Scientists discover a building block of cells on Saturn’s moon Titan
Our quest for extraterrestrial life may be closer to bearing fruit. As per recent findings published in Science Advances Magazine, scientists now have a “definitive detection” of vinyl cyanide, described as “the best candidate molecule for the formation of cell membranes/vesicle structures.” And given that cells are the building blocks of life, it’s not too far of an extrapolation to say that the discovery of vinyl cyanide on Titan, one of Saturn‘s moons, could be the discovery of a potential ingredient for, well, life itself.
While scientists have long suspected that Titan might host vinyl cyanide, it was previously naught more than an inference. But now, NASA’s Cassini probe has achieved the “first spectroscopic detection” of the compound. Astronomers used data from the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, or ALMA, to draw their conclusions.
Titan has been a prime candidate for extraterrestrial life for quite some time. After all, the surface of the moon shows lakes, and Titan also features an atmosphere comprised mainly of nitrogen and compounds similar to those found on Earth that are crucial to life. The discovery of vinyl cyanide is yet another reason to continue researching Titan for its life-sustaining possibilities.
“This is a far cry from saying [life] definitely happens on Titan and these cells are involved in some kind of primitive life,” co-author Martin Cordiner, an astrochemist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told The Verge. “But it gives us a starting point in that discussion. If there was going to be life in Titan’s oceans, then it’s plausible vinyl cyanide could be a component of that.”
There is still no absolute proof that cell membranes could ultimately exist on Titan. In order to make that determination, we’d need to send another probe to Saturn’s moon. “There’s been some discussion of maybe sending a boat or something like that to Titan to observe what’s really going on in the lakes,” co-author Maureen Palmer, an astrochemist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told The Verge. “That’d be really cool to see.”
At the end of the day, concluded Cordiner, “As we explore more in the outer Solar System, these moons of the giant planets reveal to us that they are much more fascinating environments than we could have ever imagined. Complex chemistry is not unique to Earth.”
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July 29, 2017 at 04:41PM
Canada's Tech Sector is Trying to Cash in on Donald Trump's Hardline Immigration Policies
Hey, it looks like actions have consequences!
The Canadian tech sector is trying to cash in on President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies with a pilot program to slash waiting times for work permits and temporary resident visas from a year to just two weeks, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Canadian program just so happens to come as Trump is investigating how to reshape the nation’s immigration laws, including the H-1B visa program, which tech companies have used to import thousands of skilled foreign workers. When Trump signed an executive order on the review, he trotted out his usual anti-immigrant dog whistles, saying he would end “the theft of American prosperity” by foreigners willing to accept lower pay.
In March, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service suspended all expedited H-1B visa processing for up to six months. It claimed the suspension was part of a routine review to clear a longstanding backlog in applications, though the length of the declared period was unusual.
It’s worth noting here that, Trump’s motivations for changing the policy and the way he plans to go about it notwithstanding, the H-1B program has long been subject to criticism it does enable tech companies to lay off US workers and replace them with cheaper temps. Cutting the program is vigorously opposed by giants like Google and Facebook, and as ThinkProgress notes, rolling it back would have ramifications far beyond the tech sector.
Though it could take years for any huge changes to the program to actually roll out even if Trump resists pressure from tech companies to back down, fear of such changes has already made Canada’s streamlined process look pretty good to both employees and talent.
Hubba Inc. chief executive Ben Zifkin told the WSJ he tells potential employees, “You don’t have to stay in Canada forever, just the current presidential term.”
“A year ago, the only people I could talk to were ex-Canadians who missed home, but the talent was lacking,” he added. “This time it’s much better.”
“You’re running a startup. You’re involved in one of the most uncertain businesses of all time,” Extreme Ventures CEO Ray Sharma told the paper. “Now you’re introducing your residency as part of that uncertainty? That’s crazy.”
Whatever changes Trump makes to the program, there will likely still be tons of demand to get in to the US. According to SFGate, in fiscal year 2017 the US received 236,000 petitions for just 85,000 available slots at for-profit corporations.
via Gizmodo http://gizmodo.com
July 29, 2017 at 04:06PM
The biggest movie flops ever will make you wonder what studios were thinking
It seems like every six months, a new superhero is unleashed onto the big screen at your local multiplex. Superhero flicks are expensive to say the least, but studios are comfortable with the investment because comic book adaptations are typically surefire bets (sorry, Green Lantern). But every now and again, a studio pours a ridiculous sum of money into a film it thinks will resonate with the audience, only to see it flounder and go on to become one of the biggest movie flops of all time.
Between the five biggest box office bombs, studios have lost nearly a billion dollars. Admittedly, that’s a rough estimate — after all, studios typically don’t share too much budget info. If you carefully sift through the financial records available online, however, it’s easy to figure out which films tanked at the box office. There are a lot of common threads between these films, including production delays, re-shoots, and on-set arguments. Need some examples? Check out the five films featured below.
Note: All numbers referencing a film’s budget and financial loss have accounted for inflation. These numbers would be different if we were to account for a film’s marketing cost, though studios typically don’t release that kind of information.
The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)
At first, Warner Bros. had a lot of faith behind a space-centric comedy starring Eddie Murphy — the studio even gave the film a $135 million budget. That faith dissipated quickly though, after dailies and a rough cut of the film was shown to an unimpressed studio. Warner Bros. shelved the film for two years, and by the time Pluto Nash came out, the special effects already looked dated. The reviews were terrible, and in the end, the studio took a $126 million loss on the flick.
The Lone Ranger (2013)
When Johnny Depp dresses up in a costume and Disney’s behind it, that typically means your film’s destined for box office success. Destiny, however, has a funny way of shaking things up. The studio eventually got cold feet with The Lone Ranger and halted production on the film after its budget inflated to more than $250 million dollars. These numbers are more notable when you take into consideration that even a big-budget superhero film like The Avengers didn’t cost that much. Eventually, the studio was talked out of exiting the project, resulting in what many consider to be an absolute trainwreck.
Too bad Disney didn’t listen to its instincts. A few months after the film’s release, the studio threw in the towel and announced an expected $160-$190 million loss.
Cutthroat Island (1995)
Cutthroat Island had elaborate sword fights, gorgeous sets, and exhilarating stunts, but what’s even more thrilling about the film is the behind-the-scenes drama.
After Michael Douglas dropped out as the male lead, director Renny Harlin spent months trying to find anyone he could to replace him, including Tom Cruise, Charlie Sheen, and Keanu Reeves. After Harlin settled for Matthew Modine as the new lead, he went back to supervising the construction of the sets, but he hated what was built, so he spent millions more tearing down those sets.
Following a few other on-set disasters, the film’s budget quickly grew to a cool $157 million. MGM distributed Cutthroat, but the studio was in the middle of a buyout, so it couldn’t put money into marketing the film. The film was eventually pulled from theaters after a mere two weeks, leading to $141 million in lost revenue.
The 13th Warrior (1999)
If you’re seeing a film adapted from a Michael Crichton novel under the direction of the guy who helmed Die Hard, you’d probably expect an intelligent, action-filled flick. That’s what distributor Touchstone Pictures was expecting, at least. And as we know, you don’t always get what you sign up for.
After filming wrapped, the studio wasn’t too happy with director John McTiernan’s cut of the film, so it promoted Crichton and allowed him to take a few creative liberties with the project. After massive edits, a new ending, a new title (it was originally called, Eaters of the Dead), and a couple more months worth of filming under Crichton’s lead, The 13th Warrior was finally released with a budget to the tune of $234 million. By the time it landed in theaters, everyone involved with the film had already moved on, and there was little to no promotion for it. Ultimately, the studio suffered $145 million in losses.
John Carter (2012)
When the most intriguing thing about your movie is its production budget, you know you’re probably in trouble. That’s what happened with John Carter, a film that cost Disney $350 million, with hopes to become the studio’s next tentpole franchise.
What’s fascinating about John Carter’s misfire is that there are no stories of heated arguments between directors and producers, or delay in filming due to a lack of faith in the project. Everyone involved with John Carter expected it to be a huge success until a few financial analysts and press screeners started to suggest otherwise. By the time the film was released, Disney saw the writing on the wall and braced for impact. When all was said and done, the studio suffered $200 million in losses.
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July 29, 2017 at 04:05PM
A $10 Hardware Hack Turns Up Zero Day Vulnerabilities in IoT Devices
Most consumer tech manufacturers figure that once a hacker can physically access a device, there's not much left that can be done to defend it. But a group of researchers known as the Exploitee.rs say that giving up too soon leaves devices susceptible to hardware attacks that can lead to bigger problems. Hardware hack techniques, like a flash memory attack they developed, can facilitate the discovery of software bugs that not only expose the one hacked device, but every other unit of that model.
The group, which includes the hackers Zenofex, 0x00string, and maximus64_, presented their flash memory hack this week at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. On Saturday, they built on it at DefCon by presenting 22 zero-day (previously undisclosed) exploits in a range of consumer products—mainly home automation and Internet of Things devices—a number of which they discovered using that hack.
"We [wanted] to get this technique into the hands of more people, because there are so many more devices out there that nobody’s looking at," that have the susceptible type of flash memory, says CJ Heres, a hardware hacker in the Exploitee.rs group. "And manufacturers are still releasing things using this. It's still a very prevalent flash type."
Tinker, Hacker, Solder, Spy
On many devices, all it takes to access everything stored on the flash memory chip is a $10 SD card reader, some wire, and some soldering experience. The researchers focus on a type of memory called eMMC flash, because they can access it cheaply and easily by connecting to just five pins (electrical connections). By soldering five wires to the chip—a command line, a clock line, a data line, a power line, and a ground—they can get read/write access that lets them exfiltrate data and start reprogramming to eventually control the whole device.
This process could theoretically work on any digital device that uses flash memory, but most types would require interfacing with more pins than eMMC does, and many necessitate specialized readers and protocols to gain access. "For the most common types of memory, most people don’t want to open things up, solder to them, do all that kind of stuff, because it’s kind of a giant mess," Heres says. "But with eMMC you can do it with five wires. Of course, the soldering is a little difficult, but totally doable. It’s not 40 or 50 wires."
Some data recovery services already use that method to help customers retrieve their information from broken devices, but it isn't widely known.
Once the five wires are in place on the flash memory chip, the researchers found that they could easily connect them to virtually any cheap and widely available SD card reader, because eMMC flash is a sort of cousin of SD cards, and uses similar protocols. As a result, once you hook the eMMC flash to the SD card reader, you can plug into a computer like normal. From there, a hacker can take copies of the operating system, firmware, and software of the chip, and start looking for software vulnerabilities in the code.
In a Flash
It might all sound a bit niche, but eMMC flash is used in many cell phones, tablets, set top boxes, televisions, smart home devices like refrigerators, and even automotive tech. Heres notes, for example, that the Samsung Galaxy S2, S3, S4, and S5 all used eMMC flash, totaling about 125 million units sold among those models. And the zero-day vulnerabilities the group presented exist in some well-known devices, like the Amazon Tap, VIZIO's P60UI smart TV, and the Cujo smart firewall.
Exploitee.rs often works with companies to do official disclosures and encourage patching, but for DefCon the group took the controversial step of first announcing their vulnerabilities live on stage; many of the companies have not yet had an opportunity to respond or patch the flaws. "We will be releasing all the vulnerabilities during the presentation as 0days to give attendees the ability to go home and unlock their hardware prior to patches being released," the group wrote.
Often most of a devices's high-level software is encrypted and secure, Heres says, but by analyzing the firmware (the fundamental code layer that coordinates the hardware and the software) the researchers often find undisclosed backdoors or other bugs with their flash technique. And some systems don't encrypt thoroughly enough, enabling the group to go through most or all of the data stored in the memory to find even more holes.
"Getting that information out alone usually informs enough to give us the insight to find another bug, because instead of looking at a black box you have a bunch of data," Heres says. "Most manufacturers think if you have physical access it’s game over, but that's just more of a reason to push for encrypted data and encryption as a whole, because if these things are encrypted it makes it a lot harder [for an attacker]."
Physical access is still a difficult thing to defend against, but manufacturers can make it more difficult for attackers to find generalizable flaws by taking more steps to lock down flash memory, from making the chips harder to physically interface with, to comprehensively encrypting software on the chip. This round of vulnerabilities has caught them by surprise; the next one shouldn't.
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July 29, 2017 at 04:03PM
Tracking my life with tech to improve my life
There’s this idea that if we quantify and track our lives, our lives will be better. But I’m not so sure about that. Over the past week, I’ve tracked both my sleep and bedroom air quality. Let’s first take a look at the Beautyrest Sleeptracker.
The Sleeptracker comes with a couple of sensors that you put underneath your mattress. It tells you how much time you spent asleep, and breaks it down by time spent in light sleep versus deep sleep versus REM sleep. Last Friday night, for example, I slept a total of 11 hours and 20 minutes. The majority (7:56) was spent in light sleep, while I spent almost two hours in deep sleep and about an hour and a half in REM sleep.
On average, I slept about eight hours per night this past week with 96 percent sleep efficiency. Sleep efficiency is calculated by measuring how much time I spend asleep versus the overall time I spend in bed. According to Sleeptracker, my sleep efficiency is higher than 96 percent of people like. That basically means I’m a top-notch sleeper, though, that is not news to me.
Tracking my sleep is fine, but I’m not sure what to do with the information — other than brag to other people that I’m probably more well-rested than they are. This information is a nice-to-have, but not a must-have.
I’m also not convinced that it’s 100 percent accurate. One night, the app told me I woke up zero times in the middle night, but I know for a fact that I woke up at least three times. So, for $200, I’m not sure if this thing is worth it.
But apparently this is a thing that people want and that companies are banking on. Other than Beautyrest’s Sleeptracker, there’s Beddit, which Apple acquired earlier this year, and Sense, which may or may not shut down.
Verdict: My life is not better because I tracked my sleep.
Now, let’s move on to air quality. Eve Room, which costs $79.95, senses and tracks indoor air quality, temperature and humidity. It’s compatible with HomeKit, so that means if I had a connected fan, A/C unit or heater, I could automate it to turn on if it hit a certain temperature.
I do not, however, have any of the above, so the air quality monitor is really just a nice to have, I guess. To be honest, I set it up last weekend and haven’t thought much about it since today.
At one point during the day, around 4 p.m., it looks like the air quality in my room was pretty bad at 2,189 ppm. But I don’t know why. All I know is that anything from carpet, paint, furniture, printers, perfumes, cleaning products and tobacco smoke can result in poor air quality.
Verdict: My life is not better because I installed an air quality monitor, but perhaps it could be better if I put more time into figuring out what caused the quality in my room to go down.Featured Image: Bryce Durbin
via TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com
July 29, 2017 at 03:56PM
Apple deletes all major VPN apps for iOS from China App Store
Why it matters to you
If you're a big company like Microsoft, or are simply planning a trip to China, you won't be able to use major search engines or social networks to do business in the country.
Apple has just removed all major VPN apps for iOS from the China App Store, according to a blog post from ExpressVPN — which was also impacted by this decision. ExpressVPN, a provider based outside of China, received a notice from Apple on Saturday, July 29 that its iOS app was removed. This is going to make things a lot more difficult for consumers to work their way around China’s restrictions on internet freedom.
The company shared an email from Apple which stated that the app was removed because it contains content that is now illegal in China. “We’re disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date, and we are troubled to see Apple aiding China’s censorship efforts,” the email read, according to the blog post.
Certain users who have a billing address outside of China are still able to download the apps from the App stores that are in other countries. Chinese consumers are still able to stay connected to the worldwide internet with ExpressVPN’s apps for Mac, Android, Windows, and some other platforms.
Virtual private networks were the only course of action many users were able to take, due to China’s internet censorship — which has been referred to as the “Great Firewall.” Back in January, it was announced that China would be cracking down on devices like VPNs for 14 months, lasting until March of 2018. It began blocking Western websites such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter. The country even passed a pretty controversial cybersecurity bill last November, imposing new regulations on service providers.
It is, however, still possible for someone to create an App Store account under a fake identity from another country, although how one would go about doing that is not certain. Earlier this month, two other popular VPN services were no longer allowed to be online in China, leaving their users with no other alternatives. Taking the problem straight to Apple appears to be a good strategy in enforcing censorship, since the company does have control over what apps become available in China.
Apple recently changed its policy on apps that involve ad blockers in the App Store.
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July 29, 2017 at 03:30PM
Badass Woman Escapes Kidnappers Using A Manual Transmission And Nerves Of Steel
A college student in Columbia, South Carolina was kidnapped by three men at gunpoint. Fearing the worst, she used some Jason Bourne level problem solving and her manual transmission car to get away safely.
According to The State, 20-year-old Jordan Dinsmore found herself in one of the worst situations possible when three men approached her, pushed her to the ground and put a gun to her head. The publication reports that they forced her to drive her car and withdraw money from an ATM and then told her that she was going to be taken to a location to be raped.
But Dinsmore had one advantage, The Slate reports—when the men first put her into the car they couldn’t drive it because it had a manual transmission, so they made her take the driver’s seat. That is when she concocted a plan to escape. After she withdrew $300 out of the ATM, she got back into the car and left her seatbelt off, she hoped her kidnappers didn’t notice the seatbelt alarm chiming.
One of the men instructed her to drive to his relatives’ house so one of his friends could have sex with her. From The State:
The Slate reports that she purposefully missed the turn and rolled her car into the intersection, threw her car in neutral, then she opened the door and jumped out, while the vehicle was moving at 35 mph.
Once she landed she screamed for help, a woman came to her and called 911. Dinsmore suffered only minor scrapes and bruises from her escape and her 2009 Scion even managed to be in pretty decent shape after the attackers crashed it, The Slate reports.
Dinsmore is a criminal justice major who hopes to someday be in the FBI knew that in these situations you have to do whatever you can to get away. From The State:
Even though she managed to escape she still has trouble sleeping, but is thankful her attackers didn’t know how to drive a manual transmission car.
“I’m going to be driving a manual for the rest of my life,” The State quoted her as saying.
via Gizmodo http://gizmodo.com
July 29, 2017 at 02:42PM
Lenovo Moto Z2 Force vs. Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus: Can a newcomer take out the reigning champion?
There’s no question that the Moto Z2 Force, is a powerhouse of a smartphone. It boasts a 5.5-inch display with 2,560 x 1,440-pixel resolution, shatter-resistant glass, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor, and a 12MP dual-sensor camera that mimics the look and feel of high-end DSLRs. But the competition hasn’t been resting on its laurels. Earlier this year, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S8 Plus, the followup to the Galaxy S7, and it’s every bit as capable. The S8 Plus has a 6.2-inch display, an iris scanner, and a host of other desirable features that are squeezed into a gorgeous, curved body. Below, we pit the Lenovo Moto Z2 Force against the Galaxy S8 Plus to see which comes out on top.
Specs and performance
On paper, you’d be hard pressed to tell the Galaxy S8 Plus and Moto Z2 Force apart. In the United States, both boast 4GB of RAM and 64GB of base storage, although the Galaxy S8 Plus has a slight storage advantage (pricier models come with 128GB). Both also have MicroSD card slots that support memory sticks up to 2TB in size.
The Galaxy S8 Plus packs Bluetooth 5.0, which has four times the range and two times the speed of the Moto Z2 Force’s Bluetooth 4.2. The other, more tangible benefit is enhanced pairing; the Galaxy S8 Plus can steam music to two different Bluetooth devices at the same time, while the Moto Z2 Force is limited to one.
So which has the better internals? Between the Moto Z2 Force and the Galaxy S8 Plus, we’re handing the win to the Galaxy S8 Plus. The phone’s larger storage capacity and superior Bluetooth capabilities are enough to edge out the Force.
Winner: Galaxy S8 Plus
Design, display, and durability
There’s no mistaking the Galaxy S8 Plus for the Moto Z2 Force — the two phones couldn’t be more different when it comes to design.
The Moto Z2 Force is cut from the same cloth as last year’s model, with a brushed-metal design and Lenovo’s distinctive, 16-PIN Moto Mod docking port. The phone’s rear camera juts out slightly from the phone’s cover, and the oval-shaped fingerprint sensor sits underneath the screen, adjacent to the etched “Moto” logo. The edges are also curved on all four sides, concealing a USB Type-C charging port. And like its predecessor, the Moto Z2 Force lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The Galaxy S8 Plus is made mostly of glass and metal. Its massive, 6.2-inch display dominates the front, concealing the home button (which is embedded beneath the display) and sloping to the left and right like a Salvador Dali painting. Another plus in the Galaxy S8 Plus’ column is the presence of a 3.5mm jack and USB-C connector, both of which are welcome conveniences. But Samsung’s flagship commits a faux pas of a different kind: The fingerprint sensor sits next to the camera, allowing you to easily smudge the built-in shooter.
Both the Galaxy S8 Plus and Moto Z2 Force are water-resistant, but the Galaxy S8 has a slight advantage. It’s certified IP68, which means it can withstand a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. Lenovo says the Moto Z2 Force’s nano-coating can “repel water,” but it’s not designed to hold up against more than an accidental splash.
Let’s get things straight when it comes to displays: The Galaxy S8 Plus and Moto Z2 Force both have gorgeous, colorful screens that display more pixels than the human eye can make out. They share the same QHD (2,960 x 1,440 pixels) and the same high-contrast, ultra-saturated Super AMOLED technology. But as good as the Moto Z2 Force’s screen is, it’s no match for the display on the Samsung S8 Plus, which leads the pack in terms of accuracy and brightness.
The Galaxy S8 Plus also carries the unique distinction of being the first phone with Mobile HDR Premium label, which means it’s certified by the Ultra HD Alliance to show high-dynamic range (HDR) content. In laymen’s terms, apps that serve up HDR content (like Netflix) will look even brighter and more colorful on the Galaxy S8 Plus than they would normally.
The Moto Z2 Force has the upper hand when it comes to durability, too. The fine print guarantees that the Shattershield screen protector won’t crack for up to four years from the purchase date. Although we prefer the fingerprint sensor on the Moto Z2 Force, the Galaxy S8 Plus’ curved, futuristic body takes the design cake — and the 3.5mm jack is the icing on the top. We’re handing the display win to the Galaxy S8 Plus, too. Its screen may not be the most durable, but it still ranks among the best we’ve tested, and support for Mobile HDR is an added bonus.
Winner: Galaxy S8 Plus
Battery life and charging
It’s tough to predict battery life from specs alone. Samsung’s flagship may have a larger battery capacity (3,500mAh) than the Moto Z2 Force (2,730mAh), but it also has to contend with a larger screen. In our testing, the Galaxy S8 Plus lasted a little more than a day on a full charge. The Moto Z2 Force, which has a significantly smaller battery, likely won’t last as long.
The comparison isn’t as clear cut when it comes to charging, however. The Galaxy S8 Plus’ Adaptive Fast Charging technology, which can fully charge your phone in about an hour, is slower than the Moto Z2 Force’s TurboPower, which delivers up to six hours of battery life in a mere 15 minutes. That said, the Galaxy S8 Plus has the advantage of wire-free charging via Qi and PMA accessories, which the Moto Z2 Force doesn’t support without an optional Moto Mod.
It’s a close call in the battery and charging category, but the larger battery capacity and the wireless capabilities on the Galaxy S8 Plus are just enough to win it the round.
Winner: Galaxy S8 Plus
The Moto Z2 Force swaps last year’s single-lens camera for twin shooters, but at the cost of megapixels; the smartphone’s rear cameras are 12MP as opposed to the Moto Z Force’s 21MP. The Galaxy S8 Plus, on the other hand, sports the same 12MP camera found on last year’s Galaxy S7.
It’s tough to predict how the two will compare, but we can confidently say that the Moto Z2 Force has a high bar to clear. The S8 Plus’ 12MP camera ranks among the best smartphone cameras we’ve tested, thanks to optical image stabilization, support for high-dynamic range (HDR), and incredibly good performance in tricky lighting conditions.
But dual cameras have their advantages.
The Moto Z2 Force’s cameras promise to be just as good, if not better. It sports 12MP cameras on the back, as opposed to the Moto Z Force’s single 21MP shooter. The phone’s software is akin to the iPhone 7’s camera setup, and uses a second sensor to zoom in on objects. There’s also a special, black-and-white mode that captures “true monochrome” images.
It’s a different story when it comes to front-facing cameras, though. The Moto Z2 Force sports the same 5MP selfie sensor as last year, compared to the Galaxy S8 Plus’ 8MP camera. That might not sound like much of a difference, but at a technical level, the Galaxy S8 Plus’ front-facing camera can resolve a bit more detail than the Moto Z2 Force’s.
We haven’t had a chance to put the Moto Z2 Force’s camera through its paces, so we’re calling this round a tie for now. But we’ll revisit it once we’ve had a chance to conduct a more thorough comparison.
The Moto Z2 Force ships with Android 7.1.1 layered with Motorola’s skin, which isn’t too far off from stock Android. The Galaxy S8 Plus, on the other hand, ships with Samsung’s TouchWiz.
The Moto Z2 Force features Moto Display and Moto Actions, which save time by condensing multiple steps into single taps and swipes. Take Moto Actions, for example, which allows you to silence notifications and calls when you place your phone face down. With a single-finger swipe downward, you can also shrink the Moto Z2 Force’s interface for one-handed use. And you can use the phone’s fingerprint sensor to navigate menus, home screens, and apps.
The Galaxy S8 Plus features the Edge Panel, which lets you pin shortcuts to the curved edges of the Galaxy S8’s screen, and Smart Stay, which keeps the screen on as long as your eyes are staring at it.
The Galaxy S8 Plus’ headlining feature, however, is Bixby, a Siri-like assistant that shows contextual information. This allows you to see your daily step count, your next calendar event, the weather forecast, and what’s trending on Twitter, among other things. It can also recognize objects such as wine bottles and snack labels, and suggest relevant Amazon links. It’s even smart enough to perform actions with voice commands.
The Moto Z2 Force may run the simpler, easier-to-use version of the two operating systems, but the Galaxy S8 Plus can do more. That’s why we’re crowning it the winner of the software round.
Winner: Galaxy S8 Plus
Price and availability
The Moto Z2 Force will cost you $800 direct from Motorola, however, you can get it for a little less from all the major carriers. Verizon has it listed at $756, it’s $792 at Sprint, and $750 at T-Mobile, though you can spread the cost or pay less upfront by signing a contract. Either way, it’s slightly less pricey than the Galaxy S8 Plus, which starts at $840.
The Galaxy S8 Plus has the advantage when it comes to availability, though. The Moto Z2 Force is currently available for pre-order, but won’t ship until later this year, while the Galaxy S8 Plus is available online and in brick-and-mortar stores now.
Still, we’re giving this round to the Moto Z2 Force. Despite the fact the Moto Z2 Force packs the same processor as the Galaxy S8 Plus and features dual cameras, Lenovo managed to undercut the competition.
Winner: Moto Z2 Force
Rarely do smartphone makers place an emphasis on accessories, but for Samsung and Lenovo, they’re selling points.
The Moto Z2 Force supports the full range of Moto Mods, the snap-on accessories that add all sorts of functionality. There’s one that extends your phone’s battery life, a wireless charger, an external speaker, a projector, a gamepad, and a vehicle dock. And the list keeps growing.
The Galaxy S8 Plus, on the other hand, works with Samsung’s Dex Dock, which effectively transforms it into a computer. Plugging the Dex Dock into a computer monitor, mouse, and keyboard pulls up a fully-featured operating system that looks a little like a mishmash of Windows and ChromeOS.
As handy as the Dex Dock is, however, it’s no match for the Moto Mods ecosystem. Because of this, the Moto Z2 Force wins the accessory round.
Winner: Moto Z2 Force
The Galaxy S8 Plus is one of the best smartphones of the year — and our overall winner — but the Moto Z2 Force trades blows. It boasts the same processor, a great display, long-lasting battery life, and a growing number of accessories that rival Samsung’s very best. It might not measure up to the Galaxy S8 Plus in terms of design, and we’ve yet to put its camera to the test, but so far, we’re impressed with what Motorola’s managed to stuff into a compact, high-end package without compromising on price.
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July 29, 2017 at 02:40PM
Is This Suicidal 'McDonald's Hong Kong' Account a Hoax or Just the Latest Viral Brand Stunt?
The account was apparently created in October 2016, and initially posted just a few tweets that seemed like legitimate promotional material advertising the chain’s offerings of Big Macs and spicy chicken sandwiches.
But then, something odd happened: The official, verified McDonald’s Corp. Twitter account posted a video of a woman touting the Hong Kong branch’s bakery offerings, tagging the first account.
The “McDonald’s Hong Kong” account responded this week, writing “this bitch freakin out about cheesecake while kids out here McDying. relax”.
It soon returned to posting various promotional images of McDonald’s offerings in Hong Kong.
But over the course of the last week, the account began inserting less-than-subtle messages between the promotional tweets. They told a tale of suicidal ideation, glimpses of a shattered family life and the implication someone, possibly McDonald’s Hong Kong, had kidnapped the tweeter’s son.
The pace only picked up this weekend.
The account has begun picking up hundreds of followers at lightning speed. It could be a hoax, though the account was registered and sending out McDonald’s-themed tweets long before it was tagged by the official, verified McDonald’s corporate account.
Or a little less charmingly, it could be the latest viral brand stunt. McDonald’s just launched a delivery service in the US, and its very real Hong Kong branch is in the middle of an upscale “McDonald’s Next” rebranding. In March, another McDonald’s Twitter account called Trump a “disgusting excuse of a President” and added “also you have tiny hands,” but the company later claimed it was hacked.
This is totally in line with the emerging corporate marketing strategy of blurring the lines between reality and advertising on social media, which is not as cute as brands might think.
The third possibility is that someone at McDonald’s Hong Kong is a very, very lonely individual who just wishes their family would come back, and is very, very sorry for what they have done.
Gizmodo has reached out to the McDonald’s US and Hong Kong branches, and will update this post if we hear back.
via Gizmodo http://gizmodo.com
July 29, 2017 at 01:24PM
Best new shows and movies to stream this week: ‘Room 104,’ ‘Insecure,’ and more
Online streaming is bigger than ever, and with so many streaming services adding new shows and movies every week, it can be nearly impossible to sort through the good and the bad. If you need something to watch and don’t want to wade through the digital muck that washes up on the internet’s shores, follow our picks below for the best new shows and movies to stream on Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and other services.
On the list this week: A new anthology from the Duplass brothers, the return of a brilliant comedy, and a spectacular war movie.
Room 104 premiere
Television today trends toward the grandiose; whether shows traffic in political scheming, criminal empires, or dragons, the goal is always to get bigger. Room 104, a new project from brothers Mark and Jay Duplass, takes a different path, constraining itself to one room for an entire season. Each episode is a self-contained story, each set in the same hotel room, following the various people who spend a night there. The show finds creativity in its constraints, playing with form and genre (some episodes take the shape of intimate dramas, others horror movies). Like most anthology series, the quality varies between episodes, but even at its weakest, Room 104 is an exciting experiment.
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The Incredible Jessica James
Pitch for a film: A romantic comedy following a 20-something artist struggling to find success in New York City, whose humdrum life gets a shot of excitement when they make a new connection. Alright, so the premise of The Incredible Jessica James is nothing new, but James Strouse’s latest film is a fine showcase for Jessica Williams, comedian and former Daily Show correspondent, who delivers an entrancing performance as the titular character. The film begins with James, a playwright unable to get her plays produced or find a meaningful relationship, going on an awkward date with recently divorced app developer Boone (Chris O’Dowd). Despite the first date disaster, they keep hanging out, perhaps united by a mutual love of acerbic remarks. The Incredible Jessica James lacks a compelling narrative arc but its central lovers are well-written and charming enough to watch.
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Insecure season 2
Issa Rae’s intimate comedy Insecure follows a pair of women, Issa (Rae) and Molly (Yvonne Orji), whose friendship carries them through troubles both personal and professional. Issa is a nonprofit worker unsatisfied with her job and slacker boyfriend. Molly is an attorney struggling to climb the professional ladder and find a lover who is ready for commitment. The show examines their relationships and foibles with an empathetic eye, but the show is hardly gloomy; it has a verve and wit that place it among the best of today’s comedies.
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John Dies at the End
An adaptation of David Wong’s popular (and bizarre) comedy horror novel, John Dies at the End is a psychedelic adventure in the vein of Big Trouble in Little China or The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. The film is framed through a conversation between David (Chase Williamson) and reporter Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti), in which David recounts how he and his friend John (Rob Mayes) tried out a drug called “Soy Sauce,” which enabled them to see creatures from other dimensions. The revelation leads them down a rabbit hole of sinister conspiracies and wacky encounters, the film swaying from comedy to horror. John Dies at the End is not a great film but it is an entertaining one, with a unique structure and sense of humor that makes up for its shortcomings.
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It takes a lot for a World War II film to stand out but Hacksaw Ridge was a remarkable achievement, both as a war movie and a return to critical acclaim for director Mel Gibson. The film is based on the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a young man who joins the army to serve his country but declines to kill or even carry a gun due to his religious beliefs. This makes him a target for his commanders and fellow soldiers, who view it as an act of cowardice, but Doss holds firmly to his stance, getting permission to serve as an unarmed medic. In our review, we singled out the film’s beautiful juxtaposition of spiritual and worldly struggle, highlighting the Americans’ harrowing assault on Hacksaw Ridge, a scene bathed in smoke and blood.
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July 29, 2017 at 01:22PM