Monday, October 22, 2018

New Google Smart Hub

The latest entry to the Google Home ecosystem is
called the Google Home Hub. The Home Hub marries
a screen with the Google Assistant-powered voice
command system, allowing users to call up recipes,
utilize smart home controls, or watch YouTube videos.

We've seen this software before—there's presently
a whole device category out there known as "Google
Smart Displays." Just like with Android, Google makes
the software, and a number of OEMs then load the
software onto their devices. Google Smart Display
devices have thus far been made by LG and JBL, and
we did a full review of the Lenovo Smart Display.
Unlike Android, Google currently has full control of the
Smart Display software no matter who manufactures
the hardware. This means every device pretty much has
the exact same UI and capabilities, aside from the usual
technology treadmill of new features exclusive to new

But with Google launching its own version of the Google Smart
Display hardware, this is definitely the unit to buy if you're in
the market. The Home Hub happens to be cheaper—just
$150—and better looking than any of the third-party devices.

Plus, it has an awesome new display feature

Friday, October 19, 2018

Online Gaming

here's a specific kind of frustration associated with crappy
game-streaming services. It's all about the buildup: You
find a game, whether it's something brand new or a long-
lost childhood favorite, and boot it up. It takes forever to load.
The title screen stutters and your heart drops, but it's easy to
convince yourself it was just a bout of preliminary jitters.

And then the game begins. And stops. And starts up again.
And stops. The dialogue is chopped, animations are discon-
nected and any type of action scene is impossible to control.
Your character is killed five times in 10 minutes, and you're
simultaneously filled with rage and an acute sense of loss.
You exit out of the streaming service and spend the night
playing Fortnite again.

That's been the story with so many streaming services over
the years, from OnLive to GeForce Now. However, this entire
ecosystem is poised to change. After years of impossible
promises and half-baked public trials in an incomplete online
ecosystem, streaming services are finally viable, and major
companies like Google and Microsoft are teasing the future

of the industry.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Gen Z Voters

Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem
for a Dream) has teamed up with Generation Z activists
from all over the country to find out why they are voting,
in order to get young people to the polls on November 6.

Aronofsky queried his subjects, who are calling on their
peers to vote in the midterm elections, in a short film for
the Sierra Club Voter Education Fund. Produced by
Aronofsky’s Protozoa Pictures and Chromista, the video
features people active in movements for indigenous rights,
gun control, rights for the disabled, immigrant rights,
climate justice and transgender equality, among others,
passionately advocating for participation in this November’s

“First-time voters have the power to make a massive impact
in the upcoming midterm elections, but 18-20-year-olds are
part of a demographic that has historically failed to participate
in national elections. It’s time to change that,” said Aronofsky
in a release. “We are working with a dynamic group of activists
from all over the country, who care about an array of causes,
including Delaney Tarr, David Hogg, Chella Man, Xiuhtezcatl
Martinez, and Gavin Grimm, and filmed them speaking about
what issues will be most important when casting their votes
next month.”

The film crew traveled across the country to capture the
messages from the activists included in the video.

“The passion these activists share about their causes is
contagious. All of them are between the ages of 18-20. None
of them were eligible to vote in 2016. But now they can be heard,
and all of them are passionate about voting,” Aronofsky said.
“We hope their activism inspires Generation Z to get to the polls
on November 6 and speak up for the issues that are important to

all of us.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Paul Allen Dies

Microsoft co-founder and former Charter Communications
chairman Paul Allen died Monday in Seattle. He was 65
years old and the cause was complications of non-Hogdkin's

This was Allen’s third battle with cancer. He retired from
Microsoft in 1982 after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's
lymphoma, from which he later recovered. In 2009, Allen
said he had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which he later beat
after chemotherapy treatment. But on Oct. 1, Allen said
the disease had returned.

He burst on the cable scene in 1998, purchasing Marcus
Cable and then Charter Communications, deals that laid
the groundwork for Allen’s “Wired World” strategy. What
followed was a flurry of transactions – among them Bresnan
Communications, Falcon Cable and Avalon Cable – that
vaulted Charter to the upper echelons among cable
operators across the country.

But those deals significantly increased Charter’s debt load
– at one point it was among the highest leveraged operators
in the industry. Allen stepped down as chairman in 2009,
shortly after the company emerged from bankruptcy

He stepped further back from Charter in 2011, reducing his
holdings in the cable company and focusing on his other
tech holdings via his personal investment vehicle Vulcan Inc.,
and interests including ownership of the NFL Seattle

Seahawks and the NBA Portland Trailblazers.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

PS4 Crashes

Malicious message crashes aren't just for smartphones,
it seems. Numerous PS4 owners have reported receiving
PSN messages where an unrecognized character
effectively bricks their consoles, making them crash and
leaving them unable to start properly. And deleting any
rogue messages (typically by leaving the conversation in
the PS Messages mobile app) isn't enough by itself --
you have to either rebuild the database in Safe Mode or
factory reset the system.

You can eliminate the chance of a hostile message by going
into your settings (either in the console or the PS Messages
app), visiting account management, and then changing your
privacy settings so that messages are either limited to friends
or switched off.

We've asked Sony for comment. The company can likely
address this with a software update, and it's relatively easy
to protect yourself in the meantime. However, there's little
doubt that the consequences are serious. Most phone-
oriented bugs are troublesome, but won't necessarily
prevent you from using your other apps on your device.
Here, a prankster is rendering your PS4 effectively inoperable

until you walk through some painstaking troubleshooting steps.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Samsung Curved Screen Phone

Samsung's long-rumored foldable phone still hasn't
appeared, but its mobile chief offered one compelling
case for a product that could easily be written off as a

D.J. Koh, CEO of Samsung's mobile business, said
you'll be able to use the device as a tablet with multitasking
capability before being able to fold it up into a more portable

"When we deliver a foldable phone, it has to be really
meaningful to our customer," Koh said in an interview at the
sidelines of the Samsung Galaxy A9 launch. "If the user
experience is not up to my standard, I don't want to deliver
those kind of products."

a "gimmick product" that will "disappear after six to nine
months after it's delivered." It'll also be available globally,
unlike previous phones like the Galaxy Round, which used
a curved display and was available only in Korea.

However, the foldable Samsung phone, like the Galaxy
Round, will be Samsung's testbed device to see how
reviewers and the market react. The Galaxy Round, which
bowed vertically in the middle, was Samsung's first curve-
screen phone. It's a direct ancestor to the dual curved

screens we see on today's Galaxy S9 and Note 9 phones.

Friday, October 12, 2018

New Razer Gaming Phone

Razer is introducing a new flagship smartphone, the
Razer Phone 2, that’s meant to establish a foothold in
the new gaming phone market. I had the chance to
spend some time with Razer’s new flagship and found
the new phone looks nearly identical to the first, but it
has a new aluminum frame that has gone through a
complete structural revamp. The Razer Phone 2 is
meant to be a gaming phone, so there have also
been relevant improvements made to the screen and
audio, but also helpful additions that weren’t in the
phone last year, like waterproofing.

Gaming phones are increasing in number, but not in
maturity. Manufacturers that produce gaming computers
— Razer and ASUS, for starters — are turning to phones
because they’re now able to provide features like HDR
and high refresh rate screens (for smoother on-screen
visuals) that are buzzwords for gamers on both sides of
the spectrum. Fortnite and PUBG for mobile are blips on
the radar compared to some of China’s biggest mobile

While plenty of highly capable flagship smartphones exist,
these companies hope that they’ll be able to do enough to
improve the gaming experience. This year, Razer isn’t
reinventing the gaming phone, but instead is adding
signature features like Chroma and partnering with mobile
game studios to optimize games for the Razer Phone 2,

in order to stay ahead.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Mobile Video

Media consumers are increasingly turning to their mobile
devices for video content, but new research from the mobile
marketing and engagement platform CleverTap suggests
there is still work to be done when it comes to churn and
user retention.

CleverTap reviewed data from more than 100 million devices.
When it came to media and entertainment apps, it found 43%
were abandoned by users just one month after download.

The research highlights a phenomenon that plagues
technology and media companies.

The new prime real estate is the home screen. If the consumer
does not derive real value from an app shortly after using it,
the app will either be deleted or abandoned on a page far from
the device home screen, where it is far less likely to be used


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Facebook Portal

After building itself into a portal for all kinds of social
connections online, Facebook now wants to provide a
portal for people to easily make video calls with each
other. And with that, the company is rolling out the
appropriately named Portal.

Facebook took the wraps off the combination video-calling
and smart-speaker devices Monday, with two versions of what
is the company’s first hardware product to carry the company’s
name. The device comes in two models: The standard Portal
has a 10-inch screen, sits in landscape mode on a built-in stand,
and costs $199, while the Portal+ comes with a 15-inch screen
that is attached to a stand that allows for the device to be rotated,
and costs $349. Facebook is also offering $100 off the purchase
of any two Portal devices at the same time.

Among the features of Portal is the ability to zoom in on a
particular person during a call and follow that person around a
room, the idea being that such a feature will add to the feeling
of being in the same room with someone during a video call.
Portal also comes with augmented reality technology that lets a
caller add images to their face during a call, interactive animated
features for reading stories, and the ability to stream music from
Pandora and Spotify so callers can listen to the same song

simultaneously during a call.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Best Brands (Again)

Apple and Google have held firm at the top of Interbrand's
'best global brands' report for the sixth consecutive year.

The report values brands based on multiple criteria such
as the financial performance of the brands, their role in
purchase decisions and their competitive strength, among
other variables.

Apple retains the top spot and becomes the first brand to
reach a valuation of $200bn. Google’s brand value increased
by 10% to $155.5m, and Amazon, which announced it will
growth to shoot it into third place, clocking in at $100.7m.
Meanwhile, Facebook, which is dealing with a data leak,
saw its value drop by 6% to #9. It is valued at $45m.

The five top growing brands were Amazon, Netflix (45%),
Gucci (30%), (23%) and Louis Vuitton (23%).

Charles Trevail, global chief executive of Interbrand, said:
"A decade after the global financial crisis, the brands that
are growing fastest are those that intuitively understand their
customers and make brave iconic moves that delight and

deliver in new ways."