Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

Dell XPS 13 and XPS 13 Developer Edition—side-by-side review

June 2nd, 2020
On the left, we have the XPS 13 Developer Edition running Ubuntu 18.04. On the right, a regular XPS 13 running Windows 10 Pro.

Enlarge / On the left, we have the XPS 13 Developer Edition running Ubuntu 18.04. On the right, a regular XPS 13 running Windows 10 Pro. (credit: Jim Salter)

We spent this weekend going hands-on with a pair of 2020 model Dell XPS 13 laptops—one standard edition running Windows 10 Pro, and one Developer Edition running Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. The XPS 13 is among Dell's most popular models, and for good reason—it's a sleek, solid-feeling laptop which usually has top-of-the-line hardware and good battery life.

Unfortunately, both of the XPS 13 models we tested had driver issues—particularly the Windows laptop, which has a Killer AX1650 Wi-Fi card.

Hardware

Specs at a glance: Dell XPS 13 2020 model, as reviewed
XPS 13 XPS 13 Developer Edition
OS Windows 10 Home Ubuntu 18.04 LTS
Screen 13.4-inch FHD+ (1920×1200) touchscreen 13.4-inch UHD+ (3840×2400) touchscreen
CPU Intel Core i7-1065G7
GPU Intel Iris+
RAM 16GiB 32GiB
HDD Intel 512GB NVMe SSD Hynix 512GB NVMe SSD
Networking Killer AX1650 Wi-Fi 6 (2×2),
Bluetooth 4.2
Ports 2 x Thunderbolt 3, 1 x 3.5mm headphone jack,
1 x microSD card reader
Size 11.6×7.8×0.58 inches (296×199×15mm)
Weight 2.7 pounds (1.2kg) 2.8 pounds (1.3kg)
Battery 52Wh battery
Warranty 1 year on-site (after remote diagnosis)
Extras Fingerprint reader (in power button),
720P IR camera, backlit keyboard
Price as tested $1,617 at Dell $2,000 at Dell

The XPS 13 is a small, sleek, very solid-feeling laptop with a bright screen and very narrow bezels. It doesn't offer much in the way of connectivity—there's no Ethernet jack, no HDMI port, and no USB-B port either.

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Nest users now covered by Google’s ultra-secure Advanced Protection Program

June 1st, 2020
A smart home security device displays an image of a child on a porch.

Enlarge (credit: Akram Kennis / Flickr)

Accounts for Google’s Nest line of smart home devices are now covered by the company’s Advanced Protection Program, which traditionally has provided enhanced security for journalists, politicians, elections workers, and other people who are frequently targeted by hackers.

Google rolled out APP in 2017. It requires users to have at least two physical security keys, such as those available from Yubico, Google’s Titan brand, or other providers. Typically, keys connect through USB slots or Near-field Communication or Bluetooth interfaces. Once registered, the keys provide cryptographic secrets that are unphishable and, at least theoretically, impossible to intercept through malware attacks or other types of hacking. APP also limits the apps that can connect to protected accounts, although registering Thunderbird to connect to Gmail is relatively easy.

Pulling up your account by the bootstraps

Once an account is enrolled and each device (including a phone) is authenticated through the physical-key process Google calls bootstrapping, people can use their iOS or Android devices as a security key. That’s usually easier, faster, and more convenient than using physical security keys. Typically, users must bootstrap only rarely after the bootstrapping process, such as when Google detects suspicious behavior. APP also pushes alerts to users’ devices and registered email accounts each time a new device connects.

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Android 11 power menu leak shows new smart home integration

June 1st, 2020

Android 11 has had four preview releases so far, but they've been stripped of many features that we know are in development and just haven't seen in a public build yet. One such feature is a revamp to the power menu, which has been getting code drops for smart home controls and credit cards for some time now. The near-final design of the new power menu appears to have leaked, thanks to XDA Developer's Mishaal Rahman.

Rahman shared two low-res screenshots showing a dramatically different power menu than what Android has typically had. What was just a simple four-option overlay has become a full-screen interface packed with buttons. The usual "Power," "Restart," "Screenshot," and "Emergency" buttons have shifted to the top of the screen, and below that is a carousel of credit cards from Google Pay. Below that are "Quick controls" which are smart home controls that are most likely sourced from the Google Home app.

The Quick Controls are the major new feature on the power menu. The screenshots appear to show options for smart lights, door locks, thermostats, cameras, and smart blinds, all of which are products you can currently access through the Google Assistant, the Google Home app, and Google Smart Displays. If you're on a phone and don't want to use voice commands, your only other option is to dig through the Google Home App, which can be cumbersome. This menu, which would be brought up just by long-pressing the power button, would be considerably faster.

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Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro mini-review: A vast improvement

May 30th, 2020

The past year has brought big changes to the iPad. First, the branch from iOS to iPadOS—and some accompanying changes to the software—signaled an effort by Apple to make real productivity possible on the platform. Second, Apple introduced trackpad support, bringing a whole new user interface paradigm to the iPad.

The latest product of that particular effort is the introduction of the Magic Keyboard peripheral from the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models. It combines a keyboard modeled after the keyboard peripheral of the same name for Macs—a generally beloved design—with the first trackpad made by Apple specifically for the iPad.

After spending some time with the Magic Keyboard, we’re ready to share our impressions. It’s just a peripheral, though, so this is going to be a very short review. We’re not going to get too much into the software side of things, as we’ve done that in our previous coverage of iPadOS as well as our most recent iPad Pro review. And we’re going to go into even more detail in an upcoming article entirely about working with trackpads and keyboards on the iPad.

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Western Digital gets sued for sneaking SMR disks into its NAS channel

May 29th, 2020
Hattis Law isn't pulling any punches in the allegations made in its class-action lawsuit, specifically calling WD out not only for using SMR technology in less-than-ideal devices, but flatly accusing them of outright deception in the process.

Enlarge / Hattis Law isn't pulling any punches in the allegations made in its class-action lawsuit, specifically calling WD out not only for using SMR technology in less-than-ideal devices, but flatly accusing them of outright deception in the process. (credit: Hattis Law)

All three of the surviving conventional hard drive vendors—Toshiba, Western Digital, and Seagate—have gotten caught sneaking disks featuring Shingled Magnetic Recording technology into unexpected places recently. But Western Digital has been the most brazen of the three, and it's been singled out for a class action lawsuit in response.

Although all three major manufacturers quietly added SMR disks to their desktop hard drive line-up, Western Digital is the only one so far to slip them into its NAS (Network Attached Storage) stack. NAS drives are expected to perform well in RAID and other multiple disk arrays, whether ZFS pools or consumer devices like Synology or Netgear NAS appliances.

In sharp contrast to Western Digital's position on SMR disks as NAS, Seagate executive Greg Belloni told us that there weren't any SMR disks in the Ironwolf (competitor to Western Digital Red) line-up now and that the technology is not appropriate for that purpose.

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Posted in Biz & IT, NAS, raid, smr, Tech, Western Digital, ZFS | Comments (0)

YouTube makes video chapters official

May 29th, 2020
The YouTube play-button logo duplicated numerous times on a white background.

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto/Getty Images)

In your travels around YouTube the past few weeks, you might have seen a video or two that features "chapters." Chapters allow creators to timestamp and name sections of their videos for easy navigation. The feature has been in experimental mode for the past few weeks, but now YouTube is making chapters official.

Chapters add a lot of functionality to the YouTube seek bar. The bar is now chopped up into segments instead of being a solid red line. Mouse or drag over the segments and you'll get a thumbnail with the title of the chapter for that section of the seek bar.  Below the seek bar, after the time, you'll now get the title of the current chapter, too. (Here's an example video.)

Video chapters result in a segmented seek bar and titles.

Video chapters result in a segmented seek bar and titles. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

YouTube creators can add chapters to their videos via the description. Just start a list of timestamps with "0:00" followed by chapter titles, with one timestamp on each line. If you don't want chapters, just don't start a timestamp list with "0:00."

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iPhone privacy prompts discriminate against non-Apple apps, complaint says

May 29th, 2020
Tile Mate, one of Tile’s tracking hardware products.

Enlarge / Tile Mate, one of Tile’s tracking hardware products. (credit: Tile)

Tile, a maker of hardware and software for digitally tracking the location of personal possessions, has written a letter to the European Commission accusing Apple of anti-competitive behavior as rumors abound that Apple plans to launch a competitor to Tile in the near future. This follows similar complaints by Tile in the United States.

The letter claims that Apple favors FindMy, the tech giant’s own device tracking app, over Tile’s in a few specific ways and asks for the European Commission to open a probe into Apple’s business practices. Here’s an excerpt from the letter by Tile general counsel Kirsten Daru, which was acquired by Financial Times:

In the past twelve months, Apple has taken several steps to completely disadvantage Tile, including by making it more difficult for consumers to use our products and services. This is particularly concerning because Apple’s actions come at the same time that Apple both launched a new FindMy app that competes even more directly with Tile and also began preparing for the launch of a competitive hardware product.

One of Tile’s key arguments is that Apple defaults the “Always Allow” flag to "on" for location-based tracking in the FindMy app when users set up their phones, but third-party apps that perform similar functions default to "off." The result is that third-party apps must frequently show dialogues asking the user for permission until the user opts to manually turn on “Always Allow” for the app. This “denigrates the user experience,” according to Tile’s letter.

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Posted in antitrust, apple, EU, European Union, Tech, Tile | Comments (0)

Yamaha’s “Remote Cheerer” brings fan applause back to empty stadiums

May 28th, 2020

Yamaha staged a field test for its Remote Cheerer at Japan's Shizuoka Stadium ECOPA on May 13.

This week, Yamaha announced a plan to put fans back in the stadiums for major sporting events this summer—virtually, at least.

The company's new smartphone application, Remote Cheerer, is designed to allow sports fans to cheer from home in a way their teams can hear in the stadium. The app itself looks and functions much like a typical soundboard app you might use to summon up a Homer Simpson D'oh!—but instead of just making a noise on your phone, it integrates the cheers of potentially tens of thousands of fans and plays them on loudspeakers at the stadium where their teams are playing.

When fully integrated at the stadium itself, the application does a better job of emulating normal crowd noise than the short description suggests. For Yamaha's field test at Shizuoka Stadium, there were amplified loudspeakers placed in each seating section of the stadium, and fans' cheers were localized to the section where they would sit, had they been able to attend the football match personally. The result is a much more diffuse and authentic-sounding crowd noise.

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Apple introduces new MacBook battery management with macOS Catalina 10.15.5

May 28th, 2020
The new update is available via System Preferences on supported Macs.

Enlarge / The new update is available via System Preferences on supported Macs. (credit: Samuel Axon)

This week, Apple released macOS Catalina 10.15.5, rounding out a series of system software updates that has rolled out to various Apple platforms (iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS) over the course of a week or so.

This version of macOS is primarily focused on a new battery management feature similar to one already introduced in iOS. It helps prolong the life of the device's physical battery by moderating charging based on users' habits.

With "Battery Health Management" in macOS 10.15.5, Apple aims to increase the life of the lithium-ion battery in each MacBook by limiting that laptop's maximum charge level when plugged in based on analysis of your charging patterns and the battery's temperature history. Charging to full unnecessarily can reduce the number of cycles before a lithium-ion battery becomes less reliable.

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Posted in apple, Macbook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, MacOS, macOS Catalina, macOS Catalina 10.15, macOS Catalina 10.15.5, Tech | Comments (0)

New Raspberry Pi 4 model comes with a ton of RAM: 8GB

May 28th, 2020

Hot off the launch of an interchangeable camera system earlier this month, Raspberry Pi is introducing a new configuration of the Pi4: a model with a whopping 8GB of RAM. The new, highest-end config for the Pi 4 will run you $75.

The 8GB version of the Raspberry Pi 4 has been long rumored, thanks to Raspberry Pi itself leaking the existence of an 8GB model. The blog post reveals that an 8GB model was always a possibility and says, "We were so enthusiastic about the idea that the non-existent product made its way into both the Beginner’s Guide and the compliance leaflet."

The Raspberry Pi 4 launched last year with a faster SoC, more RAM, dual micro-HDMI, USB 3.0 support, and a USB-C charging port. In addition to the usual server and hobbyist uses, Raspberry Pi promoted performance on par with an "entry-level x86 PC" and dual-monitor desktop uses.

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