Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

Sony adds HDMI to last year’s Android phone, charges $2,500

January 26th, 2021

We've seen smartphones with stratospheric price tags before, but usually, there is something special about them. Phones like the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X are anywhere from $2000-$2,600, but those were first-gen foldable smartphones with brand-new display technology. Sony's latest entry into the smartphone market, the Sony Xperia Pro, is a boring old slab phone that seems utterly forgettable until you look at the price: an astounding $2500, or the price of three brand-new, $800 Samsung Galaxy S21s. Sony has really outdone themselves.

Mostly the Xperia Pro seems a lot like the Xperia 1 II, Sony's already-overpriced $1300 flagship smartphone from 2020. Both have 6.5-inch, almost-4K, 3840×1644, 60Hz OLED displays, the Snapdragon 865 SoC, three rear cameras, an IP65 rating, and a 4000mAh battery. This year's Xperia Pro gets a tier bump to 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, but that's only usually worth $100 extra. There's also mmWave 5G this year, and two "app shortcut" buttons on the side, along with a shutter button. Fancy.

None of that explains why this phone is at least $1000 more than it should be. Sony's justification for the outrageous price is (drumroll please), an HDMI port. Yes, in addition to the USB-C port on the bottom, there is also a Micro HDMI port that can be used as a video input. Sony suggests either hooking the phone up to a Sony Alpha camera and using it as a live video monitor or pushing an external video source out to the internet for live streaming. Just this one feature and the camera-adjacentness is worth $1000 extra by Sony's logic.

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iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 hit supported devices today

January 26th, 2021
The 2020 iPad Air—one of several devices supported by today's new software releases.

Enlarge / The 2020 iPad Air—one of several devices supported by today's new software releases. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Today, Apple began rolling out iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 to supported iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices. The company also pushed watchOS 7.3 to Apple Watches and tvOS 14.4 to Apple TVs.

iOS 14.4/iPadOS 14.4 is a somewhat small feature update. New additions in the release notes include the ability to read smaller QR codes with the iPhone cameras, notifications to tell users "when the camera of your iPhone is unable to be verified as a new, genuine Apple camera," and a number of bug fixes.

Here are Apple's full iOS 14.4 release notes:

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Posted in apple, apple watch, HomePod, iOS, iOS 14, iOS 14.4, ipad, iPadOS, iPadOS 14, iPadOS 14.4, iphone, iPod touch, Tech, tvos, tvOS 14, tvOS 14.4, watchos, watchOS 7, watchOS 7.3 | Comments (0)

Sony’s best noise-cancelling headphones are down to their lowest price today

January 26th, 2021
Sony’s best noise-cancelling headphones are down to their lowest price today

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Today's Dealmaster is headlined by nice discount on Sony's WH-1000XM4, as the high-end wireless noise-cancelling headphones are currently down to $278 at various retailers. That's more than $70 off Sony's MSRP, about $50 off its typical street price online, and tied for the largest discount we've tracked to date, which we also saw on Black Friday.

At the moment, the WH-1000XM4 are our top pick among noise-cancelling headphones. There are certainly better-sounding headphones for the price, but the XM4's bass-forward sound is still enjoyable for those who like a boosted low-end, and it's possible to customize the audio profile through Sony's companion app. Either way, the XM4s are very comfortable to wear for hours at a time, get an excellent 30 or so hours of battery life, and have several useful features, such as USB-C charging, a "speak to chat" function that automatically mutes music when you speak to someone else, and a great "ambient sound" mode that blends external noise with your music while you're outdoors. More than anything else, their noise-cancelling quality is excellent, muting lower-frequency rumbles and, to a lesser-but-still-impressive extent, higher-pitched tones alike.

A pair like Bose's Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 has better call quality, a more neutral sound, and the ability to customize noise-cancelling strength, but overall, we think Sony's pair is the better deal, particular at this price. Elsewhere, our deals roundup also includes discounts on Apple's M1 Mac Mini and Magic Keyboard, a budget pair of noise-cancelling headphones from Anker that we like, LG's latest OLED TVs, and more. You can check out our full roundup below.

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Google Play bans video app for standard “.ass” subtitle support

January 26th, 2021
Google's app review robots can't be reasoned with, they don't feel pity...

Enlarge / Google's app review robots can't be reasoned with, they don't feel pity... (credit: Carolco Pictures)

Google Play's crazy automated app review process strikes again.

This time, the puritan robot overlords that run the Play Store briefly decided that listing support for common subtitle files is enough to get your app banned. The developer for Just (Video) Player posted their story to Hacker News, writing in the app's bug tracker, "After a tiny unrelated description update, Just Player got suspended from the Google Play Store for "Sexual Content and Profanity policy". Google finds issues with following: Full description (en_US): “* Subtitles: SRT, SSA, ASS, TTML, VTT.”"

Yes, just listing standard video player features like support for the "ASS" subtitle format was apparently enough to temporarily earn a suspension. The developer says they "immediately filed an appeal" and today, the app is back up with the ASS subtitle listing still in the description.

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Apple’s long-time hardware lead steps down to work on mysterious “new project”

January 26th, 2021

Apple announced Tuesday that its longtime SVP of hardware engineering, Dan Riccio, will depart his current role and assume a new one focused entirely on a "new project." Riccio had led hardware engineering since 2012. Prior to that role, he led iPad hardware engineering. He will report directly to CEO Tim Cook in his new role.

John Ternus, who has held the title of vice president of hardware engineering since 2001, will step into Riccio's prior role leading the hardware engineering team. Ternus has appeared in recent Apple product announcements, and he was the lead for the iPhone 12, as well as a key team leader on AirPods, every iPad, and the M1 transition.

As is common with announcements like this, there are statements from key figures at Apple about it. Starting with Cook:

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On the death of CentOS: Red Hat Liaison Brian Exelbierd speaks

January 26th, 2021
CentOS Linux will be sleeping with the fishes in 2022.

Enlarge / CentOS Linux will be sleeping with the fishes in 2022. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

This morning, The Register's Tim Anderson published excerpts of an interview with the CentOS project's Brian Exelbierd. Exelbierd is a member of the CentOS board and its official liaison with Red Hat.

Exelbierd spoke to Anderson to give an insider's perspective on Red Hat's effective termination of CentOS Linux in December, in which the open source giant announced CentOS Linux was to be deprecated immediately—with security upgrades to CentOS Linux 8 ending later in 2021 rather than the 2029 end of support date CentOS users expected.

The tail mustn’t wag the dog

"CentOS is a [Red Hat] sponsored project," Exelbierd told the Register. "We are the funding agent (the entity which receives and disburses grants), and we also happen to be a heavy contributor. We have learned that open source communities do well with independence. We let those governing bodies govern."

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New RISC-V hardware designs from 5G startup EdgeQ

January 26th, 2021

Today, 5G cellular startup EdgeQ is announcing the addition of two new members to its advisory board—former Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs, and former Qualcomm CTO Matt Grob. Their mission is to cut the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of 5G cellular base stations in half by leveraging and extending open hardware RISC-V designs.

Traditionally, Radio Access Network (RAN) devices have tended to be closed design and deeply proprietary—much like consumer Wi-Fi and network hardware, they depend on closed-design ASICs with vendor-provided drivers and firmware. Such closed stacks generally cannot be upgraded to accommodate new protocols and use cases—for example, a Radio Unit or Distributed Unit designed for 4G networks must typically be replaced in its entirety in order to service 5G devices.

By contrast, vendors can implement their own OpenRAN solutions, which generally implement fewer functions in hardware, and more in software running on traditional operating systems such as Linux. But implementing such an O-RAN properly requires very deep protocol expertise to get right, and it tends to be extremely power-hungry and expensive to maintain once finished.

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Not just MagSafe: Apple reminds users not to hold iPhones near pacemakers

January 25th, 2021

This week, Apple published clarifications to its support documents to address consumer concern that, because of the presence of the MagSafe magnet system in new iPhones, the iPhone 12 and its 2020 peers are particularly unsafe to hold in close proximity to an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) or pacemaker.

The updated warning from Apple to customers repeats previous statements that keeping any iPhone within six inches of an ICD or pacemaker (or within 15 inches, while charging wirelessly) is unsafe. The warning also claims the iPhone 12 is not specifically more dangerous than other models.

Several weeks back, Heart Rhythm Journal published results of a test wherein it repeatedly found that moving an iPhone 12 with MagSafe close to a patient's ICD interfered with the functioning of that lifesaving device. After that report, tech enthusiasts visited forums, Twitter, and Reddit to spread speculation that the iPhone 12 was particularly dangerous to people with pacemakers because of the introduction of MagSafe.

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Posted in apple, Health, iPhone 12, iphone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, pacemaker, Tech | Comments (0)

Apple doubles down on Fitness+ with new “Time to Walk” Apple Watch content

January 25th, 2021

Today, Apple launched a new component of its Fitness+ personal health subscription service: "Time to Walk." With it, users who own an Apple Watch can take a tracked walk exercise while listening to stories or inspiring talks from "influential and interesting people."

These talks will be automatically downloaded to users' Apple Watch, provided those users subscribe to Fitness+. When users start listening to one of the 25-40 minute episodes, the Watch will begin tracking a Walk workout. For users in weelchairs, Time to Walk is instead called "Time to Push" and offers up an Outdoor Weelchair Walk Pace workout instead.

The announcement states that "each Time to Walk episode is shaped by the guest’s personal, life-shaping moments and includes lessons learned, meaningful memories, thoughts on purpose and gratitude, moments of levity, and other thought-provoking topics, recorded while walking outside or in locations that are meaningful to them."

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Google Maps will soon show COVID vaccine locations

January 25th, 2021
Vaccine info in Google search.

Enlarge / Vaccine info in Google search. (credit: Google)

The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine means a ton of people are soon going to be looking for vaccination sites. As usual, Google wants to be at the center of getting people where they're going, and in a new blog post Google says it will start loading Search and Maps with information on vaccination sites. "In the coming weeks," the company writes, "COVID-19 vaccination locations will be available in Google Search and Maps, starting with Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, with more states and countries to come."

Soon you'll be able to search "COVID vaccine" and get location results showing access requirements, appointment information, and if a site has a drive-through. Google says it is partnering with the Boston Children's Hospital's VaccineFinder.org, government agencies, and retail pharmacies for the data.

Elsewhere in the Google Empire, the company says it will open up various Google facilities as vaccine sites.

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