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Tech-friendly bus startup FlixBus offers riders VR headsets

FlixBus first launched in Europe and came to the US last year to compete with Greyhound and other bus services, offering rides for as low as five dollars. However, it's a much higher-tech operation with a business model more akin to Lyft or Uber, offering free WiFi, power outlets and other perks. In Europe, it also has a train service called FlixTrain.

The Pico Interactive headset can run simple basketball, chess and other VR games. The idea of offering VR to bored passengers sounds fine, but the danger of vertigo and carsickness is real. The system I tested on Renault's self-driving Symbioz was linked to real-world vehicle movements, which kept my inner ear in sync. As such, I felt fine, even in jerky traffic.

However, FlixBus has no such tech, so it's limiting the tests for now to relatively straight, smooth routes. The company told TechCrunch that it has received positive feedback from riders in Spain and France, and if US customers like it too, FlixBus could offer the service to everyone.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/12/31/flixbus-ride-hailing-virtual-reality-games/

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Soulja Boy’s emulator consoles meet their inevitable end

The story began at the start of December, when the star announced the two consoles, sold through his SoljaWatch store. Keen-eyed observers who visited the retailer noticed that many of his products looked similar to the sort of IP-infringing wares you'll find on Alibaba or Wish. That included a pair of wireless earphones styled on AirPods, Beats-esque headphones and an, ahem, homage to the Apple Watch.

SouljaGame Handheld and Console, too, were -- according to Polygon -- a pair of drop shipped models from Chinese manufacturer Anbernic. The Soulja Boy versions were sold for $149.99 and $99.99, but if you bought directly from Anbernic, and they'd cost you just $105.99 and $72.99. Even worse is that both units were little more than emulators that could play titles from actual name-brand consoles.

Subsequently, he added the Retro SouljaBoy Mini (again from Anbernic), which adopted the trade dress of the Game Boy. All of the units claimed to ship with titles pre-loaded, as well as the ability to sideload games from a SD card, much to the delight of the original rights holders. Including Nintendo, which always goes to great lengths to guard who can buy its games, and from where. And, as recently as December 28th, Soulja Boy used an ableist slur to describe the people who thought that Nintendo would sue him.

Something has, however, happened between then and now, forcing the tweet and subsequent removal of the consoles from the store. Despite insisting that the titles on the consoles were licensed, it's not unfair to suspect a publisher sent lawyers after the project. Soulja Boy also affirmed plans to start his own eSports team in 2019, although specifics on the project have yet to be announced.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/12/31/soulja-boy-console/

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The Morning After: AI got its eyes in 2018

A dose of retro action in a pricey, wireless shell.Nintendo's Switch NES gamepads are an unnecessary blast from the past

The Switch NES controllers look just like the original, with the same blocky corners, plastic-yet-solid construction and concave buttons that hold your fingers just right. They even charge by sliding onto the console while it's docked, although playing is a wireless-only affair. However, at $60 they're an expensive add-on for controllers that are only meant to play emulated NES titles available via the new Online service.

She was the first woman executive at NASA.Hubble telescope 'mother' Nancy Grace Roman dies

Nancy Grace Roman, the first chief of astronomy at NASA's Office of Space Science, died on December 25th at 93. She was widely considered the "mother" of the Hubble Space Telescope, persuading the scientific community to rally around the concept and campaigning for funding. Roman played an important role not just in running the early NASA, but in setting its current course -- many of the cosmic discoveries made in recent years can be attributed to the use of spaceborne telescopes.

That's one way to start 2019.NYPD to deploy a drone at Times Square on New Year's Eve

Security at Times Square tends to be extra-tight on New Year's Eve, but it's now poised to have some robotic support. The NYPD is deploying one of its new camera-toting drones at the event for the first time, giving it an aerial surveillance tool that's decidedly closer to the action than a conventional aircraft or helicopter. The machine will not only watch for trouble in the crowd, but wield "counter-drone technology" to keep potentially hostile vehicles at bay.

The better to see you with.This is the year AI got its eyes

2018 has seen a marked improvement in two areas of AI image processing: facial-recognition technology in both commerce and security, and image generation in -- of all fields -- art.

Roberts embraced then-revolutionary data packet switching to handle traffic.Early internet pioneer Larry Roberts dies at 81

Larry Roberts, best known as the program manager for ARPAnet (the internet's precursor), died on December 26th at the age of 81. While he wasn't as much of a public representative for the internet as people like Tim Berners-Lee or Vint Cerf, he made key decisions that would dictate how the internet behaved.

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Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/12/31/the-morning-after-ai-got-its-eyes-in-2018/

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Google is testing group calling in Duo

There's also an in-progress feature that could be useful regardless of how many people are involved in your calls. Low light mode, as you might imagine, tweaks your video so others can see you better during nighttime conversations. You might not be reduced to a pair of eyes (if that) during a late night heart-to-heart.

It's not certain when either of these additions will arrive. And you can't simply download an update to get them -- Google appears to be controlling test access on the server side. If you can wait, though, Duo could soon be more competitive with other video-focused calling apps.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/12/31/google-duo-group-calling-test/

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Popsugar’s celebrity look-alike app is leaking users’ photos

The photos that #Twinning users upload to the app are kept in an Amazon Web Services storage bucket, TechCrunch reports. According to the publication, the web address for that storage bucket can be found in the #Twinning website's code and once you plug it into a web browser, you then have access to any of the photos users have uploaded.

While this may not be the most egregious instance of a privacy violation, it's just another example, in a year full of them, of how little control we have over our data. And since privacy is now on so many people's minds, it's a little confusing as to why Popsugar would allow such an easily avoidable oversight.

TechCrunch reached out to Popsugar about the leak, but said it hadn't yet heard back.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/12/31/popsugar-twinning-app-leaking-users-photos/

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Our favorite games of 2018

Destiny 2: Forsaken

Jon Fingas
Associate Editor

I know what you're thinking. Forsaken, really? An update to a year-old game that struggled out of the gate? Hear me out: This next iteration of Destiny 2 is one of the largest improvements to a game in recent years (see also No Man's Sky), and it might draw you in — even if you gave up on the game months ago. It's the title I fire up most often when I have spare time. That's no mean feat given there were moments from the original release that burnt me out.

Forsaken works because there's simply a lot more to do than before, especially if you shell out for the yearly pass like I did. There are exotic weapon quests, seasonal events, triumphs (think in-game achievements) and loads of daily and weekly goals. And then there's Gambit — its clever mix of cooperative and competitive multiplayer is more than a little addictive. Combine that with solid shooting mechanics and an intriguing (if occasionally overwrought) story and it's a game that continuously satisfies me for however long I'd like to play, whether it's a 15 minute burst or a three hour marathon. I can't say that for the original D2, which usually devolved into a competitive-only game the moment I finished a story section.

Don't get me wrong, there are still problems: Forsaken is very grindy in places, for one thing. As much as I like the flurry of short-term achievements, it's not much fun to spend ages chasing down an elusive gun or a rare triumph. Tougher elements like raids are still largely off-limits. I don't have hours upon hours of uninterrupted time (let alone the clan members) to devote to a notoriously difficult experience. But I don't have to participate in raids to thoroughly enjoy myself — and unlike the first time around, I know there will be plenty of reasons to come back.

Yakuza Kiwami 2

Andrew Tarantola
Senior Editor

The Yakuza series has always been about more than winning street fights and managing hostess clubs. It started as the story of Kazuma Kiryu, a young man trying to survive in the deadly world of Japanese organized crime. As the series has progressed, and Kazuma steadily climbed the ranks of the Yakuza (gaining new allies but losing friends and family along the way), fans have been treated to a depth and mastery of storytelling not often found in gaming franchises. Virtually every character — from the protagonists to the tertiary players — is fully realized with a coherent backstory. The ever-shifting loyalties between and within competing Yakuza clans are deftly balanced, like a spider's web of backstabbery fluttering in the Sotenbori wind. The latter of which you can actually see on occasion because the graphics are fantastic.

But, for all the nuance and granularity of the plot, it never becomes obtuse or cumbersome. Quite the opposite: if you forego the various side quests (of which there are many), the game plays like a fast-paced action thriller. And, if you set the game down for a couple weeks, you can come back and jump right back in with minimal need to refresh your memory.

Even the street fights themselves are a treat. Armed with an array of high-flying combat moves and a literal arsenal of weaponry, players are well-positioned to beat down any opposition they encounter, whether it's a half-dozen delinquents or the leader of a rival clan. Best of all, leveling Kazuma's abilities is much less of a grind than previous iterations of the series, eliminating the need to spend hours farming cash or glowing power orbs. In short, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is simply the best game I played in 2018. Eat your heart out, Spider-Man.


Nick Summers

Man, that web swinging. Insomniac's Spider-Man game is a marvel (no pun intended... okay, maybe some pun intended) for many reasons, but the traversal system is my favorite. It just feels so-freaking-good to zip around Manhattan with the speed and acrobatic flair of Peter Parker. The basics are simple — just press and hold R2 to swing -- but knowing when to release for maximum height and velocity takes some practice. Throw in some point launches, corkscrews and backflips and the game becomes a super-powered parkour simulator. I haven't had this much fun dicking about since Skate 3.

Of course, movement is only a part of the experience. Insomniac crafted a terrific story that skips Parker's superhero origins (which, let's be honest, we've all seen and read a thousand times before) and takes place in a subtly unique version of the Marvel universe. You know all of the characters -- both friend and foe -- but their backstories and, more importantly, history with Spider-Man are tweaked in fascinating and genuinely surprising ways. It also takes the time to explore Parker's civilian life as a cash-strapped researcher working under the seemingly normal Otto Octavius.

And then there's the combat. Spider-Man offers a wealth of flips, punches and kicks inspired by professional wrestling. You can also use his web shooters to stun, ensnare and disarm foes. It's a surprisingly deep system buoyed by upgradeable gadgets and unlockable costumes that come with unique spider-powers. The noir suit, for instance, stops enemies from calling for backup once they've spotted you. The Stark suit, meanwhile, summons a helpful drone in battle. I also love that the powers can be used in conjunction with other suits. Like the Stark suit, but want the noir suit's power? No problem.

The movement, combat and world building culminate in a truly superb PS4 exclusive. The game isn't perfect — some of the collectibles and baddie-riddled bases are a drag — but I'm confident Insomniac will fix these shortcomings in the sequel. Oh, and did I mention that Miles Morales, the star of Sony's new animated movie, is in this game? Well, he is.

The rest

As always, forcing people to choose just one game to represent an entire year led to consternation among Engadget editors. And, as always, we found a way to include some more gems. Here are the games we felt also deserved a mention:

No Man's Sky

This is the year No Man's Sky finally became No Man's Sky. After a turbulent launch, a lawsuit and dozens of gameplay updates over the past two years, Hello Games has delivered a connected universe stuffed with mysteries and adventure. No Man's Sky will be around for a good while.

Hollow Knight / Dead Cells

I'm not a huge fan of Dark Souls-esque games and rogue-likes, so I was surprised that two of my favorite titles this year fell right into those categories. Hollow Knight isn't new, but this year it made it to the Switch and I fell in love with it instantly. It transcends the overcrowded Metroidvania sub-genre thanks to its a distinct art style, tremendous score and razor-sharp combat. But mostly, it just has a relaxing vibe of melancholia and destroyed beauty. I'm not sure what that says about me that I found it somewhat therapeutic during this tumultuous year. Dead Cells, meanwhile, is pure action and mayhem. I love the gear and the pixelated art style, but mostly, I appreciated that the combat simply feels good, with a fluidity we don't often see today.

Donut County

It's always nice to see a long-anticipated game finally come out and deliver on all of its sugar-dusted promises. Donut County turns a hole in the ground into an engaging gameplay mechanic, and sets players free in an eccentric, lovable world inspired by Los Angeles... and doughnuts, of course.

Tetris Effect

As a kid my mother would take me with her to the post exchange and I'd peel off the minute we walked in the door to head over to the electronics department. Sometimes there was a Genesis set up there, but for the longest time it was a solitary Game Boy with Tetris on display. I'd start at level 1 and play up to level 9 and just stare at that low-res green screen until my mother came and dragged me away.

As an adult I don't need to camp at a demo system in the department store anymore. I can buy my own game systems and my own games — at release even. And you bet I purchased Tetris Effect on release, wiling away hours upon hours with its trippy take on my favorite block-based puzzle game. There are some new twists I enjoy, like the Zone mode: It adds a new layer of strategy, and sometimes it's the only way I can deal with the higher speeds (up to 12). The new age woo woo aesthetic, though, I have mixed feelings about: Sometimes it's very distracting, and sometimes I'm wondering if the game is crossing the line into offensiveness with its Native American, African and Asian imagery.

But I can't deny it's beautiful; a long distance from the fuzzy green tetrominoes of my youth. My mother would have had a far harder time pulling me away from this.

Life is Strange 2, episode 1

The second full season of Life is Strange is off to a fantastic start. Dontnod doesn't shy away from tackling real-world issues like racism, immigration and gun violence, though the story so far is told through a relatable, human lens. And never fear — there's still plenty of teenage angst and sarcasm here.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/12/31/best-games-of-2018/

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Google aims to fix laggy interface on Chrome OS tablets

Developers noticed that a lot of lag in the tablet's overview mode stems from the performance-intensive way it draws rounded corners. When you take them away, performance jumps significantly even on the Celeron-based entry-level Pixel Slate. This might not solve every issue with lag, but it could at least improve the experience for tablet users who have to enter overview mode on a frequent basis.

Just when you might get a fix is another story. Google has labeled the lag issue as a high priority, but the discussion thread on the topic started in early November. A solution might not be right around the corner. If and when it does show up, though, it could be welcome for anyone who likes the thought of a Chrome OS tablet but wants software that lives up to the hardware's potential.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/12/31/google-aims-to-fix-lag-on-chrome-os-tablets/

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Le peggiori password del 2018: sempre in testa 123456

Quali sono le peggiori password del 2018? Sembra una storia trita e ritrita, ma ancora una volta in testa a questo agghiacciante ranking troviamo l’assurda sequenza dei primi sei numeri ossia 123456 e le altre non sono da meno. Le parole chiave per fare ingresso in utenze private sono da sempre la croce e delizia del popolo del web. L’ultima ricerca ha dimostrato quanto gli utenti siano poco accorti nello scegliere le password per accedere a account di posta ma anche bancari. E si può immaginare con quali conseguenze gravissime.

Viene sempre suggerito di creare password complesse con sequenze di caratteri insoliti, maiuscole e minuscole, numeri e segni grafici. Ma scendendo nel dettaglio delle password peggiori c’è da mettersi le mani nei capelli. Non pensiate a elaborati codici magari matematici o meglio ancora random ma praticamente impossibili da recuperare. I geniacci avevano scelto, tenetevi forte: al terzo posto 123456789, al secondo posto la più pratica “password” and the winner is… 123456.

La classifica delle peggiori password del 2018

Scopriamo dunque la top ten degli orrori con le password peggiori che sono state create dagli utenti. Le sequenze numeriche consecutive fanno da padrona con da 1 a 6 al primo posto, da 1 a 9 al terzo, da 1 a 8 al quarto e da 1 a 5 al quinto, infine da 1 a 7 al settimo.

Come detto, password guadagna la medaglia d’argento, mentre ottavo, nono e decimo posto vanno appannaggio rispettivamente di sunshine, qwerty (le prime sei lettere in alto a sinistra nella tastiera) e il romantico e banale iloveyou. Completa il quadro sei volte 1, ossia 111111. Qui di seguito la top ten:

1. 123456
2. password
3. 123456789
4. 12345678
5. 12345
6. 111111
7. 1234567
8. sunshine
9. qwerty
10. iloveyou

La top ten del 2010

La situazione è particolarmente e pericolosamente simile a quanto già visto nel 2010 ossia otto anni fa a dimostrazione che tutti i pericoli informatici e i relativi problemi generati non sono serviti a nulla.

2010 – La verità emersa già svariati mesi fa quando tra le parole chiave più usate sbucava fuori la paradossale “password”, già proprio così. Lo studio che ha ordinato le password è stato improntato dalla società californiana Imperva Application Defense Center (ADC), studiando le 32 milioni di password “esposte” su Rockyou da un cracker che però non era stato in grado di collegarle ai rispettivi username.

Dall’elenco è emerso che il 30% degli utenti usa una password con meno di cinque caratteri, il 50% puntava forte su un nome comune tanto facile da ricordare quanto da ricavare per un conoscente o un parente fetente. Lo studio ha poi consigliato di utilizzare gli standard della NASA: mix di numeri, lettere maiuscole e minuscole, caratteri speciali e niente di apparentemente “compiuto”.

Article source: https://www.tecnocino.it/2018/12/articolo/peggiori-password-2018-123456/17891/

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Amazon will build more Whole Foods stores to expand Prime Now

The exact locations aren't known, but Whole Foods staff have reportedly explored stores in places the chain doesn't operate, such as places in Idaho, southern Utah and Wyoming.

Amazon and Whole Foods have declined to comment.

It's not a completely outlandish move for Amazon. Whole Foods is already using Prime as a lure for customers, and it's no great stretch to use the store as a fulfillment center on the side. Still, there's a difference between using existing stores for deliveries and building them for the sake of deliveries. In that light, Whole Foods is quickly becoming a Trojan horse for Amazon that just happens to offer conventional grocery shopping.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/12/30/amazon-expands-whole-foods-for-prime-now/

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Austria plans its own tax for tech giants like Apple and Google

This is "in addition to a EU-wide move," according to Kurz. France is pushing its own approach starting January 1st.

The companies in question have previously argued that they're already paying their fair share. They typically report their EU income in a country with lower taxes, such as Ireland, and rely on loopholes to minimize their financial impact. While that's legal, it also leaves them paying far less on average than other businesses -- roughly 9 percent versus the 23 percent of other firms operating in the region. Both officials and residents haven't been happy with that gap, and Austria's move suggests that fewer and fewer EU countries are willing to wait for a continent-wide solution.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/12/30/austria-digital-tax/

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