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Why are people pretending to be dead on Instagram?

Like with many memes, it's tough to figure out where exactly this one originated. Actress Dove Cameron tweeted about a similar trend in 2014. "The 'comment rip on my photos to scare my friends' trend on Instagram is really, very not okay," she said at the time. "Death and loss should never be disrespected." Simrin said he wasn't "really into social media" back then, but he would like to take credit for the hundreds people who are now joining in on the trend by leaving similar comments on accounts like Drake's and Kim Kardashian's. Not all of them are teenagers either. We reached out to dozens of Instagram users who are doing it, including people in their 20s and 30s, but the majority of them refused to speak on the record out of fear of being judged.

Pranks aren't anything new, but now they have the prowess of social media behind them, where their effect be amplified by how quickly they can be seen by millions of people instantly.

That's how internet challenges take on a life of their own, whether it's a viral dance of a Drake song or people dumping buckets of iced water on themselves to raise awareness for ALS. Simrin may think his prank is funny, or innocent, but it's hard to imagine his friends or family feeling the same way. Imagine if he were your son or brother and, without any context, you went to his Instagram page and saw a bunch of people telling him to rest in peace. You would likely panic immediately.

"My parents and my little sister have no idea this even occurred," said Simrin. "However my older sister thought it was pretty cool and creative."

Jeff Hancock, a professor of communication and founding director of the Stanford Social Media Lab, said that the motivation behind trends like this is just the "human psychological weirdness." He said there's no doubt these types of internet pranks are "a sick form of humor, but nonetheless, it's humor and that's human." This behavior shouldn't be blamed on social media apps, said Hancock, although Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter do make everything more visible and that leads to more mimicry and copycats. "We know from old media studies, if it bleeds, it leads," he said. "Negative emotion is much more attention-grabbing, and [making someone] think that somebody's died is about as negative as you can get."

Social media is fueled by likes, and that can drive people to inconsiderate extremes. This isn't anything new, of course, since there are endless examples of how toxic Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can be. "Because they're not in real life...looking at people who might be sad, horrified or shocked, people play the [prank] without thinking about the fact that there are people who would be upset, hurt or psychologically affected by the news of their death," said Karen North, a clinical professor of communication at USC Annenberg, who's an expert on social media and psychology. "Because that's not part of a game. The game is to get people to comment and the other game is to get people to fall for the fake report of your death."

Simrin said he's stopped leaving comments asking for RIPs because "people were getting offended," though he said that was just envy on their part. "Most of those who talk smack over the internet are just jealous," he said. "They don't wanna see people succeed in life."

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/19/instagram-rip-comments-prank/

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Telegram’s move to Swift on iOS promises a more battery-friendly app

Founder Pavel Durov said on his Telegram channel that the Swift version looks the same as the current app, but it's sleeker, faster and more battery efficient. He noted that the Telegram team is "putting some finishing touches on it," though it's pretty much ready to make the switch for all of its iOS users. A completely new codebase could mean there are some bugs or glitches, though Durov claims Telegram will quickly fix them.

Both versions of Telegram are currently available in the App Store, though it's not clear how the move will impact those who use iOS 6, which doesn't support Swift (Telegram is currently available on iOS 6). As of earlier this month, just five percent of iPhone and iPad users were using software earlier than iOS 10, while one data company estimates 0.03 percent of devices are running iOS 6. So, Telegram appears to have determined any impact on those with iOS 6 devices is worth the tradeoff as it improves the app for the vast majority of its iOS users.

It's not certain if or when Telegram will replace the core Android app with the X version. Android distribution is much more fragmented than on iOS, with over a fifth of devices still running Android Marshmallow, which was released in 2015 and last updated in October 2017.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/19/telegram-swift-ios-android-telegram-x/

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Lyft Concierge lets businesses schedule flexible rides

Lyft's Concierge service, which opened up to all businesses earlier this year, lets companies and organizations hail rides for their customers, patients and employees. While it lets those businesses offer an additional service, it's not always clear exactly when a passenger will need a ride. That's why Lyft Concierge is introducing flexible scheduling, which will let passengers use their scheduled ride when they're ready for it. Lyft notes that this new feature will be useful for passengers hit with unexpected delays, like lost baggage at an airport or a long doctor's appointment.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/19/lyft-concierge-businesses-schedule-flexible-rides/

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Programmable ‘skins’ turn any household object into a robot

Researchers in Rebecca Kramer-Bottoglio's lab placed sensors and actuators onto elastic sheet. Once the sheets are put onto an object -- for example, a stuffed animal -- the robotic skin can animate it. The sensors and actuators can then be programmed to perform different tasks based on the object in question and how the sheets have been put on it. Additionally, adding multiple sheets can increase or change functionality. The findings were published today in the journal Science Robotics.

"We can take the skins and wrap them around one object to perform a task -- locomotion, for example -- and then take them off and put them on a different object to perform a different task, such as grasping and moving an object," Kramer-Bottoglio said in a release. "We can then take those same skins off that object and put them on a shirt to make an active wearable device." The video below demonstrates how these skins can be used.

They key here is that these aren't single-purpose devices. The portability of these robotic skins, as well as the ability to program them to do different things, means that you can turn pretty much any object into a robot. That makes for a wide application of uses, without the huge investment necessary to create such a robot from scratch. These may be far from ready for commercial use, but they definitely hold promise in terms of what we can do with robotics in the future.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/19/robotic-skins-research-yale-university/

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Newegg fell victim to month-long card skimming hack

Newegg has since removed the code, but it's not certain how many people have been affected. We've asked the company for comment. In an email to customers, it said it had "not yet determined" which accounts had been compromised but was warning potentially affected users to watch their card activity. It promised an FAQ on the breach by September 21st.

It's not certain who's responsible, as the intruders went to pains to hide their identities (such as registering a domain with private details).

The attack could have far-reaching repercussions. The technology-focused shop is one of the largest online retailers in the US, with more than 45 million visitors every month. Even if only a fraction of those visitors make purchases, that's a large number of people whose cards might be in thieves' hands. The incident also suggests that Magecart is quickly becoming the weapon of choice for internet criminals who want to scoop up card data with relatively little effort.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/19/newegg-credit-card-skimming-hack/

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‘Red Dead Online’ arrives this November

The publisher says "Red Dead Online is an evolution of the classic multiplayer experience in the original Red Dead Redemption." It will combine competitive and co-op gameplay with narratives in Red Dead Redemption 2's open world. As with GTA Online, which also debuted a few weeks after Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar will release "constant updates and adjustments." Rockstar also expects to have some teething issues, hence the beta launch.

When Rockstar announced the various box sets for the game, it revealed those who buy the $100 ultimate edition set will gain some extras for Red Dead Online, including a black chestnut horse, extra weapons and outfits, a camp theme and a boost to rank 25.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/19/red-dead-online-beta-launch-red-dead-redemption-2/

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Bose Sleepbuds review: Helpful, but needs improvement

I've been a light sleeper all of my life, and living in a loud city for a decade wasn't exactly conducive to getting a good night's rest. I expected the situation to improve when we moved out to the semi-country, and it did for the most part. There was just one problem: My husband started snoring.

I tried a number of different things to deal with the sound: a very loud white noise fan mixed with a white noise machine, a pillow over my head and the tried and true "constantly jabbing him every time he started snoring so that neither of us slept a wink" (that last option was supremely unpopular in my house).

But in June, my husband took matters into his own hands and sent me a link to the newly released Bose Sleepbuds. After almost three months of continuous use, I'm ready to pronounce these the cure to my sleep ills... with some caveats, of course.

The Bose Sleepbuds are designed for one thing only: sleeping. These cannot play your music. At $249.95, that's a lot of money to drop on a single-function device.

The packaging is the sort of quality you'd expect from Bose. Once you open the box, you're greeted with the shiny white Sleepbuds nestled in a silver case. Lighting on the case indicates how much charge it has (one to five dots) and whether the Sleepbuds are currently charging. The case slides open smoothly and closes with a satisfying click, holding the earbuds secure so they don't jostle free from the charger if you're traveling. They come with two additional ear-tip sizes (with attached wing tips) to ensure a snug fit. The wing tips are key -- they're what keep the earbuds secure over the course of the night. There are also a micro-USB cable and AC adapter included for charging as well as a soft travel bag you can put the case in to prevent scratches and dings.

The earbuds have a 16-hour battery life, and the case provides a full charge. That means you can take the charging case and buds on a three- or four-day trip (depending on how much you sleep) without having to worry about packing a charging cord. They take about eight hours to charge fully, so you'll need to get in the habit of putting these back in the charger as soon as you wake up.


Setting up the earbuds was as simple as downloading the Bose Sleep app and following the on-screen instructions. I had my earbuds paired to my iPhone in no time; they are also compatible with Android devices.

Charging the Sleepbuds was another matter. The case certainly looks sleek, but it's finicky to say the least. The earbuds must be placed in exactly the right position or they won't charge. There are magnets to help guide you, but that doesn't guarantee contact. It usually takes a nudge or two to get them to actually start charging. And if you're not paying attention, this could be easy to miss. On the plus side, the magnets make sure the earbuds stay in place once you get them charging.

In use

Once your Sleepbuds are charged and you're ready for bed, it's time to fire up the app. Everything is controlled from the app. And I mean everything. If you aren't in the habit of keeping your phone by your bed, this can be frustrating (or if you just don't want to look at a screen at 2 AM). The lack of physical buttons on the case or the buds to control volume, switch white noise sounds and snooze alarms is a major oversight.

You can choose from 10 different preloaded sounds to fall asleep to. I'm partial to Cascade, which mimics a waterfall. The Warm Static sound (which is Bose's version of regular white noise) also works for me, but I find that it's much too quiet to actually block out significant noise, even at high volumes. The Sleepbuds' sounds are designed to stay low enough so they won't damage your hearing, even with long-term use. This means that those of you trying to block out a human chainsaw are probably out of luck.

You can also set an alarm (or multiple repeating alarms) through the app and choose from preloaded wake tones. It offers the ability to customize different repeat days. If your device becomes disconnected from your phone over the course of the night, your alarm will still go off as scheduled. However, placing the Sleepbuds in the case will dismiss any active alarm.

There are two major complaints with the Bose Sleepbuds: You can't add your own custom sounds, and you can't use them as regular earbuds. That being said, the entire point of the Sleepbuds is that they are as small and unobtrusive as possible so you can sleep comfortably on your side. I'd imagine that music wouldn't sound good on them, considering how tiny they are. And the fact that they are a single-function device makes for much, much better battery life. Still, if you're dissatisfied with the range of sound options, Bose does promise to make more available in the future through software updates.

The sound quality is respectable, but you can tell where some of the nature sounds loop. That's a fairly common problem with noise machines, but for the price you're paying, I'd expect a company like Bose to deliver more.

Now, it's worth noting you aren't streaming sounds from your phone -- they're actually preloaded on the earbuds. This means better battery life for your earbuds (and your iPhone) while also preventing noise dropouts and other issues that could wake you up over the course of the night. However, it also makes the lack of physical controls extra frustrating.


The Bose Sleepbuds fit extremely comfortably into my small ears. They fit snugly, and while sometimes they work themselves a little loose over the course of the night, I've never had an issue with them falling out. I'm normally a stomach sleeper, but I've been side sleeping during my pregnancy. The first few nights, I woke up with slightly sore ears, but I got used to them pretty quickly. Even if you're a side sleeper putting the weight of your head on the Sleepbuds, they're comfy to wear.

I've tried both foam and wax earplugs to block out noise while I'm sleeping. The Sleepbuds are much more comfortable than foam, which doesn't penetrate far enough into the ear canal to make side sleeping comfortable (small ears, remember?) and often falls out over the course of the night. The comfort is on par with wax earbuds, but those don't make noise, so...

Once the Bose Sleepbuds are in and the sound is cued up and the alarm is set, I drift off to sleep quickly. Beyond being a light sleeper, my anxiety often ensures that I have trouble falling asleep. The Sleepbuds have all but eliminated that problem. It's gotten to the point that once the Sleepbuds go in and the noise starts, my body immediately relaxes. When I wake up in the night, as women often do in the third trimester of pregnancy, the Sleepbuds lull me right back to sleep. I expected these to block out the external noises and they do that well, but I didn't expect them to also calm my thoughts to make it easier to sleep.

There is one issue with comfort: The white plastic part of the earbud that protrudes from the ear tips. When you're lying on it, it can make a strange rubbing or scratching sound. If you're not moving around much, it's not a big deal. But if you're tossing and turning, it can become extremely obnoxious. Usually I deal with it by adjusting the angle of my head and it's fine. But simply coating the Sleepbuds with a softer material rather than making it out of hard, shiny plastic could have avoided this entirely.

The build quality on these Sleepbuds is solid, but I've run into some hiccups. Sometimes, earbuds won't charge properly, though taking the earbuds off the charger and putting them back on does the trick. I've made a habit of checking on them in the afternoon, just to make sure they're getting a proper charge. Again, considering the price, this isn't something I should have to keep in the back of my mind. The connection can also be finicky. Putting them back in the case and taking them out to get them fixes things, but when it's late and I just want to go to sleep, it's frustrating.


There isn't much competition if you're talking strictly about earbuds. You can purchase a white noise machine, which isn't nearly as effective at masking the outside world (as I know from using multiples at once). There's also the option of playing white noise through your phone via one of countless free or paid apps.

If playing white noise through an external speaker isn't sufficient, there are also headbands you can buy that mask the hard plastic of regular earbuds and make it easier to sleep. Those usually connect to your phone (or whatever MP3 device you choose to use with them). They're much less expensive but also much less comfortable and don't have the modulation that Bose includes to prevent hearing damage.

If you're going decidedly low tech, then you can also try foam or wax earplugs. While these block out some sound, they don't have the masking capabilities of white noise.


The Bose Sleepbuds aren't perfect. They're pricey, and there are some glaring omissions -- like physical controls. But I bought these once, and if I misplaced them, I'd buy them again without hesitation. I can't overstate the difference these have made in the quality and amount of sleep I'm getting. That alone makes them worth the price. You might not be OK with the compromises necessary, but to me, they're a small price to pay for a good night's sleep.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/19/bose-sleepbuds-review/

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Amazon shopping test recommends products based on your likes

The Scout site only covers a handful of categories at the moment. Most of it involves decor and furniture, such as tables, vases and lighting. You'll also find bedding, dinnerware and women's shoes. Amazon is promising more categories in the future, so don't despair if you're unsure about toys or handbags. There's no mention of pricing, though -- be ready to visit the regular Amazon if you have a firm budget.

It's not certain when Scout premiered. We've asked Amazon for clarification, although internet archiving suggests Scout has been active for a few weeks. It won't be surprising if it becomes more prominent, though. Amazon offers a massive number of products both itself and through third parties (564 million as of January 2018), and it can be difficult to find the perfect item when it's buried under several pages of search results. This may surface products that would otherwise go unsold, helping you as well as Amazon and its partners.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/19/amazon-scout/

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Facebook’s ‘War Room’ is its latest effort to protect elections

"We see this as probably the biggest company-wide reorientation since our shift from desktops to mobile phones," Samidh Chakrabarti, head of Facebook's elections and civic engagement team, told the New York Times. The room will house computers and TVs tuned into news channels.

Chakrabarti told the publication that the dashboards designed by the company will let those in the War Room zero in on specific stories that see a spike in circulation, for example, or help them observe an increase in automated account creation within a geographic region. Facebook tested the system last December when Alabama held a special Senate election and it has been tweaking the software ever since, redesigning it in conjunction with major elections around the world. The latest version is set to debut in the War Room next week.

The room and those inside of it are meant to back up Facebook's other safeguards, which include a number of measures aimed at stemming the spread of misinformation. Since acknowledging its role in the spread of fake news ahead of the 2016 US presidential election, the social media giant has implemented features that disincentivize spreading fake news, deemphasize false news stories and requires those buying political ads to disclose who and where they are. "The best outcome for us is that nothing happens in the War Room," said Chakrabarti. "Everything else we are doing is defenses we are putting down to stop this in the first place."

The company also announced during a press call today that it has partnered with TurboVote to encourage its users to register to vote. It will also keep tabs on foreign election interference alongside both the International Republican Institute and International Democratic Institute, TechCrunch reports, and plans to publish regular reports on trends observed through its political ad archive.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/19/facebook-war-room-protect-elections-fake-news/

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Teenage Engineering’s OP-Z synth finally goes on sale in October

The OP-Z also packs in 16 independent synth, sampler and control tracks alongside 160 programmable patterns and, of course, MIDI. When it comes to visuals, Unity 3D integration and support for DMX light sequencing is here to lend a hand, and you can instantly sync images taken with a phone camera with the unit. There's also a motion sensor inside with Bluetooth, USB-C and 3.5mm connectivity all on board. The OP-Z even has a built-in microphone, should you need it.

The OP-Z is no doubt an evolution from the company's first instrument, the OP-1, that debuted in 2010. Teenage Engineering says there are "modules" in the works that will expand the abilities of the OP-Z even further -- the first of which will arrive later this year. In the meantime, early adopters can employ an iOS app that uses your phone or tablet as a display to keep tabs on things. And yes, the instrument will work with a laptop as well.

Teenage Engineering is all about portability when it comes to its products, and the OP-Z is no different. While this new piece of gear will likely cater to a more experienced audience than the hobbyist-focused Pocket Operators many of us here at Engadget enjoy, the company is making sure a more robust production rig doesn't require extra effort to lug around.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/19/teenage-engineering-op-z-synth-on-sale-october/

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