, they generally cost more than $2,000.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-projectors-123004354.html?src=rss

How to make the most of your Instant Pot

Instant Pots had a huge moment a few years ago. Promising to be an all-in-one multi-cooker that can replace gadgets like a rice cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker and more, the Instant Pot rose to fame in part thanks to its versatility and also the fact that it’s a good electric pressure cooker. The latter is one of its biggest appeals, and it’s made the Instant Pot popular with home cooks in particular (including many of us on the Engadget staff).

Maybe you bought an Instant Pot at the height of the craze, or you just picked one up on discount. It can be overwhelming to decide what to do with a small appliance like this that seemingly does everything. In this guide, we’ll give you a primer on the first steps you should take when you get one, some tips and tricks on how to use it and a few favorite recipes and source links. A lot of this comes from personal experience; I've been an Instant Pot owner for a few years. I'll also note that the listed recipes reflect my own taste, but hopefully this guide will provide a good start for your own culinary adventures and help you find the best Instant Pot model for you.

Should you own multiple Instant Pots? These women do

For the uninitiated, the Instant Pot is an "all-in-one" kitchen gadget that promises to replace a rice cooker, a yogurt maker, a slow cooker and more. But the real reason the Instant Pot has risen to fame is that it's also a very good electric pressure cooker. This lets you cook food at an accelerated rate; imagine pulled pork in an hour instead of five or a chicken curry done in 10 minutes. And because it's electric, you just press a few buttons and walk away. Unlike a stovetop pressure cooker, there's no need to keep a constant eye on it.

There are several Instant Pot models to choose from. Some of the lower-end ones lack the yogurt mode, and a couple of the higher-end models have extra features like sous-vide cooking and canning, but even the basic models have the pressure cooker function, and indeed, much of this guide focuses on that.

If you’re interested in trying sous vide but don’t want to make an investment in a standalone device, then the Instant Pot Pro, the Duo Plus, the Pro Plus, the Duo Crisp or the Max are good choices.

The Instant Pot has three parts: the housing with the cooking element at the bottom; the stainless steel inner pot; and the lid, which comes with a sealing ring plus a steam-release valve. Setup is as easy as putting the inner pot inside the housing and plugging it in. You'll also want to attach the tiny condensation collector on the back if the instructions call for it.

The first thing to do is a "water test," which not only helps familiarize you with the basic pressure cooker features, but confirms your appliance is in proper working order. To do this, put three cups of water in the pot, twist the lid on — it'll make a sound when it's locked in place — and set the pressure cooker on high for two minutes. The way to do this varies from model to model; on the Duo machines, you'll have to press Manual, select High, then dial down the time to two minutes. On something like the Ultra, you just need to go to the Pressure Cooker menu, dial it to two minutes and select High.

Instant Pot Super Bowl cookoff

Then, make sure your valve is set to "Sealing" so that the Instant Pot can build pressure. On the Duo machines, this means rotating it so the arrow points up, while on the Ultra, the valve will automatically be set to Sealing. Finally, press "Start." The Instant Pot will then build up that pressure level to High, maintain it for the set two minutes, and then stop. In some cases, you'll hear hissing and see steam coming out of the Instant Pot. This is totally normal. You'll know the Instant Pot is under pressure when the float valve pops up and the hissing quiets down.

The lid cannot be opened when the Instant Pot is under pressure; you must depressurize it first. Once the cooking is done, you can let the pot naturally depressurize (also known as "Natural Release"), which simply means leaving it alone for 20 or so minutes until the float valve comes down.If you don’t want to wait that long, you can do a manual pressure release (also known as "Quick Release") by switching the valve to "Venting." To do that on the Duo models you rotate the valve; on the Ultra, press the steam release button on top. This method will release a lot of steam, so I suggest doing this under a range hood if you have one. Again, once the float valve comes back down, you'll know the Instant Pot has been depressurized.

Doing the water test teaches you the basics of sealing the Instant Pot, setting it and depressurizing it. Plus, if anything goes wrong along the way — especially if it doesn't seal the pressure — you can call the retailer or manufacturer to troubleshoot or ask about a return or exchange. It's a step that many people skip, but I recommend it for beginners.

The Instant Pot is ready to use right out of the box, but if you want to get even more functionality out of it, then you might want to consider some accessories. The following are just a few suggestions that we think will elevate your Instant Pot experience.

Instant Pot accessories

The main reason to get an Instant Pot is to use it as a pressure cooker, but it has other functions too. If you want to use it as a slow cooker or you simply want to keep your food warm, you’ll want to invest in a tempered glass lid like our Editor-In-Chief Dana Wollman did. This lid is also a good way to keep your food covered if you want to transfer the inner pot to a table or in the fridge.

Steaming food in the Instant Pot is quick and easy, but you’ll want specific equipment to get the job done right. Instant Pot makes two styles of silicone steamers; one is a stacking model that you can use for dumplings or fish, and another is a collapsible one that is ideal for batch-cooking vegetables. If you need even more capacity, we recommend this Hatrigo mesh steamer basket.

Along your Instant Pot discovery journey, you might come across a phrase called “PIP cooking.” This stands for Pot-in-Pot and involves putting another vessel inside the Instant Pot. This method is great if you’re cooking foods that don’t contain liquid (such as cheesecake) or you simply want to cook in smaller quantities. One of our favorite accessories for this is the Aozita Stackable Steamer, which not only acts as a steamer, but also contains tiered containers so that you could cook multiple foods at once.

If you use your Instant Pot for both savory and sweet applications, then we suggest getting extra sealing rings so that the odor of one doesn’t affect the other. You don’t really want your cheesecake to smell like pulled pork or vice versa.

As the name suggests, the Instant Pot Air Fryer Lid essentially turns your Instant Pot into an air fryer. It’s a good option if you don’t want two appliances taking up space on your kitchen counter, and this add-on does a decent job of “air frying” foods. Still, the Lid really only works for small batches as well as smaller pieces of food. Even a hot dog is too large to fit inside the air fryer basket.

If you’re going to use the air fryer lid to add roasting and broiling capabilities to the Instant Pot — so you can brown a roast chicken or melt the cheese on a lasagna, for example — then it’s not a bad option. But as far as air frying goes, I’d recommend saving up and investing in one of the best air fryers instead.

When you first get the Instant Pot, you might be overwhelmed by all of the different buttons on the control panel. There are ones that say "Meat/Stew," "Chili/Beans," "Multigrain," "Egg" and even "Cake." With the exception of a few, most of these are simply shortcuts the Instant brand programmed ahead of time. You might never need to use them.

The most important buttons to know are "Sauté," which (as you might expect) lets you sauté things in the pot, and the aforementioned "Manual" or "Pressure Cooker" function. The rest are pretty superfluous, with the exception of "Keep Warm," "Cancel" and non-pressure cooking settings like the "Slow Cooker" or "Yogurt" (which helps maintain the cultured milk at a specific temperature).

Instant Pot with Air Fryer Lid

One of the things you'll learn about pressure cooking is that you don't need to add as much liquid as you would in regular recipes. But you'll still need to add some because the pressure cooker requires moisture to build that pressure. Otherwise, the Instant Pot could overheat and show an "OvHT" or “BURN” error on the display. On the other hand, you shouldn't fill it up beyond two-thirds capacity, which is handily marked on the inside of the cooking pot. The Instant Pot probably won't explode on you — it has a lot of safety features to prevent that — but you probably shouldn't test its boundaries.

Setting the pressure cooker timer for two minutes doesn't mean the entire cooking time is two minutes. You have to take into account the amount of time the Instant Pot needs to come to pressure and the time it'll need to depressurize. The more stuff you have in the pot (and the colder it is), the longer the cooking process takes. Because of that, a "five-minute" chicken curry could really be more like 10 or 15 minutes from start to finish.

The inner pot doesn't have a nonstick coating, but it is dishwasher safe, which is convenient. The rest has to be cleaned by hand, though. Also, don't make the same mistake I did and accidentally spill something hot directly on the cooking element. The outer shell is hard to clean because you can't put it in the sink — electricity and water don't mix, after all — and you risk damaging the appliance. As for the lid, hand wash it after every use. You'll also notice after a while that the sealing ring — the rubber/silicone gasket on the inside of the lid — might develop a smell as it absorbs the scent of the food you're cooking. I recommend soaking it in a vinegar solution, or you could also put it on the top rack of your dishwasher.

Sure, you can cook everything from dog food to jam in the Instant Pot, but it's not a miracle worker. You can't deep fry in it. You can't bake a pie in it. Don't be ridiculous.

This is a wide angle photograph of an African American father in his 40s preparing food for cooking dinner with his 17 year old daughter in their home kitchen in Miami, Florida.

Now you're all ready to cook, and you're probably dying to know what to make in it. Due to the popularity of the Instant Pot, you'll find no shortage of cookbooks and recipe tutorials online. The Facebook group I mentioned is a good place to start, and there are countless YouTube tutorials as well. Here are just a few of my favorite resources:

Amy and Jacky are part of the OG Instant Pot community, and their site is great for beginners. Not only will you get the low-down on the aforementioned water test, but you'll also get great recipes for bone broth, "fail-proof" rice, yogurt, cheesecake and more.

Whether or not you're into the "paleo" lifestyle, you'll like Michelle Tam's list of Instant Pot recipes. Pressure cookers are great for shortening the amount of time for cooking braised meats, and she has a lot of recipes that cater to your inner carnivore. Her Instant Pot pulled pork recipe is still my go-to, and the short ribs are great as well.

My personal favorite site for pressure-cooker recipes is probably Serious Eats. All of these recipes are fantastic. I've tried the chicken stock, the mushroom risotto, the chicken pho, the chicken and chickpea masala, and they've all been outstanding.

Another personal favorite is The New York Times’ Cooking section, which has a list of wonderful pressure-cooker-friendly recipes. My favorites are from Melissa Clark, who has written two Instant Pot cookbooks: Dinner In an Instant and Comfort in an Instant. There's a recipe in Comfort in an Instant for spaghetti and meatballs that I was hugely skeptical of but turned out to be one of the most remarkable things I've ever made. I also love the recipes for chicken korma and shrimp biryani.

Here are a few other guides that I found very useful in my own Instant Pot journey, and they contain links to many more recipes and sites than I have space for here:

With all of this information in your arsenal, you should have no fear in picking up an Instant Pot. Thankfully, not only is the base model pretty affordable at less than $100, Amazon frequently puts it on sale either on Prime Day or on Black Friday. So if you haven't bought one just yet, it's not a bad idea to wait until one of those times of year to get one at a deep discount. And when you do, come on back here, read through the guide once more and venture off on your own pressure-filled culinary adventures.

Images: Detroit Free Press via Getty Images (First Instapot); Portland Press Herald via Getty Images (Instapot / chopping board); Boogich via Getty Images (cooking)

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/instant-pot-guide-131534709.html?src=rss

OpenAI reportedly didn't intend to copy Scarlett Johansson's voice

OpenAI cast the actor of Sky's voice months before Sam Altman contacted Scarlett Johansson, and it had no intention of finding someone who sounded like her, according to The Washington Post. The publication said the flier OpenAI issued last year looked for actors that had "warm, engaging [and] charismatic" voices. They needed to be between 25 and 45 years old and had to be non-union, but OpenAI reportedly didn't specify that it was looking for a Scarlett Johansson voice-alike. If you'll recall, Johansson accused the company of copying her likeness without permission for its Sky voice assistant.

The agent of Sky's voice told The Post that the company never talked about Johansson or the movie Her with their talent. OpenAI apparently didn't tweak the actor's recordings to sound like Johansson either, because her natural voice sounded like Sky's, based on the clips of her initial voice test that The Post had listened to. OpenAI product manager Joanne Jang told the publication that the company selected actors who were eager to work on AI. She said that Mira Murati, the company's Chief Technology Officer, made all the decisions about the AI voices project and that Altman was not intimately involved in the process.

Jang also told the publication that to her, Sky sounded nothing like Johansson. Sky's actress told The Post through her agent that she just used her natural voice and that she has never been compared to Johansson by the people who know her closely. But in a statement Johansson's team shared with Engadget, she said that she was shocked OpenAI pursued a voice that "sounded so eerily similar" to hers that her "closest friends and news outlets could not tell the difference" after she turned down Altman's offer to voice ChatGPT. 

Johansson said that Altman first contacted her in September 2023 with the offer and then reached out again just two days before the company introduced GPT-4o to ask her to reconsider. Sky has been one of ChatGPT's voices since September, but GPT-4o gave it the power to have more human-like conversations with users. That made its similarities to Johansson's voice more apparent — Altman tweeting "her" after OpenAI demonstrated the new large language model didn't help with the situation and invited more comparisons to the AI virtual assistant Johansson voiced in the movie. OpenAI has paused using Sky's voice "out of respect" for Johansson's concerns, it wrote in a blog post. The actor said, however, that the company only stopped using Sky after she hired legal counsel who wrote Altman and the company to ask for an explanation. 

If you're wondering if Sky truly does sound like Johansson, we embedded a video below so you can judge for yourself. It's a recording of Johansson's statement as read by the Sky voice assistant, posted by Victor Mochere on YouTube. Opinions in the comment section are divided, with some saying that it does sound like her if she were robotic, while others say that the voice sounds more like Rashida Jones.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/openai-didnt-intend-to-copy-scarlett-johanssons-voice-the-washington-post-reports-041247992.html?src=rss

OpenAI will reportedly pay $250 million to put News Corp's journalism in ChatGPT

OpenAI and News Corp, the owner of The Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch, The Sun, and more than a dozen other publishing brands, have struck a multi-year deal to display news from these publications in ChatGPT, News Corp announced on Wednesday. OpenAI will be able to access both current and well as archived content from News Corp’s publications and use the data to further train its AI models. Neither company disclosed the terms of the deal, but a report in The Wall Street Journal estimated that News Corp would get $250 million over five years in cash and credits.

“The pact acknowledges that there is a premium for premium journalism,” News Corp Chief Executive Robert Thomson reportedly said in a memo to employees on Wednesday. “The digital age has been characterized by the dominance of distributors, often at the expense of creators, and many media companies have been swept away by a remorseless technological tide. The onus is now on us to make the most of this providential opportunity.”

Generative AI has exploded in popularity ever since OpenAI released ChatGPT at the end of 2022. But the quality of the responses provided by AI-powered chatbots is only as good as the data that is used to train the models that power it. So far, AI companies have trained their models by scraping publicly available data from the internet often without the consent of creators. But in recent times, they have been striking financial deals with the news industry to make sure that AI models can be trained on information that is current and authoritative. Over the last few months alone, OpenAI has announced partnerships with Reddit, the Financial Times, Dotdash Meredith, the Associated Press, German publisher Axel Springer, which owns Politico and Business Insider in the US and Bild and Die Welt in Germany, and Spain’s Prisa Media. Last month, News Corp also struck a deal reportedly between $5 and $6 million with Google to train its AI models, according to a report in The Information.

Google and OpenAI aren’t the only companies striking these deals to train their AI models. Hours before the News Corp announcement, Business Insider reported that Meta, which recently stuffed its own AI chatbot into Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram, and also sells AI-powered sunglasses, was thinking about striking its own deals with news publishers to get access to training data.

Money from AI companies is increasingly a growing revenue source for a struggling news industry. But some publishers are still wary of striking these deals. The New York Times has sued OpenAI and Microsoft over using content for training AI systems. And the NYT, the BBC and The Verge have blocked OpenAI from scraping their websites.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/openai-will-reportedly-pay-250-million-to-put-news-corps-journalism-in-chatgpt-214615249.html?src=rss

Bluesky finally has DMs, with encrypted messaging coming ‘down the line’

Bluesky, the open source social media service that began as an internal Twitter project, has gained a key feature as it looks to compete with X and Threads. The service has finally added direct messaging capabilities more than a year after it started onboarding new users.

Direct messages are now available on both Bluesky’s app and website, the company announced in a blog post. The default setting allows users to receive messages from people they follow, though settings can be adjusted to receive messages from “everyone” or “no one.” For now, it sounds like DMs on Bluesky are fairly basic and only support person-to-person text chats, but the company says it plans to add support for media and group messaging, as well as end-to-end encryption “down the line.”

Until then, the company notes that it will be able to access users’ messages in some situations when it’s “absolutely necessary,” such as an investigation into spam or harassment. “In rare cases, the Bluesky moderation team may need to open your DMs to investigate broader patterns of abuse, such as spam or coordinated harassment,” Bluesky says in a blog post. “This would only be done when absolutely necessary to keep Bluesky safe. Access is extremely limited and tracked internally.”

So, like most other social platforms, Bluesky DMs are probably not an ideal space for sharing sensitive information. But the addition of messaging will likely be welcome news from users hoping to make more connections on the service and have conversations out of public view.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/bluesky-finally-has-dms-with-encrypted-messaging-coming-down-the-line-193235051.html?src=rss