Monthly Archives: January 2015

Amazon’s Echo lets you control iTunes, Pandora and Spotify with your voice

Amazon's Echo lets you control iTunes, Pandora and Spotify with your voice

If you accepted an invitation to buy Amazon’s Echo speaker, you’ve noticed that the device didn’t have a vast musical vocabulary at first — you could tell it to play iHeartRadio or Prime Music tunes, and that’s about it. You’ll have a better time of things from now on, though. Amazon is rolling out an update that lets you use your voice to steer iTunes, Pandora radio or Spotify on your mobile device . It’s not super-sophisticated, but you no longer have to reach for your phone just to skip tracks. And in case millions more songs won’t keep you entertained, there’s also a “Simon says” command that you can use to prank people (or simply tell them something) from across the home. We’d argue that the biggest upgrade to the Echo would be getting to buy one, but these new features will do in a pinch.

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Marriott is no longer fighting for permission to block WiFi hotspots

Marriott is no longer fighting for permission to block WiFi hotspots

Marriott wants you to know that it’s completely done trying to block guests’ personal WiFi connections — it has even given up convincing the FCC to give it permission to do so, a spokesperson told Engadget. The company already announced that it won’t be keeping people from using their own MiFis and hotspots in hotel rooms, but its official statement at that time said it “will continue to look to the FCC to clarify appropriate security measures network operators.” See, the hotel chain still wanted the FCC to let it continue blocking personal WiFi in its business and convention centers in order to protect guests from rogue internet connections, or so it claimed.

Unfortunately for Marriott, tech juggernauts Google and Microsoft came forward to lobby against that request, though it was the statement issued by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler himself a few days ago that became the final nail in the coffin. In it, he blasted the chain for wanting to go against the Communications Act, which “prohibits anyone from willfully or maliciously interfering with authorized radio communications, including Wi-Fi.” So, yes, you should be able to use your phones as hotspots or your MiFi anywhere you want within Marriott’s premises. If anybody says otherwise, just show them this statement by Marriott Global Chief Information Officer Bruce Hoffmeister:

Marriott International has decided to withdraw as a party to the petition seeking direction from the FCC on legal Wi-Fi security measures. Our intent was to protect personal data in Wi-Fi hotspots for large conferences. We thought we were doing the right thing asking the FCC to provide guidance, but the FCC has indicated its opposition. As we have said, we will not block Wi-Fi signals at any hotel we manage for any reason. And, as of January 15, we provide free Wi-Fi to all members of our Marriott Rewards program who book directly with us. We’re doing everything we can to promote our customers’ connectivity using mobile and other devices, and we’re working with the industry to find security solutions that do not involve blocking our guests’ use of their Wi-Fi devices.

[Image credit: monkeybusinessimages/Getty]

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The Pirate Bay comes back weeks after a police raid

The Pirate Bay comes back weeks after a police raid

We’re starting to wonder if it’s nigh-on impossible to keep The Pirate Bay down. Just weeks after Swedish police raided the bootleg file site and knocked it offline, it’s back — TorrentFreak reports that almost everything is up and running once again, complete with a phoenix graphic (above) to taunt authorities. With that said, it’s not quite the same experience that many veteran users would remember. While the pre-raid content remains intact, many of the original staffers are locked out of this version. They’re planning to create their own version of the Bay that supposedly restores the community spirit of the original. It’s not clear if that’ll work, but it sounds like cops and copyright holders may have created more problems for themselves in trying to take down one of the best-known pirate havens.

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The poetry of my tweets

The poetry of my tweets

I’d like to think my tweets offer some cultural value and promote a better world. I consume plenty of brilliant films and scholarly articles, then reflect my learnings on Twitter multiple times a day. So when I heard there was a tool to turn my tweets into real poetry, I expected a reflection of the erudite person I’ve become. Unfortunately, I was painted as, well…a boob.

If you kept up with Twitter this week, a series of nonsensical poems probably slid into your feed. You can thank Poetweet for that, a project of b_arco cultural center in São Paulo, Brazil. Anyone can plug in a Twitter handle, choose from a sonnet, rondel or indriso style poem and in a minute, it generates a masterpiece.

“The poems are made ​​by combining all user tweets and finding rhymes between them, creating curious results and sometimes surreal,” according to the center’s blog. For my experience, I chose a sonnet and the site spit out what was a bewildering look into the past two weeks of my life.

The poetry of my tweets

As you can see, my social sonnet was mostly gibberish. With the help of Topsy, I was able to find the source tweets that led to this work of “art” and discovered they were all about my obsession with pop culture.

I talked a lot about Chrissy Teigen‘s brilliant meme and the wonder that is Big Ang over the past week. I also remarked on Amber Rose’s new assets and said “YASS” in a number of ways (noting “DAT ass” and “YASS” were the only two stanzas that rhymed).

“How about now create real?,” b_arco asks at the end of my poem. I think what they’re getting at is making our tweets a bit more thoughtful. Maybe I should pick up a scholarly piece of literature and reflect my learnings of said book in my future tweets. Or, I can just keep saying “YASS.”

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HTC’s Lollipop update won’t reach every One phone on time

HTC's Lollipop update won't reach every One phone on time

HTC hasn’t always had success upgrading One users to the latest version of Android within its promised 90-day window, and history is unfortunately repeating itself with Android 5.0 Lollipop on the way. The phone maker is now warning that “some carrier versions” of the One M8 and M7 won’t get Lollipop by the expected February 1st deadline. Reportedly, Google’s rush to fix Lollipop (which emerged, shall we say, less than polished) gave HTC little time to both finish its own update and put it through the usual provider testing routine.

You might not see the update all that soon, either. In the US, it still hasn’t reached the certification stage with the big four carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon). At least some UK users report seeing the new software, but there’s no handy chart to detail progress. As you might guess, the only surefire way to get Lollipop right now is to own a One M8 developer edition, Google Play Edition or unlocked model — otherwise, you might have to make-do with last year’s software for a while longer.

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HTC One (M8)

  • Key specs
  • Reviews 80

  • Prices
  • Discussions
  • Type Smartphone
  • Operating system Android (KitKat [4.4])
  • Screen size 5 inches
  • Internal memory 32 GB
  • Carriers (US) AT&T
  • Dimensions 5.76 x 2.78 x 0.37 in
  • Weight 5.64 oz
  • Released 2014-03-25

see all specs

9.2average user rating
  • Reception and call quality 9.4
  • Display 9.6
  • Battery life 9
  • Camera 8.1
  • Ease of use 9.4
  • Design and form factor 9.7
  • Portability (size / weight) 9
  • Media support 9.7
  • Durability 9.2
  • Ecosystem (apps, accessories, etc.) 9.4

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Casio’s new iOS app turns your whistling into full-length tunes

Casio's new iOS app turns your whistling into full-length tunes

Apps have done wonders for music creation, and now there’s mobile software from Casio that aims to make it even easier. The Chordana Composer app for iPhone creates a track basked on a melody that you create by singing or whistling two bars of a tune. Casio’s handiwork records you, and then automatically builds the rest of the song based on your input. This means that anyone can construct a hit without in-depth music knowledge or the ability to play an instrument. After the base of the song is captured, there’s five genres and three melodic settings for the tweaking before hitting the Auto Compose button and putting the app to work.

In addition to the vocal input, Chordana Composer also has a keyboard interface, notation option and MIDI compatibility, so once the song is complete, that score can be fine-tuned. Don’t just take my word for it, though, have a listen at the track I composed down below. The results aren’t awesome by any means, at least on my first few attempts, but the process is certainly interesting. If you’re ready to give it your best Katy Perry impression, the $3 app is available now over at iTunes.

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Recommended Reading: Reliving virtual reality in the ’90s

Recommended Reading highlights the best long-form writing on technology and more in print and on the web. Some weeks, you’ll also find short reviews of books that we think are worth your time. We hope you enjoy the read.

Recommended Reading: Reliving virtual reality in the '90s

A Look Back at the Doomed Virtual Reality Boom of the 90s
Kyle Fowle, Kill Screen

With the revival of VR, it’s important that we take a look back to the last big push for virtual reality. Kill Screen recently dedicated an entire issue to the topic, including a piece that recalls what VR was like in the ’90s, when it was all circle pods, massive headsets and plastic guns. Ah… the good ol’ days.

Justified Creator on the Final Season, that Death in the Premiere and More
Eric Goldman, IGN

The final season of Justified is underway, and IGN’s Eric Goldman caught up with series creator Graham Yost to chat about what’s to come before the final showdown between Raylan and Boyd.

How Three Guys With $10K and Decades-Old Data Almost Found the Higgs Boson First
by Joshua Batson, Wired

Remember when a team at CERN used the Large Hadron Collider to find the elusive Higgs boson back in 2013? Well, a much smaller group with a much smaller budget almost beat them to it.

The Devil Wears Pulsars
by
Shirley Li, The Atlantic

High fashion is taking inspiration from the stars once more, and The Atlantic’s Shirley Li takes a look at why the runway is so interested in astronomy again — including how advances in space exploration have provided a wealth of visual inspiration.

Virtual Reality at Sundance: The Long-Delayed, Inevitable Future Is Bright, Empathetic, and Already on Your Phone
by Matt Patches, Grantland

You’ve likely read up on all our VR coverage from Sundance, and if you’re itchin’ for more, Grantland has a solid rundown, too.

[Photo credit: Diverse Images/UIG]

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Your BMW just downloaded a security patch

Your BMW just downloaded a security patch

Have a BMW, Mini or Rolls Royce with the ConnectedDrive feature parked in your driveway? Maybe all three? Well, it turns out there was a bug that allowed ne’er-do-wells to manipulate it — entirely wirelessly. According to Reuters, by simulating a fake phone network researchers at German outfit ADAC (essentially Deutschland’s AAA) were able to gain access to systems governed by the platform’s SIM card by spoofing a cell tower. They’ve even put together a video describing the gap in security which you can check out after the break — if you speak German. While the vulnerabilities didn’t include anything related to steering, acceleration or braking, the ConnectedDrive does have access to traffic information, air conditioning and… door locks.

For its part, BMW says it hasn’t seen any reports of compromises to vehicle security, and now it’s using HTTPS to encrypt all data transmissions. Perhaps best of all? Owners of the 2.2 million affected vehicles didn’t need to hit the dealership for this patch — it was already delivered over the air. The update pushed automatically once the system connected to BMW’s servers recently, but those who keep a car stored may want to hop in and hit the “Update Services” button. Good thing, because taking all three of your rides in for service (like the time a patch was needed in 2012 to fix a problem with the ODB port that thieves were actually using to steal cars) would probably be kind of inconvenient.

Your BMW just downloaded a security patch

Affected models:

BMW

1 Series Convertible, Coupé and Touring (E81, E82, E87, E88, F20, F21)
2er Active Tourer, Coupé and Convertible (F22, F23, F45)
3 with Convertible, Coupe, GT, Touring and M3 (E90, E91, E92, E93, F30, F31, F34, F80)
4p Coupe, Convertible, Gran Coupe and M4 (F32, F33, F36, F82, F83)
5 Series GT and Touring (F07, F10, F11, F18)
6 Series Gran Coupe Convertible (F06, F12, F13)
7 Series (F01, F02, F03, F04)
I3 (I01), I8 (I12)
X1 (E84), X3 (F25), X4 (F26) X 5 (E70, F15, F85), X6 (E71, E72, F16, F86), Z 4 (E89)

Mini

Three-door and five-door hatchback (F55, F56)

Rolls Royce

Phantom Coupe and Drophead Coupe (RR1, RR2, RR3)
Ghost (RR4)
Wrait (RR5)

[Image credit: BMW - AFP/Getty Images, control unit - ADAC / Uwe Rattay]

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BMW Connected hitting 1 Series cars first, lets you tweet your disregard for speed limits

BMW Connected hitting 1 Series cars first, lets you tweet your disregard for speed limits

The BMW Connected app has been available for a few months now, following in the footsteps of Mini Connected as it sits there, and taunting you from the App Store. We knew cars supporting the feature would be coming in March, and now we know which ones will be first: BMW’s svelte little 1 Series. To enable the streaming radio and even streaming video (when the car is stationary) on the dash-mounted display you’ll need to tick the box next to a €150 (about $205) option. In your suitably equipped car you can then get your Facebook and Twitter feeds read to you and even provide automated responses using “vehicle information such as current speed, outside temperature or navigation destination.” We’re hoping the car can apply some flowery language to such hard data, like “bat out of hell” for those particularly warm days in which you’re driving at a high rate of speed from an unpleasant point of origin.

Show full PR text
BMW offers new interface for extended iPhone connectivity.The special option Apps.

23.02.2011Press Release
Munich. For the first time following the launch of MINI Connected, the BMW Group is now also offering select iPhone applications for integrated use in a BMW. This capability sees the already extensive range of BMW ConnectedDrive features enhanced by a function hitherto unmatched by the competition. With this offer, BMW is once again underlining its leadership role in the field of in-car integration technology. The new option is designed to improve the integration of the Apple iPhone in the car and will be available from spring 2011 to coincide with the launch of the new BMW 1 Series Coupé and the new BMW 1 Series Convertible. The special option will cost €150.

BMW Connected app: listen to web radio, send and receive Facebook and Twitter posts.
With the BMW Connected app, functions such as web radio, Facebook and Twitter can be shown on the car’s display and be operated by means of the iDrive Controller. In addition to the new special option Apps, the requirements for this function are Bluetooth connectivity and the Navigation system Professional (both special options), as well as an iPhone with the BMW Connected app, which can be downloaded free of charge in the Apple App Store. If the iPhone is connected to the car via the USB socket or snap-in adapter, the content of the BMW Connected app appears on the display, which is ideally positioned in the driver’s line of vision. This means drivers can leave their iPhone in the holder and keep up with personal Facebook or Twitter posts in comfort and safety via the large vehicle display. Using preformulated text modules, which can be individually defined and stored in the iPhone app, the app can also be used to call up vehicle information such as current speed, outside temperature or navigation destination, enabling the driver to reply to new posts and messages from the car at any time.
As with Facebook and Twitter, the web radio feature can also be operated via the Navigation display using the iDrive Controller. It means that vehicle occupants have access to thousands of internet radio stations around the world, irrespective of the car’s location. As with the iPhone, music station searches can be carried out via a wide range of search parameters such as genre, country or local stations. Stored favourite stations can also be called up.
Whereas Facebook and Twitter can only be accessed inside the vehicle, the web radio feature of the BMW Connected App is also available on the iPhone beyond the confines of the car.
In addition to allowing the use of the BMW Connected app, this interface also opens up the possibility of using future applications in the vehicle which have been adapted in collaboration with BMW. As such the Apps interface only marks the beginning of extended iPhone integration through BMW ConnectedDrive. Further functions and apps will follow at regular intervals and will be available for download from the App Store to customers who have opted for the special option Apps and the related interface.

PlugIn: simple operation of the iPhone’s iPod function in the car.
As well as permitting the integration of apps, the new interface offers a further in-car entertainment function known as PlugIn. This allows the operation of functions via the familiar Apple iPod user interface that appears in the car’s display. Since the PlugIn feature gives the car direct access to the iPod functions of the iPhone, BMW owners can also avail themselves of all the extended options in the car. These include, for example, Genius playlists that allow the driver to automatically generate mixes of similar tracks from the music catalogue. All stored playlists are shown with their original album cover art – just as they would be on an iPhone or iPod. Here, once again, BMW is affirming its leadership role in the field of infotainment.
As the software for the various BMW ConnectedDrive options is in the user’s iPhone, regular updates can extend and adapt these functions, thereby guaranteeing the long-term use of current and future iPhone functions. It marks a new era in the integration of consumer electronics in the car. The requirement for this comprehensive integration is a snap-in adapter.

Video playback: vodcasts in the car as well.
Last but not least, the new Apps interface also allows video podcasts from the iPhone’s iPod function to be played and watched on the in-car display – when the vehicle is stationary.

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Daily Roundup: Tesla Model X, DARPA YouTube robots and more!

Daily Roundup: Tesla Model X, DARPA YouTube robots and more!

Tesla’s Model X has been spotted in the wild; a new DARPA technology lets robots learn from YouTube videos; and Verizon is changing its policy on “supercookies.” Get the details on these stories and more in the Daily Roundup.

Tesla’s long-delayed Model X SUV is testing in California

Daily Roundup: Tesla Model X, DARPA YouTube robots and more!

Tesla’s long-delayed Model X SUV was recently spotted in the wild. A skateboarder riding at a nearby park captured this video of the mysterious car being tested at an abandoned airfield.

DARPA’s new tech lets robots learn from YouTube videos

Daily Roundup: Tesla Model X, DARPA YouTube robots and more!

What may be the best way to teach a robot new tricks? Have them learn by watching YouTube videos. Hopefully, these future robots will be more inclined to help us out with mundane tasks, as opposed to the alternative.

Verizon Wireless will let you dodge those sketchy ‘supercookies’

Daily Roundup: Tesla Model X, DARPA YouTube robots and more!

Verizon Wireless appears to be backing off its scummy policy of tracking users with a “supercookie.” However, there’s no word yet on when this change will happen.

Jay Z is buying Spotify rival Tidal for $56 million

Daily Roundup: Tesla Model X, DARPA YouTube robots and more!

Jay-Z is getting into the streaming-music business. A company indirectly owned by Jay-Z has made a bid for Aspiro, a Norwegian company behind the streaming service Tidal.

Google Now finally pulls in data from your favorite apps

Daily Roundup: Tesla Model X, DARPA YouTube robots and more!

Google Now is rolling out support for third-party apps. The predictive-search app will now push relevant data from 40 apps and services.

‘Lego Jurassic World’ game packs four movies’ worth of brick dinosaurs

Daily Roundup: Tesla Model X, DARPA YouTube robots and more!

In case you haven’t had your fill of dinosaurs yet, (and let’s be honest, who has?) the Lego Jurassic World game is set to be released alongside the blockbuster movie. Get ready to explore Isla Nublar and run from brick-built velociraptors this summer.

Of course ‘Law & Order: SVU’ is doing a GamerGate episode

Daily Roundup: Tesla Model X, DARPA YouTube robots and more!

NBC’s Law & Order: SVU plans to tackle the seedier side of the “GamerGate” movement and its harassment tactics in an upcoming episode to air in February.

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