Blog

  • Watch SpaceX's all-civilian spaceflight return to Earth starting at 6PM ET (www.engadget.com)

    09/18/2021 09:45 PM

    SpaceX's all-civilian Inspiration4 spaceflight is coming to an end, and the company wants to be sure you see those last moments. The firm is livestreaming its Crew Dragon capsule's return to Earth starting at 6PM Eastern, with an expected splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida at 7:06PM. You can watch the stream below.

    The mission saw Shift4 chief Jared Isaacman and three other civilian crew members (Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski) conduct scientific research around the effects of spaceflight on the human body. It also served as a fundraising campaign for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which relies primarily on donations to advance cancer-fighting medicine.

    This is the shortest occupied Crew Dragon flight to date. The earlier Demo-2, Crew-1 and Crew-2 missions were all planned to dock with the International Space Station and last between nine weeks to six months — Inspiration4's three days is a blip in comparison. Not that SpaceX is complaining. This not only demonstrates the viability of sending civilian-only crews to space, but could serve as a sales pitch to clients who might only want a brief amount of time in orbit.

  • Telegram blocks Russian opposition leader's chat bots during vote (www.engadget.com)

    09/18/2021 09:15 PM

    The Russian government still has a strong influence on Telegram despite lifting a ban last year. RadioFreeEuropereports Telegram has temporarily blocked all of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's Telegram chat bots during voting in the country's parliamentary election this weekend. Company founder Pavel Durov said Telegram would obey an election law barring campaigning during elections, calling the law "legitimate."

    The move comes despite the nature of the bots and Durov's past statements. One of the bots, Smart Voting, was only meant to identify candidates that could unseat the dominant United Russia party, not just Navalny's Russia of the Future party. Durov also decried Apple and Google removing the Smart Voting mobile app from their respective app stores, calling it a "dangerous precedent" that tolerated censorship.

    Russia under Vladimir Putin has routinely cracked down on any political dissent, including actions against Navalny himself (such as an attempted assassination linked to Russian agents) and a long-running effort to quash the broader Smart Voting effort. Officials both threatened Apple and Google with fines and have gone so far as to try and throttle internet infrastructure providing access to Smart Voting.

    Whatever the motivations, the decision underscores the fine line tech firms tend to walk in Russia. While they might object to the Putin regime's tight grips on politics and speech, they also can't afford to antagonize the government if they want to have any kind of presence in the country. Telegram may object to Russia's policies, but it risks depriving residents of a relatively safe avenue for free expression if it defies Russian laws.

  • Harley-Davidson will sell its retro-inspired e-bike by the end of 2021 (www.engadget.com)

    09/18/2021 08:02 PM

    Don't worry if you were disappointed that Harley-Davidson's first e-bikes didn't include that eye-catching vintage model. As Electreknotes, Harley's Serial 1 brand now plans to sell a highly similar retro bike, the MOSH/TRIBUTE, in "late Q4" (read: December). Pre-order it for $5,999 and you'll get the MOSH/CTY's underpinnings with looks that would seem right at home in the 1950s, including fat white Schwalbe Super Moto-X tires, a honey-hued leather saddle and similar grips.

    The functionality remains the same as the more contemporary-looking model, including the Gates carbon belt drive, built-in lighting and TRP hydraulic disc brakes. The removable 529Wh battery is estimated to deliver up to 105 miles of range, although that can shrink to 35 miles depending on your ride mode, biking style and road choices.

    You'll have to act quickly if you want one. Serial 1 is making just 650 MOSH/TRIBUTE units split evenly between the US and Europe. The Harley brand has promised more special edition e-bikes "in the future," though, so you needn't give up hope if you're too late.

  • Tesla kills referral programs for cars and solar panels (www.engadget.com)

    09/18/2021 07:49 PM

    If you were hoping to score a few thousand Supercharging miles from Tesla referrals, we're afraid you may already be too late. In a notice on its website spotted by Electrek, Tesla said that "vehicle products and solar panels are no longer eligible for Referral awards" as of September 18th. The company's only active program at the moment is for the Solar Roof, which awards referrers with monetary rewards of up to $500 and free Powerwalls. 

    Tesla's referral program has changed tremendously over the years. The automaker used to promise new Roadsters for top referrers and up to six months of free Supercharging. That eventually became too expensive to be sustainable, so the company decided to axe the program. Tesla introduced a new one with more reasonable rewards shortly after that, though, promising at least 1,000 miles of free Supercharging.

    When it relaunched the program with updated terms, the company said that it "heard from... customers that the Referral Program was one of their favorite reasons to tell their friends about Tesla." It's unclear if it would come back again this time for the same reason, but we wouldn't be surprised if it does. Take note, however, that Tesla has yet to fulfill some of its bigger promises to referrers. As Electrek notes, it hasn't delivered the Roadsters its top referrers earned yet, and people have been complaining on online forums about not receiving free Powerwalls and other rewards from years ago.

  • Amazon has banned over 600 Chinese brands as part of review fraud crackdown (www.engadget.com)

    09/18/2021 07:18 PM

    Have you noticed some well-known tech accessory makers disappearing from Amazon? Those aren't just rare incidents — they're part of a larger campaign. In a response to The Verge, Amazon has confirmed a South China Morning Postreport that the internet giant has banned over 600 Chinese brands (spread across 3,000 seller accounts) over review fraud incidents. These firms intentionally and repeatedly violated review policies banning incentivized reviews, Amazon said.

    The online retailer first broke word of the figure in an interview with VP Cindy Tai on the state-controlled network China Central Television. It had previously kept relatively quiet on the broader effort.

    The crackdown began in earnest five months earlier, but it received wider attention when Amazon banned Aukey and Mpow. The venders were caught offering rewards, including gift cards, for customers leaving reviews. Amazon later booted RAVPower, Vava and other relatively well-known brands for similar behavior. It's not clear how many non-Chinese brands have faced bans.

    There are signs these vendors are either dodging bans or have otherwise escaped some detection, such as Aukey earbuds under the Key Series brand. However, it's safe to say the wider anti-fraud strategy has significantly changed Amazon's marketplace — much to the chagrin of banned companies that heavily depended on Amazon-based sales.

  • Elon Musk says Starlink internet service will leave beta in October (www.engadget.com)

    09/18/2021 06:17 PM

    SpaceX's Starlink satellite broadband might not be considered a test for much longer. Elon Musk told Twitter users that Starlink should exit beta "next month" — that is, sometime in October. You could theoretically could use the quicker-than-usual service in more countries, or at least without the stigma of beta testing involved.

    The company had aimed for complete worldwide coverage by September. To date, the beta has been largely limited to North America and parts of Europe, with notable exceptions like Australia, Chile and New Zealand. Planned expansions are so far limited to Mexico and Japan, but SpaceX has registered subsidiaries in countries like the Philippines and South Africa.

    The formal launch could be crucial. SpaceX said it had shipped 100,000 Starlink terminals as of late August, but that number is likely to swell as the beta label disappears and more countries get access. And while satellite service is far from new, Starlink's high bandwidth and low latency could help close the gap for broadband in rural areas and developing countries where conventional internet access is either unavailable or too slow to be practical.

    This is, of course, provided Starlink arrives as promised. Musk and his companies have a history of optimistic timetables for projects that get stalled by technical hurdles and other practical realities. An October launch certainly isn't out of the question, but you might not want to plan your schedule around that launch just yet.

  • Valve's second Steam Next Fest starts October 1st (www.engadget.com)

    09/18/2021 04:50 PM

    Valve didn't wait long to hold its second Steam Next Fest. The Vergereports the games extravaganza (formerly the Steam Game Festival) is now slated to take place October 1st through October 7th. You'll see a range of upcoming games, including livestreams and chats, but the highlight may be the demos. Most notably, IGNsays you'll get to try No Man's Sky creator Hello Games' Steam release of The Last Campfire.

    Other game demos will include Ludomotion's Unexplored 2, The Artistocrats' Starship Troopers — Terran Command and Andrew Shouldice's action adventure Tunic.

    Steam Next Fest, like Summer Game Fest and other virtual events, is a substitute for real-world gaming conferences and expos that can't happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This gives independent creators an opportunity to promote and refine games that might otherwise get little attention compared to blockbuster titles. It also helps Valve, of course — you may be more likely to buy these games and otherwise view Steam as a go-to source for indie releases.

  • ICYMI: We test out the GoPro Hero 10 Black action cam (www.engadget.com)

    09/18/2021 04:00 PM

    This week we’ve got a few reviews for music and photography enthusiasts. First, James Trew put the GoPro Hero 10 Black through its paces and was impressed by the capabilities of the new GP2 processor. Next, Billy Steele listened to Jabra’s $80 Elite 3 earbuds and, due to the combination of price and features, deemed them one of the company’s best gadgets. Lastly, Terrence O’Brien played around with the Arturia SQ80V synth emulator only to be charmed by its fluid user interface and timeless sounds.

    The GoPro Hero 10 Black benefits from a new processor

    GoPro Hero 10 review.
    James Trew / Engadget

    James Trew is plain about the new GoPro Hero 10 Black: it is remarkably similar to last year’s model, save for the impressive, new GP2 processor. That chip brings a boost in frame rates across the board, including 5.3K at 60fps. It’s also responsible for the updated HyperSmooth 4.0 stabilization technology, which makes for smoother shooting scenarios, a speedier user interface, faster offloading of media and even improvements to the front-facing display. GoPro says the GP2’s capabilities can help produce improved photos and videos as well.

    In James’s testing, this was well born out: He saw noticeably better image quality from the Hero 10 Black than from the Hero 9. James said the difference in detail was instantly noticeable at 100-percent crop, where the Hero 10 was able to capture textures like road surface or leaves. He also enjoyed the added flexibility that came with the new resolution and frame rate combinations — another bonus of the GP2 processing power. The Hero 10 Black also adds a hydrophobic lens coating, which keeps water droplets from gathering in blurry drips, 4K video at 120fps for respectable slow-mo, and a good, old-fashioned wired transfer. With one of the only drawbacks being a shorter battery life, James says that the Hero 10 takes everything that was working for GoPro devices and builds on it.

    The Jabra Elite 3 earbuds offer excellent value and impressive sound

    Jabra Elite 3
    Billy Steele/Engadget

    The Jabra Elite 3 earbuds have a lot going for them: they’re affordable, have functional controls, a comfortable fit courtesy of a new design, impressive sound quality and a solid feature set. Billy Steele says they far exceeded his expectations and offer an incredible value for their $80 price tag. During testing, he was immediately impressed by the sound quality, which was adept at highlighting details like the rattle of a snare drum. While he found the call quality to be only serviceable, he found other features — like a mute control on the earbuds — well thought-out. He was also pleased with the nearly seven-hour battery life.

    However, low-cost models will forgo some things you may take for granted on other earbuds, and here, the Elite 3 buds lack wireless charging and active noise cancellation. Billy said one of the few drawbacks with the Elite 3’s was the missing auto-pause feature — he found it annoying, but not a dealbreaker. He also mentioned that the only EQ customizations are available in presets, but that the Elite 3 outperformed similar models here due to its balanced tuning and great clarity. With few drawbacks, Billy deemed them one of the best wireless products from Jabra.

    Arturia’s SQ 80V is a synth emulator modeled after a classic

    Arturia SQ80 V
    Terrence O'Brien/Engadget

    Terrence O’Brien spent some time tweaking the knobs on Arturia’s new SQ 80V, a synth emulator designed to mimic the dusty charm of the Ensoniq SQ-80. The device contains the original 75 waveforms as well as “hidden” waves from the SQ-80 to provide users with a wide range of sound design possibilities. The majority of the controls, three LFOs and four envelopes, are on a mouse-friendly synthesis tab, while you can change the oscillator waves and tweak the filter right from the device itself.

    Terrence says the SQ80 V is ideal for crushed digital sounds, and the two sound packs released alongside the emulator are right in line with that feel. While those packs made it easy to find sounds in the included presets, Terrence said it’s simple to build your own patches as well because of the dropdown menus and tabs. He called the interface “clean, charmingly retro and easy to navigate.” Overall, Terrence said he digs the SQ80 V because it’s approachable to synth players while providing warm, timeless sound.

  • Hitting the Books: A look at the 1920s airship that nearly made it to the North Pole (www.engadget.com)

    09/18/2021 03:30 PM

    During the Roaring '20s just about everybody was convinced that dirigibles were not just the future of luxury travel but that these lumbering airships could also serve as platforms for scientific exploration and adventure. Why slog through malaria-infested jungles, parched deserts and frozen tundra when you could simply float an expedition to its destination? Among the technology's most fervent adherents were famed Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and Italian airship designer General Umberto Nobile. In 1928, Nobile attempted to lead the first expedition to land people at the North Pole aboard Airship Italia. However, a brutal storm forced the vessel to crash land, stranding its survivors with precious few provisions and setting off the largest arctic rescue effort in history. 

    N-4 Down, by journalist and author Mark Piesing chronicles that rescue effort, led by Amundsen himself. In the excerpt below, we get a quick look at just what level of technological prowess the crew of the ill-fated expedition were actually dealing with.

    N-4 Down cover
    Harper Collins Publishers

    From N-4 Down by Mark Piesing. Copyright © 2021 by Mark Piesing. Reprinted by permission of Custom House, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.


    Amundsen may have dreamed of multiple air bases in the Arctic Circle, but in 1925 his was one of the only ones. It consisted of two flying boats, no hangars, and a rough runway made from ice.

    For the flight he had a team of six men who would be split between the two planes. Lincoln Ellsworth would be in one, Amundsen in the other. The Norwegian had also brought with him for the first time two journalists and a photographer to record the expedition.

    The flying boats that Amundsen transported from Pisa, Italy, weren’t just any flying boats. The N-24 and N-25 were state-of-the-art Dornier Do J “whale” flying boats, which went on to pioneer many air routes across the world.

    These expensive German-designed machines were cutting edge in 1925. This meant that they were all metal, with a whale-shaped hull and high, raised wings. Two stub wings, known as sponsons, kept the plane stable, while ribs on the hull gave the plane the strength to land on sea or ice. Two chunky Rolls-Royce Eagle propeller engines were arranged back to back: one to pull the plane through the air and the other to push it. The Eagle engines were the first aeroengines that Rolls-Royce ever built.

    Alas, the pilots were still housed in an unheated open-air cockpit, obliged to wear woolen underwear, sweaters, two pairs of pants, a sealskin greatcoat as well as a leather jacket, a leather flying helmet, gloves, scarves, and heavy boots to stay warm while flying at high speeds. They all had a parachute (one of the conditions Ellsworth’s father made him agree to in exchange for his money), though the terrible battle to survive they would face if their parachutes worked was something it was better not to think about.

    The state of aerial navigation wasn’t much better. Pilots, who still who relied on distinguishing features such as railways, rivers, and castles to help them work out where they were going, were always going to be challenged by the featureless and shifting Arctic landscape. As mariners had done for the last two hundred year, sextants could be used to determine their aircraft’s altitude, position, and ground speed. These sextants were of less use, of course, when visibility was blocked by fog or thick clouds. Then these early pilots could use a magnetic compass, which becomes less reliable the closer to the North Pole the aircraft flies, or a solar compass, which worked like a sundial by using the position of the sun to establish a bearing (particularly useful near the North Pole).

    Radio had started to challenge these far older methods of navigation. Radio direction finding allowed a navigator to find the direction to a radio station, or beacon. Then if you could pick up the signals of two or more stations, or beacons, then you could work out where you were by simple triangulation. Airplane navigators had to take all these readings in conditions that didn’t lend themselves to accuracy, taking measurements and keeping records in what was usually a freezing cold — and sometimes open — cockpit in a noisy and unstable machine.

    Unfortunately for the crew of his new expedition, the Amundsen of 1925 was not the Amundsen who beat Scott to the South Pole. It could be said that he had lost his eye for detail.

    The planes had been test flown in the Mediterranean before they were shipped by train and boat to Kings Bay. What they hadn’t been was properly test flown in the below-freezing conditions of the Arctic. In 1925, no one really understood how these flimsy aircraft and their internal combustion engines would cope with the cold of the Arctic, and Amundsen didn’t seem particularly curious about the possible distinction. Then there were the sextants that didn’t work and the radio sets that hadn’t arrived yet, and which Amundsen decided they couldn’t wait for. Finally, Amundsen didn’t formulate any emergency procedures in the event that one of the planes had to land. Without the radios, there was no way for the crews to talk to each other midflight if something went wrong. He had compounded this risk by turning down the US Navy’s offer of the giant airship USS Shenandoah to act as a rescue ship the year before. But he did remember to take a moving-picture camera with them.

    Amundsen’s haste was due to his worry that a narrow window in the Arctic weather was set to close. There was also the nagging fear that someone else would fly to the North Pole before him.

    Finally, on May 21, 1925, after one last leisurely, rather staged cigarette to calm their nerves, and with a final shove of the plane from the miners — who were given the day off for the occasion — the two overloaded planes roared one after the other across the rough-ice runway like toboggans, the crews feeling every bump in the ice through the flying boats’ metal hull, then out on to the water and into the air. “It was unreal, mystic, fraught with prophecy,” Ellsworth wrote. “Something ahead was hidden, and we were going to find it.”

    The low-lying fog quickly cleared. The film that the crew shot of the glaciers of Svalbard comprised the first images ever taken from the air of these rivers of ice.

    Amundsen’s dream of flying over the Arctic Sea was realized. The explorers were covering in hours what would take a week to do with dogs and skis. “I have never seen anything more desolate and deserted,” Amundsen remarked. “A bear from time to time I would have thought, which could break the monotony a little. But no—absolutely nothing living.”

    After eight hours, they should have been near the North Pole, and the plan was to try to land. But one of the engines of Amundsen’s plane started to splutter on their descent. It quickly became apparent that they had to land rather sooner than they wanted.

    “I have never looked down upon a more terrifying place in which to land an airplane,” Ellsworth wrote. For what had looked like smooth ice from high altitude turned out to be cut by ridges, gaps of open water called leads, and icebergs.

    Amundsen’s plane made it down safely thanks to the skills of his pilot. Ellsworth’s was not so lucky. His plane eventually found a stretch of water they too could land on. Unfortunately, distances are deceptive at that height and what had seemed long enough was too short. Ellsworth’s plane bounced across the surface of the sea and smashed into an ice floe. Water poured in. That the rivets on the hull had burst due to the rough takeoff only added to their problems.

    Soon there was nothing Ellsworth and his men could do to rescue it; the flying boat floated there like a dead whale. Ellsworth’s men were cold and wet, and they had been awake for twenty-four hours. They needed rest and food, but there wouldn’t be any of either for a while. They had to try their best to protect the plane from being crushed by the ice or sinking while they tried to salvage what they could. Eventually they stopped, exhausted—and the peril Ellsworth and his men were in suddenly hit him. “In the utter silence this seemed to me to be the kingdom of death,” he wrote.

    The two crews were now separated from each other by many miles. It was twenty-four hours before they spotted each other across the ice pack.

    Even when they were in sight of each other, communication across the ice was hampered because no one knew Morse code or semaphore. Instead, the two crews managed to get a rudimentary flag system going between them. It took two to three hours to communicate a simple message. Walking across the ice wasn’t an option either. It was simply too dangerous.

    They were lucky in the end. The blocks of sea ice floated closer together, making it possible for the crews to be reunited after five interminable days. This still wasn’t without risk. Attempts by the men to walk across the ice floes with as much equipment as possible nearly ended in disaster when two of them sank through the slush into the freezing water. One of the men screamed, “I’m gone! I’m gone,” as the current tried to pull him under the ice.

    Amundsen looked shockingly changed, exhaustion and anxiety cut deep into his face, but he was now back in the world of the ice pack, a world he knew so well. Quickly he took control. He realized that they had to combine the supplies from both planes to give themselves a chance of survival. More important, perhaps, they were able to siphon the fuel out of Ellsworth’s plane to give them enough to reach home again with the heavier load of all the men on board. But before they could attempt this, they first needed to carve a runway out of the ice. Of course, they hadn’t brought any specialized tools with them, despite having planned to land at the North Pole.

    Without radio contact, the world first suspected that something had gone wrong when the planes didn’t return to Kings Bay straight away. Even then, some people thought that the aviators could have stayed at the pole for a couple of days or even flown on to Alaska, as Amundsen had long wanted to do. Some remembered conversations where Ellsworth had said it might take a year for them to walk out of the wilderness if their plane crashed.

    When nothing was heard from them, newspapers across America started to report that the planes were overdue. There were demands for a rescue effort to be launched. But the lack of ships, planes, airships, and any idea of where Amundsen and his men had crashed presented would-be rescuers with a fearsome challenge. Still, the pressure was there. One headline in the New York Times proclaimed, “Coolidge Favors Amundsen Relief Should He Need It; President Would Approve Naval Plan to Send One of Our Giant Dirigibles to the Arctic.”

    The US Navy was keen to launch its own expedition to rescue Amundsen. Two years earlier, naval plans to explore the Arctic with one of its huge dirigibles had been canceled owing to the expense. Now they were pushing the president to dispatch the giant USS Shenandoah or USS Los Angeles airships to search for Amundsen. Either of the two ships could be ready in days for the mission, sources told the New York Times journalist. The flight itself to Greenland (a possible base for the mission) would then take a couple of days, depending on the weather and where the ships were based at that time. “Practically, every officer connected with the aeronautical service of the Navy will volunteer in the event that a call for help is made on behalf of Amundsen,” the reporter explained.

  • Israel reportedly used a remote-controlled gun to assassinate an Iranian scientist (www.engadget.com)

    09/18/2021 02:47 PM

    Countries have assassinated people with drones, but those attacks now appear to include robotic weapons on the ground. The New York Timessources claim Israel assassinated top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh on November 27th, 2020 using a remotely-controlled, AI-assisted machine gun. Israel reportedly mounted the gun on a pickup truck by the side of the road and, when Fakhrizadeh's car approached had a distant operator fire the gun using a satellite link.

    The attack was precise, sparing Fakhrizadeh's wife, but may not have used facial recognition to assist with aiming as unnamed Iranian officials said. While Israel purportedly used the AI to compensate for the satellite system's lag and gun recoil, operatives identified Fakhrizadeh by staging a decoy car with a camera to force a U-turn and get a clear image.

    Neither government has publicly confirmed the use of a robotic gun, although The Times' story is based in part on the Fakhrizadeh family's statements to the media. Iranian investigators only determined the nature of the attack by chance, according to the sources. The Israeli operatives exploded the truck in a bid to destroy the evidence, but the equipment remained intact (if inoperable).

    The use of this technology isn't surprising. While the remote gun was supposedly difficult to set up (Israel smuggled parts in very gradually), it both kept agents out of harm's way and avoided raising alarms like a drone. If the gun had been destroyed as planned, Iran might have been unable to determine the assassination method.

    If accurate, the report might point to the future of espionage. Assassins can now use robotics to take out targets with little risk to themselves, little warning to enemies and a greater chance of deniability. You won't necessarily see a surge of assassinations as a result (Fakhrizadeh ignored multiple security recommendations), but there's a real chance this won't be the last kill of its kind.

  • Recommended Reading: 'The Facebook files' (www.engadget.com)

    09/18/2021 02:00 PM

    The Facebook files

    The Wall Street Journal

    If you've been following tech news at all this week, you've likely read some of WSJ's reporting already. However, the entire series of articles is worth a look as it shows how much Facebook knows about unequal policy enforcement, how toxic Instagram can be for teen girls, the power of its algorithm, illegal activity and, perhaps most stunningly, how activists drowned out Mark Zuckerberg's own push for COVID-19 vaccines.

    This FDA-approved necklace is designed to prevent brain injuries in athletes

    Mark Wilson, Fast Company

    Concussions will never be prevented by simply wearing a helmet for contact sports, so doctors and researchers must explore other methods for minimizing lasting effects. With the Q-Collar, a $200 band that is worn around the back of the neck, Q30 hopes to limit brain trauma in athletes by slowing blood flow to the internal jugular vein.

    Video games’ sensory revolution: How haptics reinvented the controller

    Justin Charity, The Ringer

    We've come a long way since the Rumble Pack for Nintendo 64. The Ringer explores the role of haptic feedback in gaming through the lens of Sony's DualSense for PS5, pondering what the future of gaming may hold. 

  • India says Google abused Android dominance (www.engadget.com)

    09/18/2021 12:40 PM

    Google stifled competition and prevented the development of Android rivals in India, the country's antitrust regulator has decided in a report seen by Reuters. In 2019, Competition Commission of India opened a probe into whether Google abused Android's dominance in the market where devices powered by the OS are prevalent. In its report on the probe's findings, the regulator wrote that Google flexed its "huge financial muscle" to reduce manufacturers' ability to develop and sell devices running Android forks. 

    In addition, the commission said that Google requiring manufacturers to pre-install Android apps is an unfair condition to make in exchange for access to its mobile OS. It violates India's competition laws, the report reads. The regulator also found Play Store policies to be "one-sided, ambiguous, vague, biased and arbitrary." In a statement sent to Reuters, Google said it's looking forward to working with the CCI to "demonstrate how Android has led to more competition and innovation, not less."

    The tech giant reportedly responded to the probe 24 times to defend itself, and other tech companies including Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Samsung and Xiaomi also responded to questions from the commission. While CCI still decided that Google illegally stifled competition in the country, the company will have another chance to defend itself before the CCI issues its final decision along with penalties, if any.

    Just a few days ago, South Korean regulators also came to the decision that Google used its dominant position in the market to hamper the development of Android rivals. They slapped the tech giant with a $177 million fine. They also banned the company from requiring manufacturing partners to sign anti-fragmentation agreements, which prohibit the creation and installation of alternative versions of the Android OS. 

  • Clubhouse is developing a new way to invite friends to chat called 'Wave' (www.engadget.com)

    09/18/2021 07:02 AM

    Clubhouse isn't just an app you can fire up to attend talks by famous people. It has different types of rooms you can use, including ones where you can have intimate, private conversations with friends — and in the future, you may be able to invite those friends to chat by "waving" at them. Jane Manchun Wong, who's famous for reverse engineering apps to find hidden experimental features, has discovered that Clubhouse is working on a new way to invite contacts to have an audio conversation. 

    If the feature gets a wide release, Clubhouse will add a "Wave" button on users' profiles that looks similar to the Wave button you see when you first connect with someone on Messenger. Tapping on it will let a friend know you want to chat, and the app will only open a room for you if they respond. 

    Clubhouse started out as an invite-only audio app for iOS wherein you'll have to join a waitlist to get in. Over the past few months, though, it released an app for Android and opened its doors to everyone. Famous personalities like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg previously used it a venue to hold talks in open rooms where users can host public conversations with listeners. This feature, however, might make it more compelling for more casual use and could convince users not to hop on another app when it's time to talk to family and friends.

  • A ‘Destroy All Humans! 2’ remake is coming to PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC (www.engadget.com)

    09/17/2021 10:43 PM

    One year after releasing a full remake of cult classic Destroy All Humans!, THQ Nordic plans to modernize its 2006 sequel as well. During its recent publisher showcase, the company announced Destroy All Humans! 2 - Reprobed (yes, that’s the actual name of the game). It’s coming out “soon” on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.

    Developer Black Forest Games is remaking the PlayStation 2 and Xbox title completely from scratch in Unreal Engine 4. The studio says the new game will feature local two-player split-screen co-op, and a “much larger” open world for players to explore. The 2006 original was game in the series developed by Pandemic Studios before the developer was acquired by EA in 2007 and subsequently shut down in 2009.

  • Apple mandates frequent COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated employees (www.engadget.com)

    09/17/2021 09:22 PM

    Apple is implementing a new COVID-19 testing policy for US employees who work out of its offices and retail locations. Moving forward, the company will require unvaccinated employees to get tested more frequently than their vaccinated counterparts. News of the development was first reported by The Verge, with Protocol later obtaining confirmation from Apple.

    We've reached out to the company for additional information. 

    The policy is the latest effort by Apple to push its employees to get inoculated against the coronavirus. Unlike Google, Facebook and several other tech companies, Apple has yet to mandate employee vaccinations. However, it has started asking employees to voluntarily disclose their vaccination status, according to a report published by Bloomberg at the start of September. This latest measure would likely put the company in compliance with upcoming guidelines from the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration that will require companies with more than 100 employees to either mandate immunization or provide weekly testing.

  • Niantic's AR Catan game is shutting down on November 18th (www.engadget.com)

    09/17/2021 08:14 PM

    Niantic is discontinuing development on Catan: World Explorers. Announced in the fall of 2019, the studio had yet to release the game officially, and it was only available in early access in select markets outside of the US. Later today, Niantic plans to remove World Explorers from the App Store before shutting down the servers that power the game on November 18th, making it unplayable thereafter. With today’s announcement, the augmented reality title will not roll out to additional countries, and Niantic has removed all in-app purchases from the experience.

    It’s not clear what exactly went wrong with development but it appears scope creep may have played a part in Niantic’s decision to cancel the project. “We had a vision for trading, harvesting and building up the world in seasonal play and resetting the board each month, just like you do for each new game you play at home,” the company said in a blog post spotted by Protocol. “But trying to adapt such a well-designed board game to a global, location-based Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game was a tough challenge."

    Niantic notes that lessons it learned while working on World Explorers will go on to inform future projects. However, it’s hard to say what the cancellation will mean for the company’s other games. Following the runaway success of Pokémon Go, a variety of companies have partnered with Niantic to create similar AR experiences using their own properties. More notable examples include Hasbro and Warner Bros. Those same companies may now realize replicating the success of Pokémon Go may not be as easy as they initially thought it was.

  • Man who unlocked 1.9 million AT&T phones sentenced to 12 years in prison (www.engadget.com)

    09/17/2021 07:45 PM

    A US district court has sentenced a man who unlocked 1.9 million AT&T phones to 12 years in prison. Muhammad Fahd continued the seven-year scheme to defraud the company even after learning of an investigation against him, according to the Department of Justice. At Fahd's sentencing hearing, Judge Robert S. Lasnik said he committed a “terrible cybercrime over an extended period,” with AT&T said to have lost $201.5 million as a result.

    Fahd contacted an AT&T employee through Facebook in 2012 and bribed them to help him unlock customers' phones with "significant sums of money," the DOJ said. Fahd, a citizen of Pakistan and Grenada, urged the employee to recruit co-workers at a Bothell, Washington call center for the scheme too.

    The DOJ says the employees unlocked phones for "ineligible customers," who paid Fahd a fee. In spring 2013, AT&T rolled out a system that made it more difficult for the employees to unlock IMEIs. Fahd then recruited an engineer to build malware that would be installed on AT&T's systems to help him unlock phones more efficiently and remotely. The DOJ says the employees gave Fahd details about the company's systems and unlocking methods to aid that process. The malware is said to have obtained information about the system and other AT&T employees' access credentials. The developer used those details to modify the malware.

    AT&T claims Fahd and his associates unlocked just over 1.9 million phones through the scheme. The company says because of the unlocks, customers didn't complete payments on their devices, leading to the nine-figure loss.

    Fahd was arrested in Hong Kong in 2018 following a 2017 indictment. He was extradited to the US and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in September 2020.

  • 'Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls' is now available on Apple Arcade (www.engadget.com)

    09/17/2021 07:15 PM

    Grimore of Souls, the latest entry in the long-running Castlevania series of games, is now available as an Apple Arcade exclusive. While it’s not a new game per se, it’s one that most Castlevania fans haven’t had a chance to play yet. Series publisher Konami first announced the game back in 2018 before releasing it only in Canada in 2019 and then subsequently delisting it from the App Store.

    Grimoire of Souls has something for Castlevania fans of all stripes. It features art and music from series veterans Ayami Kojima and Michiru Yamane. What’s more, you can play through the game using five different playable characters, including franchise favorites Simon Belmont, Shanoa and Alucard. There’s also support for co-op if you want to play with friends. You can download Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls on iOS, iPadOS, macOS and tvOS. An individual Apple Arcade subscription costs $5 per month.

  • Facebook hands over VR painting and animation app Quill to its creator (www.engadget.com)

    09/17/2021 06:15 PM

    Facebook has handed over virtual reality illustration and animation tool Quill to Iñigo Quilez, the developer who created the app. Quilez has formed a company called Smoothstep and rebranded the tool as Quill by Smoothstep, which is now on the Oculus Store.

    The original Quill app will be removed from the Oculus Store on October 18th. It'll still work for those who downloaded it, but Oculus won't support the app any longer. Users will need to manually upload creators to Oculus Media Studio manually rather than through Quill as well.

    Facebook says Quill content shared on Oculus Media Studio or Oculus TV will still be available on Oculus for now. The Quill Theater app will remain on the store — it will be renamed as VR Animation Player next month. The Oculus team also noted that Smoothstep has open sourced both Quill Theater’s IMM immersive content distribution file format (IMM) and an IMM player.

    Quilez built the first version of Quill during a 2015 hackathon to aid production on Oculus Story Studio's VR short, Dear Angelica. The film was the first to be hand-painted completely inside of a VR environment. Other filmmakers have adopted Quill, with works createdusing the tool being screened at major film festivals such as Sundance and Venice.

    Some major companies are expected to enter or push deeper into the VR and mixed reality space in the coming years, such as Apple and Sony. As such, developers of VR creation tools such as Quill have a big opportunity for growth in the medium term.

  • Hyundai puts Boston Dynamic's Spot robot to work as a factory safety inspector (www.engadget.com)

    09/17/2021 05:57 PM

    Boston Dynamics’ Spot has found itself a new job, and thankfully this time it doesn’t involve a potential battlefield role. Hyundai has started testing the robot at a Kia manufacturing plant in South Korea where it will be one of the tools the company uses to ensure the facility is safe for workers. The pilot represents the first public collaboration between the two companies since Hyundai acquired a majority stake in Boston Dynamics this past June.

    You’ll notice the Spot featured in the video Hyundai released looks different from the robot we’ve seen in past clips. That’s because the automaker’s Robotics Lab outfitted it with what is essentially a backpack that features a host of enhancements, including a thermal camera, LiDAR and more powerful computing resources for handling additional AI tasks. The “AI Processing Service Unit” allows Spot to detect people, monitor temperatures and check for fire hazards. Additionally, a secure webpage allows factory personnel to monitor the robot remotely, and take over control if they want to inspect an area of the facility more closely.

    According to Hyundai, the pilot will help it assess the effectiveness of Spot as a late-night security patrol robot before it goes on to deploy it at additional industrial sites. Automation, manufacturing and construction applications align with what the automaker said was its grand plan for Boston Dynamics when it bought the company.

  • Michigan State Police to begin testing Ford Mach-E Interceptors (www.engadget.com)

    09/17/2021 05:37 PM

    The next time you get pulled over in Michigan, it could be by a cop in an electric SUV — at least if Ford has anything to say about it. The American automaker is stepping up its Police Interceptor program, which modifies existing models for use by law enforcement, typically with beefed up suspensions, brakes and added horsepower. 

    The company has pitched the idea to law enforcement agencies in the UK, while the city of Ann Arbor, MI already has two such vehicles on order. On Friday, Ford announced that it, in short order, will deliver one of its Mustang Mach-E Interceptor prototypes — which appears to be based on the Mach-E GT variant — to the Michigan State Police as well, where it will undergo real-world testing to see if the EV can handle the rigors of police work.

    Ford hopes to "use the pilot program testing as a benchmark while it continues to explore purpose-built electric police vehicles in the future" as part of its $30 billion multi-year investment in EV technology. 

  • Elektron's Model:Cycles and Model:Samples grooveboxes are on sale for $249 each (www.engadget.com)

    09/17/2021 05:17 PM

    Elektron might have a reputation for making expensive digital instruments, but it's hard to look past the Model lineup if you're in the market for a groovebox. The Model:Samples and Model:Cycles devices are currently on sale at both Amazon and Sweetwater. They're down from $299 to $249, making them an even better option for beatmakers, newbies and veterans alike.

    Buy Elektron Model:Samples at Amazon - $249Buy Elektron Model:Samples at Sweetwater - $249

    Elektron brought much of its knowhow to the entry-level Model:Samples in 2019. You can add your own samples via the microUSB port. In our review, in which we gave Model:Samples a score of 86, we called it a "best-in-class sequencer" with lots of controls and "tons of opportunity for happy accidents." However, we had reservations about the lack of onboard sampling and "mediocre" quality of the pads.

    On the whole, though, it's a great groovebox. Given that Model:Samples cost $449 just a couple of years ago, $249 is an excellent price.

    Buy Elektron Model:Cycles at Amazon - $249Buy Elektron Model:Cycles at Sweetwater - $249

    Model:Cycles, meanwhile, is a more recent model. It too is a six-track sequencer, but it adopts some of the features of Elektron's Digitakt sampler. It uses FM synth sounds rather than samples. In giving Model:Cycles a score of 88, we found that it offers an "incredibly fun hands-on playing experience." We found the lack of filter and arpeggiator a little disappointing, but it's still a terrific groovebox. On its website, Elektron notes the two devices are on sale until September 30th.

  • Android 11's auto-reset permissions feature is coming to older versions of the OS (www.engadget.com)

    09/17/2021 05:00 PM

    When Google launched Android 11 at the end of last summer, it added a feature that automatically resets app permissions. If you don’t use an app after several months, the OS can revoke some of the permissions that the application asked you to grant when you first installed it. It’s a handy feature that’s unfortunately only available on a relatively small number of devices due to the fact most Android manufacturers only support their devices with platform updates for a couple of years. Thankfully, that’s about to change.

    Starting in December 2021, Google will begin rolling out that functionality to all devices running Android 6 (Marshmallow) and above, the company announced today in a developer update. The feature will come courtesy of a Google Play services update the company will roll out to “billions” of devices. Once you have the new software installed on your device, apps that target Android 11 or higher will have the feature enabled by default. For those apps that were built for older versions of the OS, you’ll have the option to enable it manually.

    This is one of those small quality-of-life updates that most Android users should be able to appreciate since it can be easy to forget all the permissions you may have granted to an app when you first installed it.  

  • US will reportedly impose crypto sanctions amid ransomware attacks (www.engadget.com)

    09/17/2021 04:50 PM

    According to The Wall Street Journal, the Biden administration plans to implement new measures to make it more difficult for hackers to profit from ransomware attacks using cryptocurrencies. As early as next week, the Treasury Department will reportedly impose sanctions and guidance designed to discourage organizations from using digital currencies to pay for ransoms.

    Per The Journal, among the measures the agency is considering are fines and other penalties aimed at businesses that cooperate with hackers. Later in the year, the Treasury Department is also expected to implement new anti-money laundering and terror-financing regulation to limit further the use of cryptocurrencies as a payment method for ransoms and other illegal activity.

    The incoming sanctions will reportedly single out specific traders and exchanges instead of casting a wide net and attempting to disrupt the entire crypto ecosystem. In addition to harming organizations that may have facilitated ransomware payments in the past, the hope is that sanctions will scare most cryptocurrency platforms from processing those types of transactions in the future.

    “An action of this kind would be an aggressive, proactive approach to going after those who facilitate ransomware payments,” Ari Redbord, a former Treasury Department official, told The Journal.

    The measures would be the latest attempt by the Biden administration to tackle the issue of ransomware attacks following a year in which they’ve increased in frequency and severity. After the Colonial Pipeline attack led to fuel shortages in parts of the US, the president signed an executive order that called for, among other things, improved information sharing between federal agencies. More recently, the Department of Homeland Security laid out mandatory rules that call on pipeline operators to appoint cybersecurity coordinators and report incidents to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

  • Netflix signs 'Schitt's Creek' co-creator Dan Levy to a TV and movie deal (www.engadget.com)

    09/17/2021 04:02 PM

    Netflix has locked down several high-profile creators to TV and movie deals over the last few years, including Ryan Murphy, Shonda Rhimes, David Fincher and Game of Thrones duo David Benioff and Dan Weiss. The latest talent to join Netflix's stable is Dan Levy, the star and co-creator of Schitt's Creek who won four Emmys for the hit Canadian sitcom last year.

    Levy's first Netflix project is a romantic comedy movie that he'll write, produce, direct and star in, according to Variety. He can't work on any shows for Netflix until his TV deal with Disney studio ABC Signature expires next summer.

    Netflix played an important role in Levy's rise to stardom after it started streaming Schitt's Creek in 2017. “Netflix offered Schitt’s Creek a second home at just the right time and opened the doors to a whole new audience for us,” Levy said in a statement. “Watching the show thrive there has only enhanced my excitement about continuing to tell specific, meaningful stories with them in both TV and feature film.”

    Levy has some other projects in the works elsewhere, including through his ABC deal. Hulu ordered a pilot last month for an animated comedy called Standing By from Levy and fellow Schitt’s Creek writer Ally Pankiw.

  • Programmatically Identifying Political Media (maxburstein.com)

    11/02/2020 05:29 PM

    With the US election coming up, the amount of political media in my face has reached an all time high. In fact this is a common complaint I hear among people I talk to, even those not in the US. So I thought to myself what if there was a way to identify political media before I ever got to the content...Keep that thought in mind as you read through this post and think how you or someone else could use this technology.…

  • Max Does Europe (maxburstein.com)

    12/31/2015 06:20 AM

    Hallå!

    You've made it to one of the longest blog posts I may ever write. So long that I'd consider it more of a short novel rather than a single blog post. If you're more of a picture person head over to http://imgur.com/a/seJ1P or my Facebook page for all the images from my trip (including ones not shown here). Alternatively, find me, buy me a beer and sit back and relax while I tell you the epic stories from my journey. Estimated read…

  • Rendering 12,000 Image Albums at Imgur (maxburstein.com)

    09/14/2015 05:12 PM

    Today marks a great day for wallpaper enthusiasts everywhere. Today's the day a newly designed Imgur launches, and with it comes some great performance improvements. My favorite is our new way to load giant albums without ridiculous lag. To put this new algorithm to the test I'm going to compare the perceived load speed of this 12,000 image album to what was previously on the site.

    TL;DR

    • Utilized React.js more
    • Only render DOM elements that are in the viewport buffer zone
    • Saw FPS…

  • My Experience Making My First Android App (maxburstein.com)

    07/15/2014 04:23 AM

    Like too many people these days I tend to spend a lot of time on my phone. It's a tough habit to quit. So is playing DotA, my favorite game. Allow me to take you back over the past 3 weeks of getting to know Android development (I'll try to skip through some of the boring parts).

    The Start (3 weeks ago)

    With the largest e-sports tournament to date kicking off in a few weeks I saw an opportunity to corner a…

  • From 0 To 500 Users In 7 Days (maxburstein.com)

    03/17/2014 03:00 AM

    I recently launched an idea I had been thinking about for quite some time called Problem of the Day. If you haven't checked it out the basic run down is a new programming or logic puzzle every Monday through Friday. Most of the problems are meant to be solvable over breakfast, lunch, or whenever you have some free time.

    My goal for this post is to give you some ideas on what I did for my launch so that you can see…