Gamer Geek News

Engadget is a web magazine with obsessive daily coverage of everything new in gadgets and consumer electronics

Engadget is a web magazine with obsessive daily coverage of everything new in gadgets and consumer electronics

Amazon workers in Staten Island reach union vote threshold

Workers at JFK8, an Amazon Fulfillment Center in Staten Island, New York, have reportedly collected enough signatures to proceed with a union election vote. A National Labor Relations Board spokesperson, speaking to Reuters, confirmed that the workers had "reached a sufficient showing of interest," confirming a tweet from key organizer Chris Smalls.

PSA 🗣‼️ I’ve just confirmed with @NLRB that we officially have met the showing of interest requirement for petition here in Staten Island guess what NYC prepare for an Election congratulations to @amazonlabor Our work continues to break barriers. Now it’s time to Vote YES 🗳

— Christian Smalls (@Shut_downAmazon) January 26, 2022

That threshold of interest, incidentally, is 30 percent of a given workforce, which was likely a difficult feat given both the size of JFK8 and the nature of its round-the-clock shifts which ensure many coworkers never have cause to meet. More impressive is that this facility is seemingly being organized without the help of an established union, but instead by a new independent group endemic to this particular Fulfillment Center, calling itself the Amazon Labor Union (ALU).

ALU had previously submitted a petition for unionization, but withdrew it late last year after being informed by the NLRB that it had not collected enough signatures. 

Reached for comment, an Amazon spokesperson told Engadget "We’re skeptical that there are a sufficient number of legitimate signatures and we’re seeking to understand how these signatures were verified. Our employees have always had a choice of whether or not to join a union, and as we saw just a few months ago, the vast majority of our team in Staten Island did not support the ALU.”

This milestone comes shortly before Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama are scheduled to hold a re-vote on their own union election — in that instance, under the auspices of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union — on February 4th. A union vote took place at the facility almost exactly one year before, but the NLRB determined that Amazon had interfered in the election. 

In the case of JFK8, Amazon has until Friday to respond with its position. A hearing on the matter is slated for February 16th. 

Posted on 27 January 2022 | 1:01 am

One of Amazon's seller programs has been found to be unlawful

Following an investigation into its Sold By Amazon program, Amazon has agreed to pay the office of Washington State’s attorney general office $2.25 million and provide annual updates on its compliance with antitrust laws. Available between 2018 and June 2020, the program set a pricing floor for certain products, which the Attorney General's office says "constituted unlawful price-fixing."

Amazon enrolled a small number of third-party sellers into the program while it was available. The retailer promised sellers they would earn a guaranteed minimum on their products, provided they agreed not to compete with the company. What’s more, merchants could earn additional revenue if Amazon’s algorithm determined consumers were willing to pay extra for their product, with the company splitting the difference between them. "For example, if a seller and Amazon agreed to a $20 minimum payment and the item sold for $25, the seller would receive the $20 minimum price and share the $5 additional profit with Amazon, in addition to any fees," Attorney General Bob Ferguson wrote. 

According to Ferguson, the problem with the system was that it set the minimum price of a product as the floor of what Amazon would offer to consumers. When the price of their goods increased, some sellers saw a “drastic” decrease in sales, in part because some consumers would opt to buy similar but more affordable products from Amazon and its various private labels. The program, according to the AG, was in violation of antitrust laws.

The state opened its probe into Sold By Amazon in March 2020. The program was discontinued in June of that same year but, according to an Amazon spokesperson, for reasons unrelated to the attorney general’s investigation. As part of its agreement with the state, the company won’t offer the Sold By Amazon program again.

“This was a small program to provide another tool to help sellers offer lower prices, much like similar programs common among other retailers, that has since been discontinued,” the company said. “While we strongly believe the program was legal, we’re glad to have this matter resolved.” When pressed, Amazon declined to say why it did not challenge the resolution.

In recent years, Amazon has faced intense scrutiny related to how it operates its online marketplace. In 2020, The Wall Street Journal published a report claiming the company had been using proprietary seller data to help design and price its in-house products. In a Senate hearing, former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said he couldn’t “guarantee” the company had not misused data from third-party merchants on its platform. Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, legislation that would prevent companies like Amazon from favoring their own products over that of their rivals. Like Apple and Google, the company has aggressively lobbied to prevent the bill from passing.

Posted on 27 January 2022 | 12:12 am

Tesla kept its record 2021 profits rolling right through Q4

Following a profitable — and, ahem, notable — 2021, Tesla remains at the forefront of EV production in America as we enter the new year. With deliveries up nearly 90 percent over 2020’s figures, Tesla achieved “the highest quarterly operating margin among all volume OEMs,” during that time frame, according to the company’s Q4 figures released Wednesday The company not only hit $5.5 billion in net income despite a $6.5 billion outlay for new production facilities in Berlin and Austin, Texas, it also exceeded its own revenue goals by a cool billion dollars.

In Q4, 2021, Tesla produced 930,000 electric vehicles (99 percent of which were Model Xs and Ys) and delivered 936,000 of them to customers around the world. At the same time, the company expanded its proprietary Supercharger network by a third, now totalling 3,476 stations. The company also announced that it will likely be looking at new production facility locations throughout 2022 but is not yet ready to share its list of candidate sites just yet.  

Tesla CEO Elon Musk doubled down on his bullish outlook for the company's Full Self-Driving feature on Wednesday's call. "Over time, we think Full Self-Driving will become the most important source of profitability for Tesla," he said during the call, noting that Tesla expanded its FSD beta program from a few thousand vehicles in Q3 up to nearly 60,000 vehicles in Q4.

However, he also confirmed that the company will not be releasing new vehicle models in 2022, including the Roadster, Cybertruck, or the rumored "$25,000 car" the company has been reportedly developing. "If we were to introduce new vehicles, our total vehicle output would decrease," due to ongoing processor chip supply chain woes, Musk explained.

Despite those same issues impacting the rest automotive industry as well, Tesla maintained its production capabilities better than virtually any other automaker. The Fremont factory churned out around 600,000 vehicles last year with plans to increase that figure even after the Austin and Berlin plants come online later this year. Production in the Shanghai plant continues to ramp up as well. According to Tesla, it has managed to lower the per unit cost of producing its vehicles to around $36,000 (and did so in both Q3 and Q4, 2021).

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 10:15 pm

Spotify will remove Neil Young music following Joe Rogan dispute

Spotify already has an answer to Neil Young's ultimatum following outrage over allegations Joe Rogan is spreading COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. As The Wall Street Journalreports, Spotify is in the midst of removing Young's music from the streaming service worldwide. His (very large) catalog was still available as of this writing, but we'd suggest listening to Harvest one more time just in case.

Young has reportedly been in talks with Spotify and his label Warner Records since posting an open letter threatening to pull his albums. The artist made the formal request on Wednesday (January 26th), and the music is apparently poised to disappear within "several hours."

In a statement to Engadget, Spotify said it "regret[ted]" Young's decision and hoped to have him back "soon." It also defended its anti-misinformation practices, claiming it accepted a "great responsibility" in juggling both listener safety and creator freedom. The company added it had pulled over 20,000 podcast COVID-related episodes since the pandemic began. It didn't say why it was still hosting Joe Rogan Experience episodes that contained misinformation, though, including unsupported claims from Dr. Robert Malone that "psychosis" led people to believe vaccines were effective.

Spotify also didn't offer reasons for its decision. However, the company is believed to have paid over $100 million to land a multi-year distribution deal with Rogan. While the exact terms of the agreement aren't clear, Spotify might suffer financial and legal consequences if it pulls Rogan's episodes. CEO Daniel Ek has also argued that his firm doesn't have editorial responsibility despite its recent practices.

You can read Spotify's full statement below:

We want all the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users. With that comes great responsibility in balancing both safety for listeners and freedom for creators. We have detailed content policies in place and we’ve removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon.

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 9:35 pm

Disney+ will expand to 42 countries this summer

Disney+ will come to more parts of the world this summer. On Wednesday, Disney announced the streaming service will expand to 42 additional countries and 11 new territories in the second half of the year. The full list is below, but some of the more notable places where the platform will arrive include South Africa and Poland. Disney didn’t say exactly when it plans to launch the service in each country and territory, nor did it share details on regional pricing. Expect those to come at a later date. 

Disney+ is currently available in 64 countries globally, including the US, UK and Canada. The announcement of an imminent expansion comes after Disney added fewer than expected subscribers during its final fiscal quarter of 2021. Some analysts had predicted the company would add as many as 9.4 million new paying users before the end of the year, but the company instead managed to attract a more modest 2.1 million subscribers. Despite missing Wall Street estimates, Disney said at the time it was still confident it could secure 230 million users before the end of 2024. At the end of 2021, the service had 118 million subscribers globally. 

Here's the full list of countries where the service is expanding to this summer: Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malta, Montenegro, Morocco, North Macedonia, Oman, Palestine, Poland, Qatar, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Vatican City and Yemen.

As for territories, the list is as follows: Faroe Islands, French Polynesia, French Southern Territories, St. Pierre and Miquelon Overseas Collective, Åland Islands, Sint Maarten, Svalbard & Jan Mayen, British Indian Ocean Territory, Gibraltar, Pitcairn Islands and St. Helena.

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 9:30 pm

YouTube bans Fox News host Dan Bongino for evading suspension

Fox News host Dan Bongino is no longer welcome on YouTube. The company confirmed to The Hillthat Bongino is now permanently banned from its video platform, after he attempted to evade a prior suspension related to COVID-19 misinformation. The conservative commentator apparently published a video on his main channel while another channel was suspended, thereby violating YouTube's Terms of Service. Bongino's two channels have been removed from the service, and he won't be able to make any future channels, YouTube representatives told The Hill.

Last September, YouTube announced that it would ban all content related to vaccine misinformation, which was an expansion on its previous ban against COVID-19 misinformation. At the time, YouTube also banned prominent anti-vax proponents like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Joseph Mercola.

Bongino, and many other conservative commentators, have moved over to the alternative video platform Rumble (where he also holds an equity stake). He currently has over 2 million subscribers there, whereas his primary channel had 900,000 subscribers on YouTube. 

Update 1/26/22 5:57pm ET: “When a channel receives a strike, it is against our Terms of Service to post content or use another channel to circumvent the suspension,” YouTube said in a statement. “If a channel is terminated, the uploader is unable to use, own or create any other YouTube channels.”

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 9:14 pm

ID.me says it uses more powerful facial recognition than previously claimed

The CEO of ID.me, a service used by dozens of states to verify unemployment benefits claimants as well as several federal agencies, has walked back previous claims that the company does not use a more powerful method of facial recognition.

https://t.co/hNfdvMYFQe Founder and CEO @Blake_Hall issues an important statement around "1 to Many" check on selfies to combat identity theft.

To learn more about the example of Eric Jaklitsch of New Jersey referenced in the statement below, visit: https://t.co/OLQX1gAhYLpic.twitter.com/LwnsneqAeF

— ID.me (@IDme) January 26, 2022

"ID.me uses a specific '1 to Many' check on selfies tied to government programs targeted by organized crime to prevent prolific identity thieves and members of organized crime from stealing the identities of innocent victims en masse," Blake Hall said in a statement. "This step is internal to ID.me and does not involve any external or government database."

That contrasts with comments Hall made earlier this week. "Our 1:1 face match is comparable to taking a selfie to unlock a smartphone," he said. "ID.me does not use 1:many facial recognition, which is more complex and problematic."

The 1:many approach involves matching images against those in a database, whereas 1:1 is a case of ensuring someone matches their own photo. For 1:1 matching, ID.me compares a user's selfie against a piece of government ID that they upload.

Privacy advocates have criticized both approaches. Research has indicated that some facial recognition systems struggle to identify people with darker skin tones, and concerns have been raised about the security risks of storing biometric data.

Hall said ID.me's 1:many check "occurs once during enrollment, and exists to make sure a single attacker is not registering multiple identities. This step is not tied to identity verification. It does not block legitimate users from verifying their identity, nor is it used for any other purpose other than to prevent identity theft."

He claimed data shows that dropping the 1:many check "would immediately lead to significant identity theft and organized crime. The 1:1 Face Match step is the only step used to verify identity as explained in our earlier reports."

According to Cyberscoop, some ID.me workers expressed concern that the company's public statements didn't align with what it was actually doing. "We could disable the 1:many face search, but then lose a valuable fraud fighting tool. Or we could change our public stance on using 1:many face search,” an engineer is said to have posted to an ID.me Slack channel this week. “But it seems we can’t keep doing one thing and saying another as that’s bound to land us in hot water.”

“If companies and the government have to lie about facial recognition in an effort to avoid public scrutiny, they shouldn’t be using it,” Fight for the Future campaign director Caitlin Seeley George said in a statement. “We already know this company is willing to say anything in order to get more government contracts. The CEO of ID.me has been peddling erroneous numbers about unemployment benefit fraud, but the fact that the IRS knew about this discrepancy is a big problem. The only responsible thing for the IRS and any other state or federal agency using ID.me to do is to stop these contracts immediately.”

ID.me came back under the spotlight recently after cybersecurity reporter Brian Krebs tried to set up an account, which will be required to log into the Internal Revenue Service's online portal by this summer. Krebs ran into difficulties during the verification process, and ID.me placed him in a queue to join a video call with a live agent. The system gave Krebs an estimated wait time of three hours and 27 minutes.

Hall said ID.me works with 10 federal agencies, 30 states and 540 companies. Last year, some users reported having to wait months to receive their benefits after the system failed to verify their identity. In some cases, folks said they had no success with the video chat system either.

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 8:50 pm

Discord is recovering from a brief but widespread outage

A recent and "widespread" API outage had left Discord unusable for some people for part of the day. After reports of the problem started to surface online, Discord began investigating at approximately 2:49PM ET. Minutes later, it said it had identified the underlying issue causing the outage, but noted it was also dealing with a secondary problem related to one of its database clusters. "We have our entire on-call response team online and responding to the issue," the company said at the time. 

We are currently investigating a widespread API outage and are working to resolve this ASAP. More details on our status page: https://t.co/rq97JXB3gVpic.twitter.com/6tRWTf7QqM

— Discord (@discord) January 26, 2022

At 3:07PM ET, the company implemented a login limit to manage its traffic load, a measure it's now slowly easing as things return to normal. If you can't access your Discord account yet, wait a bit and try again in the next 30 minutes to an hour. 

Update 6:32PM ET: Discord says most users should now be able to log in and use the service again. "Over the next hour, some Discord servers may continue to see some issues interacting with bots using slash commands," the company said. "As part of resolving the incident, we needed to reduce load on our databases and we turned down some parts of our slash command system." Discord promised to share a postmortem once it had more information about what happened. 

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 8:39 pm

Reddit tests NFT user profile pictures, just like Twitter

If you loved/hated Twitter's new NFT user profile pictures, get ready to feel excited/ambivalent about Reddit's offering. TechCrunch reports that Reddit is now testing an NFT profile picture implementation, though it's unclear how it'll actually look to end users. Twitter's hexagonal icons separate NFT owners from lowly round-icon proles, so we'd wager Reddit would also want some way to make crypto fans feel special.

“We’re always exploring ways to provide value for users and communities on Reddit. At the moment we’re testing the ability to use NFTs as profile pictures (avatars) and verify ownership,” Reddit spokesperson Tim Rathschmidt told TechCrunch. “It’s a small, internal test and no decisions have been made about expanding or rolling out the capability.”

Notably, TechCrunch also says Reddit isn't limiting its exclusive profile pics to owners of its own NFT project, CryptoSnoos. If the feature actually gets implemented (and given the current wave of crypto-hype, why wouldn't it?), you'll be able to display whatever NFT you'd like as you browse r/gonewild.

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 8:23 pm

Apple rolls out iOS 15.3 and macOS 12.2 to fix a major Safari exploit

It's a big day for security updates in Apple-land. The company has rolled out software fixes for just about all of its platforms, including iOS 15.3 and macOS 12.2, 9to5Mac reports. Notably, they fix the Safari vulnerability that could potentially leak your browser history, as well as your Google account information. WatchOS 8.4 and tvOS 15.2, meanwhile, add some performance improvements. And even though the company isn't paying as much attention to its smart speakers these days, it launched HomePod 15.3, which adds Siri support for up to six users speaking English in India, or Italian in Italy. (That's a feature Apple started offering in the US back in 2019.)

While we normally wouldn't stress minor software updates much, iOS and macOS users should deal with that Safari vulnerability as soon as they can. Sure, there aren't any major threats taking advantage of that now, but who knows what malware could pop up in the next month or two. 

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 7:35 pm

Boom will build a supersonic jet factory in North Carolina

Transporation startup Boom is one step closer to bringing back supersonic passenger flight. On Wednesday, the company announced plans to build a manufacturing facility at Piedmont Triad International Airport in North Carolina. Once complete, "The Overture Superfactory" will employ approximately 1,750 workers by 2030 and produce the company’s upcoming Overture supersonic jet, which Boom hopes will start flying passengers in 2029. Construction on the facility is expected to start later this year, with production to follow in 2024. The first jet will roll out in 2025 and then fly in 2026. 

The 400,000 square foot facility will eventually produce aircraft for carriers like Japan Airlines and United Airlines. In 2021, the latter announced it would purchase 15 Overture jets once the plane met its safety and operating requirements. The agreement includes an option for United to buy an additional 35 aircraft, for a total of 50 jets.

Boom claims Overture will revolutionize commercial aviation. It envisions the Mach 1.7 jet flying from San Francisco to Toyko in approximately six hours. On a modern jet plane, you can expect a flight like that to take about 11 hours. What’s more, Bloom claims Overture will be “net-zero carbon” aircraft thanks to its ability to fly on 100 percent sustainable aviation fuels.

The news is another major win for the state of North Carolina. At the end of December, Toyota announced it would build a $1.29 billion battery plant on the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite, a tract of land located in Randolph County. Once complete sometime in 2025, the facility will consist of four production lines capable of producing batteries for approximately 200,000 vehicles per year. 

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 7:25 pm

White House tells agencies to adopt the 'Zero Trust' security model

The White House wants the government to adopt a security model called Zero Trust within the next two years. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a finalized federal strategy that lays out the initial details of the shift.

It told agencies to each designate a strategy implementation lead within 30 days. Agencies were given 60 days to submit an implementation plan to the OMB and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). 

"This memorandum sets forth a federal Zero Trust architecture (ZTA) strategy, requiring agencies to meet specific cybersecurity standards and objectives by the end of fiscal year (FY) 2024 in order to reinforce the government’s defenses against increasingly sophisticated and persistent threat campaigns," OMB acting director Shalanda D. Young wrote in the memo. "Those campaigns target federal technology infrastructure, threatening public safety and privacy, damaging the American economy and weakening trust in government."

The Zero Trust approach is based on the notion that local devices and connections can't be completely trusted. Users need to be authorized, authenticated and continuously validated. Organizations usually have control over Zero Trust setups, and users and devices are often only granted access to essential data, apps and services.

Google offers a Zero Trust solution called BeyondCorp. Last week, a company called Sikur revealed a smartphone it designed using Zero Trust principles.

The release of the strategy follows an executive order President Joe Biden signed last year with the aim of improving the country's cybersecurity, as well as a draft strategy that the OMB published in September.

The finalized strategy lays out a vision for the government in which staff have "enterprise-managed accounts, allowing them to access everything they need to do their job while remaining reliably protected from even targeted, sophisticated phishing attacks." The devices would be continuously monitored and each agency's system would be isolated, with reliable encryption for internal network traffic and sending data to other agencies.

Under this approach, enterprise applications would be tested internally and externally before staff could access them over the cloud. The OMB also said federal security teams and data teams would work together "to develop data categories and security rules to automatically detect and ultimately block unauthorized access to sensitive information."

The strategy directs agencies to harness strong, phishing-resistant multi-factor authentication, perhaps using physical methods like Personal Identity Verification cards. The OMB also told agencies to have a full inventory of devices that are authorized and used for official business and to make sure they meet CISA standards.

The White House cited the Log4j vulnerability that recently emerged as the latest proof that "adversaries will continue to find new opportunities to get their foot in the door."

"This strategy is a major step in our efforts to build a defensible and coherent approach to our federal cyber defenses,” national cyber director Christopher Inglis said in a statement. “We are not waiting to respond to the next cyber breach. Rather, this administration is continuing to reduce the risk to our nation by taking proactive steps towards a more resilient society."

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 6:51 pm

Valve's Steam Deck will go on sale February 25th

Following a two-month delay, Valve's Steam Deck will launch on February 25th. In a blog post the company published on Wednesday, Valve said it would open orders to the first batch of reservation holders that day. Those customers will have 72 hours to purchase the handheld. If they don't use the opportunity, Valve will release their spot to the next person in the reservation queue. The first orders will then ship on February 28th. Moving forward, Valve says it plans open orders to more customers on a weekly basis.    

Steam Deck launches on February 25th, 2022! 🎉https://t.co/6WKynbibkvpic.twitter.com/Un54Jwdq1H

— Steam (@Steam) January 26, 2022

Valve had planned to release the Steam Deck at the end of 2021, but due to parts shortages, the company pushed that date back. "We’re sorry about this — we did our best to work around the global supply chain issues," Valve said at the time. "Components aren’t reaching our manufacturing facilities in time for us to meet our initial launch dates."

Pricing for the Steam Deck starts at $399. That gets you a device with 64GB of eMMC internal storage and a carrying case. Valve will also offer models with 256GB and 512GB of NVMe storage. Those cost $529 and $649, respectively. The most expensive version also comes with a premium anti-glare screen. The Steam Deck's custom chipset features a 2.4GHz processor and a GPU with eight RDNA 2 computer units. It also comes with 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM. All of that creates a handheld PC Valve claims can run the latest games at a "very efficient" power envelope. Look to Engadget for a review of the Steam Deck come February 25th.  

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 6:39 pm

Crytek confirms a new Crysis game is in development

It’s been almost 15 years since the original Crysis brought even the most powerful PCs to their knees, and close to a decade since the last brand new installment in the franchise. And while there’s no planned release date just yet, today Crytek confirmed that Crysis 4 is currently in development.

In a new blog post, Crytek CEO Avni Yerli says that while Crysis 4 is still “in the early stages of development,” the studio wanted to alert fans early about the next title in the franchise as the team works to create a “truly next-gen shooter.” Unfortunately, there’s no info yet regarding a development roadmap or even a projected release year, though Yerli says the studio will release more details“when we can.”

Alongside the blog, Crytek also dropped a short teaser trailer featuring some apocalyptic imagery and a tagline that says “Join the journey. Become the hero.” However, as it’s too early for the trailer to show much in the way of gameplay or story, it’s difficult to say if Crysis 4 will pick up after the events of the original Crysis trilogy, or if the new game will go in a different direction.

But perhaps the bigger question about Crysis 4 is if Crytek will put the same focus on delivering super high-quality graphics. Despite a successful trio of previous games, the Crysis series is often best remembered as being more of a torture test for high-end PCs than for any of its gameplay or story beats. For a number of years after its release, the original Crysis was routinely used as a benchmark to test the performance of new CPUs and GPUs, with Crytek even releasing a remastered version of Crysis last year featuring support for ray tracing, HDR, and 8K resolutions.

So while it might tempting to start dreaming up a system that might be able to play Crysis 4 at max settings, with the global chip shortage expected to persist throughout 2022 and no firm release date in sight, it’s probably best to hold off for now.

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 5:12 pm

An 'Unpacking' clone topped the App Store charts before it was pulled

Unpacking is a lovely, relaxing puzzle game made by a small team. It's beautifully designed and manages to tell a compelling story with very little text. Unfortunately, its core mechanic — unpacking boxes and placing items in a new home — isn't exactly difficult to copy. One clone quickly found an audience on iOS and Android before it was removed.

If you've happened to catch an ad for a suspiciously similar-looking game to Unpacking📦 on mobile recently, please know that this is not our game.

They sure seem to want to give the impression that it is, though! 🧵 pic.twitter.com/d3ULxxbmSA

— Unpacking 📦 Out NOW! (@UnpackingALife) January 25, 2022

Unpacking Master, which was published by a company called SayGames, was said to be a near-identical copy of Witch Beam Games' title. It adopted a freemium model (users could pay a one-time fee to remove ads) and it briefly topped App Store charts less than a week after it was released. As Game Developer notes, Unpacking Master is no longer available on Apple's App Store or the Google Play Store.

Earlier this month, a spate of Wordle clones barged onto the App Store with copycat developers looking to cash in on the success of the viral hit word game. Those apps were removed as well. These incidents highlight a long-running problem that studios behind popular games (particularly indies) have grappled with.

Knockoff games have plagued mobile app stores for years. For instance, the developers of 2048 made some minor changes to the formula of puzzle game Threes and became a hit. In 2018, publisher Voodoo adopted the central idea of the quirky Donut County (players move around a hole in the ground and swallow up objects) with Hole.io, which soared to the top of App Store and Google Play charts.

In the case of Unpacking, Witch Beam suggested SayGames' clone used almost identical items and very similar level layouts. It said that while other clones failed to find much success, Unpacking Master took off in the wake of an ad campaign on TikTok and Instagram.

"It's demoralizing for a small team like ours to see content we spent literally years planning, refining and handcrafting be hastily reproduced in an opportunistic ad-riddled app a mere 3 months after our launch," the team wrote on Twitter. "We're a tiny indie team and even with the success we have achieved, we still don't have the resources to pursue companies trying to use our game's distinct look and feel to make a quick buck. We have to rely on storefronts like the App Store to better curate their content."

At least for now, the original Unpacking isn't available via mobile app stores, though you can pick it up on PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch and Xbox. It's on Game Pass as well, so you can play over the cloud if you're eager to check it out on a phone or tablet.

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 5:03 pm

Apple marks Black History Month with a 'Black Unity' watch strap

Apple is honoring Black History Month once again, and that includes a special treat for Watch owners. The company has released a special edition $99 Black Unity Braided Solo Loop that weaves the Pan-African flag's colors into the stretchable black band. There's also a free, matching Unity Lights face you can download (using your iPhone) to show support — it's reportedly the first watch face to use '2D ray tracing' to simulate light, creating a distinctive aura around the minute and hour hands.

There's no special edition Apple Watch model this year. However, last year's was really a standard gray aluminum model with a bundled strap. This is an acknowledgment that you're more likely to buy the strap for your existing wearable.

The tech firm is also curating Black content across its services through February, and that includes material it's creating for fitness mavens. There will be new Black History Month workouts in Fitness+ with complementary soundtracks, a Time to Walk episode with Black Lives Matter co-founder Ayo Tometi and a Time to Run episode that includes civil rights landmarks in Atlanta. Whether or not you subscribe, there's a Unity Challenge Apple Watch owners can earn by closing their Move ring seven days in a row.

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 4:16 pm

Huawei is releasing the P50 Pro and Pocket outside China, but not in the US

Huawei is set to start selling the P50 Pro and foldable P50 Pocket smartphones it announced last year outside of China. The flagship Pro device costs €1,199 and the P50 Pocket starts at €1,299. Those convert to around $1,353 and $1,466 respectively, but don’t expect to get your hands on these in the US.

Along with preventing Huawei devices from easily being sold in the US, sanctions imposed by the country mean that the P50 Pro and P50 Pocket don’t ship with Google apps and services, such as Gmail, Chrome, Maps and the Play Store. That’s despite Huawei basing its HarmonyOS on an open source version of Android

Sanctions also inhibit Huawei from sourcing 5G components, so the P50 Pro and P50 Pocket are 4G handsets. Those are significant tradeoffs that might make the P50 Pro and P50 Pocket hard sells, given that they'll likely be more expensive than flagship Apple, Samsung and Google devices in many markets. The next Galaxy S devices are right around the corner too.

Huawei P50 Pro
Huawei

The P50 Pro has a 6.6-inch OLED display with a resolution of 2700 x 1228 and a 120Hz refresh rate, as well as support for 1.07 billion colors. There are four cameras on the rear: a 50MP True-Chroma main camera, 40MP mono camera, 64MP telephoto and 13MP ultrawide. There's also a 13MP selfie camera.

The 4,369 mAh battery supports up to 66W wired fast charging and 50W wireless charging. The P50 Pro comes with 8 GB RAM and 256 GB of storage.

The P50 Pocket, meanwhile, has a clamshell foldable design akin to Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip devices. When unfolded, users can access the 6.9-inch OLED display with a resolution of 2700 x 1228 and a 120Hz refresh rate, along with support for 1.07 billion colors and P3 wide color gamut.

Huawei P50 Pocket
Huawei

There's a 10.7MP selfie camera and a triple-camera array on the rear. Along with the main 40MP True-Chroma sensor, there's a 32MP ultra spectrum camera and 13MP ultra-wide lens. One interesting feature in the Mirror app enables users to visualize their sunscreen application and check for spots they may not have covered up. 

There's a small, circular display positioned below the camera array, which can display things like notifications and the weather. It allows control over features like music playback and the cameras. The foldable also comes with up to 12 GB RAM and 512 GB of storage. The 4000 mAh battery supports 40W charging.

The two handsets both run on the Snapdragon 888 4G chipset. They're available now in Thailand, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Italy and Portugal, and are slated to arrive in additional markets in the near future. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story claimed it was unknown which markets these handsets would be available in or when. This was inaccurate and the copy has been amended; Engadget regrets the error.

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 3:46 pm

Android apps come to Windows 11 in 'preview' next month

You won't have to run an unpolished beta to try Android apps on Windows 11. Microsoft's Panos Panay has teased the release of a Windows 11 public preview in February that will bring Android apps to the Microsoft Store. The company didn't say how many apps would be available in this test, but they'll be titles you would find in the Amazon Appstore.

The preview should still be helpful if you're content to stick to Windows apps. You can expect taskbar upgrades that include call mute controls, simpler window sharing and weather. Microsoft has redesigned the Media Player and Notepad apps, too.

You may want to hurry if you're still uncertain about upgrading to the new OS, though. Microsoft has warned the free Windows 11 upgrade rollout is "entering its final phase" sooner than the originally planned mid-2022 target. While that hints uptake has been strong, it also suggests you might have to pay for the upgrade if you don't decide relatively soon.

Android app support was one of the headlining features for Windows 11 at its reveal event, but is only reaching mainstream users several months after the new Windows version's launch. Nonetheless, it might be an important addition for both Microsoft and users. This will help if you'd like to use common Android apps on your PC, of course, but it could also spark interest in both touchscreen Windows 11 PCs and the Microsoft Store.

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 3:21 pm

Squarespace is getting into video subscriptions

Squarespace is taking on Patreon, YouTube and the safe-for-work segment of OnlyFans with the launch of its new video offering. The web host is enabling its users to upload video directly to their Squarespace site and sell access on a one-off or recurring subscription basis. These clips will be hosted natively on the platform itself although users can route in videos from YouTube and Vimeo where necessary. The company added that it has built a new native video player with “slick playback” and “deep integration into the Squarespace platform.”

This is very much an extension of the work Squarespace took to enable its users to earn subscription revenue back in 2020. Much as it did back then, the company said that its new paywall and membership features are targeted toward chefs, instructors, wellness providers and educators. While the company has conceded that it will not be proactively moderating content uploaded on its platform, it does say that the material has to abide by its terms of service, which currently prohibit violent conduct and hate speech.

Creators will get the opportunity to upload 30 minutes of video content for free, with users needing to sign up for a Member Areas plan to get more. On the low end, the basic plan offers five hours of video space, while the Pro tier offers 50, with the promise of lower transaction fees as you grow.

This is part of a broader push that many sites are making into taking a slice of the aforementioned platforms’ pie. Just yesterday, Substack announced that it was expanding into video as a way of keeping creators within the same ecosystem.

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 3:00 pm

The 'Legacy of Thieves Collection' is a no-brainer for Uncharted fans

Uncharted has been a tentpole franchise for Sony ever since the first game arrived back in 2007, so it’s not surprising that the games have been remastered for newer consoles over the years. Developer Naughty Dog first brought the original PS3 trilogy to the PS4 in 2015 as The Nathan Drake Collection, improving visual fidelity and frame rates. Now, the company is pulling the same trick with the two PS4 games in the series: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.

Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection arrives for the PS5 this Friday, almost five years after Naughty Dog last released a new game in the series. The $50 collection features a number of technical and visual enhancements, but the games themselves are identical to the PS4 versions. I’ve spent the last week or so playing both games in the Legacy of Thieves Collection to see how they hold up and determine who this package is for.

Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection
Sony / Naughty Dog

There are three visual modes here, all of which improve over the original PS4 game. A “fidelity” setting keeps the frame rate at 30 fps but renders the games in full 4K resolution. Performance mode, on the other hand, runs the games at 60 fps while making no promises about the exact resolution. Finally, there’s a “Performance+” mode for people with 120Hz TVs — the games run at 120 fps with a locked 1080p resolution.

I don’t have a 120Hz TV, so I can’t say how that mode looked, but both the Fidelity and Performance modes looked simply spectacular. Uncharted 4 was beautiful enough when I played it in 1080p back in 2016; the cold snowy vistas of Scotland and the wild landscapes of Madagascar look even better in 4K with HDR. The improved resolution is also appreciated in the dark, shadowy opening of The Lost Legacy, as well.

Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection
Sony / Naughty Dog

Despite how great things looked on Fidelity mode, I spent almost all my time playing the game on Performance, as the improved frame rates simply offer a better gaming experience. I don’t have the most discerning eye, it seems, because I couldn’t notice the resolution difference between Fidelity and Performance, so sticking with the 60 fps mode was a no-brainer. Of course, your mileage and TV will vary. If I was playing on a TV larger than my humble 43-inch model, or through a projection system, I might have found Fidelity mode more valuable.

There are a number of other improvements that make these games feel native to the PS5, as well. First off, the games support the adaptive triggers on the PS5 controller, which adds resistance and a different feel when you’re firing your weapons (something you do frequently in both games). Combined with the improved haptics in the PS5 controller, the two games in Legacy of Thieves feel more immersive than they did on the PS4.

Load times are also blissfully short, thanks to the PS5’s SSD and more powerful hardware. If the game wasn’t already running, it still took less than a minute to load my progress and get back into the adventure. I never really thought about the load times when playing on the PS4, but I went back and confirmed the unsurprising fact that the PS5 is much faster.

As for the games themselves, both A Thief’s End and The Lost Legacy hold up well. They look gorgeous, the stories are engaging and more intricate than the earlier games, and the gameplay is more varied than the original trilogy as well. On the other hand, it remains extremely difficult to reconcile the lighthearted tone of Nathan Drake, the protagonist in A Thief’s End, with the massive body count he racks up throughout the game.

Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection
Sony / Naughty Dog

The stakes are high, but Drake is a charming and charismatic adventurer — despite the fact that he’s put in a tough situation, needing to pull off a huge heist to save his brother’s skin, he’s not a deadly serious lead hero. But he is deadly, killing dozens throughout his quest. It’s easy enough to just go where the game takes you and not overthink it, but it’s worth mentioning that six years on, the two sides of Drake still don’t sit particularly well next to each other.

The Lost Legacy puts you in control of another antihero, treasure hunter Chloe Frazer who appeared in Uncharted 2 and 3. It’s the first Uncharted game where Nathan Drake isn’t the main character, and it overall has a bit of a darker tone — Frazer and her companion Nadine Ross are just as lethal as Drake, but it fits their personalities and the story a bit better. While we’re discussing The Lost Legacy, it’s worth pointing out that the game originally sold for $40 and wasn’t intended to have the same scope as Uncharted 4; as such, it’s much shorter (a standard playthrough takes about seven or eight hours).

Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection
Sony / Naughty Dog

Putting aside any misgivings about the ludonarrative dissonance in these games (something that’s come up a lot with Naughty Dog’s games), they are fun, beautiful, sprawling adventures. If you haven’t played any Uncharted games before, you could pick up the Legacy of Thieves Collection and get a lot of gaming value for your $50. Sure, you won’t know Drake’s entire backstory, but A Thief’s End fills in the blanks well enough even if you don’t know every detail of his past adventures.

I’m a completionist, so I have slight misgivings about telling someone to jump right into it with the fourth game in a four-part series. I might recommend spending $20 on Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, which is a remaster of the three PS3 games in the series — but Uncharted 4 holds up well enough on its own. As for The Lost Legacy, its protagonists are taking center stage for the first time, so their roles in past games aren’t terribly crucial to the story at hand.

If you enjoyed the original Uncharted trilogy, but somehow missed these games on the PS4, the Legacy of Thieves Collection is a no-brainer. If you’ve played them before, though, it’s a little less clear-cut. Improved frame rates and visual quality are solid updates to bring the games into the PS5 era, but they don’t fundamentally change the experience. That said, Sony is offering the Legacy of Thieves Collection for only $10 if you previously purchased A Thief’s End or The Lost Legacy. For the many people who love the series, that’s $10 well-spent, as these games hold up well — and look and play better than ever on the PS5.

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 3:00 pm

Elgato's new pedal gives streamers hands-free control over their apps

If you're a streamer, you can't always reach for your keyboard (or a control deck) to activate a scene or effect. Thankfully, you might not have to. Elgato has released a Stream Deck Pedal that provides three customizable foot pedals to steer your apps and other broadcasting tools hands-free. You can manage Twitch or YouTube, change cameras, start an OBS transition or otherwise control your stream in a stealthy manner.

You can set app-specific profiles if you're routinely juggling multiple tools, and plugins control everything from Hue lights to Spotify and Twitter. There's adjustable pedal pressure, too, if you prefer a delicate tap or a firm stomp. And Elgato is keen to point out the use for offline creative work thanks to definable hotkey actions for software like audiovisual editing suites.

Accordingly, Elgato has introduced a Discord plugin for Stream Deck devices. You can use any of the Corsair brand's peripherals to change channels (including to voice), use push-to-talk, mute your mic or otherwise navigate a server.

The Stream Deck Pedal sells for $115. That's potentially a steep price if you're a new or part-time streamer, but it could be justifiable if you're either building a full-time career or just want to add some polish that brings in extra viewers. This could also be particularly helpful if you're a musician, VR gamer or other specialty streamer — you don't have reach for your PC (and interrupt your flow) just to perform a simple task.

Introducing Stream Deck Pedal.

Instant, hands-free control of your apps and tools with 3 customizable pedals.

Available now:https://t.co/tXN7RILaYGpic.twitter.com/615LkYFjhS

— Elgato (@elgato) January 25, 2022

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 2:25 pm

NVIDIA RTX 3050 review: A great $250 GPU (in theory)

The idea of a $250 graphics card seems like a pipe dream today, when unprecedented demand, scalpers and the global chip shortage have driven GPU prices into the stratosphere. Still, that's not stopping NVIDIA from trying with the new RTX 3050. It's the company's cheapest GPU yet with ray tracing, and it's meant to take on AMD's even cheaper Radeon RX 6500 XT, which has a suggested retail price of $200. While it's unclear if the 3050 will actually sell for $250 once it hits stores, it'll at least come in less than the RTX 3060, which launched at $329 but now goes for around $1,000 (not a typo) at Newegg and other retailers.

Like NVIDIA's wildly popular GTX 1050 and its other 50-class GPUs, the 3050 is meant to be an affordable way to reach 1080p/60fps while playing modern games. With newer titles like Control demanding more power from our systems, it makes sense for NVIDIA to finally deliver a budget 30-series entry. The 3050 features 2,560 CUDA cores, a boost speed of 1,777 MHz and 8GB of GDDR6 RAM, putting it well below the 3060's 3,584 CUDA cores and 8GB of RAM (not to mention its vastly faster memory interface). Still, as a 30-series GPU, it also has ray tracing and tensor cores, allowing it to tap into more realistic lighting, as well as the company's DLSS technology to boost performance.

NVIDIA is positioning the new card as a major update to the GTX 1650, which had just 896 CUDA cores and no ray tracing or tensor capabilities. (There was no RTX 2050 desktop GPU, though the company surprised us all when it announced a laptop version at CES this year.) The RTX 3050 is also more compelling on paper than the Radeon 6500 XT, which only has 4GB of memory, a much slower memory bus, and only taps into 4 PCIe lanes instead of the typical 16. AMD clearly cut as much as it could to create an inexpensive GPU for entry-level gamers, but that also makes it less future-proof than the slightly more expensive RTX 3050.

During my testing, the EVGA RTX 3050 XC Black GPU (NVIDIA isn't making any Founder's Editions this time) was able tackle every game I threw at it in 1080p, even when I cranked up the graphics settings all the way up. It averaged 140fps in Hitman 3's Dubai benchmark, making it well-suited for 144Hz refresh rate monitors. Bumping the resolution up to 1,440p halved performance to 74fps, which was a significant dip from the 3060's 110fps average. That higher resolution is definitely playable, but it's clear the 3050 is best-suited to 1080p gaming, especially if you're trying to get enough performance to justify a high-refresh rate monitor.

3DMark TimeSpy

Destiny 2

Hitman 3

Port Royal (ray tracing)

NVIDIA RTX 3050

6,702

1080p: 90 | 1440p: 60-65

1080: 140 | 1440p: 74

3,643/17fps

AMD Radeon RX 6600

8,521

1080p: 110-120 | 1440p: 75-85

1080p: 138 | 1440p: 94

3,846/17fps

NVIDIA RTX 3060 Ti

11,308

1440p: 85-110fps

4K: 45-60fps

N/A

6,989/32.36fps

All benchmarks tested on a system powered by a Ryzen 7 5800X, 32GB of RAM and Samsung 970 EVO Plus SSD.

In Destiny 2, the 3050 hit a 90fps average in 1080p and 65fps in 1,440p with the highest graphics settings. Those are decent scores if you want all of the best visual flourishes, but I'd wager many gamers would step some of those settings down for better framerates. I was most impressed with how the GPU handled Control, which is still one of the more demanding games around. It reached 65fps on average in 1080p with maxed out graphics (but no ray tracing). When I flipped on DLSS, which rendered the game at 720p and used AI to upscale it to 1080p, the framerate jumped to a silkier 90fps. And surprisingly enough, it was perfectly playable at 70fps when I turned on medium ray tracing settings along with DLSS. Not bad for a (supposedly) $250 video card!

NVIDIA RTX 3050 GPU
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

As for typical benchmarks, like 3DMark's suite, it's best you don't look at those. The 3050 is clearly much slower than the rest of NVIDIA's lineup, so you're better off ignoring what you're missing. What's important is that it's an affordable card that can play demanding games well in 1080p, and in some cases it'll even get you to 1440p. And thanks to its relatively tame performance, it also doesn't generate much heat or noise. It stayed at a surprisingly cool 60 Celsius under load.

I didn't have an RTX 6500 XT to compare it to, but judging from the reviews and its specs, you'll have a hard time reaching any Ultra-level 1080p gaming with that GPU. AMD purposefully hampered its memory to make it less appealing to cryptominers. That plan may have actually succeeded, as its price is now hovering between $250 and $300 on Newegg.

NVIDIA RTX 3050 GPU
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

It'll be interesting to see just how far the RTX 3050's price jumps after its release. But based on what we know so far, it's an absolute steal if you can nab it for $250, and for many gamers it'll be worth paying several hundred more. At the moment, it's the only way to get an NVIDIA 3000-series card without paying over $1,000.

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 2:00 pm

Europe's second highest court scraps Intel’s €1.06 billion antitrust fine

Intel has emerged triumphant (for now) in a long-running antitrust case that once saw the chipmaker slapped with a record-breaking fine by the European Commission. The General Court, Europe's second highest court, has overturned the €1.06 billion fine levied against the company way back in 2009. Back then, the Commission determined that Intel abused its dominant position in the market and harmed its rivals by offering manufacturers such as HP, Dell and Lenovo incentives for using its microprocessors instead of those from rival AMD's. 

The company, of course, appealed the decision, but the General Court upheld the fine in 2014. Intel had a game plan to shut out AMD from the market and "attempted to conceal the anti-competitive nature of (those) practices," the court said. In 2017, however, the highest court in the European Union ordered the fine to be re-examined. It sent the case back down to the General Court on the grounds that the Commission didn't consider conducting an economic assessment on how Intel's activity impacted its rival's ability to compete against it.

Now, the General Court has issued its decision, in which it confirmed that the Commission carried out an incomplete analysis of the company's rebate scheme all those years ago. As such, it's not possible to establish whether the rebates Intel offered the manufacturers were "capable of having, or were likely to have, anticompetitive effects." The General Court has also decided that it's not in a position to identify how much fine Intel has to pay, so it has scrapped both the decision and the fine levied against the chipmaker.

It's a major victory for the company that's currently trying to catch up to AMD while also dealing with the global supply chain shortage. According to The Wall Street Journal, though, the decision could still be appealed, and it would return to the Court of Justice if that happens.

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 1:10 pm

The Morning After: Neil Young threatens to pull his music from Spotify over Joe Rogan's podcast

Musician Neil Young has asked his management team and record label to remove his songs from Spotify. "I am doing this because Spotify is spreading fake information about vaccines — potentially causing death to those who believe [it]," he said. "They can have [Joe] Rogan or Young. Not both." The content of the letter was confirmed by Young's manager, Frank Gironda, according to The Daily Beast. It’s probably not an empty threat; Young previously removed his music from Spotify due to low audio quality.

The Joe Rogan Experience picks up around 11 million listeners on average, and as you probably already know, some of his guests (and comments) have been controversial. Rogan hosted virologist Dr. Robert Malone, who made baseless claims about COVID-19, saying a "mass formation psychosis" led people to believe the vaccines were effective. This prompted a group of over 1,000 doctors, nurses, scientists and educators to send an open letter to Spotify demanding that it create a misinformation policy.

In an episode that followed, Rogan contended that a rare heart condition had been linked to vaccines when it was actually linked to those that had contracted COVID-19. (You can watch the awkwardness here.) Spotify CEO Daniel Ek previously said he doesn't believe the platform has editorial responsibility for podcasts. The company hasn’t yet responded to Young’s letter.

— Mat Smith

 

The biggest news stories you might have missed

Respawn is making three more Star Wars games

A follow up to ‘Jedi: Fallen Order’ is one of them.

TMA
Respawn

EA’s Respawn Entertainment is making three more Star Wars games. The studio — best known for Titanfall and Apex Legends — is working on a follow-up to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, though it’s not clear if the upcoming game is a direct sequel. There will also be a first-person shooter overseen by a former Star Wars Battlefront producer as well as a strategy game from a studio headed up by Greg Foertsch, who previously worked on the XCOM series. Some Star Wars for everyone.

Continue reading.

Samsung built a fingerprint security chip for payment cards, employee IDs and more

It combines a lot of security tech into one chip.

Samsung has announced the "industry's first" all-in-one fingerprint security chip (IC) for payment cards. It can read biometric information via a fingerprint sensor, store and authenticate data with a tamper-proof secure element (SE) and analyze it with a secure processor. While primarily designed for payment cards, it could also be used for "student or employee identification, membership or building access," the company said.

We might have enough payment options, thanks to our phones, but that’s not stopping Samsung. Last year, it announced it was collaborating with Mastercard on a biometric scanning payment card with a built-in fingerprint reader.

Continue reading.

Sony's new soundbar offers virtual surround for $300

There's also a large subwoofer and tight integration with Sony TVs.

Sony has unveiled the HT-S400 soundbar. It has a few tricks while keeping the price down to $300. While it's a 2.1-channel system, it offers virtual surround sound (S-Force Pro Front Surround, if you wanted to know) to provide more immersive audio for your movies and shows. It's also a fairly powerful system for the class, with a rather large 130W wireless subwoofer contributing to a total of 330W output. The soundbar is set to launch in April 2022.

Continue reading.

Report: NVIDIA is preparing to walk away from its ARM acquisition

ARM may be planning an IPO if the deal falls through.

According to a Bloomberg report, NVIDIA is struggling to gain regulatory approval for its $40 billion purchase of ARM and is privately preparing to abandon the deal. Meanwhile, current ARM owner SoftBank is reportedly planning to take ARM public as an alternative to the acquisition. A backlash began soon after the announcement.

The UK, where ARM is based, launched an antitrust investigation into the acquisition in January 2021 while, in the US, the FTC recently sued to block the purchase over concerns it would "stifle" competition in industries like data centers and car manufacturing.

Continue reading.

Google is testing a new replacement for third-party cookies

FLoC seems to have flopped.

With the demise of third-party cookies on the horizon, everyone is scrambling to come up with better ways to get ads in front of our eyes. Google announced FLoC (or Federated Learning of Cohorts) last year. That was then delayed, and the company’s Privacy Sandbox faced regulatory scrutiny. Today, the company announced it's testing out a new approach called Topics API, leaving FLoC by the wayside.

Simplified, Topics API uses the Chrome browser to determine your top five topics. It'll figure out what the topics are by comparing known websites (that you visit) against a list of about 350 topics drawn from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Google's own data. Then, when partner publishers need to know what topics you’re into, they can use Topics API to ping the browser for that data and serve you relevant ads.

Continue reading.

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 12:15 pm

Google Assistant will now cease talking if you simply say 'stop'

You can now get Google Assistant to stop talking with just one word: "Stop." That's it — you don't even have to say "Hey, Google" before that. The official Google Twitter account has announced the small but necessary quality-of-life improvement for the company's speakers and smart displays. It sometimes takes a while (and several repeated attempts) to get Assistant's attention with a "Hey, Google" if it suddenly goes off without you wanting it to or if you absolutely have to cut it off mid-spiel. This new feature solves that problem.

📣 Helpful new Google Assistant feature alert! Want your smart display or speaker to stop talking? Just say “stop” — no #HeyGoogle needed.

— Google (@Google) January 25, 2022

Google has been testing the capability to issue voice commands without wake words on Android since at least last year. The feature, codenamed "Guacamole," includes the ability to cancel alarms simply by saying "Stop." A year before the discovery of that experimental feature, another one codenamed "Blue Steel" was leaked to the public. Blue Steel gives you a way to activate Assistant by proximity alone, with the voice AI's interface automatically popping up when you move close to a smart display without having to say anything. Google didn't say whether this new capability is a result of either experiment, though we're sure all that matters if that you need to stop Assistant from talking is that the feature exists. 

Posted on 26 January 2022 | 11:44 am