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NASA’s Curiosity rover accidentally uncovered pure sulfur crystals on Mars

NASA scientists say pure sulfur has been found on Mars for the first time after the Curiosity rover inadvertently uncovered a cluster of yellow crystals when it drove over a rock. And it looks like the area is filled with it. It’s an unexpected discovery — while minerals containing sulfur have been observed on the Red Planet, elemental sulfur on its own has never been seen there before. “It forms in only a narrow range of conditions that scientists haven’t associated with the history of this location,” according to NASA.

Curiosity cracked open the rock on May 30 while driving in a region known as the Gediz Vallis channel, where similar rocks were seen all around. The channel is thought to have been carved by water and debris flows long ago. “Finding a field of stones made of pure sulfur is like finding an oasis in the desert,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s project scientist. “It shouldn’t be there, so now we have to explain it. Discovering strange and unexpected things is what makes planetary exploration so exciting.” 

A rock run over and cracked by the Curiosity rover revealing yellow sulfur crystals
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

After spotting the yellow crystals, the team later used a camera on Curiosity’s robotic arm to take a closer look. The rover then took a sample from a different rock nearby, as the pieces of the rock it had smashed were too brittle for drilling. Curiosity is equipped with instruments that allow it to analyze the composition of rocks and soil, and NASA says its Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) confirmed it had found elemental sulfur.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/nasas-curiosity-rover-accidentally-uncovered-pure-sulfur-crystals-on-mars-211340580.html?src=rss

Outage caused by CrowdStrike’s disastrous update affected 8.5 million devices

The global outage caused by a faulty update from cybersecurity provider CrowdStrike on Friday affected some 8.5 million Windows devices, Microsoft said in a blog post. The update triggered a blue screen of death, bringing systems used by hospitals, airlines, banks and other major services temporarily to a standstill. Only machines running Windows were affected.

While the issue was mostly resolved by Friday afternoon, Microsoft and CrowdStrike are still dealing with the fallout. In the blog post on Saturday, Microsoft’s VP of Enterprise and OS Security, David Weston, wrote that the company is working with CrowdStrike to “develop a scalable solution that will help Microsoft’s Azure infrastructure accelerate a fix for CrowdStrike’s faulty update.” Microsoft has also called in help from Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

CrowdStrike said in its own blog post on Saturday that the update — a sensor configuration update — “was designed to target newly observed, malicious named pipes being used by common C2 frameworks in cyberattacks.” Unfortunately, for devices running Windows 7.11 and above that use CrowdStrike’s Falcon sensor, it instead “triggered a logic error that resulted in an operating system crash.” The total number of devices affected worked out to be “less than one percent of all Windows machines,” according to Weston.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/outage-caused-by-crowdstrikes-disastrous-update-affected-85-million-devices-192703245.html?src=rss

.45 PARABELLUM BLOODHOUND is a cyberpunk RPG by the developer of VA-11 HALL-A

Sukeban Games is working on what it describes as a "cyberpunk active time action" game with a battle system that's similar to Parasite Eve. In a blog post, Chris of Sukeban has officially announced .45 PARABELLUM BLOODHOUND, featuring a mercenary named Reila Mikazuchi as its protagonist. Enemies can attack you from anywhere while you're exploring environments in the game, and you'll have to dodge and wait for an action bar to fill before you can launch a counterattack. The action bar fills at a speed based on your character and weapon stats, so the stronger you get, the faster you can fight back. 

While the announcement doesn't have a in-depth explanation of the game's plot, Chris describes its story as follows: "You play as Reila Mikazuchi; a washed out mercenary whose glory days are long gone. In a last attempt at grabbing life by the horns she decides to go back to the life, only to realize the real enemy isn’t in front of her gun."

The indie developer is planning to make seven chapters for the game, and five are already done and playable. It has yet to announce a release date, though, so as not to repeat its "N1RV ANN-A situation." Sukeban is the developer behind the cyberpunk bartending "booze-em-up" game VA-11 HALL-A, which is set in a post-dystopian world with a corporate-controlled society. 

VA-11 HALL-A was wildly successful for an indie title, and Sukeban announced a sequel called N1RV ANN-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action back in 2018 after it hit 200,000 copies sold. The developer hasn't released N1RV ANN-A yet despite announcing a 2020 launch date, and it doesn't look like we're seeing it anytime soon. Chris said .45 PARABELLUM BLOODHOUND is "significantly ahead in development" and that the developer is dedicating its "full attention to it for the foreseeable future."

Sukeban has also released the first trailer for .45 PARABELLUM BLOODHOUND, and you can watch it below.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/45-parabellum-bloodhound-is-a-cyberpunk-rpg-by-the-developer-of-va-11-hall-a-180043556.html?src=rss

The workers at Bethesda Game Studios have fully unionized

The workers at Bethesda Game Studios have joined the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and they say they're the first Microsoft video game studio to form a wall-to-wall union. A total of 241 workers have either signed an authorization card or have indicated that they wanted to join a union through an online portal. The "wall-to-wall" nature of their organization means the CWA will be representing workers across job descriptions and divisions — and not just one type — including artists, engineers, programmers and designers. Bethesda is the developer behind Starfield and the Elder Scrolls and Fallout games.

Microsoft has already recognized the union, so workers at the studio's Maryland office have officially joined CWA Locals 2108, while those in its Texas office have become members of CWA Locals 6215. "We are so excited to announce our union at Bethesda Game Studio and join the movement sweeping across the video game industry," Mandi Parker, Bethesda Senior System Designer, said. "It is clear that every worker can benefit from bringing democracy into the workplace and securing a protected voice on the job. We’re thrilled to get down to brass tacks and win a fair contract, proving that our unity is a source of real power to positively shape our working conditions, our lives, and the company as a whole."

Bethesda's workers join the growing number of unionized personnel in video games. In January 2023, quality assurance workers at ZeniMax Studios, the parent company of Bethesda, banded together to form what was then the largest union in the industry with 300 members. It lost the distinction as the largest union in video games when 600 quality assurance workers at Activision, which is also owned by Microsoft, joined the CWA this year. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-workers-at-bethesda-game-studios-have-fully-unionized-163024914.html?src=rss

Rivian opens its first Charging Outpost, a crunchy not-gas station near Yosemite

Rivian just opened its first EV charging rest stop 24 miles outside of Yosemite National Park, complete with bathrooms, a lounge with a small library, a water refill station, free coffee and (not free) “make your own” trail mix. Only Rivian owners will be able to make use of the five DC fast chargers at the Rivian Yosemite Charging Outpost, but the other amenities are open to anyone.

The Charging Outpost is located in Groveland, California near the park’s west entrance and takes the place of an abandoned gas station. The shop area will be open from 7AM to 7PM, while the bathrooms and chargers will be available 24/7. It’s the first time Rivian has ventured into this kind of infrastructure, building on its growing network of regular charging sites — several of which are situated near Yosemite. The EV maker has 58 Waypoint charging sites, which support any electric vehicle that uses the standard J1772 plug, around the Yosemite Valley, and a Rivian-only Adventure charging site near the park’s east entrance.

Rivian says it has plans for more Charging Outposts “around national parks and other high-traffic areas across the country.” The first such building was designed with the intention of keeping waste to a minimum, and its retaining wall was made using materials from the old parking lot and sidewalk. It’s fitted with solar panels and has a passive cooling design that’s meant to reduce the need for AC or heating.

Beyond Charging Outposts, Rivian plans to eventually have over 3,500 of its Adventure Network DC fast chargers available in 600 sites across the US and Canada, on top of roughly 10,000 Level 2 chargers that will be open to the public.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/rivian-opens-its-first-charging-outpost-a-crunchy-not-gas-station-near-yosemite-152039298.html?src=rss

'Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess' review: Demonic delights

Rhythm is everything in Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess. On a micro scale, the maiden Yoshiro dances through the game with graceful, measured movements, her steps cleansing the black defilement that has consumed her mountain and its people. In combat, Yoshiro’s protector, Soh, directs their sword in nimble arcs, landing attacks and parries based on timing and flow. On a grand scale, Kunitsu-Gami employs a soothing cadence of frenzied combat and peaceful base building. Soh’s abilities grow into a powerful crescendo as they guide Yoshiro down the mountain, her body deteriorating with each encounter.

Amid these crashing waves of tension and tranquility, Kunitsu-Gami also balances beauty and hellish terror with supreme skill. The slopes of Mt. Kafuku are lush, but its plants, animals and people are slathered in caustic pools of defilement, oil-slick and sticky. Yoshiro and Soh wear layers of delicate fabrics and glinting metallic jewelry, their movements mesmerizing. The demons that have taken over the mountain are vile — eyeless and bulging with toxic pus, many of them armed with sharp claws and gaping maws. The creature designs in Kunitsu-Gami are body-horrific and each beast is uniquely, grotesquely gorgeous.

Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess screenshot.
Capcom

Kunitsu-Gami finds harmony in its dichotomies. The game’s core loop involves a day-night cycle: During the day, players carve a path for Yoshiro to cleanse a settlement, meanwhile collecting crystals, repairing defenses and freeing villagers from cocoons of defilement. At night, creatures called Seethe pour out of the Torii gates, and Soh must defend Yoshiro with the help of the rescued villagers. Protecting Yoshiro and completing her ritual reverts each region to its pre-defilement form, creating a base where Soh can upgrade their units and abilities.

The game blends real-time combat with tower-defense mechanics, and all of it takes place in a zoomed-out third-person view with a fully adjustable camera anchored to Soh’s body. It’s an effective approach, inviting players to mess around with perspective and investigate every detour in the environment, purging defilement as they go.

There are 17 bases to cleanse on the mountain plus 10 boss stages. Defeating a big bad in a challenge stage unlocks a new warrior type for Soh to deploy, including healer, sorcerer, ninja, spearman, cannoneer, marksman, and an aesthetic that can slow down enemies. As night falls on a base battle, the game's music grows louder and more discordant, signaling the imminent Seethe invasion. Players assign roles to villagers using the crystals they’ve collected during the day, and then place their fighters around Yoshiro on the map. Each battle involves a different number of units — there are even fights that Soh has to complete on their own, and others where they’re incapacitated, leaving combat to the villagers entirely. The variety built into these encounters is refreshing.

Combat requires preparation and constant attention, as the Seethe attack Yoshiro from multiple sides with a variety of moves, including aerial slashes, suicide bombs and bulbous projectiles that explode in toxic pools. It’s often essential to reposition units mid-battle, and thankfully, time freezes during these tactical moments.

Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess screenshot.
Capcom

Soh mainly attacks with their sword in a smooth, rhythmic form that feels fantastic to control. Attacks are simple — on the DualSense, it’s square for smaller strikes and triangle for a large hit. Pressing square before triangle lines up elaborate sequences where Soh twists and swings their body before landing a series of big blows, and their positioning is completely controllable the entire time. This makes combat feel like one elongated dance, the input perfectly predicting Soh’s on-screen movements. Soh’s abilities evolve steadily with every victory and base repair, eventually adding a ranged bow, an extra form of swordplay, stronger attacks, multiple special moves and other upgrades to their kit.

Mandatory boss levels appear after some settlements are successfully cleansed, offering massive fights against gloriously gross creatures. I had to replay most of these bosses at least once, adjusting my unit types and positions according to each demon’s unique attack style and vulnerabilities. The enemies are all giant and covered in intricate, iridescent designs, but they’re otherwise distinct: There’s a skittering centipede that rushes in for rapid hits, a literal cherry tree with stabbing tentacle roots, a vicious floating sorcerer orbited by a ring of rocky spikes, and a juicy larval beast that moves like a petulant toddler and spews lethal sludge. That last one is called Notsugo and it’s my favorite because it’s so disgustingly adorable.

Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess
Capcom

After a fight in a settlement or boss stage, there’s time to take a breath and fix up some bases. The bases trail down the side of Mt. Kafuku in the stage-selection screen following a successful purge — once the defilement is cleared from a settlement, players still have to make it habitable by assigning villagers to fix broken buildings and platforms. Repairs take a few in-game days to complete and they unlock extra resources. It’s easy, tranquil work. This mechanic provides a soft place to land after a big battle, where players can strategize, upgrade their skills, pet a Shiba Inu or let a deer scream at them. I recommend repairing bases as quickly and thoroughly as possible: Not only does this net necessary resources at the proper pace, but it prevents an uncomfortable base-repair backlog from forming. By mid-game, I generally had three or four bases on the go at all times, and that was with immediate, maxed-out repairs.

The bases are also home to some of the most beautiful aspects of the game. Yoshiro sets up a tent in each base where players manage upgrades, and it also contains plates to share food with her. The dessert menu fills up first, offering a variety of mochi treats and crystalline sweets in a fabulous photorealistic viewing mode. I don’t know what it is, but I could stare at hyper-detailed video game food all day. Kunitsu-Gami understands this urge and caters to it.

Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess
Capcom

Additionally, the tent contains scrolls featuring traditional, woodcut-style art pieces relating to completed stages, and the bases have collectable ema plaques that showcase detailed, rotatable 3D images of the demons and villagers players encounter. These are sensational touches that not only expand the game’s lore, but shine a brilliant light on Japanese history and culture.

Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess is perfectly balanced, lovingly crafted, and metal as hell. It’s filled with foreboding demons and intense combat, but it’s also a peaceful experience that invites players to slow down and recognize the beauty around them — even when it’s in the form of a giant, oozing monster. Especially then.

Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and Game Pass. It's developed and published by Capcom.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/kunitsu-gami-path-of-the-goddess-review-demonic-delights-150004066.html?src=rss

What to read this weekend: The Light Eaters, Paranoid Gardens and I Was a Teenage Slasher

Recent releases in fiction, nonfiction and comics that caught our attention.

The cover for the book I Was a Teenage Slasher

Stephen Graham Jones is something of an expert on slashers. The author has tackled the genre in a slew of his novels (most notably in the Indian Lake Trilogy, with its slasher-movie-obsessed main character) and has an ongoing column in Fangoria dedicated to its impact, so it’s not really a surprise to see he’s churned out another entry for the canon. But this time around, we’re getting a different perspective: the slasher’s point of view.

I Was a Teenage Slasher is the fictional memoir of Tolly Driver, who in 1989 reluctantly became Lamesa, Texas’ very own Michael Meyers at the age of 17 — a transformation that’s seemingly driven by powers beyond Tolly’s control. It takes the classic slasher formula and injects a whole lot of heart.

The cover for the book The Light Eaters

The Light Eaters: How the Unseen World of Plant Intelligence Offers a New Understanding of Life on Earth was released in the spring, but it just popped onto my radar and I was immediately drawn in by both the premise and Schlanger’s easy-to-digest writing style. The Light Eaters explores the long-debated concept of plant “intelligence” through conversations with scientists and deep dives into the complex processes that underlie plants’ survival.

There’s a fair amount of anthropomorphizing, but The Light Eaters provides a really fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of plants that’s accessible to non-scientists and at the very least could inspire you to look at the natural world a little differently.

The cover for issue 1 of Paranoid Gardens

The digital first issue of Paranoid Gardens, a new six-issue series from Gerard Way and Shaun Simon, dropped this week and it’s wonderfully bizarre. We’re introduced right away to Loo, a nurse with memory loss and a tragic (but as yet unexplained) backstory who works at a care facility for aliens and paranormal beings. And it’s not just the patients that are out of the ordinary — there’s something unusual about the building itself, too. Drama quickly unfolds, and Loo “must fight her way through corrupt staff members, powerful theme park cults, and her own personal demons and trauma” to understand her role in all of it “and discover what secrets the gardens hold.”

Paranoid Gardens is written by Way (yes, of My Chemical Romance fame but also The Umbrella Academy) and Simon (The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, written with Way), and features art by Chris Weston, colors by Dave Stewart and letters by Nate Piekos.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/what-to-read-this-week-the-light-eaters-paranoid-gardens-and-i-was-a-teenage-slasher-133012961.html?src=rss

X is working on a way to block links in replies

X is developing a new feature that could help address spam posts on its website. According to Nima Owji, an independent app researcher who's unearthed several unreleased X features in the past, the platform formerly known as Twitter is working on the ability to disable links in replies. Based on the image Owji posted, users will be able to tick a box for the option if they don't want people to be able to respond with a link to their posts.

Christopher Stanley, the Senior Director for Security Engineering at X, confirmed the feature's existence in a response to a post about it. "My team built this," Stanley wrote in his reply. In addition to keeping spam bots away, the feature could also prevent real human users from promoting their websites in other people's posts. However, it can also prevent users from posting links to legitimate sources in case they're trying to debunk false information and prevent fake news from spreading further. 

Owji previously found that X was experimenting with an in-app currency that's meant to help creators earn money from the platform. Several months after rampant impersonation on the website, he found that it was working on new ID verification features, as well. He also discovered that the company was looking to compete with LinkedIn by offering job listings to verified organizations. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/x-is-working-on-a-way-to-block-links-in-replies-110033673.html?src=rss

Police arrest a teenage boy in connection with the MGM Resorts ransomware attack

A teenage boy may be responsible for a ransomware attack that shut down MGM Resorts in Las Vegas last year. The West Midlands Police Department in England confirmed that they arrested an unidentified 17-year-old on Thursday from the town of Walsall who allegedly shut down the resort and casino on the Las Vegas strip last year.

The teenager was arrested on suspicion of blackmail and violating the UK’s Computer Misuse Act. He was released on bail, according to a statement from the police department.

Police officials tracked the teenage suspect as part of a joint investigation with the UK’s National Crime Agency and the FBI. The police department said they recovered evidence at the teenager’s address including “a number of digital devices which will undergo forensic examination.”

The statement also said the teenager was part of a “global cyber online crime group” but did not specify which group. The ALPHV/BlackCat ransomware group announced their responsibility for the MGM Resorts cyber outage. The attack happened on Sep. 12, 2023 allegedly with a simple 10 minute phone call to a Help desk employee using information obtained from LinkedIn. The group has also claimed responsibility for a similar ransomware attack on the beauty brand Esteé Lauder.

"All ALPHV ransomware group did to compromise MGM Resorts was hop on LinkedIn, find an employee, then call the Help Desk," the organization wrote in a post on X.

MGM Resorts’ system shutdown lasted for nine days and created a massive outage across all of its casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. News later surfaced that other casinos like Caesars were also targeted by a different group but chose to pay the hackers tens of millions of dollars to prevent private company data from being released.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/police-arrest-a-teenage-boy-in-connection-with-the-mgm-resorts-ransomware-attack-223906246.html?src=rss

Twitch restores former President Trump’s Twitch account

Twitch has confirmed that former president and current Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s three-year ban on the gaming stream platform has been reversed. A statement from Twitch confirmed the news about the status of Trump’s ban from the platform.

“We reinstated former President Trump’s Twitch channel,” the statement read. “We believe there is value in hearing from Presidential nominees directly, when possible. Trump is now the official Republican nominee for US President.”

The Amazon-owned platform first issued a temporary suspension on President Trump's account in 2020 for violating its hateful conduct and harassment policies and restored it two weeks later. Twitch disabled the account following the Jan. 6 riot on the US Capitol in 2021 due to “the current extraordinary circumstances and the President’s incendiary rhetoric” before issuing an indefinite suspension two weeks later, according to a Twitch spokesperson.

Four people died and 174 police officers were injured during the attack. Three more police officers involved in the riot died in the days and weeks following Jan. 6, according to the New York Times.

Twitch is the latest Internet platform to lift a ban on one of Trump's accounts. Meta rolled back Trump's restrictions on Facebook and Instagram a week ago.

Trump first joined Twitch in 2019 during his presidential campaign against President Joe Biden. His campaign team used the platform to stream his rallies and other events starting with a stump speech in Minneapolis.

Since then, politics has carved out a notable corner of Twitch with live broadcasts of moments like the recent Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and even its own official category. Pundits and commentators on both sides of the political aisle also regularly broadcast live streams of political events and speeches and host debates on Twitch.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/twitch-restores-former-president-trumps-twitch-account-204327050.html?src=rss

Faulty Windows cybersecurity update takes out banks, airlines and other major companies worldwide

A massive Microsoft Windows BSOD (blue screen of death) outage has impacted multiple companies worldwide including airlines, broadcasters and others. The problem was caused by a faulty update from security giant CrowdStrike that forced PCs and servers into an unrecoverable boot loop. The change has since been rolled back, and airlines and hospitals were gradually recovering by midday in the US, but many machines are still affected.

"We have widespread reports of BSODs on windows hosts, occurring on multiple sensor versions," CrowdStrike wrote in a pinned Reddit post. "[We have] identified a content deployment related to this issue and reverted those changes." The company went on to describe a workaround, which involves booting Windows into Safe Mode and deleting a specific driver. CrowdStrike CEO George Kurtz apologized for the global meltdown on the Today show (via The NY Times), saying, “We’re deeply sorry for the impact that we’ve caused.”

The issue forced Delta, Frontier and other airlines to ground flights, and impacted UK broadcaster Sky and the London Stock Exchange. On a Reddit thread, dozens of commenters stated that their companies were effectively offline due to the problem. Flight-tracking service FlightAware reported in mid-afternoon that over 2,500 US flights had been canceled on Friday. They gradually recovered as the day continued, but the restoration was far from complete.

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told airlines on Friday that they would need to handle the situation as if it were a self-inflicted (mechanical or technical) failure, which requires them to cover travelers’ food, transportation and lodging costs for those whose delays last longer than three hours. Earlier in the day, United Airlines and Delta had told stranded airline passengers they’d have to foot the bills themselves since the CrowdStrike meltdown was out of their control. A United spokesperson later reversed its previous stance after Buttigieg’s comments.

IT pros around the world struggled to adapt to the nearly impossible hand they’d been dealt.

"Even if [CrowdStrike] fixed the issue causing the BSOD, I'm thinking how are we going to restore the thousands of devices that are not booting up," one user noted. "Let me explain to someone who is not tech savvy and is working from home how to boot their machine into safe mode," another wrote. 

Reddit users including many IT managers from Australia, Malaysia, Japan, India, the Czech Republic and elsewhere have said they're fighting through the issue. "Here in the Philippines, specifically in my employer, it is like Thanos snapped his fingers. Half of the entire organization [is] down due to BSOD loop. Started at 2pm and is still ongoing. What a Friday," said one.

US court systems were affected as well, with cases scheduled for the day postponed (including the latest trial of the disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein). Many hospitals reportedly postponed surgeries requiring anesthesia, and some were unable to reschedule due to the required appointment planning software also being down.

CrowdStrike is a US-based security firm that provides real-time protection against security threats to corporations. One of its key products is Falcon, described by the company as "providing real-time indicators of attack, hyper-accurate detection and automated protection" from threats. A CrowdStrike spokesperson said it was likely an issue with Falcon that caused the incident.

To add to the pain, Microsoft appears to have also suffered a separate outage with its Azure services and Microsoft 365 app suite. "Users may be unable to access various Microsoft 365 apps and services," it wrote. It's not clear which, if any, of the outages are related to this instead of the CrowdStrike problem. 

Update July 19, 2024 6:12 AM ET: CrowdStrike CEO George Kurtz has acknowledged the problem on X, saying it was caused by a defect in a content update for Windows hosts, and not a "security incident or cyberattack," He added that "the issue has been identified, isolated and a fix has been deployed." There's no mention on whether the fix will be usable on machines currently stuck in a boot loop.

Mac and Linux hosts are not impacted, he added. An identical statement has been posted on CrowdStrike's blog.

Update, July 19, 2024, 3:46 PM ET: This story has been updated to add developments around flights, hospitals, court cases and an apology from CrowdStrike’s CEO.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/faulty-cybersecurity-update-takes-out-banks-airlines-and-other-major-companies-worldwide-085142264.html?src=rss

Samsung is freezing Galaxy Buds 3 Pro shipments amid quality control issues

Samsung has temporarily shut down Galaxy Buds 3 Pro shipments. With memories of its flaming hot (and not in a good way) Galaxy Note fiasco eight years ago, the company is halting the earbuds’ launch while “urgently assessing and enhancing” the product’s quality control, according to a statement shared with Engadget and Android Authority, which first published the news.

Some users who received the Galaxy Buds 3 Pro before their July 24 launch reported that their ear tips tore easily. Considering how often they may need to remove and replace tips to find their ideal fit, material prone to ripping could have led to atrocious PR and an expensive recall had the company let the launch proceed as planned.

Samsung’s website has added a new release date of August 28, although it’s unclear if that’s a soft placeholder or a new hard target. In addition, the Galaxy Buds 3 Pro Amazon listing has been pulled altogether.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 3 Pro in hand at an event.
Sam Rutherford for Engadget

“To ensure all products meet our quality standards, we have temporarily suspended deliveries of Galaxy Buds 3 Pro devices to distribution channels to conduct a full quality control evaluation before shipments to consumers take place,” Samsung’s statement reads. Samsung Korea previously issued a statement apologizing for quality control issues and promising a full inspection. However, that remark didn’t mention a delay.

The company added that customers who already received the Galaxy Buds 3 Pro and are having problems should contact Samsung or visit a Samsung Service Center. Android Authority also published an email sent to a pre-order customer confirming a delay and advising them to request a cancellation if they choose.

You can read Samsung’s full statement below:

There have been reports relating to a limited number of early production Galaxy Buds 3 Pro devices.

We are taking this matter very seriously and remain committed to meeting the highest quality standards of our products. We are urgently assessing and enhancing our quality control processes.

To ensure all products meet our quality standards, we have temporarily suspended deliveries of Galaxy Buds3 Pro devices to distribution channels to conduct a full quality control evaluation before shipments to consumers take place.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

For more on the flagship wireless earbuds, you can read Engadget’s hands-on coverage.

Update, July 19, 2024, 2:48 PM ET: This story has been updated to add Samsung’s full statement, which the company shared with Engadget.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/samsung-is-freezing-galaxy-buds-3-pro-shipments-amid-quality-control-issues-181407398.html?src=rss

Another 'missing link' black hole discovered near the center of the galaxy

A group of international researchers at the University of Cologne in Germany recently discovered one of the rarest types of black holes in the universe. The researchers were observing a cluster of stars in the vicinity of a supermassive black hole named Sagittarius A (Sgr A) at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. They then discovered signs of an intermediate-mass black hole, a type of black hole that’s sometimes referred to as the “missing link” of black holes, according to NASA.

Black holes range in size from supermassive to primordial and the intermediate sits above primordial in size. They are believed to have formed just after the Big Bang and act as “seeds” for creating supermassive black holes.

The star cluster believed to be the latest intermediate-mass black hole dubbed IRS 13 moved in an orderly pattern when they expected them to be randomly arranged. The researchers concluded that the star cluster had to be interacting with the supermassive black hole and “there must be something inside the cluster for it to be able to maintain its observed compact shape,” according to a statement from the University of Cologne. 

Plans are underway to conduct further observations on the intermediate black hole. They will use the James Webb Space Telescope and the Extremely Large Telescope in Chile that’s currently under construction (and yes, that is its real name).

Scientists discovered the first intermediate-mass black hole in 2020 using the Hubble Space Telescope when they found the waves created by its formation. Until then, intermediate-mass black holes were considered to be a “missing link” between stellar-mass and supermassive black holes and could provide more insights on the formation of black holes and the universe.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/another-missing-link-black-hole-discovered-near-the-center-of-the-galaxy-175859313.html?src=rss

The 22 best Amazon Prime Day 2024 tech deals still available to shop today

Amazon's latest Prime Day sale has been over for a couple of days now, but a surprising number of the event's better offers remain available. If there's a gadget or two you're still hoping to grab at a discount, we've picked through the leftovers and broken down the best tech deals left standing below. 

While the selection isn't quite as vast as what we saw earlier in the week, there are still larger-than-usual price drops on Apple's 10th-gen iPad and M2 MacBook Air, wireless headphones from Bose and Beats, Samsung's The Frame TV and plenty other devices we recommend in our many buying guides

Just note that some of these discounts are still only available to Amazon Prime subscribers; we've marked the exclusives ones where applicable. 

Your Prime Day Shopping Guide: See all of our Prime Day coverage. Shop the best Prime Day deals on Yahoo Life. Follow Engadget for Prime Day tech deals. Hear from Autoblog’s experts on the best Amazon Prime Day deals for your car, garage, and home, and find Prime Day sales to shop on AOL, handpicked just for you.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-best-amazon-prime-day-2024-tech-deals-still-available-to-shop-today-123047113.html?src=rss

Schim is an inventive, beautiful platformer that's just a little too repetitive

Schim is one of the games I was most looking forward to this year, and I generally had a pleasant time with it. It’s a pretty platformer in which every object and living thing has a soul called a Schim. These frog-like critters live in the shadow of their host but can become lost when its object or creature is neglected, damaged or going through something life-changing.

You play as a Schim that gets separated from its person, who is going through a difficult spell in their life. There are no prizes for guessing that the goal is to reconnect with them. You’ll have to navigate some treacherous environments to do so, but the catch is that you can only swim through shadows and jump from one inky blob to another. If you miss a jump, you can take one extra little hop to reach it.

Developers Ewoud van der Werf and Nils Slijkerman play around with this idea in some joyful ways. You might hop between the shadows of trees and animals one minute and use a bounce house to travel some extra distance the next. None of this was incredibly difficult, though it took me a while to nail down the timing of jumps between conveyor belts in a factory level. I found some other mechanics mildly frustrating, such as getting to grips with how to launch the Schim in the correct direction from a spinning rotary clothesline.

The game is at its most creative and compelling when it plays around with inconsistent light sources and distended and disappearing shadows. There are some inventive ideas here, many of which are executed flawlessly. While there’s a fundamental joyfulness to Schim (which is styled as SCHiM), there’s a surprisingly affecting narrative that touches on mental health concerns and how regular folks struggle to get by.

Unfortunately, I felt that Schim was too repetitive overall. It doesn’t quite do enough with its core mechanic, and. tThere were too many stages set in urban environments with too similar objects to jump between. This bogged down what could have been a tighter and more rewarding experience. By the halfway point, I was more than ready for the Schim to reconnect with its human — not a great sign for a game that only takes about three hours to finish.

My main takeaway will be the impeccable aesthetics. Each stage uses a couple of main colors and various shades of black to denote the shadows, objects and characters. The music, animations and backgrounds combine in gorgeous fashion. It often felt like I was playing a piece of living art. The visuals make for true lockscreen material and speak to the beauty that can emerge from minimalist, stylized renderings.

There are a ton of great ideas in Schim, which has a touching and rewarding ending. I just wish the journey to get there was more consistently enjoyable.

Schim is out now on PC, PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch. (It runs smoothly on Steam Deck too.)

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/schim-is-an-inventive-beautiful-platformer-thats-just-a-little-too-repetitive-170019349.html?src=rss

A nifty hack made Mario a playable character in 1994's Donkey Kong Country

Mario and Donkey Kong have been rivals, frenemies, go-kart competitors and tennis partners. The Italian plumber once kidnapped Donkey Kong’s son. DK once, uh, took over Mario’s toy company (?) and stole a bunch of little figurines for some reason. They have history. What they haven’t done, however, is appear as playable characters in one another’s platforming adventures. Thanks to a nifty bit of hacking, that just changed.

Mario is a playable character in a hacked version of the SNES classic Donkey Kong Country, due to a ROM programmer called RainbowSprinklez. It’s appropriately named DKC X Mario and this is not a simple sprite swap. We wouldn’t waste your time with that. Mario had to be completely engineered into the game, as his moveset doesn’t exist in the original code. Donkey Kong is a lumbering beast. He doesn’t spin around, double jump and carry items. Check out the video and prepare to be impressed.

This is a Mario that has been pulled from Super Mario World, with regard to both sprites and controls. There are mushrooms to make him grow, fire flowers and, of course, everyone’s favorite dino-thingie Yoshi. Otherwise, this is Donkey Kong Country. The levels are the same. The enemies, consisting primarily of King K. Rool and his army of Kremlings, are the same. If you're really familiar with the layout of the original DKC, this could be a way to breathe some new life into the ancient platformer.

The music also looks to be altered, replacing the original tracks with songs from Mario, Zelda and Mega Man games. RainbowSprinklez wrote that the hack was "made for no other reason than I like Mario" in a document released alongside the ROM. You can download the whole thing right here to give it a go, and this should probably be done sooner than later. Nintendo isn’t shy about sicking lawyers on projects like this.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/a-nifty-hack-made-mario-a-playable-character-in-1994s-donkey-kong-country-164036806.html?src=rss

Why an 'unexciting' galaxy could provide clues about the universe's evolution

NASA and the European Space Agency have released an image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope of a dwarf irregular galaxy that they admit looked "unexciting" at first glance. However, there's more going on than might initially meet the eye. The agencies say that a great deal of research is going into the "complicated structure" of NGC 5238, which is 14.5 million light-years away in the Canes Venatici constellation. In fact, astronomers believe the distribution of stars in NGC 5238 may have been distorted after it swallowed up another galaxy.

They reckon that due to NGC 5238's star population (which Hubble is adept at helping to image), it had a "close encounter" with another galaxy perhaps as recently as a billion years ago. But since there isn't a galaxy close enough to have distorted the star distribution in this fashion, it's more likely that NGC 5238 merged with a smaller galaxy. Along with hosting many stars, the galaxy is home to globular clusters, which NASA describes as "glowing, bright spots both inside and around the galaxy swarmed by even more stars."

Astronomers plan to dig deep into the data to learn about NGC 5238's past. If they find groups of stars that have different properties from most of the galaxy's other stars, that's a clear indication that a merger has occurred. They'll also try to determine whether there was a "burst of star formation" that suddenly took place after the galaxies would have come together.

NASA notes that a dwarf irregular galaxy merging with a smaller satellite galaxy is just the kind of thing that could have spurred galaxy assembly in the early era of our universe. As such, the agency says that the data Hubble captured from NGC 5238 may help researchers to test fundamental ideas about the evolution of the universe.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/why-an-unexciting-galaxy-could-provide-clues-about-the-universes-evolution-144754342.html?src=rss

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 review: The king, but for how much longer?

No one has been making foldable phones longer than Samsung. And for the first few years, the sheer number of improvements we got on the Galaxy Z Fold line meant it didn’t really have any competition. But more recently, the pace of innovation has slowed while new challengers like the OnePlus Open and Pixel Fold have arrived. Now for 2024, Samsung has reinforced the Galaxy Z Fold 6 with a stronger but significantly lighter frame, a new ultra-wide-angle camera and a bunch of AI-powered tools. Unfortunately, not much else has changed, leaving us with a very iterative upgrade. So while the Galaxy Z Fold 6 remains the best all-around big foldable on the market, it feels like complacency is eroding Samsung’s lead among flagship flexible phones.

After eliminating the gap between the screen (when closed) on last year’s phone, Samsung has adjusted the Galaxy Z Fold 6’s dimensions again for 2024. But the changes are so small you have to measure them in millimeters. When closed, the phone is just over one millimeter thinner and when you open it up (in portrait), the main screen is 2.7mm wider but one millimeter shorter. It’s not a ton, but you do get a little more room for activities. And of course this also affects the exterior Cover Display, which is about 1mm wider as well — just enough to make using its on-screen keyboard more forgiving.

Elsewhere, the entire phone is sharper, from its boxier edges to the more squared-off corners on both screens. Samsung also says the Enhanced Armor Aluminium used in the Z Fold 6’s chassis is about 10 percent stronger than before, but I hope you’ll forgive me for not dropping it on purpose just to find out. Holding everything together is a new dual-rail hinge. And this time, I think Samsung has nailed the perfect balance between something that’s easy to open but also holds its position when you want it to. But the biggest design upgrade is a 14-gram weight reduction compared to the previous model. Granted, that might not sound like much, but now the Z Fold 6 only weighs around 4 grams more than its non-foldable cousin, the S24 Ultra. And on an already heavy phone, this change makes a big difference.

As for the displays, as someone who’s been using the Pixel Fold a lot recently — which has a solid screen in its own right — can I just say, Samsung’s panels are so choice. Not only has peak brightness improved to 2,600 nits for both displays just like on the standard S24 family, Samsung has subtly shrunk and flattened the bezels, so the phone looks even more like a magazine come to life. And until I see something better, this is simply the best screen on a big foldable right now.

On the Galaxy Z Fold 6, Samsung increased peak brightness for both of its displays to 2,600 nits, which is the same as on the standard Galaxy S24 line.
Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

The Z Fold line has never been slow and this year we got the same upgrade to a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip as we saw on the S24, while base RAM is staying pat at 12GB. And as you’d expect, the Z Fold 6’s performance is fast and responsive. There’s no lag when doing pretty much anything and thanks to the addition of a larger vapor chamber on the inside, the phone stays cooler during longer sessions, which is a nice bonus to all the gamers out there who like playing on a truly big-screen device.

When it comes to photography, I’m a bit disappointed with the Z Fold 6, not because it can’t take a decent pic, but because I know Samsung can do better. For this go around, Samsung has stuck with a trio of rear cameras, opting for a new 12-MP sensor for the ultra-wide lens — and it’s pretty good. But at the same time, the ultra-wide lens is the one I use the least in daily use, and it's not close.

The only significant change to the Z Fold 6's photography is the addition of a new 12-MP sensor for the phone's ultra-wide lens.
Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

The other two cameras – the 50-MP main and 12-MP telephoto with a 3x optical zoom — are solid, but they’re the same ones Samsung used on at least the previous two generations. In a photo of some strawberries, the Z Fold 6 produced a delicious pic with deep saturated hues and great details. At the same time, though, you can also see the slightly exaggerated warm tones you often get from Samsung cameras. And at night, the Z Fold produced a beautiful pic of a flower in a very tricky backlit environment.

The issue is that after Google released the Pixel Fold, Samsung doesn’t really have an excuse for saddling the Z Fold 6 with downgraded photography when compared to the S24 Ultra. The Pixel Fold has a longer 5x optical zoom and an edge in overall photo quality. Just take a look at two zoom shots taken by the Z Fold 6 and the Pixel Fold. In a vacuum, Samsung’s photo doesn’t look bad. But then take a look at the Pixel’s image. It's noticeably sharper and more detailed.

And it's the same thing in really low-light situations, like the one I took of some Bluey figurines, where the Pixel Fold captured a less grainy, sharper and more well-exposed pic. And after being pleasantly surprised with the cameras on the S24 Ultra, it’s a shame Samsung’s most expensive phone sits in second place when it comes to photography.

As we saw back at the beginning of the year, Samsung has brought the Galaxy AI suite it launched on the S24 to the Z Fold 6. And by and large, a lot of the features are the same including things like Chat Assist which you can use to generate social posts or emails while selecting a variety of tones. There’s also support for Google’s Circle to Search along with translation and summarization tools. A couple new tweaks for the Fold is that now the phone can translate text in place instead of spitting it out into a big unformatted blob, which is nice but kind of situational. And I should mention, Google Lens already offers similar functionality. Perhaps the more important one is the ability to do dual-screen translations, so each person can see text in their language in real-time, depending on what side of the phone they’re looking at.

One of the new features in the Galaxy Z Fold 6 is Samsung's Portrait Studio tool, which uses AI to generate a new image in a range of styles based on an existing photo of a person.
Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Some new additions are the Portrait Studio tool that can create an AI-generated drawing of someone based on a photo and a range of styles like comic or watercolor. It’s fun and it’s good for a laugh or two, but I’m not sure how useful it will be on a regular basis. There’s also the Sketch to Image feature that allows you to add a simple drawing to an existing photo and then have the phone generate a more realistic rendition of it in your final image. I still think Samsung’s basic AI photo editing tools are the most useful of the bunch, as they make it easy to delete distracting objects or do simple touch ups. But once again, all of this feels more like bonus content rather than core essentials.

While Samsung didn’t increase the size of the 4,400 mAh cell in the Z Fold 6, the phone does have slightly better battery life due to improved energy efficiency from its new chip. On our video rundown test, it lasted 20 hours and seven minutes when using its large main screen and 25 hours and 19 minutes when using its exterior cover display. That first number is even better than we saw from the Pixel Fold (15:22) and OnePlus Open (19:19), so if you need a big-screen phone with ample longevity, the Z Fold 6 is the easy pick.

Sadly, the Z Fold 6's battery size and charging speeds are unchanged from the previous model.
Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Unfortunately, its charging hasn’t changed much. You still get 25-watt wired charging and 15-watt wireless charging, which are both pretty mediocre figures in 2024. And while I wasn’t expecting to see support for Qi2 magnetic charging on the Z Fold 6 after Samsung opted not to add it to the main S24 line, I’m still a bit miffed that a phone this expensive is cutting important features off the spec sheet.

It wasn’t long ago when practically every component on the Z Fold line was unmatched by its competitors. But now phones like the Pixel Fold exist, which offers better overall photography. Then there’s the OnePlus Open, which weighs the same as the Z Fold 6 even after its recent diet. And let’s not forget, both of those rivals are 2023 models. Plus there are Chinese competitors like the Honor Magic V3 and the upcoming Xiaomi Mix Fold 4, which are both thinner and lighter than Samsung’s champion.

The Galaxy Z Fold 6 is 14 grams lighter than the previous model, which makes a big difference on an already large device.
Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Don’t get me wrong, the Galaxy Z Fold 6 is still a good foldable, a great one even. It’s got excellent performance, strong battery life and handy features like native stylus support. But it feels like after all this time sitting fat and happy on its throne, Samsung has a diminished hunger for total domination. Instead of long-awaited features like a built-in S Pen or an improved under-display camera, we got a bunch of AI-powered tools and tricks, which are fun but not true highlight attractions. And at $1,900 — which is $100 more than last year — the Galaxy Z Fold 6 is the most expensive it's been since the Z Fold 3. But I guess that's the price you pay Samsung for having such a long reign on top.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/samsung-galaxy-z-fold-6-review-the-king-but-for-how-much-longer-140129812.html?src=rss

Google is turning off its goo.gl shortener links next year

Starting on August 23 this year, when someone clicks on a goo.gl link, it could first take them to a page with a warning that says the link "will no longer work in the near future" before taking them to the website they want to visit. Google shut down its goo.gl URL shortening service way back in 2018 and stopped users from being able to create new links. Now, the company has announced that it will stop supporting all existing goo.gl links altogether: The URLs will return a "404 page not found" result by August 25, 2025. 

Google is giving developers ample time to move to other shorteners by displaying the aforementioned warning page to visitors over the next year. It will only show up for a percentage of existing links at first, but that percentage will keep growing until it appears for most, if not all, goo.gl links by their shutdown date. The company warns that the interstitial warning pages could cause disruptions and prevent users from getting to the URL they actually want to go to, so it's advising developers to change their shortened links as soon as possible. 

The goo.gl link shortener service joins quite a large number of old features and services in Google's ever-growing product graveyard. They include the Hangouts chat app, the Stadia cloud gaming service and Google+, which once tried to take on Facebook. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/google-is-turning-off-its-googl-shortener-links-next-year-130030435.html?src=rss

The best free tools and services for college students

When you’re living the college life, every penny counts. Thankfully, there’s a plethora of free software, services and tools you can use to get through your day-to-day on campus, whether you’re doing coursework, trying to better manage your time or just finding some entertainment. Our job at Engadget is to figure out which of these things are actually good, so below we’ve recommended a few of our favorite apps and services that are totally free. Each should help you save cash for extracurricular fun, and all of them are significantly better than the main thing you get for free when attending college in America: debt.

Google Docs
Engadget

You’re probably going to need a productivity suite at school. Thankfully, the days of having to buy an expensive software bundle are long gone. Google Docs can handle the document creation you’ll need over a semester, whether it’s writing term papers, crunching data in spreadsheets or whipping up group presentations. Automatic cloud saves can spare you the heartache of losing progress.

You may want to subscribe to a Google One plan if the free 15GB of Drive storage proves too limiting. And as capable as Docs may be, there may be some classes where professors insist on paid services like Microsoft 365. If you’re free to choose your work tools, however, Docs is an easy choice — particularly if you already rely on Calendar, Meet and other parts of the Google ecosystem. — Jon Fingas, Former Reporter

Todoist
Engadget

Student life is defined by time management. You’ll likely have to juggle multiple assignments, study sessions and a personal life (remember that?) without missing a beat. Todoist is our pick for keeping yourself on track. You can not only create the usual to-do lists, but set up task boards, set priorities and even delegate items to others — helpful if it’s a roommate’s turn to buy dinner.

The free Todoist plan will likely be enough for school with support for five active projects, five collaborators and 5MB file uploads. You’ll only want to shell out $48 per year (or $5 per month) for a Pro account if you have many on-the-go projects (up to 300), need to upload large files or want to set reminder alerts. Whatever you need, this might be key to getting it all done on time. — Jeff Dunn, Senior Reporter, Buying Advice

Photopea
Photopea

It used to be that free image editors were underpowered or ungainly, and you could generally forget about web versions. That’s not the case with Photopea, which is more or less an unofficial, online Photoshop clone. Can it fully replace that ultra-popular app? No, it’s slower to process many tasks and it’s missing some of Adobe’s more advanced features. But just about all of the essentials are here, and its web-based interface should immediately feel familiar to anyone who’s used Photoshop before. (It’s much simpler to grok than other free alternatives like GIMP, for one.) For spot heals, crops, light and color touch-ups, background removals, adding text and graphics, layering or most other common edits you might need for a presentation or photography class, it should be enough. It’s compatible with a host of file formats, too, including Photoshop’s PSD, PDF, AI and various RAW camera files. The whole thing is ad-supported by default, with a $5-per-month Premium tier available to remove those and increase online storage from 0.5GB to 5GB. You can also connect to cloud storage services like Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox. — J.D.

Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve
Blackmagic

You might not have to pay for a costly video editing package to make it through film school. Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve provides an in-depth bundle of editing, color correction, audio and effects tools at no cost. You could make a short film for class using the same core tools used to produce Hollywood blockbusters, complete with multi-user collaboration.

In fact, you’ll likely have little need for paid editing products unless your coursework has very specific requirements. You’ll only want to think about spending $295 for DaVinci Resolve Studio if you want to edit footage beyond 4K at 60 frames per second, work with more video formats or rely on advanced 3D, AI and HDR tools. Unless your professors demand that you use a rival tool like Final Cut Pro or Premiere Pro, this should be enough to learn the fundamentals. — J.F.

Blender
Engadget

If you’re creating 3D artwork for games or videos at school, you’ll want a strong modeling suite — and one of the more capable packages happens to be free. Blender provides a wide range of modeling, animation and sculpting tools for 3D content, while budding movie producers can take advantage of built-in compositing, motion tracking, story art drawing and simple video editing. You might have everything you need to create a CG short film.

You’ll want to be sure that Blender can fulfill your class requirements, and you might want more focused software like Natron (an equally free compositing tool) to supplement your work. With that said, Blender’s open source code and extensible design work in its favor. It’s easy to find a bevy of free or low-cost add-ons that can meet your needs, and you can even write your own extensions if you’re comfortable with scripting. — J.F.

Audacity
Engadget

Some courses may need an audio editor, whether it’s to create a podcast, tweak game sound effects or finesse a song. If you’re in that boat, Audacity can sometimes do the trick. The free, open source editor gives you the essentials for capturing and editing multi-track recordings, including support for effects and plugins.

Audacity won’t replace heavy-duty digital audio workstations like Audition, Logic Pro, Pro Tools or Reason. Those offer non-destructive editing, and often include a slew of effects generators and other tools aimed at music and video production. This is a good place to learn some basics, though, and may well be all you need if a class isn’t particularly demanding. — J.F.

Evernote Scannable
Engadget

Paper is still a reality in the classroom, whether it comes in the form of a handout, a sketched diagram or a friend’s handwritten notes. But you won’t have to worry about how you’ll digitize them. There are a number of free document scanning apps available, and Evernote Scannable is one of the best. You just have to point your camera at documents to produce easily readable PDF and JPEG files you can share with the rest of the class. While you can sync content with Evernote (which is clearly the intended idea), it’s not required.

That said, Scannable is limited to iPads and iPhones as of this writing, so you’ll want to look to alternatives like Microsoft Lens or Adobe Scan if you prefer Android or use devices across platforms. Microsoft’s app is a particularly nice pick if you want to export scans in Office formats or convert handwritten text. Either way, you might not have to worry about lugging a binder around campus. — J.D.

Spotify
Engadget

Let’s be frank: you’re going to need some study music, and Spotify still provides the best free soundtrack for those lengthy learning sessions. The no-charge tier will periodically interrupt your listening with ads, but you can create playlists, follow podcasts and enjoy much of the core Spotify experience. You can stream songs on mobile and smart speakers, too, so the music won’t stop when you leave your desk.

You may still want to pay for service, as Spotify’s mobile app makes you listen to all but a handful of playlists in shuffle mode and gives you a limited number of skips per hour unless you use the desktop app. For paid users, Apple Music is the top pick in our guide to the best music streaming services: It offers higher-quality audio (if you have a good set of headphones), a generally cleaner interface and a greater emphasis on curation, with a handful of live radio stations hosted by actual people. It’s reportedly better about paying artists, too, though it’ll work best if you own an iPhone. Mercifully, Apple sells a student plan for $6 per month, the same as Spotify, so you’ll still get a nifty discount. — J.D.

PDF Candy
Engadget

There’s a distinct possibility you’ll encounter PDF documents at school, whether it’s a research paper or the class syllabus. You won’t have to pay for apps like Adobe Acrobat to edit those files, at least. PDF Candy offers a free web-based editor. You can modify PDFs, convert to and from common formats (including Word and PowerPoint), extract images and otherwise take control. This might do the job if you need to flesh out scanned class notes or extract a quote from a scientific study.

There are time and size limits for the free version (up to 500MB per task), and you should also consider the $48 yearly or $99 lifetime plans if you want faster web processing or the Windows app’s offline editing. Alternatives like Acrobat are also better if you need commenting, mobile editing and other advanced features. Still, the free web tool is difficult to beat for basic utilities. — J.F.

Amazon Freevee
Amazon

There’s no real way around it: If you want to keep up with the films and shows in the current zeitgeist, you need to pay for a streaming service or two. (Or utilize less scrupulous methods we can’t recommend here.) Given that new apps and price hikes seem to pop up every other week, that sucks. Still, there are a number of free services you can use to cobble together some decent entertainment on the cheap, including Amazon Freevee, Tubi, Pluto TV, The Roku Channel, Crackle, and Sling Freestream, among others.

All of these force you to sit through ads, most have pretty sloppy UIs and each is absolutely loaded with trash content. But think of them like the old Blockbuster bargain bin — you may have to do some digging, but every now and then you’ll find a gem. If we had to pick one, Freevee is probably the standout: Shows like Schitt’s Creek, The Good Wife and The Twilight Zone are still great, while the original mockumentary Jury Duty is one of the funniest things in recent memory. You can catch up on older seasons of The Boys — but not the latest one, natch — and the more people we can get to appreciate Columbo, the better. But it’s worth digging through the others noted above if you’re really strapped for cash and can’t hawk a login. We’ll direct you to our guide to the best live TV streaming services for more details. — J.D.

Libby
Libby

Not enough people, college students or otherwise, take full advantage of their local library. Libby is an easy way to change that. So long as you have a library card, this clean little app lets you check out ebooks, audiobooks and magazines to your phone, tablet, computer or ereader at no cost. It works across iOS, Android and web browsers, and you can sync your progress between multiple devices. You’re still at the mercy of the selection your library actually has available, and you’ll still have to finish your rentals within a set period. But if you like to read for pleasure between classes, Libby will ensure you never run out of material. — J.D.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/free-stuff-for-college-students-143051840.html?src=rss

The FTC is as mad about the Xbox Game Pass price increase as you are

Microsoft has made changes to its Xbox Game Pass service that are "exactly the sort of consumer harm" from its Activision acquisition that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was worried about, the agency wrote in a letter addressed to the US Appeals Court. The FTC's letter focused on a recent price hike for the Xbox Game Pass and pointed out that the Game Pass Ultimate now costs $20 a month, which is $3 more per month than before and represents a 17 percent year-over-year increase.  

In addition, the agency called attention to Microsoft's decision to discontinue the $11 Console Game Pass plan. The agency added a new Game Pass Standard tier, but it costs more at $15 a month. While it's a step up from the barebones Core plan, it doesn't include access to day-one releases, leading the FTC to call it a "degraded product." Microsoft will fully discontinue the Console tier just before the launch of the next Call of Duty game, the FTC said. Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 will be playable via Game Pass from its release date on October 25, which means subscribers who want to access it on day one will have to pay for the $20-a-month tier. 

The company promised that the "acquisition would benefit consumers by making [CoD] available on Microsoft’s Game Pass on the day it is released on console (with no price increase for the service based on the acquisition)," the FTC wrote. But Microsoft's actions show a firm that's "exercising market power post-merger," it noted.

The FTC repeatedly challenged Microsoft's purchase of Activision Blizzard, but a judge rejected its request for an injunction. At the time, the judge ruled that the FTC failed to demonstrate how the merger would lessen competition and even said that there was "record evidence" pointing to "more consumer access to Call of Duty and other Activision content." 

Microsoft, which officially closed the $69 billion deal in October 2023 after that ruling and after the blessing of regulators in the EU and the UK, now officially owns Activision Blizzard. But the FTC still isn't done opposing the merger and filed an appeal in an attempt to the block the already-closed deal, telling the court that it can prove its case by showing that Microsoft has the ability and incentive to withhold Activision's games. Back in February, the agency also accused Microsoft of going against its pledge to allow Activision Blizzard to operate independently post-acquisition after the company laid off nearly 2,000 employees in its gaming division. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-ftc-is-as-mad-about-the-xbox-game-pass-price-increase-as-you-are-120031248.html?src=rss

The Morning After: The age of the retro CD player is here

The mining of technology nostalgia is unrelenting. Earlier this week, we had an unofficial return of the iPod, not to mention Tamagotchis and now Discman. Well, not an actual Discman, which is a Sony brand, but the portable CD player is back.

Audiophile brand FiiO has launched the DM13, a portable CD player with modern touches, like high-fidelity wireless and a built-in battery. No more AAs! The CD Player will go on sale in September for $179 (£179 in the UK). It begins shipping only in a silver finish, but FiiO says red, blue, titanium and black variants will arrive later in the year – enough time to find my folder of NOW compilation CDs.

— Mat Smith

Bangladesh is experiencing a ‘near-total’ internet shutdown amid student protests

Netflix will drop a new multiplayer game when Squid Game season 2 premieres this year

How to install the iOS 18 public beta

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Unable to get into Outlook this morning? You’re not the only one. Microsoft has also suffered an outage with its Azure services and Microsoft 365 app suite. Then, a faulty update from security giant CrowdStrike forced PCs and servers into an unrecoverable boot loop. The issue forced Delta, Frontier and other airlines to ground flights and impacted the UK’s London Stock Exchange and Sky broadcaster.

“We have widespread reports of BSODs on Windows hosts, occurring on multiple sensor versions,” CrowdStrike wrote in a pinned Reddit post. “[We have] identified a content deployment related to this issue and reverted those changes.” It’s a great Friday morning for all involved.

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Apple launched public betas across all its platforms, and while you’ll have to wait for the official release in fall, lots of features are stable enough for most folks to play with. While I got to grips with everything out there on iOS 18, there was a big missing piece: Apple Intelligence.

Arguably the most interesting things Apple showed off at WWDC hinged on AI, but none of those features are available for testing yet. Read on for what we like so far.

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TMA
Google

It’s not a Pixel leak without Google following up with fewer images and less information. Following a couple of leaks on four Pixel 9 phones apparently coming up, Google revealed the camera unit on the Pixel 9 Pro, and it is chonky.

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Back in 2013, Microsoft decided to create a live-action Halo television series — back when Halo was one of the biggest gaming properties in the world. It took about ten years to happen, but only two years — and series — for Paramount+ to cancel it. According to an unnamed Variety source, the show creators plan to shop the project around and search for a new home for Master Chief.

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This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-morning-after-the-age-of-the-retro-cd-player-is-here-111606809.html?src=rss

The best VPN service for 2024

Virtual private networks (VPNs) promise the potential to stream any content, from anywhere. They unlock content from abroad across nearly any streaming platform you use regularly, which can come in handy if you’re into some obscure BBC exclusive not available in the United States. But that’s actually just one small perk of VPN services. VPNs provide a private traffic tunnel to keep your internet service provider out of your business, and provide an extra layer of security to protect your browsing habits. We tested nine of today’s most popular services to help you find the best VPN option for your needs.

VPNs, or virtual private networks, mask your IP address and the identity of your computer or mobile device on the network and creating an encrypted "tunnel" that prevents your internet service provider (ISP) from accessing data about your browsing history. VPNs are not a one-size-fits-all security solution, though.

Instead, they’re just one part of keeping your data private and secure. Roya Ensafi, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Michigan, told Engadget that VPNs don’t protect against common threats like phishing attacks, nor do they protect your data from being stolen. Much of the data or information is stored with the VPN provider instead of your ISP, which means that using a poorly designed or unprotected network can still undermine your security. But they do come in handy for online privacy when you’re connecting to an untrusted network somewhere public because they tunnel and encrypt your traffic to the next hop.

That means sweeping claims that seem promising, like military-grade encryption or total digital invisibility, may not be totally accurate. Instead, Yael Grauer, program manager of Consumer Reports’ online security guide, recommends looking for security features like open-source software with reproducible builds, up-to-date support for industry-standard protocols like WireGuard (CR's preferred protocol) or IPsec, and the ability to defend against attack vectors like brute force.

Before considering a VPN, make sure your online security is up to date in other ways. That means complex passwords, multi-factor authentication methods and locking down your data sharing preferences. Even then, you probably don’t need to be using a VPN all the time.

“If you're just worried about somebody sitting there passively and looking at your data then a VPN is great,” Jed Crandall, an associate professor at Arizona State University, told Engadget.

That brings us to some of the most common uses cases for VPNs. If you use public WiFi networks a lot, like while working at a coffee shop, then VPN usage can help give you private internet access. They’re also helpful for hiding information from other people on your ISP if you don’t want members of your household to know what you’re up to online.

Geoblocking has also become a popular use case as it helps you reach services in other parts of the world. For example, you can access shows that are only available on streaming services, like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime, in other countries, or play online games with people located all over the globe.

There are also a few common VPN features that you should consider before deciding if you want to use one, and which is best for you:

Split tunneling allows you to route some traffic through your VPN, while other traffic has direct access to the internet. This can come in handy when you want to protect certain activity online without losing access to local network devices, or services that work best with location sharing enabled.

A double VPN, otherwise known as multi-hop VPN or a VPN chain, passes your online activity through two different VPN servers one right after the other. For VPN services that support this, users are typically able to choose which two servers they want their traffic to pass through. As you might expect, this provides an extra layer of security.

Whether or not VPNs are worth it depends how often you could use it for the above use cases. If you travel a lot and rely on public WiFi or hotspots, are looking to browse outside of your home country or want to keep your traffic hidden from your ISP, then investing in a VPN will be useful. But, keep in mind that even the best VPN services often slow down your internet connection speed, so they may not be ideal all the time.

In today's world, we recommend not relying on a VPN connection as your main cybersecurity tool. VPN use can provide a false sense of security, leaving you vulnerable to attack. Plus, if you choose just any VPN, it may not be as secure as just relying on your ISP. That’s because the VPN could be based in a country with weaker data privacy regulation, obligated to hand information over to law enforcement or linked to weak user data protection policies.

For VPN users working in professions like activism or journalism that want to really strengthen their internet security, options like the Tor browser may be a worthwhile alternative, according to Crandall. Tor is free, and while it's less user-friendly, it’s built for anonymity and privacy.

To test the security specs of different VPNs and name our top picks, we relied on pre-existing academic work through Consumer Reports, VPNalyzer and other sources. We referenced privacy policies, transparency reports and security audits made available to the public. We also considered past security incidents like data breaches.

We looked at price, usage limits, effects on internet speed, possible use cases, ease of use, general functionality and additional “extra” VPN features like multihop. The VPNs were tested across iOS, Android and Mac devices so we could see the state of the mobile apps across various platforms (Windows devices are also supported in most cases). We used the “quick connect” feature on the VPN apps to connect to the “fastest” provider available when testing internet speed, access to IP address data and DNS and WebRTC leaks or when a fault in the encrypted tunnel reveals requests to an ISP.

Otherwise, we conducted a test of geoblocking content by accessing Canada-exclusive Netflix releases, a streaming test by watching a news livestream on YouTube via a Hong Kong-based VPN and a gaming test by playing on servers in the United Kingdom. By performing these tests at the same time, it also allowed us to test claims about simultaneous device use. Here are the VPN services we tested:

Read more: The best password managers for 2023

NordVPN didn’t quite make the cut because it’s overhyped, and underwhelming. As I've written in our full review of NordVPN, the pricing, up to $14.49 for a “complete” subscription, seemed high compared to other services, and its free or lower cost plans just didn’t have the same wide variety of features as its competitors. 

Despite the cute graphics and user friendliness, TunnelBear wasn’t a top choice. It failed numerous basic security tests from Consumer Reports, and had limited availability across platforms like Linux. It did, however, get a major security boost in July when it updated to support WireGuard protocol across more of its platforms.

Bitdefender doesn’t offer support for devices like routers, which limits its cross-platform accessibility. It also lacked a transparency report or third-party audit to confirm security specs.

Atlas ranked lower on our speed tests compared to the other VPNs tested, with a notably slower difference on web browsing and streaming tests. It was a good option otherwise, but could easily cause headaches for those chasing high speed connections. Security-wise, an Atlas VPN vulnerability leaked Linux users’ real IP addresses.

VPNs are traditionally used to protect your internet traffic. If you’re connected to an untrusted network like public WiFi in a cafe, using a VPN hides what you do from the internet service provider. Then, the owner of the WiFi or hackers trying to get into the system can’t see the identity of your computer or your browsing history.

A common non-textbook use case for VPNs has been accessing geographically restricted content. VPNs can mask your location, so even if you’re based in the United States, they can make it appear as if you’re browsing abroad and unblock access. This is especially useful for streaming content that’s often limited to certain countries, like if you want to watch Canadian Netflix from the US.

A VPN doesn’t hide all of your data. It only hides information like your IP address, location and browser history. A common misconception is that VPNs can make you totally invisible online. But keep in mind that the VPN provider often still has access to all of this information, so it doesn’t grant you total anonymity. You’re also still vulnerable to phishing attacks, hacking and other cyberthreats that you should be mindful of by implementing strong passwords and multi-factor authentication.

Generally, yes. VPNs are a safe and reliable way to encrypt and protect your internet data. But like most online services, the safety specifics vary from provider to provider. You can use resources like third-party audits, Consumer Reports reviews, transparency reports and privacy policies to understand the specifics of your chosen provider.

Google One subscriptions include access to the company’s VPN, which works similarly to other VPNs on our list, hiding your online activity from network operators. However, Google announced recently that it plans to shut down the One VPN because "people simply weren’t using it." There's no specific date for the shutdown, with Google simply saying it will discontinue the service sometime later in 2024. Pixel phone owners, however, will continue to have access to the free VPN available on their devices.

June 2024: Updated to include table of contents.

November 2023: This story was updated after publishing to remove mention of PPTP, a protocol that Consumer Reports' Yael Grauer notes "has serious security flaws."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-vpn-130004396.html?src=rss

Google confirms the Pixel 9 Pro Fold with a teaser video

Google has confirmed in a teaser video that its upcoming line of smartphones includes a new foldable model. The company called the Pixel 9 Pro Fold a "foldable phone built for the Gemini era" in its promo tweet, and it even focused on its gen AI chatbot in the video. Similar to the non-foldable Pixel 9 Pro, this model also has a prominent camera bump. Its lenses are arranged vertically near one side of the phone, so the camera bump is mostly there and doesn't take up the whole width of the folded device.

While Google has yet to formally unveil the model, a previous leak, courtesy of Android Authority, has already revealed a lot of details about the upcoming Pixel 9 models. Taiwan's National Communications Commission (NCC) uploaded galleries of each phone — Pixel 9, 9 Pro, 9 Pro XL and 9 Pro Fold — to its archives. Some of those photos feature an unfolded 9 Pro Fold, showing how Google moved its selfie camera to the inside screen for a wider field of view. They also show that the model has a reduced fold crease on the display, which measures 250mm or just under 10 inches.

The NCC's leak revealed that the upcoming devices need bigger chargers, as well. Their charging rates are generally faster than previous models based on the agency's tests, though the Pixel 9 Pro Fold was the slowest of them all. We'll be able to confirm those details when Google launches its new smartphones at the next Made by Google event that's happening on August 13. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/google-confirms-the-pixel-9-pro-fold-with-a-teaser-video-030440420.html?src=rss

Bangladesh is experiencing a ‘near-total’ internet shutdown amid student protests

Bangladesh is experiencing a complete internet shutdown as its government attempts to clamp down on widespread student protests that have resulted in the deaths of at least 32 people, according to AFP. The unrest is centered around the country’s quota system that requires a third of government jobs to be reserved for relatives of veterans who had fought for Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan in 1971.

On Thursday, several thousand protestors in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, had reportedly stormed state broadcaster BTV, smashed windows and furniture and set offices on fire, trapping “many” people inside, according to a post on BTV’s official Facebook page. 17 people died on Thursday amid clashes with police, reported Al Jazeera. To control the situation, Bangladeshi authorities shut down internet and phone access throughout the country, a common practice in South Asia to prevent the spread of rumors and misinformation and exercise state control. NetBlocks, a global internet monitor that works on digital rights analyzed live network data that showed that Bangladesh was in the middle of a “near-total national internet shutdown.”

Internet shutdowns are a popular way to crack down on conflict in countries around the world. According to internet watchdog Access Now, the number of shutdowns around the world continues to rise each year. In 2023, 39 countries collectively shutdown internet access more than 160 times for a variety of reasons including protests, exams and elections.

Bangladesh has frequently blacked out the internet to crack down on political opposition and activists. At the end of 2023, research tool CIVICUS Monitor, which provides data on the state of civil society and freedoms in nearly 200 countries, downgraded Bangladesh’s civic space to “closed,” its lowest possible rating, after the country imposed six internet shutdowns the previous year. That made Bangladesh the fifth-largest perpetrator of internet shutdowns in 2022, Access Now said.

The country’s telecom regulator had pledged to keep internet access on through Bangladesh’s general elections at the beginning of 2024, but that electoral period is now over. Despite the pledge, Bangladesh blocked access to news websites during its elections.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/bangladesh-is-experiencing-a-near-total-internet-shutdown-amid-student-protests-235907085.html?src=rss

The live-action Halo show has been canceled at Paramount+

Many moons ago, back in 2013, we learned that Hollywood royalty Steven Spielberg had teamed up with Microsoft to create a live-action Halo television series. It took about ten years for the vision to finally come to fruition, but the show has now been canceled by the Paramount+ streaming service after a mere seventeen episodes. The first season aired in 2022 and the second earlier this year. We had mixed feelings about the show's debut, but it's still a sad conclusion for the big-budget project.

According to an unnamed Variety source, the show creators plan to shop the project around and search for a new home for the chronicles of Master Chief and Cortana. "We deeply appreciate the millions of fans who propelled the Halo series to be a global success and we remain committed to broadening the Halo universe in different ways in the future," 343 Industries said. "We are grateful to Amblin and Paramount for their partnership in bringing our expansive sci-fi universe to viewers around the world."

This is the latest hurdle for fans of the UNSC to get more Halo action. Not only is the TV show gone, but last year's rounds of layoffs at Microsoft didn't leave 343 Industries unscathed. The studio reportedly had to restart its development of the series' next chapter, and we haven't heard much about the games since.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-live-action-halo-show-has-been-canceled-at-paramount-230612472.html?src=rss

Meta will withhold multimodal AI models from the EU amid regulatory uncertainty

Meta has decided to not offer its upcoming multimodal AI model and future versions to customers in the European Union citing a lack of clarity from European regulators, according to a statement given by Meta to Axios. The models in question are designed to process not only text but also images and audio, and power AI capabilities in Meta platforms as well as the company’s Ray-Ban smart glasses.

"We will release a multimodal Llama model over the coming months, but not in the EU due to the unpredictable nature of the European regulatory environment," Meta said in a statement to Axios.

Meta’s move follows a similar decision by Apple, which recently announced it would not release its Apple Intelligence features in Europe due to regulatory concerns. Margrethe Vesteger, the EU’s competition commissioner, had slammed Apple’s move, saying that the company’s decision was a “stunning, open declaration that they know 100 percent that this is another way of disabling competition where they have a stronghold already.” Withholding Meta’s multimodal AI models from the EU could have far-reaching implications — it means that any companies that use them to build their products and services would be unable to offer them in Europe.

Thomas Regnier, an EU spokesperson, told Engadget that the regulator does not comment on individual decisions of companies. "It is the companies' responsibility to ensure that their services comply with our legislation," Regnier said in a statement and added that all companies are welcome to offer service in Europe as long as they comply with the bloc's laws, including the upcoming Artificial Intelligence Act. 

Meta told Axios that it still plans to release Llama 3, the company’s upcoming text-only model in the EU. The company’s primary concern stems from the challenges of training AI models using data from European customers while complying with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the EU's existing data protection law. In May, Meta announced that it planned to use publicly available posts from Facebook and Instagram users to train future AI models but was forced to stop doing so in the EU after receiving pushback from data privacy regulators in the region. At the time, Meta defended its actions, saying that being able to train its models on the data of European users was necessary to reflect local culture and terminology. 

"If we don’t train our models on the public content that Europeans share on our services and others, such as public posts or comments, then models and the AI features they power won’t accurately understand important regional languages, cultures or trending topics on social media," the company said in a blog post. "We believe that Europeans will be ill-served by AI models that are not informed by Europe’s rich cultural, social and historical contributions."

Despite its reservations about releasing its multimodal models in the EU, Meta still plans to launch them in the UK, which has similar data protection laws to the EU. The company argued that European regulators are taking longer to interpret existing laws compared to their counterparts in other regions.

Update, July 18 2024, 6:40 PM ET: This story has been updated to include a statement from an EU spokesperson. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/meta-will-reportedly-withhold-multimodal-ai-models-from-the-eu-amid-regulatory-uncertainty-215543292.html?src=rss

Netflix will drop a new multiplayer game when Squid Game season 2 premieres this year

Netflix is expanding its games roster with an intriguing (and probably gruesome) new tie-in. During the company's quarterly earnings announcement, Netflix shared that it plans to launch a multiplayer game inspired by Squid Game. Its release date will be timed to coincide with the second season of the South Korean TV sensation. We have no other information about what style of game it will be, but we can guess that it will echo the children's games contestants play for survival on the series.

The program has already spawned several spinoffs for the streaming service. After season 1 became an international sensation in 2021, Netflix created a virtual reality version as well as an in-person pop-up experience in Los Angeles based on the fictional reality show. The company also teamed with a British production company to create Squid Game: The Challenge, an actual reality TV show that is fortunately a lot less lethal than its source material.

Another insight from the quarterly report is how much advertisements have grown in importance for Netflix. The ad-supported tier is responsible for 45 percent of new sign-ups in markets where the subscription option is available. The plan has only been available for about 18 months, and its audience has already grown 34 percent sequentially in the second quarter of 2024. Part of that shift is happening because the basic plan option is being phased out; it left Canada and the UK already, and the US and France are next up.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/netflix-will-drop-a-new-multiplayer-game-when-squid-game-season-2-premieres-this-year-220338938.html?src=rss

Fandango co-founder J. Michael Cline dead at 64

One of the founders of the movie ticketing service Fandango has died following an apparent suicide in New York City.

J. Michael Cline, the co-founder of the movie ticket website and service Fandango, died Tuesday after falling from the balcony of a Manhattan hotel in what the medical examiner’s office ruled as a suicide, according to The New York Times.

Cline co-founded Fandango in 2000 with former chief operating officer Art Levitt during the dot-com boom and became one of the biggest online retailers. Fandango launched with seven movie theater chains, according to Variety.

Fandango found success by completely changing the way people went to the movies. Moviegoers didn’t have to wait in long ticket lines only to find out that the 6 PM showing of Battlefield Earth was already sold out. They could purchase their tickets before they even left home and still have time to buy an overpriced box of Milk Duds and a watered down Shasta.

The company’s flashy orange “F” logo also made it one of the most recognizable online brands in the industry. Cline described his company's whimsical sounding name to Variety as “fast and fun” and a “perfect match to a service designed to make going to the movies easier and more enjoyable than ever before.”

Five years after its launch, online movie ticket sites like Fandango and its competitor Movietickets.com sold tickets worth over $30 million in one year. Comcast bought the Fandango brand in 2007 for an undisclosed sum. Fandango also bought some of the Internet’s hottest movie properties such as the aggregated movie review website Rotten Tomatoes in 2017. The movie ticket brand went through subsequent parent sales until it landed with its current owners NBCUniveral and Warner Bros., which expanded the Fandango brand to a streaming service called Fandango at Home as a replacement for Vudu.

Fandango continues to thrive as an online ticket retailer even at a time when movie theaters are seeing a huge slump in sales. During the Barbenheimer craze last summer, Fandango sold 3.5 million tickets alone just to the Oscar nominated and winning films Barbie and Oppenheimer.

Cline left Fandango in 2011 and went on to become the executive chairman of the tech investment firm Juxtapose that helped launch health and wellness companies like Care/of and Corduroy, according to the firm’s website.

Levitt described his former business partner to the New York Times as a formidable entrepreneur who was “a bit of an adventurer” and someone who “saw an opportunity in the market” with Fandango.

In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 or you can simply dial 988. Crisis Text Line can be reached by texting HOME to 741741 (US), 686868 (Canada), or 85258 (UK). Wikipedia maintains a list of crisis lines for people outside of those countries.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/fandango-co-founder-j-michael-cline-dead-at-64-214725046.html?src=rss

Blizzard reveals gameplay for the new Diablo IV class, Spiritborn

After a teaser at last year's BlizzCon, Blizzard today revealed more details about the new character class that will be coming to Diablo IV this fall. The Spiritborn looks like a fun, powerful mix of several characters from past Diablo entries. Imagine the martial arts combat of the Diablo 3 Monk paired with the animal abilities of the same game’s Witch Doctor plus the aesthetics of the Amazon in Diablo 2. This sounds like a pretty darn tasty recipe to me.

The Spiritborn is a dexterity-driven class with four Spirit Guardians whose powers you can draw on in combat. The jaguar grants fire damage and the eagle offers lightning damage abilities. With the gorilla, players get defensive power and survivability. And the centipede provides poison and fear skills for damage over time and crowd control. During the livestream, Class Designer Bjorn Mikkelson said the Spiritborn is "probably our fastest, most aggressive class." Think leaping into groups of enemies to deliver big burst damage with glaives, quarterstaffs, and polearms.

A typical rotation will see players using those short cooldown skills infused with an element of a spirit's power. But the real payoff with Spiritborn is the ultimate ability, which brings one of the Spirit Guardians to fight by the player's side. "Summoning the god into battle is the power fantasy for this class," said Diablo IV's Game Designer Brent Gibson.

Part of what has always made Diablo games compelling is the ability to personalize and specialize your playstyle within the broad character concept. And some of the other Diablo 4 class designs encourage players to specialize in a single ability tree, such as picking one elemental power to use for a Sorcerer. With the Spiritborn, players will have the flexibility to specialize in a single Spirit Guardian's skill tree if they want, or to mix and match at will without any loss of stats. Things will get even more personalized with the Spirit Hall class mechanic and a whole new set of legendary and ancient gear for the Spiritborn to further fine-tune your preferred playstyle for demon-smashing.

Today’s livestream also had some good nuggets for the lore nerds, and hardcore fans will likely find it worth rewatching the video to see all the details about the worldbuilding that the Blizzard teams put into developing this character. Diablo IV's Vessel of Hatred expansion, aka 'Neyrelle and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,' will launch on October 8 and the standard edition will cost $40.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/blizzard-reveals-gameplay-for-the-new-diablo-iv-class-spiritborn-205945475.html?src=rss

FiiO reboots the old-school portable CD player, minus the AA batteries

CD players are back, baby. As Gen Z absorbs the ‘90s it never experienced through retro nostalgia like Nirvana, Tamagotchi and wired headphones, audiophile brand FiiO is here to capitalize. The company’s new portable CD player, the DM13, builds on the blueprint of icons like the Discman. But it adds modern touches like high-fidelity wireless and a built-in battery, so Gen Zers are spared the pain of lugging around a small arsenal of AA cells to change at the top of every hour.

The FiiO DM13 follows the company’s retro reboots of the vinyl turntable and (for unfathomable reasons) the cassette player. The upcoming CD player has a sleek design with a digital display across its front, making for a much sharper-looking modern aesthetic than the trash we Gen X old farts used when jamming out to timeless musical legends like Candlebox, Right Said Fred and the Squirrel Nut Zippers.

Product marketing image of the FiiO DM13 portable CD player. It sits closed against a waveform background.
FiiO / Starscream Communications

The DM13 supports 3.5mm single-ended 4.4mm balanced outputs for analog line-out listening. For those who prefer wireless, it supports high-quality aptX HD and is compatible with many Android phones and portable media players. (Apple uses its lower-bitrate AAC codec, so iPhone owners get less impressive wireless audio without an adapter.)

FiiO says the DM13 supports eight hours of playback per charge. It also has a USB output and a dedicated desktop mode that bypasses the battery and uses its main power at home.

The bad news for ‘90s retrophiles is the DM13 isn’t available just yet. After its official unveiling at this weekend’s CanJam event in London, the CD Player will go on sale in September for $179 (£179 in the UK). It begins shipping only in a silver finish, but FiiO says red, blue, titanium and black variants will arrive later in the year.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/fiio-reboots-the-old-school-portable-cd-player-minus-the-aa-batteries-202334462.html?src=rss

The final trailer for Alien: Romulus looks tense, bloody and awesome

The last couple of Alien movies have been good for the most part but it feels like they’ve been missing the raw, skin-shredding tension of the first few films. The latest trailer for Alien: Romulus looks like the series is headed back to its dark, claustrophobic roots.

Alien: Romulus features a whole new crew of doomed space-trekking souls who encounter the deadly Xenomorph on a derelict spacecraft. This time, it’s a crew of space colonizers who are scavenging for resources from abandoned ships and stations.

This Alien film was co-written and directed by Fede Alvarez, the filmmaker behind cult horror flicks such as the two Don’t Breathe movies and the Evil Dead remake. So, yes, Alien: Romulus is gonna be very tense and very, very bloody. Where the original Alien merely strapped a parasitoid xenomorph to a crew member's face, the trailer for Romulus is willing to show a facehugger penetrating some poor guy's head. Yikes.

Alien: Romulus hits theaters on Friday, Aug. 16.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-final-trailer-for-alien-romulus-looks-tense-bloody-and-awesome-191908758.html?src=rss

Nintendo finally made a first-party Joy-Con charging station

Nintendo just announced its own first-party Joy-Con controller charging station, which releases on October 17. This is an obvious boon for couch co-op addicts, as you can have two Joy-Cons charging on the dock and another two charging via the console at the same time. Nintendo’s charging station also integrates with the company’s retro wireless NES gamepads, which are primarily used with Nintendo Switch Online games.

The Joy-Con Charging Stand (Two-Way) accessory draws power from the Switch’s dock, via the USB-C port, or any other power adapter. The vertical support can also be removed to make it more portable, another bonus for those couch co-op sleepovers. Nintendo hasn’t released any pricing information yet to go along with the October release date. It’s currently set for a launch in the US, Europe and Japan. October 17 is the same day that Super Mario Party Jamboree launches, so that would make for some good accessory-based synergy.

It’s worth noting that the Nintendo Switch is over seven years old. This accessory will be released 2,785 days after the console originally launched. Heck, the Switch 2 (or whatever it ends up being called) will probably hit store shelves early next year. What I’m saying is that this would have been a lot more useful six or seven years ago. Better late than never?

This is likely to be the Switch’s final holiday season. There’s a new Legend of Zelda game hitting on September 26, along with a themed console. Another big holiday-adjacent title is Mario & Luigi: Brothership, which comes out on November 7.

Update, July 18 2024, 2:57 PM ET: This story has been updated to confirm a US release after speaking to a company rep. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/nintendo-finally-made-a-first-party-joy-con-charging-station-152326371.html?src=rss

Google just confirmed the Pixel 9 Pro's outrageous camera bump

Google has officially confirmed the existence of the Pixel 9 Pro smartphone ahead of August’s Made By Google livestream event. This follows a leak earlier this week in which images and videos of the handset started popping up everywhere.

The company confirmed the smartphone via an announcement video, one that could have been waiting for August 13. The video isn’t big on details, but there is some footage of the phone in action that confirms one major suspicion about the Pixel 9 Pro. The absolutely gigantic camera bump is real and is ready to make obvious indentations in pockets everywhere.

Just look at that glorious thing. The bump looks like a 3D approximation of Bender from Futurama’s head. One thing is for sure. If you buy the Pixel 9 Pro later this year, be sure to also buy a newly-designed case. There’s no way previous cases will fit around that monstrosity.

Beyond the camera bump, Google’s video teases heavy integration with the company’s Gemini family of AI models. Affiliated marketing copy simply states “oh hi, AI” and the video shows a chatbot answering a query. This emphasis on AI should surprise absolutely nobody. It’s 2024.

You can sign up for information about the phone directly from Google. While we don’t have any actual specs, it’s likely that ginormous bump exists for a reason (a really good camera system.)

There have been other leaks ahead of next month’s event, though this is the only one proven to be real. These leaks do indicate, however, that the Pixel Pro 9 will be joined by the garden variety Pixel 9, the Pixel 9 Pro XL and a foldable called the Pixel 9 Pro Fold. As always, we’ll be on the scene August 13 to report on whatever Google announces.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/google-just-confirmed-the-pixel-9-pros-outrageous-camera-bump-185301609.html?src=rss

Ubisoft delays its Rainbow Six and Division mobile games until at least April 2025

Ubisoft has released its latest earnings report and while there wasn't a ton of major news, there's a disappointing update for those who have been waiting on mobile versions of the Rainbow Six and The Division franchises. The company says that the Rainbow Six Mobile and The Division Resurgence development teams need more time to "deliver on expectations" amid "a demanding yet very large market."

As such, both titles are no longer expected to debut in the publisher's current fiscal year, which ends on March 31, 2025. That means yet another delay for Rainbow Six Mobile, which was initially supposed to arrive in 2022. The Division Resurgence had been expected to debut last year.

On an earnings call with investors, Ubisoft noted that "it's very difficult to define a set date" when asked why it was delaying the games now, with over eight months of the fiscal year to go. Executives said that Ubisoft wants the two titles to last forever and that the developers are "putting in the necessary work to make sure the games are perfect when they launch."

Elsewhere, Ubisoft said its free-to-play competitive shooter XDefiant "is off to an encouraging start," having roped in 10 million players in its first two weeks after debuting in May. Aside from updates for live-service games such as Rainbow Six Siege, The Crew Motorfest and Skull and Bones (all of which the company says are performing well), Ubisoft has a couple of exciting projects lined up for the rest of the year in Star Wars Outlaws and Assassin’s Creed Shadows.

Meanwhile, on its earnings call, Ubisift was asked about the status of bringing Call of Duty games to cloud gaming services. The publisher holds the cloud gaming rights to Activision Blizzard games. Microsoft sold those rights to help appease competition regulators and get its Activision Blizzard merger over the line.

You can expect Call of Duty titles to start hitting Ubisoft+ by the end of this year. That lines up with Microsoft's plan to release Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 via (the now-more-expensive) Game Pass in October and to bring other CoD titles to that service.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/ubisoft-delays-its-rainbow-six-and-division-mobile-games-until-at-least-april-2025-174035060.html?src=rss

Cash App Pay integrates with Google Play to offer ‘next gen consumers more choice’

Cash App Pay has integrated with Google Play to give consumers another option when buying stuff online. This will be especially useful for Android users, as Google Play is baked right into the OS. Cash App says this partnership will give “next gen consumers more choice” and the company specifically called out the gaming space.

Cash App users will be able to pull money from a pre-existing balance or via a linked debit card to pay for stuff on Google Play. Cash App currently has four million monthly active users and the company claims to have added one million new users each quarter for the last year. That’s a lot of new people flowing into Google’s ecosystem.

To use Cash App on an Android device, just select the payment method when checking out on Google Play. Obviously, new users should download the app and make an account before all of that.

The Cash App integration, however, extends beyond Europe and Google already allows PayPal as an option in most countries. Also, Android developers who distribute apps on the Google Play store Google’s parent company Alphabet is considered a gatekeeper under the DMA and one of the mandates of the legislation is that these organizations must allow for alternative payment methods. 

The Cash App integration, however, extends beyond Europe and Google already allowed PayPal as an option in most countries. Also, Android developers who distribute apps on the Google Play store can already use an array of third-party payment systems in Europe, to comply with the DMA. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/cash-app-pay-integrates-with-google-play-to-offer-next-gen-consumers-more-choice-172310452.html?src=rss

OpenAI's new, lightweight GPT-4o mini model promises an improved ChatGPT experience

OpenAI on Thursday released a smaller and more affordable version of its flagship large language model that powers ChatGPT. The new model, called GPT-4o mini, will cost developers 60 percent less to build AI-powered apps and services with as compared to GPT-3.5 Turbo, Open’s smallest model until today. But the big news here is for consumers. GPT-4o mini will replace GPT-3.5 Turbo for free users of ChatGPT starting today — which means that your baseline ChatGPT experience will improve significantly.

OpenAI claimed that GPT-4o mini achieved an 82 percent score on an industry benchmark called the MMLU, which stands for Measuring Massive Multitask Language Understanding, and includes 16,000 multiple-choice questions across 57 academic subjects. That’s slightly lower than GPT-4o, which scored 88.7 percent, but higher than GPT-3.5 Turbo, which scored just 70 percent. AI experts have warned against relying on these kinds of benchmarks to measure how smart AI systems are, but so far, they’re the only way to measure the performance of large language models.

Smaller versions of flagship models give developers more flexibility when it comes to building AI-powered apps. After all, not everyone needs or can afford access to the largest, most powerful models for every use case. In May, Google announced Gemini 1.5 Flash, its own lightweight model that the company said was optimized for speed and efficiency. Other AI companies like Anthropic, too, have smaller versions of their full-scale models.

GPT-4o mini can currently take in and generate text and images, but the model will eventually be able to process other types of content like audio and video. And even though GPT-3.5 Turbo is going away from ChatGPT, developers can still access it via OpenAI’s API to build apps and services with it for now — until it eventually goes away too.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/new-lightweight-gpt-4o-mini-model-promises-an-improved-chatgpt-experience-170143382.html?src=rss

US college students can take half off a Max subscription

US college students can shave half off a Max subscription. As long as you can confirm your active student status, you’ll get a 50 percent discount on the Max With Ads monthly plan. Usually $10, you’ll only pay $5 each month to stream classic and current HBO series (and more).

The promotion is through a partnership with UNiDAYS, a (strangely capitalized) service that verifies college and university student status. The company has also partnered with Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Uber Eats, Nike and more.

After successfully verifying your status, the promotion will last for 12 months. But you’ll have the chance to re-verify your student status every year as long as you’re eligible to keep the discount. Once you’re in your last year with no plans to head to another school, you’ll graduate to the hard-knock life of $10 ad-supported streaming plans.

Max lets you stream classic HBO series like The Sopranos, The Wire, Sex and The City, Game Of Thrones, Six Feet Under and more. You also get current-run content from HBO, Warner Bros., DC, HGTV and Food Network. These include series and films like The Last of Us, Dune: Part Two, House of the Dragon, Barbie and Euphoria. You’ll also be able to stream the upcoming The Batman spinoff The Penguin, costarring Colin Farrell with his fat suit and a bunch of prosthetics.

Once you’re verified through UNiDAYS, you’ll receive a promotional code. Just follow the instructions you get with the code to begin your subscription.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/us-college-students-can-take-half-off-a-max-subscription-163906242.html?src=rss

You can try new Overwatch 2 support hero Juno this weekend

Overwatch 2 fans who are already jonesing for something new after the recent Transformers crossover won’t have to wait long. Blizzard has spilled the beans about the next hero that’s coming to the game, and you’ll be able to try her out as soon as this weekend.

Her name is Juno and she’s a support. The publisher teased this hero back at BlizzCon 2023 (when she was referred to only as Space Ranger) and in-game over the last few weeks. Now, her spacecraft has landed on this colorful version of near-future Earth — Juno is the game’s first playable Martian character.

A gameplay trailer gives a sense of Juno’s abilities and how they work. Her primary weapon is called the Mediblaster. It appears to work in a similar way to Ana’s Biotic Rifle in that it can heal allies and damage enemies, though it's not clear whether there's a different fire mode for each. One of her abilities, the Pulsar Torpedoes, can lock onto multiple targets to dish out healing and damage too.

Unlike Ana, though, Juno has traversal abilities. With Glide Boost, she can soar through the air. She can also temporarily provide herself and her teammates with a speed boost — and perhaps the ability to jump higher —thanks to her Hyper Ring.

As for Juno’s ultimate, that's called Orbital Ray. It’s a beam emanating from a satellite that moves across the map that heals allies and boosts damage. The specifics of how exactly all the abilities work haven't been announced, so we’ll likely have to hold on until Juno arrives in the game for the full lowdown.

Fortunately, that will be a short wait. Juno will be available in all modes except Competitive for a trial weekend that runs from July 19 until July 21. The No Limits mode will be in the Arcade, so chances are likely that we’ll see two teams of five Junos fighting each other as players get to grips with the newcomer.

On the rare occasions I play anything other than Mystery Heroes, I usually play the support role, so I can’t wait to try out Juno. She has a great look and the makings of an excellent kit, as long as it’s smartly balanced. Juno will join the lineup permanently when season 12 of Overwatch 2 starts on August 20.

Overwatch 2 hero Juno, a character who wears a helmet and can float.
Blizzard Entertainment
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/you-can-try-new-overwatch-2-support-hero-juno-this-weekend-160006353.html?src=rss

Proton Mail now has a privacy-focused AI writing assistant

Proton Mail has a new AI-powered feature that could help it keep pace with the artificial intelligence tools Google and Microsoft offer for their email services. Proton Scribe is an AI writing assistant that can help you compose and clean up your drafts. Scribe was designed with privacy in mind — the assistant can't train on your inbox data, as Proton Mail has a zero-access approach to encryption. Proton doesn't save or log anything from your email drafts either.

According to Proton, a writing assistant was one of the most-requested features in a recent user survey. The company designed it as a secure alternative to other generative AI options. Scribe can be run locally if your system is compatible. Otherwise, you can run it on Proton's no-log servers. The assistant is powered by open-source models and code. As such, Proton says the tool itself is open-source and that independent researchers are free to carry out privacy and security audits.

Scribe can be accessed by clicking the pencil icon in the Proton Mail composer. After telling the tool what you want to say in an email, it will create a draft for you. You'll be able to use the Shorten and Proofread options to condense and clean up your draft. There's also the option to make the tone of your email more formal with the click of a button. You can review and tweak your drafts before sending them.

Proton says Scribe only fully supports English for now and it's rolling the assistant out to eligible users. Visionary and Lifetime subscribers will have access at no extra cost. Those on a Proton Business plan — Mail Essentials, Mail Professional or Proton Business Suite — can try Proton Scribe for free for 14 days. After that, the tool costs $3 per month per user.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/proton-mail-now-has-a-privacy-focused-ai-writing-assistant-155816223.html?src=rss

This Prime Day TV deal still offers 39 percent off the Samsung Frame TV

Amazon's Prime Day sale is officially over and done with, but a handful of the event's better discounts remain available. If you're in the market for a new TV, here's one standout: Samsung's 55-inch Frame TV is still on sale for $998. While that's not the absolute lowest price we've ever seen, it's roughly $400 off the set's average street price. This Prime Day TV deal also comes bundled with your choice of a colored bezel cover, which you can attach to the edges of the set to make it look more like a piece of art. 

This Samsung 55-inch The Frame TV model offers a QLED 4K screen with an anti-reflective, matte finish that reduces glare and helps artwork blend in with other framed pictures you may have nearby. (The last thing you want is to spend all this money and have it be immediately apparent that the art is on a screen rather than looking like a permanent fixture.) Its picture quality can't match the best TVs in this price range — there's no local dimming or mini-LED backlight to boost contrast — but it's still decently bright and colorful, and you'd buy it for its design first anyway. You can access over 1,400 new and established works of art with a subscription to Samsung's Art Store, though a few pieces come bundled with the set for free. It also supports a fast 120Hz refresh rate, so it's not bad for gaming.

Then there's the bezel, which gives your digital artwork an extra degree of authenticity. This deal is available with a white, "teak" or brown bezel — all of which have a modern design. The bezels are also magnetic, so if you change your mind down the line, you can snap them off. 

Note that this price applies to the 2022 version of the Frame TV. Samsung has released updated models for 2024 that reportedly offer better brightness but don't appear to be vastly different overall. Those sets are similarly discounted on Amazon right now, but since they cost a couple hundred dollars extra, the older variant should be a better value while it's still in stock. 

Your Prime Day Shopping Guide: See all of our Prime Day coverage. Shop the best Prime Day deals on Yahoo Life. Follow Engadget for Prime Day tech deals. Hear from Autoblog’s experts on the best Amazon Prime Day deals for your car, garage, and home, and find Prime Day sales to shop on AOL, handpicked just for you.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/this-prime-day-tv-deal-still-offers-39-percent-off-the-samsung-frame-tv-090511791.html?src=rss

Prime Day is over but the iPad deals aren't — Shop last minute and get up to 24 percent off

Amazon Prime Day might be over, but there are some Prime Day deals still available right now. And believe it or not, iPad deals are some of the discounts remaining even hours after the shopping event ended. The standout deal you can get right now is still the same as we saw on Prime Day proper: the 10th-gen iPad is down to $299, which is $50 off and an all-time-low price.

This iPad deal is for the bare-bones version of the device with 64GB of internal storage. However, this particular iPad model shines brightest when consuming content and, well, most of that is on the cloud nowadays. Also, this particular model is Wi-Fi only with no cellular service, if that’s a dealbreaker for you. Also: the deal extends to all four colorways.

Despite being released back in the ancient days of 2022, the 10th-gen iPad is still a capable machine with an A14 Bionic chip, a 10.9-inch Retina display, two 12MP cameras and a robust battery that should last a full day before requiring a trip to the outlet. It won’t beat the recently-released iPad Air and Pro models, but it’s also a fraction of the price.

As a matter of fact, this tablet still has a place on our list of the best iPads. We appreciated the solid battery life, the modern design that recalls its pricer cousins and USB-C charging. At the end of the day, it’s an iPad. It’s great, despite being significantly underpowered when compared to the Pro and Air. To put it another way, this is the tablet to get if your primary use cases are consuming content, surfing the web, playing games and writing emails. This is not the tablet to get if you want to start editing videos.

If that is what you're looking for, you'll have to go all the way up the iPad lineup to the iPad Pro, which you can snag on sale for $919 right now thanks to a discount-plus-coupon combo on the 11-inch model. The M4-powered version sits at the top of our list of the best tablets thanks to its incredible screen, superior performance, thinner and lighter design and compatibility with the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil Pro.

But the iPad Pro is undeniably expensive even when on sale — unless you're looking for a true laptop replacement, you can likely find everything you need in a more affordable iPad model. The M2-powered iPad Air is the one we at Engadget recommend to most people and it's on sale for $559 still today. Also discounted are the iPad mini, arguably the best iPad for single-handed use, which is down to a record low of $380, and the 9th-gen iPad, which you can pick up for $249.

Your Prime Day Shopping Guide: See all of our Prime Day coverage. Shop the best Prime Day deals on Yahoo Life. Follow Engadget for Prime Day tech deals. Hear from Autoblog’s experts on the best Amazon Prime Day deals for your car, garage, and home, and find Prime Day sales to shop on AOL, handpicked just for you.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/prime-day-is-over-but-the-ipad-deals-arent--shop-last-minute-and-get-up-to-24-percent-off-070443452.html?src=rss

Splitgate 2 is coming to PC and consoles in 2025

It was a shame to see 1047 Games putting Splitgate on ice back in 2022. The studio did a great job of freshening up the competitive arena shooter genre by adding portals (think: Quake meets Portal), but it moved on to a new project. We now know that’s going to be Splitgate 2, a free-to-play sequel that’s coming to PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S next year.

1047 Games is going bigger in all kinds of ways this time around, including with a much larger development team. A group of 20 first-time game developers created Splitgate, which started as a school project. The team is now more than 150 strong and features devs with experience on the likes of Call of Duty, Overwatch, Halo, Valorant and League of Legends.

The sequel is being built from the ground up in Unreal Engine 5. It will have three factions you can pick from based on your preferred play style and tactics. The Aeros are agile, Sabrasks are all about power and Meridians can manipulate time. 

There will be many areas, weapons and modes to check out, though the bulk of the action will be in four versus four combat. A debut trailer gives some idea of what to expect and more details will be revealed in August. Fans can check out a free comic series and unlock in-game collectibles through the Splitgate 2 companion app for iOS and Android.

1047 Games has a tough act to follow since Splitgate was very well received and it proved popular — it had more than 22 million downloads. It’s a strong foundation to build on, though, and the Splitgate 2 trailer (despite being a cinematic rather than gameplay-focused one) looks very promising.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/splitgate-2-is-coming-to-pc-and-consoles-in-2025-144400499.html?src=rss

iOS 18 preview: Waiting on Apple Intelligence for the true upgrade

iOS 18 has landed in public beta and Apple is offering up more control, yet again, of the layout of your iPhone. However, Apple Intelligence, the most exciting upgrade, is conspicuously (but unsurprisingly) absent.

The update also improves several native apps, such as Photos, Messages (RCS! Gasp!) and Notes, although Apple Intelligence will add even more features and tricks. While we all wait for the ability to generate our own emojis, there is still plenty to explore. It’s just a little drier than what Apple teased at WWDC.

You can access the iOS preview by enrolling on Apple’s website, which will nudge the beta to your iPhone’s Software Update section. As always, remember to back up your iPhone first and ensure it’s compatible. (iOS 18 works on 2018’s iPhone XS and XR and newer phones.)

Beyond app folders and widgets, iOS 18 adds further functional and aesthetic customization. Alongside a new Dark look, you can tint all of them in a color of your choosing. Unlike previous dark modes on iOS, this time it also ‘dims’ individual app icons to keep it consistent with the darker theme. You can also have iOS choose the color for you, basing its recommendation on your iPhone’s wallpaper. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is very similar to Material You, which Google introduced to Android in 2021.

You can also increase the size of the app icons ever so slightly, without reducing the number you can pack into a single pane. Doing so does strip away the text labels, so you better be sure you know, without words, which app icon is which. And, in a thrilling move for tens of pedants everywhere, you can move your icons outside a left-aligned, top-to-bottom snap grid. Do you want the Safari icon floating in the bottom right corner, all alone? You can do that now.

iOS 18 also brings two new ways to secure your apps. You can assign an app as locked or hidden. Locking an app will require FaceID access, useful perhaps for Photos or a plethora of other apps if you often share your phone with children. Doing sp will also mean information from there won’t appear or bubble around other parts of iOS, like searches and notifications. You can also choose to hide the app, which nudges it into a dedicated folder, locked away behind FaceID.

Apple has also refreshed its control panel and dropdown menu for settings. Similar to when iOS introduced widgets a few years ago, there is now a dedicated control gallery to add smart home shortcuts, launch timers and more.

This had the potential to clutter up the control panel, but Apple has divided this into four different tabs. While you can tap on the little icons to the side to leap to a specific section, you can also access all of them in a single continuous scroll. Your most used features can live at the top, and other sections pull together your smart home controls, entertainment playback and connectivity. Have you lost your hotspot shortcut? It’s here. All the controls are also resizeable to prioritize the most crucial ones.

Finally, you can now customize the iOS lock screen controls, too. If you never use the flashlight, you can swap it out for something more practical, like a timer, or even act as a shortcut to Shazam in a pinch.

iOS 18 preview
Photo by Mat Smith/Engadget

RCS (Rich Communication Services) has landed on the iPhone, or at least on those running iOS 18. It pulls together advanced text features, like support for richer images, larger file attachments, voice notes, group chat, read receipts and more. But you got all those through iMessage on iOS, making RCS sound a little uneventful.

However, if your friends are divided across Android and iOS, you can start using Messages like other third-party messaging apps. Does it have all the features of WhatsApp? No. Does it do everything you can in iMessage? No.

But it will help. For example, with RCS, you can send messages over Wi-Fi without a phone signal. I’ve had issues before when running late for appointments, trapped on the metro with no signal, unable to text to let the other person know. RCS means those messages will send if you latch on to a passing Wi-Fi network.

There are more advances beyond RCS. You can also schedule text messages, like you might already do on work chat apps and email. If you’re into Apple’s recently introduced message tapbacks (emoji reactions), you can now do so with any emoji, including your own Live Stickers based on your photos and images. For even more expression, iOS 18 also adds italics, bold, underline and strikethrough formatting, and a family of cute word animations that feel like WordArt come to life. It’s silly, it’s frothy, it’s pointless. I love it.

iOS 18 preview
Photo by Mat Smith/Engadget

Apple has hidden away some major changes to how it structures its photos app, reflecting the fact that many of us have had iPhones (and photo libraries) for over a decade and a half. And we’re not going to look at all of those pictures. We’re likely not even going to look at most of them. In iOS 18, Apple has ditched the tabs for “Library,” “For You,” “Albums” and “Search.” Instead of your latest photos, screenshots and videos taking up the majority of the screen, you’ll see some space carved out for your latest content, curated albums, memories and more.

It’s a divisive approach, but I think your reaction will depend on how you interact with your photos. I know where my favorite photos are or how to find them, but other people in my life are often pleasantly surprised when services and devices can auto-curate an album of photos from a day out or a vacation. This redesign seems aimed at them.

And what about Apple Intelligence? Eventually, it will add some additional tricks, like Cleanup, which can help erase any unwanted objects in your photos. It’s a feature that Pixel (and Galaxy) phone users have enjoyed for a while, and still, we await the arrival of Apple Intelligence to be able to test this. For more on what’s coming to your gallery in iOS 18, check out my colleague Cherlynn’s detailed article on what Apple’s done to the Photos app.

If you’re a daily Notes app user (yes, I’m guilty), there are some nice advances in iOS 18, too. You can now transcribe conversations and meetings directly into the app. At the time of my testing, you’ll have to ensure your iPhone is set to US English and US as a region for the transcription icon, shown in the image above, to appear.

We also get Math Notes, which can be accessed through the Notes app and from the calculator. Here, you can write out sums and calculations and your iPhone will solve them. It’ll even remember figures for future calculations. It feels niche, but there’s some definite utility here, perhaps if you’re looking to add up a vacation budget or DIY project.

Notes’ new collapsable subheadings proved more useful for me. I have several lengthy Note files, and now I can organize them better and not have to search for specific words to find what I need.

Apple brings a similar approach to its Reader on Safari, which can add a table of contents and even attempt to summarize an article before you even get your teeth into it. Meandering recipe intros: you may have been put on notice. But I say “may“ because as of this writing, I haven’t been able to test this on any sites I’ve visited.

There’s also a new Passwords app, which, in a lot of ways, is just an easier way to access your iCloud passwords instead of diving into your iPhone’s settings. The app divides your passwords into different categories like accounts, codes, Wi-Fi networks and Passkeys, and, wisely, will support the iCloud for Windows app and a Chrome extension. You can also share password collections with visitors, friends or family.

Apple continues to tentatively develop its smart home features within iOS 18, too. It’s adding express mode to automatically unlock connected doors as you approach — as long as you have your iPhone (or Apple Watch) on you. Meanwhile, Apple has created a guest access tab so you can grant access to parts of your smart home and even schedule the times a garage door, say, stays unlocked, perhaps for a package delivery.

iOS 18 preview
Photo by Mat Smith/Engadget

My early impressions of iOS 18 are more limited than I wanted them to be. Apple Intelligence and most of its exciting features teased at WWDC, are not part of this public beta. Without those, iOS 18 feels more like iOS 17.5. There are more features, but most of them are incremental.

RCS is finally here, adding more functionality to cross-OS text messaging (and possibly worrying the likes of WhatsApp) while elsewhere, Apple focuses on upgrading and enhancing its native apps. The company made some... interesting choices. In iOS 18, even Calculator is getting beefed up, with Math Notes, calculation history, and a new scientific calculator view.

The public beta is relatively stable, so it’s easy to recommend to those looking for early access to the latest iPhone features. However, without Apple Intelligence, drawing more meaningful conclusions on iOS 18 will have to wait.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/ios-18-preview-waiting-on-apple-intelligence-for-the-true-upgrade-143059859.html?src=rss

Xfinity is showing the Olympics with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos on its Stream app

Xfinity is giving its customers access to better picture quality, just in time for the Paris Olympics. To start with, its customers will have the ability to enable Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos via the Xfinity Stream app on compatible streaming devices and TVs for the first time, if they watch USA Network's Paris Olympics coverage. That will give them access to a viewing experience with more detailed pictures and immersive sounds even if they're not streaming through an Xfinity box. 

The telecommunications division of Comcast is also debuting an enhanced 4K viewing experience for all customers of its X1 platform as a whole. It explains enhanced 4K as 4K video delivered over Comcast's network at the highest bitrate, with Dolby Vision for more realistic pictures and Dolby Atmos for immersive audio. The capability will also premiere for the Paris Olympics and will be available on USA Network's 24/7 coverage. Xfinity also promises ultra-low latency, which means viewers will only be seconds behind what's happening in Paris in real time.

"By premiering enhanced 4K during Paris 2024, fans of the Olympics will be among the first to experience this new innovation and enjoy all the live action in stunning picture and audio quality, with significantly less delay compared to anything else in the market," Vito Forlenza, Comcast's Vice President for Sports and Entertainment, said. Xfinity put its enhanced 4K feature to the test during the 2024 Super Bowl, though, to make sure it works as promised. It says that going forward, enhanced 4K will be its new quality standard for live sports on X1. 

The streaming platform will make it easy for customers to access Olympics content, as well. Users will be able to create a custom destination for their favorite sports and access a comprehensive schedule of events, which they can then filter by any of the sports they're interested in. They can quickly access these feature and all the channels and services offering Olympics content by saying "Olympics" into the Xfinity voice remote. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/xfinity-is-showing-the-olympics-with-dolby-vision-and-dolby-atmos-on-its-stream-app-140046946.html?src=rss

Amazon Prime Day tech deals under $25 that are still available today

Amazon Prime Day is officially over — but there are still a few legacy deals hanging on. We had previously pulled together this list of worthy under-$25 deals, and we've just updated it to reflect these affordable bargains that are still available as of Thursday morning. 

As a reminder (and for the uninitiated): Engadget treats tech deals with the same care as we would “regular” tech news. When we scour the web for deals, we’re looking not only for the best prices possible, but also the best products as well. Our goal with our deals coverage, especially surrounding events like Amazon Prime Day, is to surface only the best deals we can find on the gadgets we’ve tested and rated highly, or that we’ve used and know to be worth your money.

These deals were available earlier but have expired. They may or may not return. 

Your Prime Day Shopping Guide: See all of our Prime Day coverage. Shop the best Prime Day deals on Yahoo Life. Follow Engadget for Prime Day tech deals. Hear from Autoblog’s experts on the best Amazon Prime Day deals for your car, garage, and home, and find Prime Day sales to shop on AOL, handpicked just for you.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/amazon-prime-day-tech-deals-under-25-that-are-still-available-today-154512947.html?src=rss

Amazon Prime Day Apple deals on AirPods, MacBooks, iPads and more that are still available today

Prime Day might be over, but there are a (somewhat surprising) number of Apple deals still live right now. Apple itself doesn’t typically host sales, but we often see deals from Amazon on current-generation Apple devices — most of which will get even better this fall with the software updates Apple announced at WWDC. These still-available Apple discounts have become even more appealing, with many sitting at record-low prices. While you won’t see discounts on iPhones or HomePod speakers (Amazon would much prefer that you buy an Echo), you can still pick up most other Apple gear at steep discounts today. Here are the best Prime Day Apple deals you can still get even after the shopping event has ended.

Your Prime Day Shopping Guide: See all of our Prime Day coverage. Shop the best Prime Day deals on Yahoo Life. Follow Engadget for Prime Day tech deals. Hear from Autoblog’s experts on the best Amazon Prime Day deals for your car, garage, and home, and find Prime Day sales to shop on AOL, handpicked just for you.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/amazon-prime-day-apple-deals-on-airpods-macbooks-ipads-and-more-that-are-still-available-today-072858665.html?src=rss

Prime Day is over, but Apple's AirPods Pro are still cheaper than ever

Amazon Prime Day 2024 has come and gone, but thankfully, some sales still linger. One of the best deals to shop right now is an all-time low price on Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro. The earbuds first dropped to $169 from $249 in an early Prime Day deal, and you can still grab them for 32 percent off. 

Apple released its second-gen AirPods Pro in 2022, but they're still the newest model on the market. At the time, we gave them an 88 in our review thanks to solid noise cancellation and stellar transparency mode — courtesy of their H2 chip. They're also our choice of 2024's best wireless earbuds for an iPhone, with simple touch controls, hands-free Siri and easy switching between Apple devices. Plus, they offer up to six hours of battery life with ANC on and up to 30 hours with the charging case.  

Externally, the AirPods Pro also have some perks worth mentioning. Each purchase comes with four silicone tips, ranging from extra small to large. The earbuds and the charging case are IP54 dust, sweat and water resistant, so you can use them while exercising outdoors all summer. 

Your Prime Day Shopping Guide: See all of our Prime Day coverage. Shop the best Prime Day deals on Yahoo Life. Follow Engadget for Prime Day tech deals. Hear from Autoblog’s experts on the best Amazon Prime Day deals for your car, garage, and home, and find Prime Day sales to shop on AOL, handpicked just for you.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/prime-day-is-over-but-apples-airpods-pro-are-still-cheaper-than-ever-124025085.html?src=rss

The best educational toys for kids

It can be hard to look at your kid’s adorable face and not get them every shiny toy they want. But some toys will do better to stimulate their brain than others. If you’re looking for a new plaything for your child but want to ensure it helps their critical thinking and problem solving skills as much as it entertains them, allow us to help. The parents (and aunts, and uncles) of Engadget have tested plenty of educational toys with their little ones over the years — below, we’ve rounded up a few that have had genuine staying power.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-educational-toys-for-kids-123055311.html?src=rss

The Morning After: Meta may hold back its next-gen AI models from the EU

Meta has reportedly decided not to offer its upcoming multimodal AI model and future versions to customers in the European Union, citing a lack of clarity on the European regulators’ data protection rules. These newer AI models process not only text but also images and audio, and power AI capabilities across Meta’s platforms. Meta’s move follows a similar decision by Apple, which recently announced it would not release its Apple Intelligence features in Europe due to regulatory concerns.

Meta told Axios it still plans to release Llama 3, the company’s text-only model, in the EU. The company’s primary concern stems from the challenges of training AI models using data from European customers while complying with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the EU’s data protection law. That said, Meta still plans to launch these new AI models in the UK, which has similar data protection laws to the EU.

— Mat Smith

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Dyson

In early 2022, Dyson combined its air filtration expertise with noise-canceling headphones. Aimed at providing less-polluted air, the Zone headphones had an extremely short battery life and a heady $949 price. Now, the company is focusing on audio, with its new OnTrac headphones: noise-canceling headphones with a decidedly Dyson design and a premium $500 price tag. Unsurprisingly, there’s a bigger focus on the audio tech — check out our deep-dive.

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tinyPod

The tinyPod is a case for your Apple Watch, which probably doesn’t sound too exciting on its own. However, its click wheel, which controls the watch’s Digital Crown, makes Apple’s wearable look and feel (at least in its marketing) like an iPod, back from the dead.

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This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-morning-after-meta-may-hold-back-its-next-gen-ai-models-from-the-eu-111504920.html?src=rss