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Latest Xbox One update adds MKV support, quicker voiceless commands

10/16/2014 5:30pm
Quick-snap! Now, Kinect-less Xbox One owners can do a few more cool system functions on the fly.

Microsoft's near-monthly streak of Xbox One updates continued on Wednesday with a substantial October update. The console maker had already teased the update's most intriguing feature in August when it announced a media-player app set to handle a staggering number of codecs—particularly the MKV container—and DLNA streaming from other devices on a home network.

XB1's new media player, like the system's Blu-ray player, must be loaded as a separate app. We were able to test it during a beta period, and it worked as advertised, meaning it allowed us to watch all of our favorite, legitimately acquired TV shows and films in crisp MKV format.

The update's other major addition, a quick-snap menu, can be accessed with a double-tap of the controller's home button. It focuses largely on functions that were formerly locked to voice control, including quick loads of previous games and apps and the ability to record your last 30 seconds of gameplay—which should make it easier for players who snapped up a cheaper, Kinect-less XB1 to multitask with the system.

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Microsoft mashes all its IT conferences into one event—Ignite

10/16/2014 5:00pm

Microsoft is replacing a whole set of its IT-oriented conferences—TechEd, Management Summit, Exchange Conference, SharePoint Conference, Project Conference, and Lync Conference—with one new event: Ignite.

The first Ignite conference will be a five-day event in Chicago, running May 4-8, 2015. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will give the keynote speech with Brad Anderson (CVP Enterprise Client & Mobility), Joe Belfiore (CVP Operating Systems Group), Dave Campbell (CTO), Peggy Johnson (EVP Business Development), Chris Jones (VP), Julie Larson Green (Chief Experience Officer of "My Life and Work"), Gurdeep Singh Pall (VP Skype), and others.

With the announcement of Ignite, Microsoft has announced its full set of major 2015 conferences. The year will kick off with business event Convergence in Atlanta, March 16-19. Next is Build, once again in San Francisco, April 29-May 1. After Ignite, the final event will be Worldwide Partner Summit in Orlando, July 12-16.

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Los Angeles court got license plate reader ruling totally wrong, groups say

10/16/2014 4:30pm

Two activist groups have filed an appeal in their lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to access one week’s worth of license plate reader data. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) lost their case before a Los Angeles Superior Court judge last month.

In May 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the law enforcement agencies in an attempt to compel the agencies to release a week’s worth of LPR data from a particular week in August 2012.

The judge in the lower court ruling found that the law enforcement agencies could withhold such license plate reader (LPR) records through a particular exemption under the California Public Records Act that allows investigatory records to be kept private.

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Hands- and eyes-on with the new iPads and the iMac’s big 5K display

10/16/2014 4:13pm

CUPERTINO, CA—Apple’s media event today was light on surprises. Apple really didn’t show anything that hadn’t already been leaked by the rumor mill (or by Apple itself), but that doesn’t mean that the upgrades to the iPad and Mac lineups are unwelcome.

We spent some quality time with the hardware after the announcement, and our impressions are below. As for the software, you can already grab OS X Yosemite for yourself now, and iOS 8.1 and Apple Pay will follow on Monday (at least for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners).

The Retina iMac

The new Retina iMac.

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The new iMac is the result of a simple equation: Current 27-inch iMac plus Retina display equals Retina 5K iMac.

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How to make your own bootable OS X 10.10 Yosemite USB install drive

10/16/2014 3:30pm
Even in the download-only era, it's easy to make yourself offline OS X install media. Andrew Cunningham

It was 2009 when Apple last released a new operating system on physical media. Things have proceeded remarkably smoothly since version 10.7 switched to download-only installers, but there are still good reasons to want an old, reliable USB stick. For instance, if you find yourself doing multiple installs, a USB drive may be faster than multiple downloads (especially if you use a USB 3.0 drive). Or maybe you need a recovery disk for older Macs that don't support the Internet Recovery feature. Whatever the reason, you're in luck, because it's not hard to make one.

As with last year, there are two ways to get it done. There's the super easy way with the graphical user interface and the only slightly less easy way that requires some light Terminal use. Here's what you need to get started.

  • A Mac, duh. We've created Yosemite USB from both Mavericks and Yosemite, but your experience with other versions may vary.
  • An 8GB or larger USB flash drive or an 8GB or larger partition on some other kind of external drive. For newer Macs, use a USB 3.0 drive—it makes things significantly faster.
  • The OS X 10.10 Yosemite installer from the Mac App Store in your Applications folder. The installer will delete itself when you install the operating system, but it can be re-downloaded if necessary.
  • If you want a GUI, you need the latest version of Diskmaker X app—we wrote this article based on version 4 beta 2, but if a "final" version is released alongside Yosemite we'll update the article. This app is free to download, but the creator accepts donations if you want to support his efforts.
  • An administrator account on the Mac you're using to create the disk.
The easy way Diskmaker X remains the easiest, most user-friendly way to get this done. Andrew Cunningham

Once you've obtained all of the necessary materials, connect the USB drive to your Mac and run the Diskmaker X app. The app will offer to make installers for OS X 10.8, 10.9, and 10.10, but we're only interested in Yosemite today.

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A visual tour of OS X Yosemite’s changes

10/16/2014 3:03pm"xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:["top"], collapse: true});John Siracusa's gigantic review of OS X Yosemite tells you everything you need to know about the new operating system. The biggest, most noticeable change is the revised user interface, which has been redesigned in the image of iOS 7 even though it remains distinctly Mac-like.

When the first Yosemite Public Beta was released, we ran through a bunch of apps and compared them side-by-side with their Mavericks iterations to show just what had changed, and by how much. Apple continued to tweak the look of the interface throughout the beta period, addressing a few of our initial gripes.

Below is a comprehensive visual tour of Yosemite's new changes. Many of these screenshots are similar to what shipped with the Public Beta, so we'll be sure to highlight those elements that have changed significantly since then.

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OS X 10.10 Yosemite: The Ars Technica Review

10/16/2014 3:00pm
Aurich Lawson / Thinkstock

When the book is finally closed on the product line known as OS X, last year’s release of OS X 10.9 Mavericks may end up getting short shrift. Sure, it brought tangible energy saving benefits to Mac laptop owners, but such gains are quickly taken for granted; internal changes and new frameworks are not as memorable to customers as they may be to developers and technophiles. And while Mavericks included many new user-visible features, and even new bundled applications, the cumulative effect was that of a pleasant upgrade, not a blockbuster.

But for all its timidity and awkwardness, Mavericks marked a turning point for OS X—and in more than just naming scheme. It was the first OS X release from the newly unified, post-Forstall Apple. If iOS 7 was the explosive release of Jony Ive’s pent-up software design ethos, then Mavericks was the embodiment of Craig Federighi’s patient engineering discipline. Or maybe Mavericks was just a victim of time constraints and priorities. Either way, in last year’s OS X release, Apple tore down the old. This year, finally, Apple is ready with the new.

To signal the Mac’s newfound confidence, Apple has traded 10.9’s obscure surfing location for one of the best known and most beautiful national parks: Yosemite. The new OS’s headline feature is one that’s sure to make for a noteworthy chapter in the annals of OS X: an all-new user interface appearance. Of course, this change comes a year after iOS got its extreme makeover.

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Mac mini gets a refresh with Haswell processors, $100 price drop

10/16/2014 2:25pm
Andrew Cunningham

Apple announced a new generation of its tiny Mac mini desktop computer today at an event in Cupertino, California. The new version includes a Haswell CPU and PCI-e flash-based storage, among other features.

The 4th-gen Intel processors will have Intel Iris and HD 5000 GPUs, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and two Thunderbolt 2 ports. Apple referred to the Mac mini as "the world's most energy efficient desktop." The base model includes a 1.4GHz dual-core Intel i5 processor, and the top-end end model can be specced with up to a 3.0GHz dual-core Intel i7 processor. By default, the new Mac mini models are equipped with Apple's Fusion Drives, but customers can upgrade to fully-flash-based PCIe drives for a price.

The company has not updated the Mac mini since late 2012, when it added USB 3.0 ports (the new model retains 4 of these, in addition to Thunderbolt 2). The new machines will retain the design of the 2012 model.

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Apple drops old iPad Mini to $249, iPad Mini 2 to $299

10/16/2014 2:15pm

CUPERTINO, CA—On Thursday, Apple followed its announcement of the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 with price drops across the board for older models in those lines, which will continue to be produced alongside today's newest models.

"Our lineup has the lowest price point ever for iPad," Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller said while standing in front of a slide revealing the price points. The original iPad Mini price has dropped to $249 at its smallest memory configuration of 16GB, followed by the iPad Mini 2 at $299 and the iPad Air at $399 (also set at 16GB). Each of those price drops is $100.

In terms of competitive pricing, the original iPad Mini now costs only $50 more than Amazon's Kindle HDX 7 without advertising offers and Google's Nexus 7.

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Apple updates desktop iMac line with “5k” Retina displays

10/16/2014 2:09pm

One of the big "tentpole" announcements from Apple’s event this morning was the long-awaited arrival of iMacs with "retina" displays. The flagship 27-inch iMac form factor has been updated with a high-resolution, high-DPI screen, and it's now known as the "iMac with Retina Display." It runs at a resolution of 5120x2880.

The updated iMac with Retina Display keeps the same external form factor as the existing iMacs, so externally, things are unchanged. However, the new internals include an updated LED backlight, an updated oxide TFT display panel, and an updated timing controller to push around the display's 14.7 million pixels.

Apple also says that although the display is brighter and denser than the 27-inch 2560x1440 panel on older 27-inch iMacs, the panel uses 30% less power thanks to the efficient LED design.

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Apple announces TouchID-equipped, 6.1 mm-thick iPad Air 2 and new iPad Mini 3

10/16/2014 1:47pm
Andrew Cunningham

CUPERTINO, CA—Apple has officially announced its new iPad Air 2 at today's media event on its campus at 1 Infinite Loop. The iPad Air 2 was inadvertently outed yesterday in an iBooks listing for the iPad user guide.

The new device is only 6.1 mm thick, and Phil Shiller told the audience, "In every iPad, there's been an air gap between glass and display. Now they've been bonded together. There's no air gap. Makes it thinner, and the images sharper."

The screen also has an anti-reflective coating," Shiller added, which "reduces reflections by 56 percent."

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Apple releasing OS X Yosemite to the public today for free

10/16/2014 1:35pm
Yosemite is here. Apple

CUPERTINO, CA—Today at a product event, Apple announced that it would be releasing OS X Yosemite to the public. The eleventh major release of OS X was announced back in June at WWDC, and Apple began sending public beta builds to interested parties in July. Though it includes other new features, the operating system's most noticeable change is its redesigned user interface, which echoes the overhaul Apple gave iOS 7 last year.

Yosemite's brighter, flatter applications and icons, its heavy use of translucency, and its switch to Helvetica Neue will be familiar to anyone with an iPhone or iPad, but as we saw in our coverage of the first public beta, Apple has been careful to preserve shadows and depth in many places throughout the OS. Along with the design overhaul, Yosemite also ushers in newly redesigned versions of OS X staple apps like Safari and iTunes.

Yosemite will be available as a free download from the Mac App Store later today, and it can be installed on any supported Mac running OS X 10.6 or later. If your Mac can run either Mountain Lion (version 10.8) or Mavericks (version 10.9), then it can run Yosemite. The full list of supported machines is as follows:

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Apple announces iOS 8.1 with Apple Pay, iCloud Photo Library

10/16/2014 1:22pm
Apple Pay is the most important thing to launch with iOS 8.1. Apple

Apple has just officially announced iOS 8.1, the first major update to iOS 8. The majority of the update's new features have already been announced, but for one reason or another weren't ready to be included in iOS 8 when it shipped last month. The update will be released on Monday.

In the update, Apple plans to add back the "Camera Roll" album in iOS 8 with 8.1 to help users find their recently taken shots. The new version will also include a beta of iCloud Photo Library. iCloud Photo Library offers users the option of either backing up their photos to iCloud or using the service as primary storage to clear up space on their devices, only downloading photos when necessary.

8.1 will also mark the formal release of Apple Pay, the contactless payment system Apple teased when it unveiled the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in September. The new iPhones can store credit card data locally in what Apple calls the "Secure Element," which also contains a Device Account Number unique to each phone. Stored cards can then be used to make purchases by using TouchID to authenticate and NFC to transmit the data. The Device Account Number and randomly generated per-transaction codes are used to obfuscate your credit card data, which isn't exposed directly to retailers or to Apple. App developers can also integrate Apple Pay buttons into their apps to be used in lieu of credit card numbers. Apple stated that it plans to roll out Apple Pay in November.

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Thursday Dealmaster has a 24“ Dell monitor for $279.99

10/16/2014 12:35pm

Greetings, Arsians! Our partners from LogicBuy are back with a ton of new deals for this week. At the top is this deal for a 24" Dell UltraSharp IPS monitor with a 1920x1200 screen for $279.99.

Featured deal
Last Day for 30% Off UltraSharp Sale! Dell U2415 24" UltraSharp 1920x1200 IPS Monitor w/ 3-year warranty for $279.99 plus free shipping (list price $399.99)


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Liveblog: Apple’s new iPads, Yosemite, and more, today at 10am PT

10/16/2014 12:03pm

Gather 'round, friends—it's time for another Apple media event. This morning the company will take the wraps off its next wave of new products, one that's expected to include new iPads and Macs as well as news about the public release of OS X Yosemite.

Last month's unveiling of the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple Watch was held at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts, a larger space that Apple uses mostly for announcements that it considers capital-I-Important. The October event is being held in its small town hall auditorium on its campus at 1 Infinite Loop. The size of the venue doesn't necessarily correspond to the size of the announcements, but we're expecting mild generational bumps rather than wildly reimagined gadgets. We anticipate at least one new iPad, perhaps with TouchID and a new, more powerful A8X processor; a release date (and perhaps the actual release) of OS X Yosemite; and maybe even a Retina iMac.

Whatever Apple announces at the event, we'll be there on the ground to give it the liveblog treatment and then go hands-on with any new hardware afterward. We'll get started at 10:00am Pacific time—the handy counter below will show you when it begins in your time zone.

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PlayStation TV impressions: Small things come in small packages

10/16/2014 12:00pm
When the console is smaller than the controller, it has really earned the term "microconsole."

We didn’t have a chance to evaluate the PlayStation TV before its North American release Tuesday, but we have now picked up a retail unit and put it through its paces for a few hours over a couple of days. What we've found so far is a device that's perfectly fine when it works as intended, but quite a few important limitations get in the way of its advertised functionality.

For those who may have missed the previous announcements, the PlayStation TV can be best thought of as a $100 PlayStation Vita without the screen. The microconsole hooks up to a TV via HDMI to let you play Vita games (originally designed for portable play) on the big screen. In addition, PSTV supports many downloadable PSOne and PSP classics, PS3 games streamed via the PlayStation Now service, and remote play off a PS4 connected to the same network. Basically, it’s the PlayStation ecosystem’s version of the Ouya or a cheap Steam streamer box—a cheap, low-power device designed for smaller titles and remote play of bulkier titles running elsewhere.

Right out of the box, it’s striking just how small the PlayStation TV is. If you have room for a deck of playing cards under your TV, you have room for its tiny, rounded plastic form. Setup was a painless process. Plug the box into the wall and to the TV via HDMI, then sync a Dualshock 3 or Dualshock 4 controller via USB (you can unplug it afterward), and you’re off and running. Going through initial menus to set things like the time, the Wi-Fi connection, and my PSN account took about five minutes.

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Designer viruses could be the new antibiotics

10/16/2014 11:30am
Flickr user: Creativity103

Bacterial infections remain a major threat to human and animal health. Worse still, the catalog of useful antibiotics is shrinking as pathogens build up resistance to these drugs. There are few promising new drugs in the pipeline, but they may not prove to be enough. Multi-resistant organisms—also called “superbugs”—are on the rise, and many predict a gloomy future if nothing is done to fight back.

The answer, some believe, may lie in using engineered bacteriophages, a type of virus that infects bacteria. Two recent studies, both published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, show a promising alternative to small-molecule drugs that are the mainstay of antibacterial treatments today.

From basic to synthetic biology

Nearly every living organism seems to have evolved simple mechanisms to protect itself from harmful pathogens. These innate immune systems can be a passive barrier, blocking anything above a certain size, or an active response that recognizes and destroys foreign molecules such as proteins and DNA.

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SMS service could spot the next Ebola outbreak zone

10/16/2014 10:30am
Flickr user: Frank Spin

An Australian doctor is raising funds to launch an SMS service in West Africa that sends people to the right medical facilities based on key words used and crunches that data to look for the next outbreak spot.

"During my missions with Médecins Sans Frontières I have always noticed that no matter how distressed the populations we served, someone always had a mobile phone," Mohamad-Ali Trad, who has a masters in public health and tropical medicine, tells "We did some research and actually found out that most areas traditionally considered under-resourced do have a mobile phone coverage." As mobile penetration on the continent continues to rise, SMS money transfer services like M-Pesa are common in parts of East Africa, and Western Union is hoping to capitalize on penetration in Western countries to launch its payment service with MTN.

It is also certainly not the first time an SMS service has been used during a period of emergency or outbreak. Even in April, as Ebola began to creep from Guinea to its neighbors, SMS messages were used to raise awareness about symptoms and protective measures. A similar system has been used in the past during cholera outbreaks, most recently in Mozambique in 2013.

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Too much Google Glass lands one man treatment for Internet addiction

10/15/2014 6:55pm
Google Glass integrated into a pair of cool shades.

A man who used Google Glass for 18 hours a day was admitted to a substance abuse and recovery program for Internet addiction disorder, according to a report from The Guardian Tuesday and a scientific paper published about the patient. The man reported that he became "irritable and argumentative" when he could not wear his Glass, and he started viewing dreams as if they were projected through Glass's tiny display.

The 31-year-old man was serving the US Navy at the time he was admitted to the program, where he was using Google Glass in his job making inventories of convoy vehicles, according to Newsweek. He had a history of substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder. He only removed the device to sleep and take showers.

Internet addiction disorder is not officially recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but it's listed as an area for further study. When the man entered the Navy's treatment center in September 2013, doctors observed he would tap his fingers at his temple, as if he were using the Google Glass touchpad. On completing treatment at the center, the tapping behaviors had stopped and the man reported less irritability over not having the device on his face constantly. He was then sent to a 12-step program for alcohol abuse.

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Time zones, fiberglass, and frozen peas: PBS answers How We Got To Now

10/15/2014 5:00pm
Host Steven Johnson and his homie Galileo relax in Pisa. Jack Chapman

Welcome to the fuzzy, friendly era of modern mainstream science. Radiolab, Mythbusters, and varied radio and TV shows hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye have injected humor, bombast, and likeability into the medium’s weirdest stories (not to mention a zillion science-friendly GIFs into an average day of web browsing).

That trend goes some way in explaining the latest co-production from the BBC and PBS, which has decided on a host-first approach for their latest six-part series, How We Got To Now. But with longtime technology and science historian Steven Johnson at the helm, the perspective is a little different—not about otherworldly sights and jaw-dropping discoveries, but about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.

As a result, the episode titles sound pretty boring, with themes like “cold,” “sound,” and “glass” dominating each hour-long dive into history. But while the series probably won’t make Johnson a Tyson-esque giant of popular science, the stories of How We Got To Now aren’t just a surprising look at how innovations beget innovations. They’re also an infinitely watchable greatest-hits look at Johnson’s impressive tech-history career.

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