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2021 could be a great year for ‘alternative’ consoles

Analogue Pocket

At first glance, the Analogue Pocket looks like a new version of Nintendo’s iconic Game Boy Pocket from the mid-90s. And it is, kind of. The handheld accepts original Game Boy cartridges, but also those released for the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance. That means you can bounce between Pokémon Red, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Advance Wars on the same bus journey. Analogue is also planning $30 adapters that will let you play Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket Color, Atari Lynx, TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine and SuperGrafx games.

The Analogue Pocket is more than a ‘play everything’ machine, though. The handheld improves upon the original Game Boy design with two extra face buttons, twin shoulder buttons on either side of the cartridge slot, and three small system buttons. There’s also stereo speakers, a headphone jack and a 4,300 mAh battery that charges over USB-C. The 3.5-inch display has a 1,600 x 1,440 resolution, too, that should offer superior brightness and color reproduction. Finally, the company will sell a $99 dock that lets you play cartridge-based games on a TV.

The Pocket will also support Nanoloop, an application that musicians use to create chiptune music. The functionality could help justify the Pocket’s steep sticker price. At $199.99, it’s more expensive than Nintendo’s Switch Lite handheld. Some will argue that’s a steal, though, considering the screen and internal hardware required to run so many cartridge types. The first units are expected to ship in May 2021. Buying one could be a challenge, though: Analogue opened pre-orders last August and sold out within minutes, upsetting many hopeful customers.

Analogue Duo

The Pocket isn’t the only Analogue machine to support TurboGrafx-16 cartridges. Analogue is also working on a home console called the Duo. As the name implies, it has two slots for physical media. The one on the left is for HuCard cartridges — the format that the TurboGrafx-16 and PC Engine launched with — while the right accepts discs that were designed for the TurboGrafx-CD add-on. In addition, the Duo will support titles developed for the PC Engine SuperGrafx, a successor to the TurboGrafx-16 that was only released in France and Japan.

Like the Pocket, Analogue is using field-programmable gate array (FPGA) chips to read the original TurboGrafx-16, PC Engine and SuperGrafx games. That means the Duo acts like the original hardware and doesn’t rely on any software emulation or ROM files to work. There’s only one downside: Analogue hasn’t developed a chip to emulate the PC-FX just yet. If you want to play games from that particular system, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Still, it’s a beautiful console aimed at a small but passionate part of the community. (How many people collect TurboGrafx-16 games?) Analogue says the Duo will come out sometime next year for $199.


Panic’s Playdate is a quirky little thing. It has a monochrome screen, unlike the Analogue Pocket, and a fold-out crank on the right-hand side. The latter isn’t there to power the device, thankfully. It’s a genuine control method, just like the D-pad and twin face buttons. Teenage Engineering, the company that designed the OP-1 synthesizer and Capcom-themed pocket synths, helped Panic dream up the undeniably cute hardware. It measures 74×76×9mm, which is smaller than the Game Boy Pocket and, therefore, far more portable than the Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite.

Panic is best known for its developer-focused Mac and iOS software, such as Nova and Transmit. The company has also published the occasional video game, including Firewatch and Untitled Goose Game. As Panic’s Greg Maletic told Engadget last year, the Playdate is meant to be a spiritual successor to Nintendo’s iconic Game Watch series. It’s since morphed into something that sits between those devices and a more sophisticated handheld. Every Playdate is a devkit, for instance, and owners will be able to install third-party games directly on the system. “[Developers] won’t need to go through us,” Panic confirmed in a blog post last October.

The Playdate costs $149 and is expected to ship early next year. For that price, you get a ‘season’ of free games that are unlocked on a weekly basis. It was originally going to be 12, but the console’s protracted development has allowed Panic “to commission even more Season One games from more developers,” according to a blog post. A range of developers including Keita Takahashi, the creator of Katamari Damacy and Wattam, have confirmed that they’re working on Playdate titles. Panic has also shared a bunch of community prototypes including a Doom port.

Atari VCS

Atari isn’t the video game behemoth that it used to be. The company, best known for the Atari 2600 and classic titles such as Pong, was most influential in the 1970s and ‘80s. Since then, the iconic brand has been sold multiple times and struggled through bankruptcy. What remains of Atari hasn’t given up, though. The company is preparing an all-new system called the Atari VCS. The design is certainly Atari-like, with long idents along the top and, for at least one model called the VCS 800, a faux walnut finish on the front. The company has also made a retro joystick to accompany its take on a modern controller. Longtime Atari fans will also appreciate the Vault, a collection of classics that includes Asteroids, Breakout and Centipede.

The Atari VCS is more than a retro console, though. It’s a “fully-functional mini-PC,” according to Atari COO Michael Arzt, powered by an AMD Ryzen R1606G processor with integrated Vega graphics. By default, the console will run Atari OS, a version of Linux designed for the living room. You’ll be able to use “PC Mode,” however, to install and boot other operating systems such as Windows,Chrome OS and Valve’s Steam OS. Atari believes this model sets the console apart from cheaper Android-based alternatives. The VCS 800 can be a simple game console for the living room, but it can also be a semi-decent PC for browsing the web and accessing basic apps.

An Atari VCS 800 All-in Bundle, which includes a console, joystick and standard controller, can be pre-ordered for $389.99. That’s expensive: for $10 extra, you could buy a PlayStation 5 Digital Edition. The console was first revealed as the Ataribox at E3 2017. It was renamed in March 2018 and then crowdfunded on Indiegogo a couple of months later. Atari hopes to ship backer units and a small number of pre-orders before the end of the year. Full retail production won’t happen until January 2021, however. The VCS has been a long time coming and some people are understandably skeptical about Atari’s ability to deliver. The company is tiny, after all, and working on eyebrow-raising projects such as cryptocurrency and Atari-themed hotels.

Intellivision Amico

Atari isn’t the only retro brand attempting a comeback. A team led by Tommy Tallarico, an industry veteran that’s worked on over 300 games, is making a new Intellivision system. The Amico is meant to be a simpler system that anyone can play, regardless of their age or experience with video games. It comes with two controllers that have discs instead of D-pads, four shoulder buttons, a small touchscreen and everything required for basic motion controls. The console will come with six games and a bunch of downloadable extras that cost between $2.99 and $9.99, including an exclusive sequel to the beloved Earthworm Jim platformers.

The Intellivision team believes the casual market is woefully underserved at the moment. Modern games are too complicated, according to Tallarico, and don’t encourage people to play in the same room. The Amico will solve this with a game library that doesn’t include any violence, bad language or sexual content. There won’t be any loot boxes or microtransactions, either, so parents can have full confidence in what their children are playing. That’s the idea, anyway.

Like the VCS, the Amico is expensive. The tray-shaped system will cost around $249 at launch, which is only $50 short of the Nintendo Switch and Xbox Series S. (You could also argue that the Switch serves a similar need for family-friendly gaming.) Still, there’s a group of people who grew up in the 1980s and remember the Intellivision name with fondness. For those people, the curated library and simplistic controllers might be enough to justify the asking price. Tallarico’s team was originally targeting an October 2020 launch, but that date has since been pushed to next May. If the timing lines up, we could have an Atari and Intellivision rematch on our hands.

Switch Pro

We can’t end this list without giving the long-rumoured Switch Pro a mention. To be clear, Nintendo has never confirmed the console’s existence. Bloomberg reported in August that the company was planning to launch an upgraded Switch next year, though. According to unnamed sources, the company has considered a more powerful model that can support 4K visuals. It could replace the standard Switch — which has already received a minor revision, upping the battery life slightly — or sit alongside it. There’s no guarantee that a Switch Pro will happen, though. Nintendo has performed incredibly well during the pandemic and sold a staggering number of consoles over the last three quarters. Still, a Switch sequel could help maintain that incredible momentum next year.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/alternative-consoles-analogue-playdate-intellivision-atari-2021-140044860.html

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Tesla launches the world’s largest Supercharger station in Shanghai

Tesla has launched the world’s largest Supercharger station in China, the company announced on Wiebo. The 72-stall facility in Shanghai easily bests the 56 stall station the company opened last month in Fresno county, California, as Electrek noted. Unlike the outdoor California station, the Shanghai Superchargers also appears to be covered, according to images posted by Twitter user @JayinShanghai.

The station is located at Jing’an International Center in a key central business and commercial district of Shanghai. The new record does have an asterisk, however. According to @JayinShanghai, all 72 stalls use V2 Superchargers that produce up to 150 kW, while the 56 California stalls use 250 kW V3 chargers. That means the Shanghai drivers will need to wait a bit longer for a charge compared to their US counterparts (only Model 3 and Y EVs support V3 charging).

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/tesla-launches-the-worlds-largest-supercharger-station-in-shanghai-140227126.html

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Today is the last day you can play the original ‘FarmVille’

Now’s your last chance to squeak in some web game nostalgia. As Zynga warned in September, today is the last day to play the original FarmVille. The developers are shutting down the 11-year-old game after December 31st, 2020, in sync with Adobe ending Flash support needed for the game to run. You can still play the follow-ups, of course, but it won’t be quite the same if you’re looking to relive some memories.

You’ve likely known about this for a while if you’re a regular player. Zynga turned off in-app purchases for FarmVille on November 17th, leaving gamers to spend whatever credits they had left for the last several weeks.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/farmville-shutting-down-today-143443993.html

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A year of tech events without tech events

Captive audience at Huawei's drive-through event.

The electric cars (thankfully no fumes in that enclosed space), crept quietly around the warehouse while their passengers tested out the phone’s video zoom and editing tools as well as some noise-canceling headphones that the company was also launching around this time. After the Blade Runner razzle-dazzle, however, the cars circled a small plinth and I was held hostage for a sterile slideshow touting market share growth. It killed the mood, after all the neon spectacle. 

I handed back the demo Mate 40 Pro, which was wiped clean in both senses of the word, and the fancy car took me home. I spoke to a total of four people, including the driver, who remained socially distanced throughout. Even the car had apparently been professionally cleaned before picking me up.

It’s been an unprecedented year for big launches in tech. As the coronavirus halted mass gatherings, major events were either canceled or retooled for this pandemic era.

In the Big Tech event calendar, Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was the first to feel the effect of this year’s pandemic. Typically held in mid-February, MWC is the premier phone event of the year. In the weeks leading up to it, COVID-19 had become a global concern. But no one was changing their plans -- I was still ready to fly out two weeks before MWC kicked off. Then, LG pulled out. Samsung “scaled back” its plans. Amazon and Sony both withdrew days later. 

The GSMA, which organizes the annual show, held fast despite a growing number of companies pulling out. Then, 10 days before MWC was set to open, it was canceled. "With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has canceled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event," the GSMA said in a statement. 

Many reporters and analysts had long since canceled their trips. For a few upcoming devices, members of the press and industry insiders had already been pre-briefed back in their home cities. Other companies, like Sony, chose to launch their new phones via a YouTube livestream. 

Tech events like MWC, IFA and CES carry extra risk during a pandemic. Not only do you have thousands of people convening from around the world inside crowded conference halls, but then there are the new gadgets on display for everyone to touch and play with. How many people, exactly, poked and prodded that touchscreen interface on Samsung’s new smart fridge? How many hands have dipped into those giant bowls and trays filled with free trade show swag and, shudder, finger foods? You can imagine the glowing microbes and their spread across a hectic trade show floor. 

MWC’s cancellation was just the start. Facebook F8, Google I/O, SXSW and GDC were canceled entirely or downgraded to online-only events. As for E3, the biggest gaming event of the year, it was already going to be an unusual year, as both Sony and Microsoft planned their own splashy events centered around their next-gen consoles. Eventually, they were canceled too. 

The result of E3’s cancellation was numerous individual streams and announcements from game publishers. Ubisoft eked out its Assassins Creed: Valhalla reveal over several video streams and press releases, including a very cool digital art sketch that unfolded in front of viewers. Other huge games this year, like Cyberpunk 2077 and The Last of Us Part II, were teased with a mixture of gameplay videos and delay announcements, as COVID-19 pushed back release dates across all gaming platforms. The effect was a quieter run of gaming news.

Apple’s big press events and its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) wield arguably even more influence on the world of tech. Even for us non-developers, the WWDC keynote is where Apple teases major software updates, including new versions of iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS. This year was no exception.

This year, Apple had to morph its typical live event razzle-dazzle into a pre-recorded film, and the keynote was arguably better for it. There were no whoops or cheers from the live audience (no thank you, I’m British), and the pre-recorded material ran at a good clip, even particularly dense sections on Apple’s next-gen PC chip. 

Apple followed WWDC with several fall events, including an iPhone event and the launch of Apple-made M1 silicon, starting with a series of new ARM-based Macs. The keynotes all took a similar format as WWDC 2020: a pre-recorded video hosted by Apple’s senior executives.

You might have noticed that our hands-on stories and impressions, typically done in a separate demo area next to Apple’s amphitheater, didn’t appear on our site until days later An army of reporters, bloggers, videographers and analysts all elbowing each other to touch a smartphone is great for spreading a virus, so that wasn’t going to happen. Weeks after the announcement, Apple set up a strictly policed hands-on meeting for people to test out devices like the iPhone 12 series, complete with ample space, lots of hand sanitizer and a no-handshake policy. 

The effects of COVID-19 also meant Apple’s annual iPhone event was held in October, not September as is usually the case. 

A new kind of hands-on

For people like me covering these tech events, briefings on new product announcements meant disjointed Zoom calls that were hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away. Huawei’s weird drive-through event was more a statement of intent than a realistic event strategy. Some companies, in the run-up to canceled conferences like MWC and IFA, even sent devices like laptops, phones and headphones to reporters so they could poke, prod and test for a few hours before a courier came to take them back, and deliver them to some other tech journalist.

While Apple’s press events seemed a little more straightforward (and maybe a little less fun), companies like OnePlus toyed with AR. Fans could check out the company’s newest phone, the OnePlus Nord, using augmented reality to project the new device into the ether. They could even add their own avatar to attend the launch event virtually. It was a little complicated -- you needed a dedicated app to make it all work and it didn’t even add much -- but at least it was different. The app has since been removed, but you can see what it was like here. Of course, I’ll never forget Huawei’s bizarre drive-through press event. I’ll probably forget the Mate 40 Pro, though.

What will 2021 hold for big tech events? For now, much of the same. CES 2021 will be online only, while MWC 2021 has already been pushed back to early summer. A “reimagined” E3 is still scheduled to take place in June, but there are scant details as to what might be done to mitigate the crowds. Once COVID-19 vaccines are commonplace, things may change, but they’re unlikely to change quickly. Companies will have to figure out how to pitch its products in the most direct, or most interesting, way possible. 

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/a-year-of-tech-events-without-tech-events-150036163.html

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Puerto Rico commits $8 million to rebuild Arecibo telescope

We wouldn’t see this as more than a start. The $8 million in funding is unlikely to come anywhere close to reconstructing the telescope. We’ve asked the NSF for comment on the financial pledge, but it’s safe to presume a revival would require additional help.

Still, the funds represent an important step. They signal the territory’s commitment to Arecibo and its space studies despite the loss. They might also spur some in the US government to devote the extra funding needed to resurrect the Observatory. Don’t be surprised if 2021 is a brighter year for the facility, even if any rebuilding effort is likely to take much longer.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/puerto-rico-approves-8-million-to-rebuild-arecibo-telescope-155454170.html

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15 courses on how to become quality management-certified

Mastering Six Sigma requires you to follow a certification roadmap from White Belt, which validates your understanding of the basics, to Black Belt, or expert level. Along the way, you’ll learn how to identify the root causes of business problems using 5 Why Analysis, analyze data in Minitab, visualize an organization from an end-to-end perspective and so much more. 

From there, you can delve into the Lean courses in order to identify and eliminate waste, or you can expand on your Minitab skills and become adept at executing control charts. The choice is yours. 

Every company will benefit from hiring more Lean and Six Sigma-certified professionals, and with The 2021 Six Sigma Training Suite Bundle, you can learn both. All 15 courses would normally set you back $2,998, but you can purchase them all today for $32, or 98% off.

Prices are subject to change.

Engadget is teaming up with StackSocial to bring you deals on the latest headphones, gadgets, tech toys, and tutorials. This post does not constitute editorial endorsement, and we earn a portion of all sales. If you have any questions about the products you see here or previous purchases, please contact StackSocial support here.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/become-quality-management-certified-155515883.html

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Two weeks with Apple Fitness+

That’s something you won’t find on services from Fitbit and Samsung, which also offer workout content alongside their wearables. Similar to Fitness +, Fitbit Premium costs $10 a month and includes a Coach program with simple exercise videos and guides on nutrition, sleep and meditation. Samsung Health is free, and you can play its workouts on Samsung TVs too, but most of the content is from third parties. Perhaps Apple’s stiffest competition is Peloton, but it’s more expensive at $13 a month. Plus, to get similar onscreen metrics, you’d have to shell out north of $2,000 for one of the company’s treadmills or bikes — at which point the monthly fee skyrockets to $40. (The cheaper subscription is for people who don’t own the company’s exercise machines.)

Apple easily outshines the competition on Watch integration, but that alone doesn’t make a fitness service. The quality of the workouts themselves is a huge factor to consider. Fitness+ offers a decent range of activities, including yoga, dance, core exercises, strength training, high-intensity intervals, treadmill runs, rowing and indoor cycling, for those who have access to the appropriate machines. There’s also an intro section for beginners to get them started on basics like proper form or how to correctly set up your rowing machine. The rest of the videos run between five and 45 minutes, and while you can search by trainer, music, duration and activity, you can’t filter by difficulty level.

I was surprised when I found myself picking a video based on the type of music, even in non-dance workouts. I chose a core session with no preference for a trainer, and based my decision entirely on the fact that it would play upbeat anthems. When you find a workout you like, you can save it on your iPhone, but this option wasn’t available on Apple TV. 

Frankly, all the workouts on Fitness+ seem to cater to newbies. Apple says on its website that the service “is created for everyone from beginners to experts,” and that all the videos offer modifications for all levels. While I appreciate that in theory, in practice none of the yoga videos were challenging enough. I tried two 45-minute videos and a few shorter options, and found myself missing the tougher poses and holds from my regular classes. 

I also found the dance classes fairly easy, though they did get my heart rate up. The workouts I found most challenging were HIIT and core. Yoga is often perceived as being low-intensity and almost relaxing, but that’s not really the case. That said, the selection on Fitness+ only perpetuates this myth.

Aside from that, I don’t have many complaints about the workouts themselves. Every trainer I encountered was very likable. The coaches also appear in each other’s videos backing up the lead, posing as modification examples. These cameos are fun — I liked seeing my favorite dance coach LaShawn in a yoga workout, for example. I also thought it was interesting to see an expert in one categories appear in videos where they might be more of a novice. 

Another thing the coaches did was use American Sign Language (ASL) to welcome users who might be deaf or hard of hearing. At the end of many of the workouts I tried, trainers signed “thank you,” for example. It’s a nice touch, though I think more could still be done. In some workouts, like yoga, you may lose sight of the screen in poses like downward dog or child’s pose. These situations make it difficult for the hearing-impaired to know when to move on or get up again. Something as simple as a haptic cue on the Watch could make Fitness+ much more accessible.  

Inclusion is important, and with Fitness+ Apple does its best to welcome those new to working out to the world of home exercise. But it could do better at including intermediate and advanced users too. Over time, novice users will improve and may quickly find Fitness+ no longer challenging enough. This is a simple enough issue to address, at least — Apple can easily add more videos of greater difficulty over time. The good news is that with its excellent tech, Fitness+ has laid the groundwork for a satisfying service that can grow with its users.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/apple-fitness-plus-review-two-weeks-test-watch-music-workout-160058155.html

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T-Mobile warns customers of second data breach in less than a year

Thankfully, compared to the kinds of data hackers obtained in prior attacks on the carrier and its partners, the scope of this most recent incident is considerably narrower. T-Mobile said the attack was limited to what the FCC regards as "customer proprietary network information," which can include phone numbers, the number of lines associated with the account, and potentially information about calls placed, like phone numbers called, timing and duration. The carrier further stressed that the data accessed "did not include names on the account, physical or email addresses, financial data, credit card information, social security numbers, tax ID, passwords or PINs."

In a statement provided to BleepingComputer, the carrier said that the breach affected only a small fraction -- less than 0.2 percent -- of the more than 100 million people in its subscriber base. That may not sound like many at all, but the math still works out to some 200,000 potentially affected people. More importantly, those who have been contacted by T-Mobile should do their best to stay on guard. While the data obtained may not be enough to put those people at immediate risk, it could still be used in tandem with information obtained in other leaks and data breaches to coordinate phishing attempts and social engineering attacks. (We have contacted T-Mobile for comment, and will update this story if the company responds.)

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/t-mobile-data-breach-security-phone-number-hack-2020-172117333.html

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Podcast: Answering your questions on the PS5, foldable PCs and more!

For the last episode of 2020, Cherlynn and Devindra answer a slew of listener questions, covering everything from when to buy a PlayStation 5 to the future of folding PCs. We also look back at the best moments of covering tech throughout the year (which mostly involve this podcast). And of course, we can’t help but dream about what we’d like to see in 2021, when society (hopefully) shifts back into gear.

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 podcasts, the Morning After and Engadget News!

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/engadget-podcast-qa-ps5-foldables-181209877.html

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Every NYC subway station now supports contactless payments

New York’s MTA has finished rolling out contactless payments across all the subway stations and bus lines in all five boroughs. The OMNY (One Metro New York) system allows riders to tap-and-pay for fares with smartphones, smartwatches and contactless credit and debit cards.

MTA first introduced the contactless payments last May, but it's taken more than a year and half for the technology to make its way across New York’s transit system. In that time, MTA has seen more than 35 million taps using OMNY, MTA executive director Al Putre said in a press conference today. The next goal, he said, is to bring OMNY to New York’s rail lines, and introduce contactless OMNY cards, including reduced fare cards, to bring OMNY’s functionality up to par with current MetroCard offerings.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/ny-mta-omny-rollout-contactless-payments-192436315.html

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