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Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Brace yourself for laptops with 128GB of RAM because they’re coming. Today, Lenovo announced its ThinkPad P52, which, along with that massive amount of memory, also features up to 6TB of storage, up to a 4K, 15.6-inch display, an eighth-gen Intel hexacore processor, and an Nvidia Quadro P3200 graphics card.

The ThinkPad also includes two Thunderbolt three ports, HDMI 2.0, a mini DisplayPort, three USB Type-A ports, a headphone jack, and an Ethernet port. The company hasn’t announced pricing yet, but it’s likely going to try to compete with Dell’s new 128GB-compatible workstation laptops.

The Dell Precision 7530 and Precision 7730 also feature 4K displays and compatibility with a Quadro and AMD Radeon WX graphics cards. They start at $1,199. All these laptops are VR-ready, of course. Both seem to be enabled through Samsung’s newest memory modules that allow laptop makers to increase capacity and speed without consuming all the power. The days of laptops topping out at 16GB of RAM might be nearing an end, at least once these come to standard consumer devices.

To say we live in troubled times would be an understatement. It often feels like the politicians and executives who surround us are interested only in who can tell the biggest whopper while lining their own pockets and leaving their constituents and customers to pay the bills.

I recently read that the real reason Jon Stewart stepped down from The Daily Show was that he was incredibly angry all the time, which had an adverse impact not only on his ability to be funny but also on his ability to enjoy life.

Much of that is because those of us in media tend to focus excessively on the bad -- because that does seem to pull more eyeballs -- than on the good. I think that by doing so, we actually may be promoting bad behavior.

I'd like to provide a counterpoint. There are CEOs who actually seem to care about the world, their employees, and their customers more than they care about their stock options, salaries and yachts. I was reminded of that this quarter at customer events at Dell and Cisco.

Both companies' CEOs spent a significant amount of time on subjects that were focused far more on making the world a better place than on selling products and services, or patting themselves on the back. In fact, both spent a lot more time patting their people on the back than on taking personal credit -- a practice I think should be a CEO requirement.

So, I thought it would be interesting to explore how Michael Dell and Chuck Robbins have been working to make the world a better place and speculate on who is ahead in that race. I'll close with my product of the week: the Beam, a new TV sound bar from Sonos, which could be the ideal thing to bring Amazon's Alexa to your living room and fix your crappy TV speakers.

Women in Business

Gender inclusivity is one of the most troubling areas for technology at all levels. Currently one of the big stories out of computer gaming is how male gamers have been having a cow over EA putting women characters into Battlefield. This is the same Neanderthal behavior that created Gamergate, which led to women being openly threatened with rape and doxed.

Thankfully, EA stood its ground and called out the misogyny for what it was. However, one big tech company actually came down on the side of the attackers and has become somewhat famous for abuse. (Actually, the entire industry is unfortunately infamous for abuse.) So, we desperately need CEOs who do more than give the subject lip service. We need them to step up.

Robbins: Cisco is the reverse of most technology companies, which seem to think you can approach the diversity problem from the bottom up rather than the top down. Its approach is far more likely to be successful, because it largely eliminates the glass ceiling below the CEO.

At Cisco's event, I met with more women executives than men, which virtually never happens. The firm aggressively ensures diversity where it is more important: to protect women against bad-acting men at the top.

Dell: Dell has been funding women entrepreneurs aggressively for some time, and it maintains an office of entrepreneur in residence. To my knowledge, that position always has been filled by a woman. When I last spoke to Michael Dell, he indicated that any manager who was caught abusing a female employee in any way would be fired, and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The company also would document the event and, with names removed, circulate the story around the company as a teaching moment, to ensure that managers and employees get the message that such behavior will not be tolerated.

The Environment

We aren't going to be able to move to Mars anytime soon, which means protecting our environment is extremely important. There are a lot of companies that seem to think that pollution is acceptable in exchange for a point or two of margin, and that the resulting problems won't matter, because by the time the air and water get toxic, their executives will be dead.

What kills me about the whole global warming argument is that most of the fixes are things we should do anyway, because the biggest contributors to global warming are also toxic to humans and animals. I think selling out the future of the race for a few points of margins is inhumanly stupid, and that protecting the world we live in obviously should be one of our highest priorities.

Robbins: Cisco aggressively uses renewable energy to an extreme, minimizing its nonrenewable energy footprint. Much like Dell does with women entrepreneurs, Cisco funds unusual small companies that have addressed water shortages in Africa, or developed affordable neonatal monitors for emerging countries, for example. Cisco's IoT efforts are focused largely on making cities and countries more effective at conserving resources and improving living conditions. Cisco is investing and working with companies that are creating biofuels for emerging markets as well. It has taken aggressive steps to reduce homelessness around its headquarters, and Chuck Robbins was outspoken at his company's event about the idea of setting an example of how companies should behave in the world, suggesting a force multiplier tied to Cisco's efforts.

Dell: One of the nastiest problems is the island of plastics floating in the ocean, killing birds and fish, and critically damaging one of our most vital ecosystems. It now exceeds the size of a U.S. state and many countries. Dell is one of the leaders in finding ways to mine these plastics economically and get them out of the ocean, with creative packaging and product design. Dell has invested in and sponsored contests in areas like healthcare and electric vehicles in the past. While its efforts haven't been as diverse as Cisco's, Dell nonetheless has been addressing a critical issue that other firms seem to think isn't a problem for them.

Valuing Employees

Employees are a firm's most valuable asset, and it amazes me how many CEOs seem to use layoffs as a viable way to meet quarterly targets. I've watched CEOs do things like announce a layoff or salary freeze at the same time they increase their own already excessive salaries, or buy corporate jets and limos that generally have been for their exclusive use. It almost seems like they took the myth of Marie Antoinette (the "let them eat cake" royal who got beheaded) and decided they'd like to be just like her. This is particularly annoying for me, because I came into technology with a plan to make employment better -- and it has gotten a lot worse.

Robbins: There is a fascinating story that I can't do justice to in this space. A group of employees banded together, studied most all of Cisco, and wrote a 70-page report on how to make the company better. Not only were they not shot -- much of what they wrote was made into policy. In tech, you could argue that Cisco is now the company most receptive to employees taking risks. (Ford has instituted similar practices, by the way.) Cisco has implemented teams aggressively, and the employees seem particularly thrilled that their management has focused on projects like positively impacting 1B people by 2025. (Cisco is at 200M today.)

Dell: Since going private, Dell has been much more resistant to downsizing, providing a level of job stability that employees in other companies might envy. Because the company was known to be relatively flat in terms of organizational complexity (prior to the EMC merger), executives used to be amazed at how much they could accomplish. It didn't require massive amounts of agreement to reach a decision to do something. Michael Dell often vocally calls out his executives for jobs particularly well done, and historically has been better than most with regard to sharing, rather than taking, credit.

Wrapping Up: Who Wins?

What is interesting about this isn't that there is competition to be good. There isn't. I expect both Cisco and Dell are relatively ignorant of what the other is doing in this regard.

It is that while both have practices in each area, they tend to be different practices -- meaning both firms could improve by embracing the practices of the other. In the end, when companies focus on making the world a better place -- whether by encouraging diversity, improving the environment, or treating their employees better -- we all win.

I was struck with what Chuck Robbins said in his keynote: that getting upset about politics was a waste of time, and that we'd all be better served if we rolled up our sleeves and set an example of how people should behave rather than complaining about how they do behave. Something to noodle on this week.

I've been a Sonos user since the beginning, and almost every room in my house has a Sonos speaker system. I have three old Sonos TV soundbars, and they weren't a cheap date.

In almost every room, I also have one or more Amazon Echo speakers, which I now use redundantly for music -- one of which also is tied into Sonos, but it is a bit of a kludge.

Combining both capabilities into a good sounding soundbar that is also far cheaper than its larger cousin could be a godsend for those of us who are not listening to our expensive sound systems because the Echo is so much more convenient.

The Sonos Beam represents Sonos' third soundbar, and it not only sounds good but also costs about half as much as the firm's other soundbar offerings.

Sonos Beam

At US$399 the Beam isn't a cheap date either, but compared to the other Sonos soundbars it is a bit of a bargain. I was good with the fact that it got rid of my redundant Amazon Echos and more seamlessly worked in a TV room where having two competing systems can be particularly annoying.

Of course, my personal hope was that the company would develop a set of outdoor speakers rather than a third soundbar, because that is where my greatest need exists. In the end, though, because this new Sonos Beam does solve a complexity problem for me, it is my product of the week.

Apple plans to equip iOS 12 with USB Restricted Mode, a feature that requires users to unlock their iPhone with their passcode before USB accessories can connect if the phone last was unlocked more than an hour earlier.

The company included this feature in the developer versions of iOS 11.4.1 and iOS 12.

Apple will release USB Restricted Mode publicly in a future software update, it confirmed to Reuters this week.

USB Restricted Mode should work on iPads the same way as on iPhones because it's a software feature, ElcomSoft CEO Vladimir Katalov told TechNewsWorld.

"For the average user, this will probably be inconsequential," said Randy Abrams, senior security analyst at Webroot.

"For someone such as a government contractor, someone with expensive proprietary information, or any high-value target, it can make a difference," he told TechNewsWorld. "Enterprises are subject to espionage and the theft of proprietary information."

Shortening the Long Arm of the Law

Once USB Restricted Mode is invoked, iOS stops sending data over the USB port, noted researcher Oleg Afonin in a post published earlier this month.

The second beta of iOS 11.4.1, released earlier this week, extends the SOS mode so that it blocks all USB communications, Touch ID and Face ID, until the user unlocks the iPhone with a passcode.

There's a widespread belief that USB Restricted Mode targets law enforcement agencies, which use passcode cracking tools -- such as those from Cellebrite and GrayShift -- to get around iPhone security.

Police departments around the country reportedly have been purchasing those solutions.

The United States Drug Enforcement Agency earlier this year issued a solicitation for GrayShift's GrayKey. The DEA had subscribed to Cellebrite's solution in 2016. USB Restricted Mode will render these technologies useless.

U.S. law enforcement agencies have demanded a backdoor in high-tech products, and the FBI has been trying to crack Apple's security for years.

Their side took a hit last month, when The Washington Post reported that the FBI repeatedlyhad overstated the dangers of encryption, both to the public and to Congress.

"It's tempting to believe that this is part of a tit-for-tat with U.S. law enforcement agencies reportedly buying unlocking technologies in recent months," said Eric Smith, director of connected computing at Strategy Analytics.

"However, I believe Apple has been working on these 'bugs' as a practical matter to secure its devices primarily as a consumer issue, especially since it has positioned itself as the antithesis of Google -- and now Facebook -- when it comes to how personal data is used, monetized and where that data is stored," he told TechNewsWorld.

"I don't think [USB Restricted Mode] is aimed at law enforcement agencies, however severe the impact to those entities may be," Webroot's Abrams said, likening the feature to PGP.

Loss of Perspective?

USB Restricted Mode "supports our right to privacy," observed Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

"For some screwy reason, the U.S. principle for cellphones and technology in general is that if it could help convict a criminal it's OK to put the billions using the technology at risk," he told TechNewsWorld.

"I think U.S. law enforcement has lost perspective here badly," Enderle said, "largely because the senior folks fundamentally don't understand the related risks." 

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Apple's iOS 12 for iPhone and Google's Android P.

Although Apple and Google are located about 9 miles away from one another in the heart of Silicon Valley, their philosophies are worlds apart.

Google's Android OS is about openness (but that can lead to fragmentation) and Apple's iOS is about making a tight system work well (but many services only function within Apple's relatively narrow device ecosystem).

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Now that both have had a chance to unveil the next versions of their operating systems, we can look at their current features side by side. However,  since both Apple and Google like to save some surprises for the actual phone launch, this won't be a final evaluation by any stretch.

We expect the first iPhones with iOS 12 to touch down in September and the first phone with Android P to arrive in September or October.


Here are the biggest iOS 12 features Apple announced at WWDC 2018

Notches and gestures

Advantage: iOS 12

The iPhone X wasn't the first phone to sport either notches or swipe gestures, but was the first to popularize both. (The Essential Phone was the first with a notch, and the Palm Pre in 2009 introduced gestures with WebOS.)

Now, Google has officially embraced notches and navigation gestures in Android P, even though Android phonemakers have already off-roaded with their own experiments. Google's official support is a pretty good indication that use both notches and gestures are coming.

Android P isn't fully gestural, though -- it still relies on the back button -- which makes the experience feel less fully formed than it is on the iPhone X. Since Android phonemakers like to leave their own mark, gestures and notches will have less uniformity on Android than on future iPhones. Case in point: Android P supports a central notch, a corner notch and a notch on both the top and bottom screens -- you know, just in case.


See what it's like to use Android P for yourself

Voice Assistant: Google Assistant versus Siri

Advantage: Android P

Siri's upgrades in iOS 12 focus on making your iPhone predict what you want before you seek it out. A new app called Shortcuts lets you set up profiles that run through a step-by-step routine when you say certain keywords. For example, "Headed home" can text your spouse, play your preferred radio station and start navigation to the day's least trafficked route.

While Siri Shortcuts scootches Apple's devices closer to Google Assistant, which supports routines, too (so does Amazon Alexa), Apple still hasn't done anything to close the gaping chasm between Google Assistant and Siri.

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Siri was already dragging behind. The quality of information and the way it's presented pales in comparison to Google Assistant. But after Google's I/O developer conference in May, Siri is barely limping along. Google has developed six new voices for Google Assistant. It can handle a string of questions or a grouped command, and teach your kid manners.

Google is also working on ways to make Assistant sound human enough to maintain a short conversation with other humans, while making a reservation or appointment on your behalf.

In 2011, Apple rocked the mobile industry when it backed Siri into the iPhone 4S. This race was Apple's to win. As of late, it's doing anything but.

Messaging: iMessage

Advantage: iOS 12

Apple's iMessage app keeps getting better and better. In one corner we have Animojis. Memoji (Animojis you make of your own face). Peer-to-peer payments. FaceTime video calls you launch from the app, Wi-Fi texting with other iMessage users, cross-platform SMS texting between the phone, iPad and Mac.

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And in the other corner, there's…. what, exactly? Google Hangouts is extremely limited and underdeveloped. The Android Messages texting app is phone-only and doesn't have an app or a website for your computer (e.g. it's not cross-platform). Google Duo does good video calls for your phone, but won't open on your desktop or Google's other messaging apps, like Hangouts, or Messages.

Playing in the same AR app with friends

Advantage: Android P

iOS 12 is getting a really cool multiplayer feature that will let you and your other friends with iOS 12 interact in the same AR environment at the same time. Imagine building something out of Lego together, or playing virtual ping pong.

Google goes further, giving Android andiPhone users the ability to play together no matter which OS you have. Cloud Anchors, as it's called, isn't tied to Android P, but Android P phones will also benefit from it.

Face unlock: Secure versus convenient

Advantage: iOS 12

Android's version of Face Unlock is noted to be convenient, but not as secure as a fingerprint. Secure face unlock through Face ID is Apple's world, and its iPhone X was the first phone to use a 3D front-facing camera.

The iris-unlocking that exists in Samsung's phones like the Galaxy S9, is considered secure, but also exclusive to Samsung phones (iris-scanning on Microsoft's Lumia 950 predates Samsung).

Maps: Apple Maps versus Google Maps

Advantage: Android P

Apple The iPhone Maps app is functional for turn-by-turn directions; but Google Maps goes far deeper, with layer after layer of information you can use if you'd like. Google is also thinking about ways to take maps into the future. Last month it demoed how a virtual guide could one day lead you around an unknown city.

Managing your smartphone 'addiction'

Advantage: Too soon to tell

iOS 12 and Android P both added features to help you get sleepy at bedtime by deemphaiszing the apps that might otherwise grab your attention. Both platforms also came up with features that let you manage how much time you spend on your device.

Three new features in iOS 12.

iOS 12 gets:

Do not disturb will turn off most notifications at bedtime.

Screentime gives you weekly reports of your usage.

You can set usage limits for yourself and your kids, for any app.

Android P gets:

Wind Down mode will fade your phone to grayscale at bedtime.

A dashboard shows you how often you use apps.

You can set app limits, and apps gray out to remind you of your goals.

Turn your phone face-down to trigger do-not-disturb mode.

So, who's winning?

iOS 12 and Android P are unfinished, so I really can't say which is actually better -- or even which one I prefer -- until they're on phones in their final forms. The software can change, and Apple and Google could surprise us with even more features than they mentioned.

But from where Android P and iOS 12 are now, it certainly seems like Google's got the momentum behind some of the most cutting-edge software we'll use: voice assistant and multiplayer AR that works with any phone.

I'm disappointed that Apple so far doesn't appear to fix Siri's biggest flaws, and that you can only the most interesting new feature, Memoji avatars, is currently limited to the iPhone X. But I am excited that Apple is embracing multiplayer AR in its own way -- maybe 2019 will be the year that AR sticks. Apple also continues to lead when it comes to gesture navigation and secure face unlocking.

Again, Apple and Google are almost certainly holding back some of their juiciest features, and the competition between these two giant corps is both raising each other's game. Let's hope these two mobile titans give us even more to talk about when the first Android P and iOS 12 phones arrive.

In an amazing partnership with GoPro, Mattel has released a Hot Wheels toy car that comes with a GoPro Hero Session mount so you can film stunts from the vehicle's point of view.

The Hot Wheels Zoom In is essentially a car base in which a GoPro Hero camera can sit on top. There is a latch in the base that keeps the camera firmly in place.

You can then send it careening around some the the trademark orange track and loops, recording the action as you go. Depending on which GoPro Hero you use, that can even give you slow motion footage of the action.

HOT WHEELSGoPro toy car lets you film your Hot Wheels stunts image 2

According to the front and rear of the car's packaging, its mount is compatible with the GoPro Hero Session and Hero5 Session cameras. We're unsure if it will fit other GoPro devices.

We're not sure of the release date for the Hot Wheels Zoom In car at present - it doesn't seem to be on sale yet on or, for example. However, it is said that it will cost just $1.09 (80p) when available, which is very reasonable.

You do, of course, need to supply your own GoPro (at around £120 or more).


Days Gone is out on February 22

It will be priced at Rs. 3,999 in India

It will be 30fps on PS4 and PS4 Pro

PS4-exclusive Days Gone has a release date now. As a part of the PlayStation Countdown to E3 2018 event, Sony has revealed you can play the open-world zombie adventure on February 22, 2019 during a live stream. Like most Sony first-party titles this generation, Days Gone price is Rs. 3,999 in India ($60 in the US). Days Gone frame rate is 30fps on PS4 and PS4 Pro with PS4 Pro enhancements including 4K.

According to Days Gone Creative Director John Garvin, Days Gone will take 30 hours to complete. That's just as much as God of War and Final Fantasy XV. In fact he claimed it could even take longer than that depending on your choices which could lead to different outcomes and experiences.

"The golden path is going to take you about 30 hours, but it's going to take you a lot longer than that because things are going to happen to you along the way depending on how careful you are and how much you pay attention," Garvin said in an interview with Game Informer.

Furthermore, Days Gone lets you build encampments and improve your bike as you progress through the game. Plus, there are dynamic weather changes unlike games such as The Last of Us that shift through predetermined seasons.

Days Gone was first announced at E3 2016, with zombie games not being as popular as they used to be, will Days Gone be able to find its audience?

The next announcement for the PlayStation Countdown to E3 2018 should be a new PS4 game. Perhaps a new AAA title from Sony Japan? Or maybe a new indie title? What do you think Sony will reveal? Let us know in the comments.

After much negotiation with the Trump Administration, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross confirmed this morning that ZTE,  the Chinese telecommunications giant, has agreed to a $1 billion fine. That penalty was assessed following an investigation showing that ZTE had violated U.S. sanctions by selling telecom technology to Iran and North Korea. Ross made the comments on CNBC’s morning show Squawk Box.

This was an incredible scare for ZTE. As part of the original settlement with the U.S. government last year, ZTE had agreed to accept a $1.19 billion fine and made personnel changes to satisfy U.S. regulators. The Trump administration then took that penalty even further, banning U.S. companies from selling components to ZTE for seven years, components critical to ZTE’s entire product line. That decision was expected to kill the company, which employs roughly 75,000 workers and had been worth about $20 billion before the ban.

While the ban seemed to be the end of the company, President Donald Trump seemed to offer it something of a reprieve on May 13, when he tweeted that he would instruct the Commerce Department to try to work out a deal that would offer “a way to get back into business, fast.” While the president is known for mercurial decision-making, the turnabout deeply surprised DC insiders, with many national security officials vociferously opposed to any deal to resuscitate the company.

In addition to a $1 billion fine, the company has made several personnel changes, including rotating out the company’s Communist Party leader. The company is also believed to have agreed to a $400 million escrow that would be used to pay for future penalties. An American monitoring team will join the company to ensure compliance with the law as well.

Discussions about the future of ZTE have not been in a vacuum. The United States and China have been hurling barbs on trade back and forth over the past few months, over tariffs, market access, and the widening trade deficit between the two countries. The U.S. position has been that the fine against ZTE is a law enforcement action, which should not be included in the continuing discussions around trade.

However, some sources who corresponded with me say that the Chinese government has purposely held up the acquisition of NXP Semiconductors by Qualcomm while it negotiates a more positive outcome for ZTE. China remains the only country that has not approved the deal worldwide, and it has repeatedly delayed the deal in recent weeks. That provided a valuable chip to negotiate trade deals with the U.S. more effectively.

In addition, President Trump is expected to head to Singapore next week to open talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. China’s influence over North Korea is likely to prove pivotal for the success or failure of those talks, which gave Beijing even more leverage in its discussions with the Trump administration on ZTE.

Whatever its hand, the Trump administration now faces a deeply hostile reaction from Congress, where there is bipartisan opposition to any deal that rehabilitates ZTE. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said publiclythat “Both parties in Congress should come together to stop this deal in its tracks.” Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has floated a proposal for Congress to block this sort of deal. Now that the deal is final, we will see if these comments are just hot air, or whether there really is a “supermajority” ready in Congress to overrule the president’s decision here.

This story has been updated with analysis and further information. It’s developing, and we will add more information as we have it

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

The new Intel Core i7-8086K processor features Intel’s first 6-core, 12-threads and integrated graphics in an 1151-pin package supporting a 64-bit instruction set.

Chip maker Intel has announced the limited edition eighth generation Core i7-8086Kprocessor to mark the 40th anniversary of the first 8086 processor that was launched on June 8, 1978. The original 8086 was the first 16-bit processor and the first processor capable of modern personal computing. It was also the first processor in the x86 series. The processor was unveiled at Computex2018 and Intel claims to deliver superior desktop gaming performance with the new Core i7-8086K processor.

The new Intel Core i7-8086K processor features Intel’s first 6-core, 12-threads and integrated graphics in an 1151-pin package supporting a 64-bit instruction set. “It’s the first Intel processor to deliver up to 5.0 GHz single-core turbo frequency,” said the company. The Intel Core i7-8086K processor also allows overclocking.

As it is a limited edition processor, Intel will be giving away only 8,086 units of the new 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8086K processor. Explaining the process to get the new processor, Intel said, “For 24 hours starting at 5PM PDT June 7 (or 5:30AM IST June 8), fans can visit to enter. After the 24-hour entry window, 8,086 lucky entrants will be randomly chosen.”Also, the new Core i7-8086K marks Intel’s 50th anniversary in the technology industry.

With so many new consoles available in 2018, it’s hard to pick which ones are right for you and your family. Some of the heavier contenders in the gaming industry bring the highest definition of 4K resolutions possible, offering beautiful displays that capture every detail of the action. Other consoles are more simple and put an emphasis on first-party title games and functionality. Depending on whom you’re buying it for, there’s a current gaming console on the market for just about anyone.

Want to spoil yourself with one the most powerful consoles to date? Maybe you just want to get back into gaming but don’t want to spend a lot of dough? Or, you could be looking for a gaming system that you can take with you on the go. Below you’ll find the best current gaming consoles that consider all these possibilities and make it easy to decide.

Best for Mobility: Nintendo Switch

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Upon its first reveal, the Nintendo Switch marketed itself as a mobile gaming system that not only could be played at home on your television, but also carried around and playable wherever you go. Nintendo’s innovative console makes playing on the go easy and comes with a disassembling controller with split screen options, so you can play with friends.

The Nintendo Switch has 50 third-party publishers in partnership for developing its future games. Hits like Mario Kart 8, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey have given it a strong lineup. The Switch makes for a great system for parties with its mobile snap-off joy-con controllers – once out of its docking station, it acts like a tablet with its own dedicated screen that can be shared with others through split-screen multiplayer games.

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Best for Graphics: Xbox One X

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The Xbox One X capitalizes on its former Xbox One model with some of the most powerful tech you’ll find in a gaming system today. If you’re looking to get the highest sense of realism from a current gaming console with the most powerful displays, the Xbox One X takes the cake.

The Xbox One X contains six trillion floating point operations per second with 326GB/s and 12GB GDDR5 RAM, giving it the most graphical horsepower in rendering native 4K HD graphics at 60 frames per second. This makes games like Call Of Duty: WWII have a heightened sense of realism, detailing everything from flowing hair, rays of the sun and clothing fiber. All Xbox One games are compatible and run better on the Xbox One X in Full HD display as well. Microsoft even plans on bringing Original Xbox and Xbox 360 backward compatibility to the system too.

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Most Popular: PlayStation 4 Pro 1TB Console

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With close to 64 million sold worldwide, it’s hard to doubt the 62 percent market capture and user base of Sony’s PlayStation 4. It’s latest model, the PlayStation 4 Pro 1TB Console brings an updated version of the system with even more robust power.

The PlayStation 4 Pro version antes up the frame rates for its PS4 games – many to 60 fps – bringing 4K high definition gaming and video streaming, as well as twice the GPU power of a standard PS4. The PlayStation 4’s huge library includes 1,648 games, all of which can be played in HD with its Pro version. The system is also good for its multimedia functionality, playing Blu-ray discs, as well as streaming TV, music and more with dedicated apps and downloadable games on its PlayStation Store. Due to its popularity, there’s always someone willing to play online with you, so you’ll never miss out on the fun.

Best Value: Xbox 360 E Console

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At just under $200, there’s no better current gaming console you can get than the Xbox 360. Though it has spanned multiple models, the Xbox 360 E console comes with all the essentials: a wireless controller, built-in Wi-Fi, and one month of Xbox LIVE Gold (its premium online service for shopping and online multiplayer).

Though it holds only 4GB, the Xbox 360 E console is expandable with an added on media hard drive up to 500 GB. The Xbox 360 E console is a nice staple in the current gaming console market, with over 1,200 Xbox 360 games in its library and counting, on-demand HD movies, TV streaming, as well as a built-in DVD player so gamers will never get bored. Though the Xbox 360 is nearing its lifespan on the current market, its latest model is a well-established updated version of its former self, bettering it in every way from reliability to price, and assuring a long life to come as a complete console.

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Best for Games and Backward Compatibility: PlayStation 3

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You won’t find backward compatibility with its newer slimmer version, but the PlayStation 3’s original launch models are backward compatible with your old PlayStation games. Players can play their PlayStation One and PlayStation 2 games on this PlayStation 3 (and there'll be upscale imaging on the high-definition TV screen without worry).

Doubling as a Blu-ray/DVD player with built-in Wi-Fi, the PlayStation 3 currently has a library of over 1,400 games. This is not including its playable PlayStation 2 library of 3,874 games and PlayStation One with 2,513. The versatile and current gaming console still packs a punch, delivering a powerful home entertainment system not only good for gaming, but video chat, Internet access, digital photo viewing and digital audio and video.

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Best for Families: Nintendo Wii U

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Nintendo’s been known as the flagship console that is the most kid-friendly, and the Wii U is no exception. Most of its gaming library contains an E rating for Everyone, and the games are often some of the most critically acclaimed for gameplay, art direction and just pure fun.

The Nintendo Wii U uses a gamepad controller with a screen in it, so if parents want to use the living room TV, kids can still play on their Wii U through its dedicated gaming screen without interference. It includes some of the most fun local multiplayer games, too, such as Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario 3D world – both capable of up to four players. The Wii U is also compatible with Wii remote controllers, so you don’t have to buy even more hardware to get in on the game with your friends and family.

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Best Handheld: Nintendo 3DS XL

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The King of Handheld gaming systems first laid its groundwork with the Gameboy in 1989, but now bursts on the scenes of 2017 with the Nintendo 3DS XL. The dual-screen portable handheld system boasts real 3D capabilities, a library of over 1,224 games, and is backward compatible with Nintendo DS games.

Nintendo has come along way from its eight-bit handheld Gameboy system to its now robust and powerful face-tracking, 3D-capable, Wi-Fi-enabled Nintendo 3DS XL system. It’s can play local and online multiplayer, so you and other 3DS owners around the world or in the neighborhood can play games such as Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart 7. The Nintendo 3DS XL measures 1.5 x 7.1 x 5.1 inches, weighs 1.1 pounds and comes in a variety of unique colors.

Best Re-Release: Super NES Classic

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When news dropped that Nintendo would be re-releasing updated classics of its former consoles like the NES and Super NES Classic, gamers rejoiced. The Super NES Classic resurrects the glorious gaming era of the 1990s with 21 different games, including Starfox 2.

With the original look and feel of the 16-bit home console (only smaller) the Super NES Classic acts as a sort of timepiece for when gaming was reaching its peaks. Some of the best two-player games of its era are included and ready to play, such as Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II Turbo. Defining games such as Megaman X, Earthbound, Kirby Super Star and Super Mario RPG return, too. Any gamer wanting to relive their youth or introduce new gamers to a simpler time when the Internet was first starting should get the Super NES classic. Included are two wired Super NES Classic controllers for multiplayer action

A recent incident reminded me of the importance of backing up one's phone regularly. Soon after carrying my recycling out to the curbside, I realized I had misplaced my 6-month-old iPhone. Cue brief panic, followed by deep concern that I'd somehow tossed my device into that transparent bag I'd left outside for the world to see.

That led me to yelling "Hey, Siri" a few times around my apartment until the familiar chime sounded, revealing my trusty phone was hiding on a stepladder underneath a coat. Phew.

I have no idea how or why I managed to leave my phone there, but had I not found it, the situation could have been much worse: It had been months since I'd backed up my data. I was lucky to escape what could have been a potential disaster caused by my absent-minded tendencies.

Save Main Drive Space

I bought my current laptop a little over a year ago and actually had some trouble managing backups at first. My partner and I use the same computer for backing up our phones, but with ever-increasing device storage capacities and solid-state hard drives still somewhat expensive, despite featuring in more and more systems, space is at a premium.

Apple demands a lot of storage for its backups, especially since it often stores multiple versions. A 256-GB hard drive to run one's system and keep data safe is just not enough anymore.

The thing is, Apple does not make it easy to sync backups to an external drive automatically. Typically, iPhone owners will plug in their devices, and Apple will create a directory on the main hard drive and stuff the backup there. That's easy, and it's probably enough for most people. Forcing iTunes to store the backup elsewhere requires a redirect trick.

Using Windows 10

Here's how I solved the problem on my Windows 10 machine. First, since I had the capacity on my current drive (but only just), I created an iPhone backup using the regular iTunes sync method to the default location, just in case any mishaps should occur. I went to the folder Apple uses to store backups, typically this one:

C:\Users\[Username]\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup

You should replace [Username] with your own actual username, naturally.

You'll want to copy that folder to your desired new backup location, and then either delete the original Backup folder or rename it as "BackupOld." Then hold the shift key and click the right mouse button to open a command window. There, enter the following:

mklink /J "%APPDATA%\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup" "[External Drive]:\iTunes Backup"

Of course, you'll replace [External Drive] with your actual drive letter.

You can add subfolders here too if you like to keep your storage as organized as possible. So, something like this would work just fine:

E:\MyBackups\iTunes Backup

Then you can close the command prompt window, and try an iPhone backup to see if it works.

Using macOS

The steps are similar for Mac systems. You should find the standard backup folder here:

~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/

Copy, then remove or rename the Backup folder. Then open a terminal and type this:

ln -s /Volumes/[External Drive]/MobileSync/Backup ~/Library/Application\ Support/MobileSync/Backup

Close the terminal and then try an iPhone backup to see if it works.

Better Safe Than Sorry

Even if you have a main hard drive large enough to handle your backups without any concern, shuttling your data to an external drive has its advantages. It can act as an off-system failsafe in case your computer's drive collapses beyond repair. It also frees up the main drive, which hopefully will keep your computer working snappily for a little longer.

In either case, please remember to back up your phone regularly. And maybe don't put yourself in a situation where you wonder for 15 minutes if you tossed it out with the recycling

Apple on Monday gave the world a peek at macOS Mojave, the next version of its operating system for Macintosh laptop and desktop computers. The preview took place at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference held at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California.

Mojave has a mix of new features that add to its good looks and utility as a productivity tool.

Among its highlights is a new Dark Mode -- a darkened color scheme designed to make content pop on the desktop while controls blend into the background.

"Dark Mode will be really welcomed by programmers, as it enhances their code views," Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, told TechNewsWorld.

Dark Mode transforms the Mac desktop with a dramatic darkened color scheme where content pops and controls recede into the background.

Better Desktop and Finder

Apple also tweaked the desktop and Finder in Mojave.

To address desktop clutter, Mojave has Stacks, a feature that automatically aggregates desktop files into groups. The stacks can be defined in a number of ways, including with dates and tags.

Finder sports a Gallery View that lets users skim through files visually.

The Preview Pane in the Finder displays all the metadata for a file, making file management easier.

Quick Actions and Quick Look also have been added to Finder.

Quick Actions lets users perform tasks like adding passwords to PDF files and running Automator Actions on files from within the Finder.

Quick Look provides full-size previews of document and media files that can be marked up and edited without leaving the Finder.

iOS Apps Come to Mac

Apple for years has denied that it had long-term plans to merge macOS with iOS. At this year's WWDC, though, the company acknowledged that it was working on making it easier to get iOS apps to operate on macOS.

It's doing that by taking some key frameworks from iOS and bringing them to Mojave. The frameworks have been adapted to Mac behaviors, such as use of a trackpad or mouse, window resizing, and integration of copy/paste and drag/drop.

"They're not running iOS apps natively. They're going to let developers port iOS apps," Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at Tirias Research, told TechNewsWorld.

Initially, only a few Apple iOS apps will land on the Mac -- news, stocks, voice memos and home -- but in 2019, Apple will provide developers with the wherewithal to port their iOS offerings to macOS.

"We see a huge opportunity for the Mac to tap into the world's most vital app ecosystem. It's called 'iOS,'" said Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president for software engineering, during the keynote presentation at WWDC.

"There are millions of iOS apps out there, and we think some of them would be absolutely great on the Mac," he added, "and Mac users would love to have them there."

Benefits From iOS Sharing

While the Mac once outshone all Apple's products, its cachet has declined over the years.

"Desktop and laptop computers haven't played a significant role in the company's success or plans for years," maintained Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT .

"Once-stellar products like the MacBook Air have become increasingly moribund," he told TechNewsWorld, "but those products are also critically important to many of Apple's more devoted customers, so refocusing or appearing to refocus on hardware innovation is something the company needs to do."

Bringing iOS apps on board may be a way to bring that old brilliance back to the Mac.

There are far more apps in the iOS app store than in the Mac app store, so the macOS platform could benefit greatly from a flood of iOS-adapted apps.

"It would be a shot in the arm for the Mac," Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, told TechNewsWorld.

What's so important about bringing iOS apps to the Mac is the unification of the user interfaces of both operating systems, so that switching between the two will be a seamless experience, Creative Strategies' Bajarin explained.

"Both OS user interfaces have important attributes that complement each other, and unifying the UI will enhance the overall Apple experience and make continuity even better as apps on both platforms work the same and stay updated on either OS platform instantly."

Security and Privacy

Apple also has introduced a number of security and privacy features into Mojave and Safari, its Web browser.

"We believe your private data should remain private -- not because you've done something wrong or you have something to hide, but because there can be a lot of sensitive data on your devices, and we think you should be in control of who sees it," Federighi said.

That philosophy is incorporated into Mojave. By default, it protects app access to the camera and microphone in a Mac, as well as sensitive parts of the file system, such as the mail database, message history and backups.

Apple also has broadened Safari features that block marketers trying to follow surfers on the Web. Site features such as "like," "share" and "comment," which track visitors whether they interact with the features or not, automatically are blocked in Safari.

Foiling Fingerprinters

Apple also has targeted a practice known as "fingerprinting." Some marketers track Web travelers by gathering information about their computer when they visit a site. That information is used to "fingerprint" the computer and follow its owner around the Internet.

Mojave attempts to foil fingerprinting by limiting the amount of information it gives a website.

"We're presenting Web pages with only a simplified system configuration," Federighi explained. "As a result, your Mac will look more like everyone else's Mac, and it will be dramatically more difficult for data companies to uniquely identify your device and track you."

While the Mojave has some security- and privacy-related features, they are not big improvements, said Su Mon Kywe, a research scientist atAppthority.

"They are really things that Apple should be doing already," he told TechNewsWorld.

"Browser-based tools for anti-tracking, anti-fingerprinting and password management have been around for a while, and Apple is just integrating these technologies into the OS," Kywe pointed out, "and permission requests for microphone and camera use should have been implemented a long time ago."

Group FaceTime

Group FaceTime makes it possible to chat with multiple people at once and participant views are resized based on how active they are.

Other new features in Mojave:

Group FaceTime, which allows up to 32 people to video conference together;

On-screen controls for screenshots and new video-recording capture capabilities; and

Continuity Camera, which allows a user to take a photo or scan a document with an iPhone and or iPad and have it instantly appear in a document on a Mac.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

The next version of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS 12, will include a new feature that allows you to customize the way Siri works with applications on phones and tablets. The announcement was one of the highlights at the kickoff of Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California, on Monday.
Called "Siri Shortcuts," the feature lets a user define a phrase that will trigger a set of actions by the apps on a device. For example, you could say, "Game Time" to get a team schedule from TeamSnap, or "Groceries" to fulfill a standing grocery order from a grocery app.
Apple also announced a Shortcuts app to perform multiple tasks at the mention of a phrase. You could say, "Surf's Up," for instance, and your phone automatically would display the latest surf report and weather, give you an ETA from your current location to the beach, and remind you to put on sunscreen when you get there.
"Apple has taken a lot of criticism for not making Siri more open," explained Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.
"This essentially opens it up to any app, but the tradeoff is you may have to create your own custom phrases for some of these things to work," he told TechNewsWorld. "

Long-Term Potential

"Siri Shortcuts has a lot of potential," observed Bob O'Donnell, chief analyst at Technalysis Research.
"It's going to take people a while to figure it out, but in terms of the impact of what was announced today, that will have some of the most long-term potential impact," he told TechNewsWorld.
"It's something people have been looking for so it's a little overdue," added O'Donnell.
The new feature could make Siri more competitive.
"It allows Siri to more strongly compete with Alexa and Google Assistant," Reticle's Rubin said.

Tools Against Addiction

Another conference highlight was the introduction of Apple's "Time Well Spent" program, which gives users tools to help manage their phone usage.
"Some apps demand more of our attention than we might even realize," said Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president for software engineering.
"They beg us to use our phone when we really should be occupying ourselves with something else," he noted, and for "some of us, it's become such a habit that we might not even recognize just how distracted we've become."

Reining In Notifications

Apple also announced "Do Not Disturb During Bedtime," a tool that chokes off most traffic to the phone during sleeping hours.
A problem some phone users may find with "Do Not Distrub" is forgetting to deactivate it. Apple addresses that by allowing an end-time to the feature.
More controls for notifications will be part of the next version of iOS' repertoire. The destination of notifications from an app can be controlled from a phone's lock screen. Siri also will make recommendations about notifications coming from low-usage apps.
Apple announced a group notification feature: Notifications within a group can be viewed with a tap and trashed with a swipe.
Another management feature is "Screen Time." It provides you with detailed weekly reports on how you're using your phone or tablet.
You also can set limits on how long you use an app during the day.
Parents can view activity reports on kids' phones, and they can control their children's phone usage through the app.

A Way, but Is There a Will?

"I think it's a worthwhile effort that at least partly addresses how unnecessarily intrusive smartphones have become," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
"However, I'll wait to see when or whether Apple ever releases any data on how many customers are actually using Time Well Spent features before making any further judgements," he told TechNewsWorld.
Apple's efforts are praiseworthy, said Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at Tirias Research, but with a caveat.
"The ability to monitor the amount of time you spend on things like social media is definitely a step in the right direction for people suffering from addiction to their phones," he told TechNewsWorld, "but you still have to proactively monitor those things. The question is, are people willing to do it?"

Better Performance for Older Devices

Apple also announced a new file format, USDZ, for Augmented Reality IT and ARKit 2.
"Apple is leading Google in AR and adding more to this platform should further cement the lead," said Gerrit Schneemann, a senior analyst with IHS MarkitTechnology.
Apple further revealed that iOS 12 will improve the performance of older devices. Apps will launch as much as 40 percent faster, the keyboard will appear 50 percent faster, and slide-to-take-a-photo will be 70 percent faster.
"It's interesting that Apple talked about iOS 12 support for devices going back to the iPhone 6s," Schneemann told TechNewsWorld. "That's a key difference between Google's software rollout and support track record."
Paying more attention to legacy hardware reflects the reality of the current smartphone market, added Technalysis' O'Donnell.
"People are holding on to their phones longer," he said, "so this is a feel-good move for Apple to let people know they don't have to have the latest and greatest phones to get the latest and greatest software features."