Microsoft’s Surface Pro gets LTE Advanced option this December

Microsoft’s business customers will be able to get their hands on theSurface Pro with LTE Advanced from December, as rumored earlier this year. In a blog post outlining the company’s vision for workplace technology, the company says the release is designed to bring even greater mobility to its Surface Pro line, supporting half of the global workforce which will be mobile by 2020. Boasting a Cat 9 modem, it’s the fastest LTE-enabled laptop in its class, supporting 20 cellular bands for global connectivity. There’s no specifics on battery life yet, but this year’s earlier Surface release promised 13.5 hours while watching video. It’s not clear how LTE support will affect that, but if Microsoft’s dream of a totally-mobile workplace is anything to go by, it’ll have enough juice to let you work comfortably away from the office. The Surface Pro with LTE will ship on December 1 to business customers, with a base model price tag of $1,149.

The Editors’ Choice XPS 13 with 8th-Gen Intel Is Now Just $999

dell xps 13 2017 004

For the next 48 hours, you have access to select Dell Black Friday deals. However, of all the deals available today, the most noteworthy is the XPS 13. You can now get the Editors’ Choice XPS 13 with Intel’s 8th-generation processor for $999.99. The laptop, which is the exactconfiguration we reviewed last month, normally costs $1,299 or $1,149 on sale, so today’s price is truly a record breaker.

Buy on Dell

The XPS 13 won our Editors’ Choice award for offering epic battery life (16 hours and 5 minutes to be exact), chart-topping performance, and the same compact, yet stylish design we enjoyed from last year’s XPS 13.

In our tests, the new 8th-gen Core i7-8550U processor, which is now quad-core, was 60 percent faster than the similarly configured XPS 13 with Intel’s 7th-gen CPU. From transcoding 4K movies to crunching numbers in Excel, the new XPS 13 is simply a beast.

Simply put, the new XPS 13 is the best consumer laptop you can buy right now, especially while it’s $200 off.

GoPro is finally profitable again, but its holiday outlook disappoints

After years of losses, GoPro’s main goal in 2017 was finding a way to make its business profitable. And it looks like the company finally succeeded during the third quarter, where it saw a net income of $15 million, according to its latest earnings report. That’s not much, but it’s a big improvement over last year’s $104 million loss during the same quarter. Analysts expected to its revenues to jump by 30 percent, but GoPro surpassed that with 37 percent growth, reaching $330 million (compared to $240.5 million last year).

But while GoPro had a strong showing this quarter, investors weren’t too pleased about its holiday revenue outlook of $470 million, driving its stock down to 10 percent at the time of this post. Analysts were expecting around $520 million in holiday sales.

The company credits its improved business on lower operating costs and a higher average sales price (ASP). It expects operating expenses to drop by 30 percent in 2017 (it sounds like those layoffs are paying off), and during the quarter they reached a three-year low. Its ASP, meanwhile, increased 22 percent this quarter. In particular, GoPro says “strong perfomance” from its $500 Hero 6 Black camera helped push that figure higher. Demand for its older Hero5 Black was “lighter than expected,” GoPro CEO Nick Woodman said during an earnings call, but he noted that holiday promotions might help with sales. Additionally, he says consumers are warming to the entry-level $150 Hero Session.

Looking ahead, the company is launching its $699 Fusion 360-degree camera later in the middle of this month. That’s clearly not meant for everyone, but it’s an important move into a new product category. It’ll give consumers an easy way to make videos suited for 360-degree VR viewing, and thanks to its Overcapture feature, they’ll also be able to make videos suited for normal 2D viewing.

Jellyfish-inspired e-skin glows when it’s in ‘pain’

Artificial skin stands to have a variety uses, with potential applications in everything from robots to prosthetics. And in recent years, researchers have been able to instill sensory perception, like touch and pressure, into artificial skin. However, while those sorts of senses will be incredibly important in engineered skin, they’ve so far been rather limited. For example, while current versions can be quite sensitive to light touch, they don’t fare so well with high pressures that could cause damage. So researchers at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China set out to fix that problem and they drew their inspiration from jellyfish.

The Atolla jellyfish can sense pressure in its surroundings and emits bright flashes of light when attacked. To mimic that and combine visual signals with pressure sensing, the researchers placed small silver wires within a stretchy material, which was able to produce electrical signals when light pressure was applied to it. In between two layers of that material, the researchers added an additional layer, which was embedded with phosphors — particles that can luminesce — that lit up when strong pressure was applied. As increasing amounts of pressure were applied to the layered electronic skin, the phosphors lit up more and more and overall the skin was able to register a much wider range of pressure than other versions have been able to achieve. In the image below, you can see the phosphors light up when a transparent “W”-shaped slab is pressed into the activated electronic skin.

The high pressures registered by the phosphors are around the levels that become painful to humans, meaning the luminescent material can play the role of pain sensors found in real human skin and create a visual representation of “pain.” Further, the full range of pressure that this skin can sense more closely matches what real human skin can feel. And as the researchers point out, this capability makes this particular electronic skin a promising potential component to human-machine interfaces and intelligent robots. The work was recently published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

Blizzard shows off broadcast-friendly ‘Overwatch’ features

Last week Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan explained some of the tweaks Blizzard planned to make this game easier to follow for viewers, and now a new video actually shows them off. As Blizzard prepares tolaunch its professional Overwatch League next year (and presents Overwatch World Cup matches over the next couple of days), it’s going all-in to make the game TV-friendly, even for people who aren’t yet die-hard eSports fans.

During the Overwatch World Cup playoffs on Friday and Saturday, viewers will see new team uniforms for each country, complete with home and away colors that include heads-up displays and special abilities that are customized to match. It should make it easier for viewers to identify (and identify with — when’s the merch coming?) each team, better than they would with the standard game’s use of blue for allies and red for enemies.

'Overwatch' overhead map

We also got a peek at the previously-mentioned overhead map and third person smart camera, which we can already see will help people stay oriented on the most intense action and where it’s happening. It’s also key for the analysts to keep an eye on who is where at all times, and break down the action post-game with a new stats layout that puts every player’s metrics on one screen. A new easily-accessible instant replay (complete with bullet-time style freezes and camera movement) can take viewers flying through the scene without making things too confusing.

'Overwatch' instant replay

Is eSports really ready for the big time? We’ll find out soon, but these changes will definitely help give a regular viewer who hasn’t heard of Twitch a reason to stick with the broadcast long enough to tell D. Va from Doomfist.

RAZER DEBUTS ITS FIRST PHONE, AND IT’S BUILT FOR GAMES

IF I TOLD you Razer made a smartphone, you’d probably develop a mental picture pretty quickly. Since the company is mostly known for its gaming mice, keyboards, and laptops, you’d expect this phone to be For Gamers. It’d be crazy powerful, of course, with all the best specs and the highest numbers and probably a bunch of chips you don’t need but sound really cool at a LAN party. It’d probably be huge, and super expensive, as gaming gear tends to be. And it would definitely glow, for sure, no question. Maybe red flames? Maybe Razer’s own multicolored Chroma system? Lots of ideas.

The actual Razer Phone almost counts as boring, by gaming gear metrics. It’s a slightly blocky black rectangle with no glowing lights, no sound effects when you press the right button, and no glowing lights. Even Razer’s three-headed snake logo, usually neon green, comes only in black. The Razer Phone was largely created by the team behind Nextbit, a design-led company that built one pretty cool phone, called Robin, and then sold to Razer. The Razer Phone carries a lot of the Robin’s DNA, but none of the cloud-blue coloring.

Inside, though, the Razer Phone’s everything a Blade owner could want. Snapdragon 835 processor, one of the best in the biz. A whopping 8 gigs of RAM. A huge 4,000mAh battery. Best of all, a 5.72-inch, Quad HD IGZO LCD (I swear those acronyms all mean something) screen, with 120Hz capabilities. The display can ramp up its framerate when you’re scrolling or playing a game, and crank all the way back down when you’re just reading or watching a movie. The tech behind the display sounds like the iPad’s ProMotion display, and seems to work just as well. I’ve never scrolled so smoothly on an Android phone, and a quick demo of Riptide GP: Renegade, one of my fave mobile games ever, felt and looked incredible. Its looks may disguise its intentions, but the Razer Phone exists for gaming.

RAZER

The spec list just keeps on going. Two 12-megapixel cameras in the back. A 24-bit digital audio converter included in the box. Stereo front-facing speakers, with Dolby Atmos built in. It only ships with Android Nougat, but at least comes withNova Launcher, one of the best and most customizable Android launchers out there. And Razer says Oreo is coming soon.

Preorders start today at $699, and it ships on November 17.

A gaming phone, of course, matters only as much as the games it can play. Lack of truly great, unmissable games on mobile has plagued every so-called “gamer phone” since the days of the Nokia N-Gage. Razer has an advantage here, in that it’s already working with so many game makers. It’s working with the makers of games like Arena of Valor andFinal Fantasy to optimize their wares for the Razer Phone’s specs. That would be good for the Razer Phone, and for theAndroid ecosystem in general.

Razer’s trying to walk a tough line here, as many have before it: to make a phone for gamers that doesn’t look like, well, a phone for gamers. The company understands that people don’t buy two phones, and they need their device optimized for both important presentations and importantShadowgun sessions. That’s hard to do, but based on a brief demo at Razer’s office, the company’s done a pretty good job. It makes a few cool-phone concessions in the name of gaming—the slightly thicker body to house more battery, the extra bezel above and below the screen to offer a grip in landscape mode—but no one would look askance when you took the Razer Phone out of your suit pocket. Though they might be tipped off to your true intentions when the dulcet tones of Hearthstone come blaring out your speakers mid-meeting.

Apple might share iPhone X face data with developers

Despite Apple claiming it securely stores your encrypted face info on theiPhone X, Reuters is reporting that the company permits developers to access “certain facial data” with user permission. This includes a visual representation of your face, and over 50 facial expressions.

Face ID was always going to be the iPhone X’s most talked about feature. With it, the days of fingerprint authentication could be numbered, replaced by face biometrics. But, there’s something about your mugshot being stored with Apple that’s (understandably) got people shook up.Senator Al Franken already pressed the firm on the security concerns the tech raises — prompting a response. Now, it’s the turn of privacy advocates. In the report, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Democracy and Technology warn that the info could fall into the hands of marketers.

We know Apple’s Face ID tech works by using a mixture of camera sensors and neural networks to grab a mathematical model of your face. And, like Touch ID before it, Apple is granting developers access to its Face ID API, enabling them to use the unlock mechanism on all your fave apps — including secure banking and payment apps. But, the latest revelations suggest Apple is allowing devs to make off with more data than it is letting on. The same data reportedly cannot unlock the phone, because that functionality is limited to the overarching mathematical model. Reutersadds that Apple’s developer agreement forbids app makers from sharing the info with marketers. And, that those who break the rules risk getting kicked from the App Store.

But, privacy groups fear the company won’t be able to adequately police how devs use the info, which could lead to it finding its way to marketers. That, in turn, would result in more targeted ads, but these would use the tech to track your facial reactions (like a smile, or a raise of an eyebrow). Naturally, that kind of tracking data would be a goldmine for advertisers. But, it’s also important to note that Apple’s app review policy makes it extremely difficult for bad actors to get away with violations. Yet, with more than 2 million apps in the App Store, privacy experts warn that some may slip through the cracks. We reached out to Apple for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

Review: Samsung Gear IconX (2018)

FULLY WIRELESS EARBUDS are the closest thing you’ll get to piping music directly into your brain. While there are a number of options out there, Samsung’s latest IconX (2018) headphones are the company’s second bite of the apple. They’re far from perfect, but these buds get a lot of things right.

They have acceptable sound quality, for one. The bass won’t thump as loud as a great pair of (cheaper) wired headphones, and tracks will occasionally sound shallow and synthetic, like your music is being run through a few filters, but it didn’t keep me from enjoying my favorite songs.

They also come with more than two times the battery life of their 2016 predecessors—a little more than 4 hours of battery life most days I used them.

Like last year, the IconX are still discrete and subdued in appearance (unless you buy them in neon pink) with a plain plastic exterior and swappable silicone eartips and wingtips. The wingtips help the top of the buds snap into the upper portion of your outer ear. The default tips fit well in my ear, but depending on the shape of your ear’s antihelix (there’s a new word for you), you may have to dip into the alternate wingtip sizes to get a solid fit.

There are no buttons on the IconX, but oh how I wish there were. Instead of buttons, the earbuds have dinky touchpads on the sides, and they’re fickle as heck. After a week of use, it still takes me two or three tries to successfully swipe up or down to change the volume. I’ve finally developed the muscle memory to get to the next track (two taps) and the previous track (three taps), but I don’t think I’ll ever successfully pull off more complex gestures. I feel like I deserve a graduate certificate in Morse code after using these.

SAMSUNG GEAR ICONX (2018)

6/10

LEARN HOW WE RATE
WIRED

Small and light enough that you forget you’re wearing them. Fully wireless with decent sound quality. Battery life hovers around 4 hours while streaming. Charging clamshell case provides an extra two charges. Includes a voice coach with fitness tracking and motivation

TIRED

Touch control is too touchy. Charging case is bulky and you’ll need to carry it around. $200 is a lot to spend on earbuds, wireless or not

BUY IT NOW

The most useful gesture is Tap and Hold, which lets you cycle through the menu options: Voice Command, Ambient Sound and Start a Workout. Voice Command leverages Bixby or Google Assistant to give you answers, though the assistant’s voice often seems muffled.

Ambient Sound amplifies the noises around you, so you can still hear things while wearing the buds. Like any snug-fit earbuds, the IconX tend to hush the sounds of say, incoming traffic. Look both ways, and enable this feature when you need it.

The buds don’t track heart rate like last year’s model, but they will give you a rough (very rough) approximation of the distance you traveled and steps you took during a workout. Samsung’s Bixby woman-like voice talks to you while you run, encouraging you to speed up and updating you on your distance. To get a better idea of your workout in progress, I recommend bringing along a phone or Gear Sport watch.

The downside to the fitness coaching feature is that one of your earbuds will drain a lot faster than the other. The choice of which Samsung leaves up to you, but expect a half hour less juice from one of your buds.

The complex gestures and 4-hour battery life would be more forgivable if the Gear IconX had a power button. Annoyingly, you can’t power either earbud up or shut them off without carrying an accessory: the included clamshell charging case. It’s about the size of a fat, short pill bottle that pops open and snaps closed. The buds only turn off once they’re inside it, and on when they are pulled out. That’s also the only way to re-pair them with your phone via Bluetooth.

The case provides about two full charges before you need to plug it into the wall and juice it up, which is nice. My hangup with this included accessory is that it’s just a little too big to slip into a pocket with my usual accoutrements. And it’s less of an accessory than a necessity.

My buds didn’t last long outside of their box. It’s strange that even though the buds know when they’re out of my ears thanks to a sensor, they aren’t intelligent enough to automatically shut off, too. They seem to keep getting notifications, and if I start a workout and they’re within distance, they pretend they’re my running buddy, knowing full-well I’m not wearing them. Shouldn’t they be smarter than that? Just sitting on my coffee table, unused with a 75% charge, both drained in under a work day’s time.

The best advice I can give you to conserve battery is to load up the 4GB of onboard storage on the IconX with MP3s instead of streaming music and turn off all notifications. That’ll give you an extra couple hours of juice, according to Samsung.

These buds also worked best when I used them with a Galaxy S8. On another Android phone, the connection was less reliable, cutting out for a second whenever I pocketed my phone. They’re also compatible with iPhones, but you’ll have access to fewer features.

At $200, the Gear IconX (2018) are $40 more than Apple’s now-famous AirPods, but overall aren’t wildly expensive, given their capabilities. They offer some solid fitness features and 4+ hours of battery life per charge. I just wish I didn’t feel the need to lug the bulky clamshell with me every time I use them.

Why iPhone phishing scam shouldn’t become a problem

APPLE fans were warned about a hypothetical iPhone phishing attack by iOS code expert Felix Krause this week.

The phishing scam he designed mimics the familiar pop-up window on iOS devices which routinely prompts users to enter their Apple ID password when doing things like downloading apps. It looks exactly the same but it’s designed to steal your password.

The blog post gained major traction this week for showing the potential for hackers to make an easily deceptive iOS app feature, despite it not being in the wild.

“The goal of this blog post is to close the loophole that has been there for many years, and hasn’t been addressed yet,” Mr Krause wrote.

“For moral reasons, I decided not to include the actual source code of the pop-up, however it was shockingly easy to replicate the system dialogue.”

Apple declined to officially comment on the blog post but stressed the demonstration by Mr Krause remained a proof of concept and was not something currently being experienced by customers.

Ultimately a malicious developer would need to corrupt an app already in the app store or somehow sneak an app with malicious code past the auditing systems that scrutinise everything about a potential app — from its code to its appearance — before being approved to appear in the App Store.

Sebastian O’Halloran develops iOS apps under the moniker Juicy Apps in Hobart, Tasmania, and thinks these days such an app would almost certainly be detected by Apple.

The 18-year-old has been building apps since he was 11, and says he has experienced first hand just how finicky the company can be with its auditing process.

At 14 he designed an app to allow people with intellectual disabilities communicate what they wanted to get from the governments’ newly introduced disability care scheme.

Some of his apps have been rejected for relatively “minute” things in the past such as “mismatched screenshots” that didn’t appear to exactly match the appearance of the app’s interface.

“They’re incredibly thorough,” he told news.com.au. “They try to dismiss ‘scammy’ apps as much as possible.”

“In saying that there was a couple of apps that got through two or three years ago that were intended for scamming and somehow they got through the system.

“So I’m not saying it’s bullet proof.”

In 2013 researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology found a way to sneak malicious iOS apps past Apple’s review process. Ultimately the apps could be updated after they’d been approved to carry out harmful actions without triggering security alarms. The researchers shared their successful act of deception in a paper titled: When Benign Apps Become Evil.

In 2015, hackers also managed to sneak malware designed to steal users’ iCloud passwords onto Chinese apps in the App Store.

These instances have no doubt caused Apple to bolster its review process — something which it clearly thinks would catch any app like the one made by Mr Krause.

Dangerous sound? What Americans heard in Cuba ‘sonic’ attacks

IT SOUNDS sort of like a mass of crickets. A high-pitched whine, but from what? It seems to undulate, even writhe.

Listen closely: There are multiple, distinct tones that sound to some like they’re colliding in a nails-on-the-chalkboard effect.

The Associated Press has obtained a recording of what some US Embassy workers heard in Havana in a series of unnerving incidents later deemed to be deliberate attacks which left US diplomats suffering mild brain damage including memory loss and loss of cognitive ability.

The recording, released overnight, is one of the many taken in Cuba of mysterious sounds that led investigators initially to suspect a sonic weapon.

The recordings themselves are not believed to be dangerous to those who listen. Sound experts and physicians say they know of no sound that can cause physical damage when played for short durations at normal levels through standard equipment like a mobile phone or computer.

What device produced the original sound remains unknown. Americans affected in Havana reported the sounds hit them at extreme volumes.

Whether there’s a direct relationship between the sound and the physical damage suffered by the victims is also unclear. The US says that in general the attacks caused hearing, cognitive, visual, balance, sleep and other problems.

The recordings from Havana have been sent for analysis to the US Navy, which has advanced capabilities for analysing acoustic signals, and to the intelligence services. But the recordings have not significantly advanced US knowledge about what is harming diplomats.

The Navy did not respond to requests for comment on the recording. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert wouldn’t comment on the tape’s authenticity.

Cuba has denied involvement or knowledge of the attacks. The US hasn’t blamed anyone and says it still doesn’t know what or who is responsible. But the government has faulted President Raul Castro’s government for failing to protect American personnel, and Nauert said Thursday that Cuba “may have more information than we are aware of right now.”

“We believe that the Cuban government could stop the attacks on our diplomats,” said White House chief of staff John Kelly.

Not all Americans injured in Cuba heard sounds. Of those who did, it’s not clear they heard precisely the same thing.

Yet the AP has reviewed several recordings from Havana taken under different circumstances, and all have variations of the same high-pitched sound. Individuals who have heard the noise in Havana confirm the recordings are generally consistent with what they heard.

“That’s the sound,” one of them said.

A billboard depicting the image of legendary guerrilla leader Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara images in a street of Havana this month. Picture: Yamil Lage

A billboard depicting the image of legendary guerrilla leader Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara images in a street of Havana this month. Picture: Yamil LageSource:AFP

The recordings have been played for workers at the US Embassy to teach them what to listen for, said several individuals with knowledge of the situation in Havana. Some embassy employees have also been given recording devices to turn on if they hear the sounds. The individuals weren’t authorised to discuss the situation publicly and demanded anonymity.

Cuban officials wouldn’t say whether the US has shared the recordings with Cuba’s government.

Another big question remains: Even if you know you’re under attack, what do you do?

Still dumbfounded by what’s causing this, the United States has been at a loss to offer advice.

The embassy’s security officials have told staff if they believe they’re being attacked, they should get up and move to a different location, because the attack is unlikely to be able to follow them, the commenting individuals said.

Some diplomats who experienced an attack or heard sounds reported they were narrowly confined to a room or parts of a room.

At least 22 Americans are “medically confirmed” to be affected, the State Department says, adding that the number could grow. The attacks started last year and are considered “ongoing,” with an incident reported as recently as late August.

Cuba has defended its “exhaustive and priority” response, emphasising its eagerness to assist the US investigation. Cuban officials did not respond to requests for comment for this story but have complained in the past that Washington refuses to share information they say they need to fully investigate, such as medical records, technical data and timely notification of attacks.