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Facebook axed its bird-size internet drones before they even flew

It's not entirely clear how pigeonet would've worked, but the report says the drones were designed to carry small solid-state drives filled with media. That suggests that they were meant to relay information between traditional mobile infrastructure from afar and people's phones. What's crystal is that Facebook didn't conceptualize the technology as a complete replacement for people's mobile networks.

If users aren't streaming videos or loading data-heavy images, their phones will keep on using their slower connections. It was meant to give more people a way to watch videos and view photos, which makes sense, seeing as the company most likely conjured up the project in an effort to find more users for its platform. Facebook even wanted to test pigeonet by giving its first users access to the company's core apps, including Messenger. Eventually, the service's capabilities would've expanded with the addition of other applications, like YouTube and Netflix.

The company is no stranger to rolling out products created to lure more people into using its apps, including the controversial Free Basics service. Free Basics offers limited access to websites outside of Facebook, so the social network has become synonymous with the internet itself for a lot of people in developing regions. That's a problematic notion when fake news continues to circulate on the platform and people have no way to check and verify information on their own.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/03/30/facebook-bird-size-internet-drones/

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Apple Music code hints at Chromecast support

Whether or not Apple Music is coming to Google Home, there are signs you might get to use it with some Google-powered devices. The 9to5Google team has found multiple lines of code in Apple Music's Android app that reference Chromecast support, including some added through recent updates. While there's no guarantee this would be implemented any time soon, it suggests you could soon pipe Apple's latest Drake exclusive to a compatible Chromecast dongle, speaker, smart display or TV.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/03/30/apple-music-chromecast-code/

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‘Driveclub’ online features shut down March 31st, 2020

Driveclub has struggled despite its early hype and eventual refinement, and now Sony is ready to end its troubled saga. The company has announced that the servers for Driveclub, Driveclub VR and Driveclub Bikes will all shut down just before midnight British time (about 7PM Eastern) on March 31st, 2020, and that it will stop selling games and their add-on content August 31st, 2019 at a similar time. Any single-player components will still work, but that's the problem -- as the name suggests, Driveclub is an inherently social game.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/03/31/driveclub-online-shuts-down-march-2020/

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Valve freezes updates on ‘Artifact’ to face ‘deep-rooted’ issues

Last year Valve launched a Dota 2 card game spin-off that took aim Hearthstone and Gwent, but according to the team, Artifact hasn't lived up to anyone's expectations. In a blog post, Valve announced it's dropping the old plan of developing a stream of gradual updates driven by conversations with the community. Instead it will "re-examine the decisions we've made along the way regarding game design, the economy, the social experience of playing, and more."

Artifact represents the largest discrepancy between our expectations for how one of our games would be received and the actual outcome. But we don't think that players misunderstand our game, or that they're playing it wrong. Artifact now represents an opportunity for us to improve our craft and use that knowledge to build better games.

At least one of those decisions could be the game's business model. As we noted when its release date appeared, those competing card games are free, while Artifact opted for a $20 starting price and made additional booster packs of cards available for an extra fee on top of that. That made it similar to traditional Magic: The Gathering, a game designed by Artifact's project lead, but, as RockPaperShotgun notes, could come off as stingy compared to both the big guns and even smaller alternatives like Shadowverse or Eternal.

Valve made some big upgrades about a month after launch, but judging by the tone of the post -- or Steam Charts stats that count an average of just 353 simultaneous players over the last 30 days or reviews that are only 15 percent positive over the last 30 days or its fewer than ten viewers on Twitch -- it didn't help hold player's attention. Since then the team has been largely silent. Now it's entering a period of "process of experimentation and development" that's expected to take "significant" time, it's still unclear exactly what the future holds for Artifact, but at least Valve is acknowledging where things stand at the moment.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/03/30/artifact-do-over/

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The Morning After: AirPower is out and Genesis Mini is in

Not going to happen.Apple cancels AirPower after more than a year of delays

While some theorized that we'd finally see AirPower this month, that was not to be. Apple axed its wireless charging mat and said in a statement that "we've concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and we have cancelled the project."

One more retro is on the way.Sega Genesis Mini will launch on September 19th with 40 games

The Genesis Mini was supposed to launch last year until Sega delayed it to bring development in-house. Now it has revealed a reworked retro console that will arrive with 40 games, including classics like Sonic 2, Puyo Puyo 2, Shining Force and Castlevania Bloodlines. There's no word on a US price, but in Japan, the version with a pair of six-button controllers will cost about $80.

Modern features in an old-school frame.Apple iPad mini review (2019): Still the best small tablet

After a few years without an update, Apple gave its small tablet the same performance as its flagship iPhone XS, an improved screen, and support for its Apple Pencil. That makes for a definitively modern iPad experience, but the mini's dated design makes the tablet feel a little older than it should.

That's about all we know so far.Valve's 'Index' VR headset is coming in May

Mark your calendar.

It's based on a story from 2015.Netflix's 'The Silence' looks a lot like 'A Quiet Place'

Before you watch The Silence trailer Netflix just released, we'll tell you that the plot looks strikingly similar to A Quiet Place. In both, the world is under attack from creatures who hunt prey by sound, and one family overcomes the disaster by utilizing the heightened senses of a deaf child. Yes, both films rely on a deaf child.

Yes another tablet review.Lenovo Smart Tab review: A hybrid smart display that lives up to the hype

The $299 Lenovo Smart Tab P10 is a 2-in-1 Android tablet that transforms into a surprisingly capable Echo Show clone when docked into a companion Bluetooth speaker. It offers a great screen, solid audio quality and is a lot more functional than Amazon's own smart display.

Sorcery -- and a telephoto lens.The Huawei P30 Pro's cameras are miraculous

This phone has a camera capable of pulling off a long-distance zoom photo of the Eiffel Tower -- at night. According to Mat Smith, even Google's Night Sight couldn't pull that off.

Weird flex, but OK.Watch Samsung bend the Galaxy Fold hundreds of times

Samsung is attempting to put to rest doubts over the Samsung Galaxy Fold's durability by revealing how each device is tested. The company released a video on Wednesday that shows its devices undergoing a factory stress-test, where a line-up of brand new Samsung Galaxy Folds fold, and then unfold, and then fold again. The only thing we can't judge from here is whether the gap that remains when it's folded, or a seam that may form down the center, are potential flaws buyers will be able to live with.

But wait, there's more...

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Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/03/30/the-morning-after/

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This week in tech history: Three years of Oculus figuring out VR

The Rift's launch capped a whirlwind three years that started with the release of the first Rift developer kit, which also came out in March -- March 29th, 2013, to be precise. The first Rift developer kit came out as a Kickstarter project the company launched in August of 2012. Oculus raised well over $2 million on that Kickstarter and started showing the Rift off to the press at CES in 2013, where I had a chance to give it a shot. At the time, I called it an immersive, disorienting "shock to the system" that was unlike any tech I had tried before and was easily the highlight of CES for just about anyone there who tried it.

That buzz built over the next year or so, as development kits made their way out to an eager public. And the company didn't slow down on the hardware front. Less than a year later (March 19th, 2014), a second-generation, developer-focused version of the Rift (known as DK2 or by its "Crystal Cove" codename) was on sale for $350.

But easily the biggest thing that happened to Oculus between the first developer kit and the full release of the Rift in 2016 was Facebook swooping in to purchase the company for a whopping $2 billion on March 25th, 2014. This for a company that hadn't formally released a finalized product -- and while VR was obviously of huge interest to both tech's biggest companies and the public at large, it certainly was still an unproven medium. (Some might argue it still is, but that's another story altogether.)

That transaction gave Oculus even more legitimacy and helped to truly kick some competition into high gear. After Facebook's purchase, Google, Sony and HTC all got into the VR world, to varying degrees of success. You can also trace initiatives such as "mixed reality" headsets like Microsoft's Hololens back to Oculus; even Apple's slow but steady interest in augmented reality only became a reality in the years following the Facebook / Oculus partnership.

Oculus got another big boost later in 2014 when it partnered with Samsung, a union that eventually yielded the smartphone-powered Gear VR. The headset was more of an accessory for your Samsung phone rather than a full-fledged product, but it did do some important work of making VR a little more accessible for people to try ahead of the Rift's eventual launch.

This was all just a lead-up to the final, consumer-ready Rift hardware that arrived in 2016. Sure, the headset cost $600 and required a relatively high-end gaming PC to use. But that didn't stop our reviewer Devindra Hardawar from stating that the Oculus approach to VR "is indeed the real deal." The hardware design and built quality was vastly improved over the early developer kits, it was easy to set up and it successfully pulled players into an immersive world with a high-quality, stable gaming experience. Obviously, those launch titles were hit-or-miss, but VR gaming had truly arrived.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/03/30/this-week-in-tech-history-oculus-rift/

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Ask Engadget: What’s the best connected guitar amp?

Terrence O'Brien
Managing Editor

There's a ton of guitar amps out there that connect to a computer or your phone. But some are definitely better than others. One of the most popular is Fender's Mustang GT line. It's probably the most tech-infused line of amps out there. (At least at the consumer level.) It can download new amp models and presets directly over WiFi. You can even back up and restore custom presets from Fender Tone Cloud. And while there's a tiny screen and a number of knobs on board, you can get even more fine grained control by connecting it to the Fender Tone app on your phone over Bluetooth.

At the heart is a solid-state amp with digital models of 31 amps and 62 effects. It's incredibly versatile, especially since you can really dig in and customize everything down to the order of your effects chain. The biggest drawback of the GT series is the tone. While there are some great sounds in here, it can also sound a little boxy and lifeless at times. Especially when using the higher-gain options.

Yamaha's line of THR amps aren't quite as advanced. There's no WiFi or Bluetooth; just a USB port. Like basically every other USB-connected amp (including the others mentioned here) you can connect to your computer to capture audio directly and use it as an audio interface. And there's also a desktop app for changing the presets, and tweaking your sound. The THR Editor even exposes some effects and settings that aren't accessible otherwise, including a noise gate and compressor. And while the THR10 is a great jack of all trades, there's also the 10C which focuses on classic rock and blues tones; the 10X, which is all about heavy sounds; and the 10A that's designed for electric-acoustic guitars.

I personally own the THR10, and love it. Despite its tiny size (it's only 10 watts and houses two 8cm speakers) it has incredible tone, even at lower volumes — which is a struggle for a lot of amps. Plus it can be powered by a handful of AA batteries and is small enough to lug around in the event of a spontaneous jam session.

It's not perfect, though. It's definitely on the quiet side; it would never cut it on stage at a gig. The desktop app, while useful, is a bit dated and clunky. And its selection of 8-amp models and 10 effects (which can only be used in limited combinations) are pretty limited when compared to the competition.

If I had to suggest one amp, it would have to be the $230 Katana 50 from Boss. It's actually cheaper than both the Fender Mustang GT40 ($280) and the THR10 ($300). It's loud enough to survive band practice and gigs in smaller venues. But it has switchable power so you can drop it from a 50-watt amp, to a 25-watt amp or even a 0.5-watt one, when you want to jam, but don't want to wake the neighbors. And, most importantly, its tones are excellent. Frankly, the sound blows the Fender out of the water and, at least when it comes to high-gain settings, it outclasses the Yamaha as well.

There's no wireless here either, but the Boss Tone Studio software is much better (and more modern feeling) than Yamaha's. There's only five amp types, but if you're recording through USB or listening through headphones you can simulate different mic and amp cabinet setups. Plus the 61 different effects — many of which emulate classic Boss ones — more than make up for whatever you lose on the amp model front. Boss also issues regular software updates that add effects and features, so you don't have to worry that your purchase will be outdated and obsolete in a year or two.

The Boss Katana 50 is the sort of amp I wish existed when I first started playing guitar over 20 years ago.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/03/30/ask-engadget-best-connected-guitar-amp/

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Recommended Reading: Airbnb and the hidden cameras

Airbnb has a hidden-camera problem
Sidney Fussell,
The Atlantic

Airbnb may be a good alternative to staying in a pricey hotel, but the company is dealing with a hidden camera problem. The Atlantic takes a look a the issue and what Airbnb says its doing to fix it.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/03/30/recommended-reading-airbnb-and-the-hidden-camera/

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Australian bill could imprison social network execs over violent content

Platform hosts would also have to notify Australia if they discover their service is streaming violent content taking place within the country. If they don't, they could face fines up to $168,000 AUD for an individual and $840,000 AUD for a company. The new legislation would ultimately be similar to those requiring companies to notify law enforcement if someone is using their service to access child porn.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison wasn't shy about the motivations: he argued that social media sites have a "responsibility to take every possible action" to ensure they aren't serving as vehicles for terrorist agendas. He hoped that Australia would serve as a "model approach" for G20 countries to follow.

The measure wouldn't prevent news outlets from reporting on events, according to Communications Minister Mitch Fifield.

If the bill becomes law, it would pressure Facebook, Twitter and other sites to do whatever they can to pull videos of violent crime. However, there are questions about the viability of the law. Facebook and YouTube struggled to remove every instance of the Christchurch shooter's video even with heavy automation at work, and it didn't take much for people to edit these videos in a way that would thwart AI filters. It's not clear if the proposed law would consider those reasonable efforts. They might be off the hook, but they could also face stiff penalties simply for missing a single copy of a video.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/03/30/australia-laws-could-imprison-internet-execs/

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Apple’s lead iPhone chip designer leaves the company

As CNET noted, A7 was the first 64-bit processor for mobile devices. Its debut on the iPhone 5S forced Qualcomm to release a 64-bit mobile processor of its own -- one that had big issues and wasn't ready for primetime. In addition to leading the processor design process, William was also in charge of the layout on Apple's systems-on-a-chip (SOCs) in recent years. In other words, he was the one who decided the placements of the SOCs' components, such as the CPU, GPU and memory.

It's unclear why Williams left Apple, and he's also yet to update his LinkedIn page. He probably still had a hand in the development of the next few devices Apple will roll out, though, maybe even the first Macs powered by in-house processors -- that is, if reports that Cupertino is dropping Intel for its own laptop chips are true, of course.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/03/30/apple-chip-designer-gerard-williams/

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