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Inside Dolby and Odeon’s mission to revive a British cinematic icon

Odeon's Leicester Square cinema is one of Europe's most famous theaters, and at 1,679 seats, one of its biggest. In central London, it has hosted hundreds of premieres and royal galas in its 81 years. Any film worth mentioning has probably debuted here, from James Bond and Harry Potter through to the most recent Marvel releases. The Art-Deco interior is stunning and outside's facade is beautiful, not to mention its high tower, which dominates London's art district.

Glance at TripAdvisor, however, and you'll see that prestige alone doesn't carry much sway with the public. Reviews from 2017 saw users complaining about the poor service, the temperature and the very uncomfortable seats. "Give you a sore bum within 45 minutes," wrote one visitor, "utterly dreary," said another, while a third said it was an "absolute disgrace." Rather than a destination screen, the LSC has a reputation for being an overpriced tourist trap.

Something had to give, so Odeon closed the cinema at the start of 2018 to commence a year-long renovation. And the company, now owned by AMC, went into partnership with Dolby to make the LSC the first in the UK to be equipped with Dolby Cinema. The renovation, rumored to cost anything up to $19 million, intends to create a "pinnacle of luxury cinema," according to Odeon's UK chief Carol Welch.

The Leicester Square location will be fitted out with both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, the company's image and sound setups for high-end cinemas. The big benefit Atmos has over other 5.1 systems is its downward-firing speakers in the ceiling that enable objects to sound as if they're moving in three-dimensional space.

However, unlike most multiplex theaters, Leicester Square has a split level, with stalls below, and a circle / balcony above. That was a problem for Atmos, which requires precise placement of speakers both on walls and in ceilings. The solution was, essentially, to install two Atmos rigs, one to service each tier, so everyone has good sound. As well as installing speakers behind the screen itself, Dolby added a series of line array speaker stacks in the ceiling. Only two of these are visible, however, with the rest hidden by a blue cloth which creates the impression of a far shorter ceiling.

Up in the projection room, two new Dolby Vision laser projectors are sitting in crates, waiting to be installed. When working, they'll produce 108 nits of light for the screen -- a far cry from the 48 nits you find with a standard xenon-bulb projector. Other benefits of laser projection include a far wider contrast ratio and the ability to project the P3 color gamut, as well as true blacks.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/11/30/dolby-odeon-movie-theater-leicester-square-cinema/

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Marriott says Starwood data breach could affect 500 million guests

Around 327 million of those records included some combination of name, mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number, Starwood Preferred Guest ("SPG") account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date, and communication preferences. Worse still, Marriott said an unknown amount contained encrypted credit card data, and has "not been able to rule out" that both components required to decrypt the data wasn't also taken.

"We are working hard to ensure our guests have answers to questions about their personal information, with a dedicated website and call center," the company said in a statement. "We will also continue to support the efforts of law enforcement and to work with leading security experts to improve." It added that it is "phasing out" Starwood systems as part of its ongoing security work.

Marriott completed its takeover of Starwood Hotels Resorts -- the world's biggest hotel chain -- in 2016, handing it 5,700 properties, spanning 1.1 million rooms, in 110 countries. Its chains include W Hotels, St. Regis, Sheraton, Westin, Element and more. Marriott said that its own hotels were not affected by the breach as its reservation system is on a different network.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/11/30/marriott-starwood-hotels-data-breach/

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Apple Music will work on Echo speakers starting December 17th

While Amazon says that Apple Music will work with Echo speakers starting the week of December 17th, it doesn't say how fast the rollout will go, so Echo owners may have to be a little patient. When Apple Music is ready to go, it can be enabled in the Alexa app like any other skill.

This marks only the second voice-controlled speaker to work directly with Apple Music, following Apple's own HomePod. Amazon's language in its blog post makes it pretty clear that this feature will only work with Echo speakers, though -- other devices that use Alexa like the Sonos One will likely not get this additional functionality.

This new partnership follows the news that many more Apple products (including the new iPhones, iPads and Apple Watch) would be available for sale on Amazon this holiday season. Much like that move, adding Apple Music to the Echo lineup is simply a pragmatic business decision. Apple Music has a lot of users, and support for huge services like it will only lead to happier Echo owners.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/11/30/apple-music-amazon-echo-support/

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Cambridge Analytica used fashion tastes to profile Facebook users

Speaking at a Business of Fashion event in the UK, Wylie said his former company used the fashion brands people liked on Facebook as a key metric in its bid to elect Donald Trump. He name-dropped L.L. Bean and Wrangler -- two American heritage brands that deal in outerwear and workwear respectively -- as signifying "conservative values." On the flip side, a fondness for European fashion house, Kenzo, reflected the opposite.

"One of the things Cambridge Analytica noticed when pulling the Facebook data was fashion brands were really useful in producing algorithms about how people think and feel," Wylie said. "Fashion data was used to build AI models to help Steve Bannon build his insurgency and build the alt-right."

Though it sheds light on the type of data points Cambridge Analytica used, the link between fashion brands and political leanings won't come as a surprise to many. Labels supposedly aligned to either side of the political divide have been praised and scorned in equal measure of late. Remember when New Balance owners burned their sneakers after the brand's CEO appeared to praise Trump's trade plans in 2016? More recently, Nike caused a stir among some sections of its fanbase by naming Colin Kapernick the new face of its "Just Do It" campaign.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/11/30/cambridge-analytica-fashion-facebook/

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Grindr president defends controversial LGBTQ marriage remarks

Chen called the Into article "unbalanced and misleading," and criticized the publication for not asking for comment. "The reason I said marriage is a holy matrimony between a man and a woman is based on my own personal experience," he said in Into's comments section. "I am a straight man married to a woman I love and I have two beautiful daughters I love from the marriage. This is how I feel about my marriage." (Into's editor-in-chief Zach Stafford said it asked for comment through Grindr's spokesperson but never received a response.)

The reason I said marriage is a holy matrimony between a man and a woman is based on my own personal experience. I am a straight man married to a woman I love and I have two beautiful daughters I love from the marriage. This is how I feel about my marriage. Different people have their different feelings about their marriages. You can't deny my feelings about my marriage.

Grindr was recently purchased by the Chinese gaming company Kunlun Group, which appointed Chen as chief technology officer. The controversy came about after Taiwan voted overwhelmingly against same-sex marriage in a referendum. Chen shared an Into article noting that HTC's President, Cher Wang, had financially backed a US-based christian group organized to defeat the motion.

In the same post, he noted that "I won't buy HTC products for the rest of my life, and I won't donate any money to Taiwan's Christian groups ever again for the rest of my life!" He added that he's "a huge advocate for LGBTQ+ rights since I was young. I support gay marriage and I am proud that I can work for Grindr."

Grindr has 3.8 million daily users around the globe, and is the largest dating app for non-hetero people, Into notes. It has since updated its article to include Chen's response, but Stafford told the Guardian that Into stands by the reporting.

"Grindr's goal as a company is to help seek the full equity of all LGBT people's rights around the world, especially when it comes to dating and love. And marriage for many is an end goal to our app," he said. "We stand by the reporting ... we are very interested in telling the stories that impact queer people most [and] the Into staff sees this as doing their job."

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/11/30/grindr-president-defends-controversial-lgbtq-marriage-remarks/

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Lawmakers still want details from Amazon on its facial recognition tech

"We write to reiterate our concerns about Amazon's facial recognition technology, Rekognition, and request additional information about this product and your decision to make it available to law enforcement agencies," they wrote. "Regrettably, despite asking you a series of questions on this subject and requesting specific information in letters sent to you on July 26, 2018 and July 27, 2018, your company has failed to provide sufficient answers."

Amazon has faced a fair amount of pushback on its facial recognition policy and its decision to sell it to law enforcement groups. The ACLU, Amazon investors and company employees have expressed their concern over the issue, while two other members of Congress -- Representatives Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) -- sent Bezos a letter in May seeking more information about Rekognition. In October, Amazon generated more unease when reports surfaced that it had pitched its facial recognition technology to ICE.

In its initial response, Amazon said that it had an acceptable use policy "that prohibits the use of our services for '[a]ny activities that are illegal, that violate the rights of others or that may be harmful to others.'" It added that any group using its technology is required to abide by its terms and conditions, which also mandates compliance with relevant laws, including COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

Of the seven questions the lawmakers sent Amazon the first time around, four were reiterated in their most recent letter. Those questions include queries on assessments of bias, whether protections are built into Rekognition to protect the rights of innocent citizens, if Amazon conducts audits of its law enforcement customers and whether the technology has been integrated with body cam technology. Along with Markey and GutiƩrrez, six additional lawmakers -- Representatives Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA) and John Lewis (D-GA) -- also signed onto the letter this time around. They've requested a response by December 13th.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/11/30/lawmakers-want-details-amazon-facial-recognition/

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Google adds more media and messaging options to Android Auto

It should be a little easier to browse music, podcasts and audiobooks following a UI update that makes album art larger. Google Assistant voice search will be more useful too, as you can to ask it to play tunes from certain time periods or a particular artist, for instance. To begin with, the updates will work with apps including Google Play Books, Google Play Music, iHeartRadio, Pocket Casts and Spotify.

Google is beefing up messaging too, with support for MMS (multimedia messaging service) and RCS (rich communication services), so you'll be able to use features such as group messaging. Meanwhile, message previews are disabled by default and you can switch them on from your settings. That way, Google says, you'll be able to decide whether privacy or convenience is more important, in case you don't want passengers peeking at your texts. Only showing the previews while you aren't actively driving is a logical move that cuts down on potential distractions. At launch, the messaging features work with the likes of Messages, Hangouts and WhatsApp.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/11/30/android-auto-google-media-playback-messaging-update/

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The best VR gifts

Virtual reality offers all manner of immersive experiences, including short films, but gaming is where VR really shines right now. So, if you have a gamer in your life who seems to already have everything, consider giving them some of the VR gear from our holiday gift guide. They'll need some hardware to get started with, so among our six choices are three headsets -- two Oculus devices and PlayStation VR. If you opt for the latter, the PSVR Aim Controller will come in handy for certain games. Speaking of which, we've also picked a couple of quality games to help that special someone get their VR library up and running.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/11/30/the-best-vr-gifts/

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Facebook reportedly agrees to share an update on its civil rights audit

In recent years, Facebook has come under fire for allowing advertisers, including those buying housing ads, to discriminate by race. And in May, the company committed to conducting a civil rights audit, one that would scrutinize its civil rights record and allegations of political bias. This newly announced agreement comes just after a former employee released a memo describing the marginalization of black people both on Facebook's platform and in its offices and a New York Times report that detailed how Facebook used a PR firm to target George Soros and other Facebook critics after they spoke out against the company and its practices.

According to Color of Change, Sandberg apologized for Facebook's actions, though she reportedly distanced herself from the work of the Definers PR firm. The organization said Sandberg committed to both executing the civil rights audit as well as implementing any necessary changes needed to address the issues identified by the audit. She also agreed to "evaluate [Facebook's] policies and end practices that leave Black people, communities of color and other users in harm's way and subject to hate speech and other forms of discrimination," and to ensure none of the company's consultant relationships used tactics like those practiced by Definers.

However, Robinson made additional calls for Facebook to release documents prepared by Definers intended to discredit groups like Color of Change and individuals like Soros, and reiterated that having Joel Kaplan lead Facebook's policy team put the audit's integrity into question. "Not only has Kaplan worked with both the founder and president of Definers Public Affairs in the Bush White House, but recent reports also indicate his Washington, DC-based policy team oversaw Facebook's relationship with the firm," Robinson said. "His fingerprints are all over the roadblocks mounted to stall the civil rights audit and undermine our work."

Facebook didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Yesterday, the New York Times released a new report, providing more details about Sandberg's involvement with Facebook's Soros probe. Sandberg announced earlier this month that Facebook was no longer working with Definers.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/11/30/facebook-agrees-update-civil-right-audit/

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Google Pixel Slate review: The burden of bad software


Any hardware problems I encountered pale in comparison to the software issues I found. At a high level, Google is trying to make this device all things to all people; it can run Chrome and Android apps, it's a tablet and a laptop. Unfortunately, the software is a letdown at every turn.

First, a quick word on what's new here. Google added a tablet-friendly interface to Chrome OS a few months back. If you've used a Chromebook that can convert into a tablet (like the Pixelbook), you've seen this already. Instead of having multiple windows you can arrange any way you like, apps default to full screen. Hitting the multitasking button or swiping down from the top lets you pin apps to the left and right so you can see two at a time. It's the same basic split-screen trick Apple does in iOS, and it works well in theory.

But for some reason, the tablet interface is significantly slower than desktop mode. The multitasking actions in particular stutter like mad, making it feel like you're using a five-year-old computer. It's functional, but certainly not refined.

I could live with it if that were the only problem, but the way Android apps work on the Pixel Slate is a far bigger concern. It's been two years since Google first announced Google Play support in Chrome OS, and while there are lots of places it can be useful, the entire experience still feels like it's in beta.

I have two main issues with Android apps on the Pixel Slate. The first is that the vast majority simply aren't built with big screens in mind. This has been an issue for years and very little has changed. I have found some apps like Todoist and Spotify that dynamically adjust their layout based on the how big the window is. But too many are still stretched-out phone apps that don't make use of the extra screen real estate.

Some important apps, like Instagram, are all but entirely broken. Google has talked up Instagram on Chromebooks since releasing the Pixelbook last year, but the Pixel Slate can only run it in full-screen mode, with huge black bars on either side of the app. For some reason, captions for posts are cut off after a handful of words, which makes scrolling your feed rather frustrating. Yes, you can technically upload pictures to Instagram from the Pixel Slate, but the overall experience is a letdown.

The other big problem is figuring out whether to use an Android app or a web app, because each has its own drawbacks. The Google Photos site, for example, has a scroller on the right so you can quickly navigate through years of photos... but it doesn't really work with touch. Tapping it will jump to that point on your timeline, but you can't scrub through your library. So if you're in tablet mode, the Google Photos app for Android actually works a lot better.

Similarly, I have web apps for Todoist, Slack and Trello running all day long, but each of those services works better as an Android app if I'm using the Slate in tablet mode. Having multiple icons for the same services drives me crazy and is needlessly complicated.

Performance and battery life

In the end, I mostly use the Pixel Slate like any other Chromebook: docked in the keyboard folio with web apps for almost everything I need. I'll run a handful of Android apps here and there (Adobe Lightroom is surprisingly solid), but almost everything I need works on the web.

When I've used the Pixel Slate as a pure tablet, I mostly just browse the web, watch videos and play games. Web browsing is naturally one of the Pixel Slate's best features, since it runs a full desktop version of Chrome; the iPad Pro, on the other hand, runs the mobile version of Safari. It's gotten better over the years, but it's still far behind Chrome. And as I said above, the Slate is a great portable movie theater. Being able to run the Android version of Netflix and download tons of shows and movies makes it a great travel companion.

Unfortunately, gaming is a big of a mixed bag. Google recommended trying some specific games like Asphalt 9 and Don't Starve, both of which looked great and ran well. But some others, including my go-to Alto's Odyssey, stuttered far more than I expected given the Pixel Slate's powerful hardware. It's likely a result of the apps not being optimized for the x86 architecture, but I don't really care about the reason. All I know is that the iPad Pro can chew through any app you can install.

Using the $99 Pixelbook Pen, which Google released last year, to draw or take notes was also a mixed bag. Some Android apps like Squid, Nebo and Autodesk SketchBook responded well with little lag, but others like Google's own Keep felt very slow. I did a lot of comparing pen performance on the Pixel Slate to this year's $329 iPad, and the iPad won out in almost every case. The Pixelbook Pen is not essential for most users -- and if you're interested in drawing, the iPad Pro or even base-level iPad is a better choice.

As for the battery, it's solid but unremarkable. The Pixel Slate latest just over eight hours in our video playback test, far short of the 12 hours Google promises. We don't know what that test entailed, nor do we know which of the five different Pixel Slate configurations Google refers to in that figure, but it wouldn't surprise me if the Core i5 processor on board here was less efficient than the slower Celeron or M3 options.

Finally, the first few days I was using the Pixel Slate were marred by severe operating system crashes (check out my preview for the full details). Google did some investigation and solved the issue, but I'm still a little wary.

Configurations, pricing and the competition

Pricing is the last problem with the Pixel Slate. The device I tested retails for $999, plus $199 for the keyboard and $99 for the Pixelbook Pen. Google is selling four other Pixel Slate configurations, starting at $599. That device only has 32GB of storage, 4GB of RAM and a Celeron processor. Having recently tried a Chromebook with those specs, I can't recommend anyone buy something that low-end. It's not enough power to push the gorgeous Pixel Slate display and run more than a handful of tabs at once.

I am more curious about the $799 configuration, which steps up to Intel's Core M3 processor, 64GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. That should theoretically be enough power for most people, but that's still an awful lot of money for a device with this many software issues. Further complicating the matter is the $199 Pixel Slate Keyboard, which is basically a must-buy. Google is also selling a $159 bluetooth keyboard made by Brydge that turns the tablet into a traditional clamshell laptop, but even that's a pretty big expense on top of an already-pricey tablet.

If you want a premium Chrome device, most people should just get the $999 Pixelbook instead. It features last year's Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM and 128GB storage, and you don't need to shell out for a keyboard. Add in the fact that the Pixelbook has been selling for as little as $699 thanks to recent sales, and there's no question it's the better value.

Moving beyond Chrome OS, the new iPad Pro (starting at $799) is an obvious comparison and almost certainly more worth your cash. Yes, it's more locked down than Chrome OS, but iOS is much better suited to tablets and has a huge variety of excellent apps. For artists who want a large digital canvas, the iPad Pro is likely a better choice. But if you can't put up with iOS, the new Surface Pro 6 (starting at $899) is yet another capable all-around 2-in-1 with a great screen, extensive software support and strong pen performance.


I love tablets, and I love Chrome OS, and I was hoping to love the Pixel Slate. Despite the problems I've had, part of me still does. When I sit down and use it as a laptop, it's one of the best Chrome OS devices I've used. The screen is fantastic, performance is snappy, and it's thin, light and attractive. Unfortunately, the combination of high price and software bugs will keep it a niche device. I hope that Google can figure out how to make Android apps run better on Chrome OS, because they can be very useful when executed properly. Unfortunately, a lot of that is on developers, most of whom have long ago given up on Android outside of phones.

Regardless, the Pixel Slate's software experience too often feels confusing and compromised, something that's unacceptable for a device this expensive. Google has had a few visions for tablets over the years, and it's never gotten the experience right. Unfortunately, once again, that's the case with the Pixel Slate.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/11/30/google-pixel-slate-review/

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