Category Archives: OtherNews

The thought of Facebook launching its own smart speakers is incredibly scary

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Amazon and Google are currently the major players in the smart speaker business, with the former being the undisputed king of this product category. Many other companies have similar products in stores, including devices that are powered by Amazon’s own voice tech.

Apple just launched the HomePod, it’s own competitor to Amazon’s Echos and Google’s Homes, arriving late to the smart speaker party — well, Apple sells the speaker primarily as a high-end speaker than a smart one.

Facebook, it turns out, will launch its own smart speakers later this year. And that’s an incredibly scary thought.

Facebook already tracks everything you do online so it can make more money from ads. That’s why a smart speaker made by Facebook sounds a lot more intrusive than Google’s or Amazon’s.

According to Digitimes Facebook will launch not one, but two distinct smart speaker models this July.

The devices won’t be Echo or HomePod lookalikes. Instead, they’ll compete against smart speakers with displays, like the Echo Show.

Codenamed Aloha and Fiona, the two Facebook speakers come with 15-inch touchscreen displays, which would allow family users to stay in touch. Obviously, you need to experience Facebook’s many products on this device, and that’s why a screen is required. Support for video chat and other social features are also included.

The Aloha is apparently the more sophisticated model and will be sold as Facebook Portal. The device will come with voice recognition features like any smart speaker, but also with facial recognition. A wide-angle lens on the front of the device will be able to recognize users.

The Portal will also come with music, thanks to deals Facebook inked with Sony and Universal Music.

The Aloha and Fiona will be the first Facebook products targeting video consumers. More “terminal devices” will be rolled out in the coming years, Digitimes says.

Facebook wanted to launch the devices in May, the report notes but delayed the launch to perfect the acoustic quality and software. Prices for either the Aloha or Fiona have not been leaked.

Pegatron will reportedly manufacture the devices, while LG Display will provide the screens for Facebook’s smart speakers.

Warren Buffett’s longtime sidekick says Bitcoin is ‘noxious poison’

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Bitcoin’s surge to fame and fortune this year has forced the question of whether cryptocurrencies are viable out of Reddit threads and into the world of mainstream finance. It’s become the most-asked question of any serious investor or analyst, and the opinions range from “this might be interesting” to something a lot less polite.

As it turns out, you can put Charlie Munger, the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and Warren Buffett’s long-time number-two, in that second category. During a question-and-answer at a shareholder meeting for the Daily Journal, a LA publisher that he’s the director of, Munger called Bitcoin “totally asinine” and a “noxious poison.”

CNBC reported Munger’s comments, which came in response to a question asked at the shareholder Q&A. He labelled the current Bitcoin price explosion as “totally asinine,” and said that the currency itself is “noxious poison.” So, not a fan.

Buffett himself isn’t a fan of crypto either, although his opinion appears to be a little more nuanced. “In terms of cryptocurrencies, generally, I can say with almost certainty that they will come to a bad ending,” the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway told CNBC last month.

“When it happens or how or anything else, I don’t know. If I could buy a five-year put on every one of the cryptocurrencies, I’d be glad to do it but I would never short a dime’s worth.”

Apple is now selling certified refurbished Apple Watch Series 3 models for $50 off

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If you’ve been waiting for the right time to pick up the latest Apple Watch (and would prefer to save a few dollars in the process), you should check out Apple’s updated list of refurbished products. Spotted by 9to5Toys on Wednesday, two Apple Watch Series 3 models have been added to Apple’s list of certified refurbished devices.

The first of the two refurbished watches is the 38mm Gold Aluminum Case with Pink Sand Sport Band, which sells for $279.00 ($50 off the price of a new Apple Watch). The second Apple Watch is the 42mm Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport Band, which will run you $309.00 (also $50 off the suggested retail price).

The only downside is that both refurbished watches are GPS-only models. If you want an LTE-capable Apple Watch, you’ll have to look elsewhere or buy new. That said, if you don’t care about making phone calls on your Apple Watch, picking up a refurbished model and saving $50 seems like a no-brainer.

On the store page for the discounted models, Apple notes that all of its refurbished products are tested, certified and include a one-year warranty. All refurbished models come with a magnetic charging cable and a new white box too, so you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything by buying used. Finally, as with all of Apple’s refurbished products, supply is limited, so there’s no telling how long these models will be available for purchase.

Who cares about 5G when Qualcomm’s new LTE modem is this fast

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Late this year, we’re expecting to see the first 5G devices become available for very limited use on a handful of real-world 5G networks. That’s going to be a huge step forward in the journey towards nationwide high-speed connectivity, but it will also still be the first step. You’re going to have to wait until the next decade for 5G to become ubiquitous, but luckily, Qualcomm has a bonkers new LTE modem to fill in the gaps.

The company has announced its new Snapdragon X24 modem in advance of the upcoming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and the details will get you all hot and heavy if you’re the kind of person who nerds out over high-speed mobile communications. The X24 has a peak download speed of 2Gbps, but the really good stuff is how Qualcomm gets there.

To achieve the 2Gbps peak download speed, the X24 can support 20 simultaneous 100Mbps download streams, using a mixture of licensed cellular spectrum and unlicensed LAA spectrum. In order to fit all that inside a smartphone, Qualcomm has moved to a 7nm manufaturing process, making the X24 the first 7nm chip to be announced for sale (although other 7nm chips are certainly coming). The X24 modem support 7x carrier aggregation down, with 4×4 MIMO on up to five carriers at a time.

While you’re not going to be seeing those peak 2Gbps speeds in the real world any time soon, the underlying technology that Qualcomm has put in the X24 will be relevant for support high-speed real-world LTE connections. “Not a lot of operators have seven carriers,” Qualcomm spokesperson Sherif Hanna told PC Mag. “But what they do have is four or five, and now they can use those and add LAA as well on top of it.”

The X24 will be released at the end of this year, so it’ll likely show up in 2019 flagship devices, and potentially a few mobile hotspots (or even Qualcomm-powered Windows laptops!) before then.

A road trip with Nissan ProPilot Assist

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Wieck/Autoblog

By Joel Stocksdale

We’ve had a bit of experience with the Nissan ProPilot Assist system here at Autoblog. I was the first to try it out with a Rogue prototype during a press test drive, and we later got one to test for the 2018 Tech of the Year award. In each instance it managed to impress us with its ease of use and general effectiveness. It did so enough to merit a spot as a Tech of the Year finalist.

However, every experience we had with the technology was fairly brief, with only short highway jaunts to demonstrate how it works. Long highway jaunts is really what ProPilot is meant for, so to find out just how helpful it is, I drove a 2018 Rogue equipped with its new ProPilot Assist option to the Chicago Auto Show.

Overall, ProPilot Assist really is a boon for long-haul drives. It all comes down to how it takes care of the minute corrections and adjustments that have to be made on highways. There are always some imperfections, wind, changing road markings or minuscule curves that demand input from the driver to stay centered and on-course. They don’t seem like they would be that taxing, but over the course of three, four, even five hours, to say nothing of the 13-hour journeys I did in college, it adds up fast.

ProPilot Assist handles all that for you, keeping the car centered, even through mild highway curves. It became so effective on straight sections that I relaxed my hand to the point the steering wheel no longer detected my presence and the car warned me to put my hand back on the wheel. And yes, like other adaptive cruise control systems with steering assist, ProPilot Assist does make you commit to this token gesture of control.

For good reason, too. There are times that the system starts to get a little too close to one side or the other. And of course, there are some turns in which the car doesn’t turn enough to stay in the lane and needs additional driver input. This is why you’re required to keep a hand on the wheel, and why you have to still pay attention. Yet, keeping a guiding hand in place for minor corrections is less tiring than doing the job entirely yourself. As I discovered, I arrived in Chicago feeling more relaxed, less tired, and generally comfortable than I would’ve expected in a regular do-it-yourself car.

The other thing that’s great about ProPilot is that it’s still so easy to use. Provided that you have the steering assist setting on, it comes on when setting the cruise control. It starts handling the steering as soon as it recognizes the lane markings, which only takes a few seconds. When you want it to stop, just switch off your cruise control. And if you want just cruise control without ProPilot steering assist, simply press the button on the dash with a little steering wheel icon.

One caveat regarding ProPilot is that although it’s a great feature that works well, the 2018 Rogue it’s attached to is not the strongest crossover SUV. It has a comfortable ride and plenty of space, but when I was actually operating the steering, I found it dead and oddly weighted. The engine is also fairly coarse and the handling is lackluster. Yet, if I was staring down constant long trips or daily stop-and-go gridlock, it might be easy to forgive those shortcomings for ProPilot Assist.

 

 

Divorcing couple fights over $830,000 crypto stash

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Crypto traders might not like it, but there are plenty of reasons to regulate Bitcoin and all its brethren. The nature of digital money gives governments around the world plenty of headaches, and many of them have started enforcing regulations against Bitcoin and altcoins. The main worries are related to illegal activities, money laundering, and tax evasion powered by cryptocurrencies.

It turns out that some crypto fans may soon ask for a particular type of regulation themselves, laws that protect their digital assets in case of a divorce. In the UK, a divorcing couple right now is quarreling over a stash of coins worth some $830,000. And there are no laws for it.

According to Business Insider, UK law firm Royds Withy King is currently advising no less than three divorce cases that involve cryptocurrency. The spouses are “seeking the disclosure and a potential share of cryptocurrency assets.” But no laws are governing such cases.

Only one of them, however, stands out, because of the value of the couple’s crypto stash. The husband invested £80,000 ($110,000) in cryptos, which are now worth £600,000 ($830,000). Did I say there are no laws to guide divorce lawyers in such matters?

However, the lawyers expect the number of cases to increase in the future. “These are the first cases we have seen, and we expect to see many more, Royds Withy King partner Vandana Chitroda said. “We believe that cryptocurrencies will be a significant feature in a large number of divorces. Whilst cryptocurrencies are volatile, they are not going to go away. It is important that if you believe your husband or wife has invested in or purchased cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, and you are separating, you tell your legal adviser.”

You were warned.

Another step toward mobile 5G service: Verizon, Nokia and Qualcomm complete first call using 3GPP-compliant 5G New Radio technology

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NEW YORK Verizon is the first network provider to conduct an over the air call on a 3GPP compliant 5G New Radio (NR) system using licensed spectrum. This successful test on Verizon’s millimeter wave spectrum using Nokia 5G network technology on a 5G NR prototype device provided by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated was an important milestone on the road to preparing Verizon’s network for widespread implementation of commercial 5G mobile services for consumers and enterprises. The test was conducted this month at Nokia’s facility in Murray Hill, NJ and follows prior interoperability testing between Nokia and Qualcomm Technologies. The 5G NR standard was approved by the 3GPP in December 2017.

“With this first 3GPP NR standards-based connection, Verizon continues to lead the development of 5G technology,” said Ed Chan, senior vice president and chief technology architect, Corporate Network & Technology, Verizon. “By partnering with Nokia and Qualcomm to combine 5G technology with our deep millimeter wave spectrum, we’re well on the way to being the first to usher in the next era of wireless communications for customers.”

The test was completed over Nokia’s CloudRAN solution, which is comprised of the Nokia AirScale baseband and radio, AirFrame server, and AirScale Cloud RAN running 5G NR 3GPP-compliant software. 

“Nokia’s 3GPP-compliant high-capacity 5G solution supports pioneering operators like Verizon in leveraging their assets to make a true difference with 5G for their customers,” said Marc Rouanne, president of Mobile Networks, Nokia. “Using the successful interoperability testing we conducted with Qualcomm as a basis, we’re now applying our standard-compliant 5G technology in this trial with Verizon to push the commercialization of 5G.”

The test utilized Qualcomm Technologies’ cutting-edge 5G NR millimeter wave prototype device, which includes an optimized millimeter wave RF front-end design in a smartphone form factor. 

“Qualcomm Technologies is committed to supporting the launch of standard-based commercial 5G networks and products beginning in 2019,” said Joe Glynn, vice president of business development, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “The successful completion of standard-compliant 5G NR millimeter wave testing with leading mobile industry innovators such as Nokia and Verizon prove that we are well on the path to making this a reality.”

Verizon’s deployment of 5G technology over millimeter wave spectrum – beginning in 2018 – will provide massive bandwidth, ultra-high speed and single digit latency for emerging fixed and mobile use cases. As 5G continues to evolve, and as new use cases are developed and deployed, Verizon will be well positioned to deliver the capabilities those use cases call for to become a commercially viable solution.

Verizon Enterprise Solutions will create global blockchain platform services

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NEW YORK In the ever evolving security landscape, large enterprises and government agencies are constantly seeking new ways to maintain the integrity of critical infrastructure, protect physical and digital supply chains, and safeguard customers’ essential information systems. Understanding this,� Verizon Enterprise Solutions later this year will launch a portfolio of blockchain platform services based on Guardtime’s KSI Blockchain� capabilities. Consumed as a service, Verizon’s enterprise and government customers will be able to integrate proven blockchain solutions into their existing business processes.

“Increasingly, our enterprise customers want to effectively leverage blockchain to meet the security demands from their customers,” said Alex Schlager, executive director security services, Verizon Enterprise Solutions. “They are looking for proven, reliable solutions and Verizon is recognized as a market leader in managed security services. Combining our security expertise with Guardtime’s blockchain platform offers customers an advanced solution.”

The Verizon blockchain platform services will focus on privacy, portability and scalability – adding proven managed security services on top of leading technology from Guardtime. Typically, blockchain technologies require customer data be copied into a blockchain, but with Verizon’s solution that data won’t leave the customer premises. Additionally, Verizon’s solution will work seamlessly around the globe. The service will also scale easily and predictably, regardless of the overall volume of data being monitored. 

Guardtime’s KSI Blockchain uses well-known security functions, including Secure Hash Algorithms, Hash Trees, and a distributed consensus protocol to establish an immutable audit trail for data movement within and between organizations. KSI Blockchain is different from other blockchain approaches in several ways:

Secrecy – the pattern of hashes does not betray the underlying business activity

Privacy – the data itself never leaves the enterprise

Scalability – The rate of growth – and speed of response – of the Blockchain is unchanged, regardless of the volume of business

Time – KSI Blockchain always anchors immutably within one second

Cross-border and cross boundary – Abstracted meta-data can be moved seamlessly around the globe

“Verizon’s security practice has global scale and a deep understanding of customer security challenges,” said Matthew Johnson, CTO of Guardtime. “Our customers now get proven managed security services to manage our blockchain technology stack.”

The best espresso machine, grinder and accessories for beginners

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By Cale Guthrie Weissman

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

After putting in more than 60 hours of research, we enlisted a former barista, aided by Stumptown Coffee’s education crew, to test five espresso machines, four grinders, and a dozen accessories to find the best beginner’s espresso setup for less than $1,000. We recommend starting with the Breville Infuser espresso machine, because it makes pulling consistently great-tasting espresso shots easier and more approachable than the other machines we tested. It also comes with all of the accessories you need to get started.

Who this is for

This guide is for someone who likes good coffee and wants to take the time to learn more about the craft. Whether you’ve been making pour-over for years or simply enjoy going to your local coffee shop and learning different espresso tasting notes, our picks will give you a relatively affordable start in the world of espresso making.

How we picked and tested

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Our testing units from left: Gaggia Classic, Breville Duo Temp Pro, Breville Infuser, Rancilio Silvia. Photo: Michael Hession

To figure out just what was needed to make a cost-effective home espresso setup, we started by consulting eight coffee experts, ranging from baristas to roasters to industry entrepreneurs, and reading hundreds of articles, blog posts, and forums.

According to the experts, a semiautomatic, single-boiler machine is the way to go. The best espresso is made by forcing 195 ºF water through finely ground beans with about 10 bars of pressure. A semiautomatic machine heats the water precisely and uses a pump to create the right amount of pressure every time.

Single-boiler espresso machines use only one boiler for both the water for the espresso shot and the steam wand. This means they require some down time between pulling a shot and steaming milk, but they’re significantly less expensive than their double-boiler cousins.

We tested four machines from the perspective of someone unboxing and trying to get familiar for the first time. Each machine had at least an hour to wow us with its setup process, documentation, and ability to create consistently good espresso without too much tinkering. We scrutinized each machine’s portafilter, and used the steam wand to make a cappuccino. We also tested grinders, which are just as important to making good espresso as the machine itself, along with a range of accessories. To learn more about our testing process, please see our full guide to espresso gear.

Espresso machine

The Breville Infuser looks great on any kitchen counter. Photo: Michael Hession

The Breville Infuser was the best out of all the machines because of its superior performance for both espresso and milk steaming, ease of use, and the fact that it comes with all the accessories needed to get started. It made a consistently flavorful shot of espresso, and it was very easy to set up and use. The experts we consulted were even impressed with how easy it was to pull a decent shot with the Breville—high praise from a group of people experienced with $1,000+ machines!

Using the Infuser is a breeze, even if you’ve never touched an espresso machine before. It comes with a straightforward “how to get started making espresso” sheet, a removable water reservoir, preset options for single and double shots, and a manual mode for precision control. Although it didn’t make the absolute tastiest shot of espresso we tried, our testers were impressed with its consistency and pleasant mouthfeel. Every shot we pulled had a good amount of crema on top, as you’d expect from a high-end cafe. And the Breville’s steam wand was by far the best tested, though it does take a bit of time to heat up fully.

Espresso grinder

The Rocky lives up to its reputation as one of the most capable home-use grinders available. Photo: Michael Hession

Buying a good grinder is just as important as buying a good espresso machine. If the coffee beans aren’t ground to consistent and uniformly sized particles, it doesn’t matter how good the machine is — the coffee will taste bad. Finding a machine that can accurately produce fine espresso grinds is difficult, and even the picks in our drip coffee grinders guide aren’t nuanced enough for a proper grind. You need a rig with burrs that are specially made to pulverize the coffee to a very fine grind of the exact right size, like the Rancilio Rocky, though acquiring such a grinder comes with a steep price tag.

In our tests, the Rocky was great at grinding beans consistently and was easy to adjust. To change the size of your grind from espresso to French press and back again, you simply move a knob on the hopper from left to right. We also liked that the grinder was relatively quiet compared with many of the others we tested.

Accessories

Knock box

A knock box is basically a small countertop trash can with a bar going across the top for you to hit your portafilter against to eject used grounds. We tested several competing designs and thought the Cafelat was the best. It has a sleek design with a removable bar for easy cleaning, and very few seams for gunk to collect in.

Cups

The real joy of espresso is in the drinking. Personally, I enjoy drinking espresso out of glass because it looks nice and feels modern. The Duralex Picardie—our top pick for drinking glasses—comes in a 3.1-ounce glass that’s perfect for espresso sipping, macchiatos, and cortados.

Tamper

When it comes to tamping your espresso, consistency is key. Thus, it’s helpful to own a tamper that you like. We found Rattleware’s tampers felt good in the hand and had a nice weight, though they’re a bit on the expensive side.

Frothing pitcher for lattes

If you want to make milk drinks, you’re going to need a frothing pitcher. Many look alike, but some are nicer than others. We prefer Rattleware’s pitchers, which are a bit sturdier and have a better finish than other models, but it really comes down to your personal preferences.

This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

 

 

The best vibrators

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By Bianca Jarvis

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

Until the 14th, you can also follow Wirecutter’s special Valentine’s Day deals, covering everything from candles to high-end chocolates to NSFW items, on their Sweetest Deals page.

After 75 hours of research—including reading hundreds of reviews of 55 best-selling models, interviewing sex researcher Debra Herbenick and five other experts, crowdsourcing opinions from enthusiasts, and analyzing data from seven testers who tried eight different models—as well as six months of follow-up testing, we’ve concluded that the cordless Magic Wand Rechargeable is the best vibrator for most people.

Should you buy a clitoral vibrator?

Sex toys can be a godsend for people who are unable to reach orgasm easily from manual masturbation, oral sex, or penetrative intercourse alone. But buying sex toys can be an intimidating experience. High-quality sex toys are often expensive and nonreturnable, you have hundreds of models to choose from, and the criteria for what makes a good sex toy can be highly subjective. We looked for toys that will work well for most people, including beginners.

How we picked and tested

From left: the Womanizer W500, We-Vibe Tango, Magic Wand Rechargeable, Doxy Massager, and Tokidoki x Lovehoney Sugar Rush 7 Function Girl Power. Photo: Michael Hession

We identified several vibrator features that were most important to our experts, our testers, and a general sample of sex-toy owners:

  • Sufficiently powerful stimulation to induce an orgasm
  • Multiple or variable speeds
  • High-quality, easy-to-clean, nonporous body-safe material like silicone or ABS plastic
  • Long battery life
  • User-friendliness and intuitive functions

If a toy was rechargeable, versatile, durable, small (most of our testers, though not all, preferred smaller toys), affordable, waterproof, easy to clean, or covered by a solid warranty, we considered those attributes to be bonuses. Many users also desired an aesthetically pleasing toy with multiple color options.

We considered 55 different models, and tested eight of them. Our test panel consisted of seven people with vaginas, of various ages and sexual orientations. We instructed our testers to use each toy at least once, preferably twice or more, and to incorporate these toys into partner play when possible.

In addition, we independently tested interactions with silicone lubricant (more about this topic in our full guide), evaluated battery life by cycling the devices on and off for 20 minutes until they died, assessed overheating by letting them run for extended periods, and tested the function of waterproof vibrators.

Our pick: Magic Wand Rechargeable

Photo: Michael Hession

We recommend the Magic Wand Rechargeable, an improved version of the ultrapowerful Magic Wand Original. The cordless Rechargeable is well worth the additional investment, as it offers twice as many levels of stimulation as the Original model, plus an assortment of vibration patterns, an easy-to-clean silicone head, and a rechargeable battery that works with or without the power cord.

Virtually all of our testers reported that the Magic Wand was the only toy in our test group that could consistently bring them to an intense climax quickly, intuitively, effectively, and predictably. It offers four strength settings, and converts into a vibrating insertable G-spot/P-spot stimulator or a penile-masturbation sleeve via an attachment.

A powerful corded option: Doxy Massager

Photo: Michael Hession

The Doxy Massager is similar to the Magic Wand in power, function, and price, but it offers several distinct advantages: It looks sleeker, and is available in four colors, as opposed to the Magic Wand’s clinical white. It also offers eight vibration speeds, twice as many as our top pick.

However, unlike the Magic Wand Rechargeable, the Doxy still needs to be plugged into the wall to operate. Also, the softer texture of the head has a tendency to reduce the perceived intensity of the vibrations, even though the Doxy Massager has a higher top speed.

A battery-operated vibrator for less than $30: Tokidoki x Lovehoney Sugar Rush 7 Function Girl Power Vibrator

Photo: Michael Hession

Our tester initially purchased the Girl Power Vibrator, from the British sex-toy retailer Lovehoney’s collaboration with Italian lifestyle brand Tokidoki, as a cheap and cheerful collector’s item. Toys this stylish tend not to be affordably priced and typically don’t work well, but this vibrator is the exception to that rule. Our tester loved the toy’s versatile shape and firm texture, and found that it was exceptionally powerful for a battery-operated model. It offers three speeds and four vibration patterns. The only major drawback is that it’s non-rechargeable, requiring two AA batteries to operate.

Lovehoney is discontinuing all four versions of the Tokidoki-branded vibrator that is our budget pick. As an alternative, consider the Fifty Shades of Grey Charlie Tango Classic Vibrator; it’s the same model, but with different branding.

For suction and vibration: Womanizer W500

Photo: Michael Hession

Despite its unsettling name, the Womanizer W500 is one of the few toys that actually live up to the hype surrounding their gimmick—in this case, a silicone nozzle that latches onto the clitoris, stimulating it with a combination of suction and vibration. Our tester reported that this toy felt unlike any other toy she’d tried, with a sensation that was focused, gentle, yet intense in a totally different way than a traditional vibrator, providing a sensation similar to oral sex. The biggest drawback of the Womanizer is the price tag: At $200-plus, it exceeds most people’s budget for a sex toy.

Also great: Zumio Classic

Photo: Bianca Jarvis

Though the Zumio Classic‘s unusual shape resembles that of a thermometer or oral hygiene device, the toy’s narrow stem and rounded tip deliver sensations more precisely than any other vibrator we have tested. This toy is ideal for those who like to focus stimulation on a particular part of the clitoris or vulva, as the small surface area of the oscillating hard plastic tip causes the vibrations to feel more concentrated in the areas they come in contact with. This makes the Zumio excellent for partner play or solo use. However, it costs nearly as much as our top pick, the Magic Wand, and is largely unable to match its broad, deep internal clitoral stimulation.

This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

 

 

MobiCom received the Grand Prix at the andquot;Entrepreneur Awardsandquot; in 2017

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MobiCom Corporation LLC, a consolidated subsidiary of KDDI (Headquarters Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia Chairman and CEO Tatsuya Hamada hereafter “MobiCom”) received the Grand Prix at annual “Entrepreneur Awards” in 2017 which is hosted by Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in recognition of MobiCom’s greatest contribution to the economic development of the country throughout the year. Also, MobiCom took first place in the “Top 10 Entrepreneurs Awards” in 2016, which is second highest award after the Grand Prix.

MobiCom has the largest market share of mobile subscribers in Mongolia [1], and is a total telecommunications service provider supplying wide variety of services in mobile, fixed line, satellite communications, ICT field, and Fintech services. In May 2017 MobiCom became the first company in Mongolia to win “Best Employer of Mongolia”, an award recognizing corporations that make active efforts to maintain employee friendly work environments. MobiCom aims for improvement of customer satisfaction, and also became the first company in Mongolia to start providing high-speed 4G LTE-Advanced service using carrier aggregation technology in November 2017.

MobiCom was highly praised for contributions to the society and the deployment of the best network environment in Mongolia.

Tatsuya Hamada, Chairman and CEO of MobiCom said as follows regarding receiving the Grand Prix at “Entrepreneur Awards” in 2017: “Everyone at MobiCom is delighted to receive such a prestigious award. This year, in addition to expanding 4G LTE network across Mongolia, we started Mongolia’s first carrier aggregation in 4G LTE. Moreover, we also challenged ourselves a lot this year, including Fintech service using mobile money. Furthermore, we worked hard to improve our work environment, becoming the first company in Mongolia to acquire OHSAS 18001, international standard certification for workplace health and safety. MobiCom will continue to promote better telecommunications environment and contribute to the economic development of the country.”

(Reference) About MobiCom

MobiCom is a total telecommunications service provider, supplying mobile, fixed line and satellite communication services in addition to a wide range of ICT services, and holds the largest market share of Mongolia’s mobile subscribers [1].

KDDI invested in MobiCom from its founding in 1995, allying with operating partners, Sumitomo Corporation and Newcom LLC [2], to contribute to development of Mongolia’s communications industry. KDDI will apply its worldwide knowledge and experience to continue powering the growth of MobiCom and Mongolia’s telecommunications environment under strong partnership.

The best indoor HDTV antenna

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By Grant Clauser

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter, reviews for the real world. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

After spending more than 20 hours attaching many antennas to multiple TVs in two different testing locations (one suburban and one urban), watching way too much daytime programming, and compiling objective data from a signal-strength meter, we think the new 35-mile-range Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse is the indoor HD antenna with the best combination of features for most users. It matched or outperformed larger models in pulling in TV signals, required less (basically zero) assembly, and was easy to hide. The omnidirectional antenna is double-sided (black on one side, white on the other), equipped with a detachable 12-foot coaxial cable, and designed to stick to your wall without any hardware or tape, so finding the right mounting location is simpler than with the other antennas we tested.

Who should buy an indoor antenna?

Cable, satellite, and FiOS TV subscriptions can be expensive, but often we forget that broadcast TV is still free and features some of the most popular programs from major networks like CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, The CW, Univision, Telemundo, and PBS. Anyone who wants a cheap and easy way to get HD programming from major and local networks should give an indoor TV antenna a try. They’re also a good fit for people who can’t or won’t install a roof or attic antenna. The models we looked at can be placed in your window, on a wall, or behind your TV; they’re designed for a simple, unobtrusive setup.

How we picked and tested

Today, most indoor TV antennas are flat wall-huggers that copy the original Mohu Leaf design. Photo: Michael Berk

We started by assembling an extensive list of indoor antennas based on the top recommendations from various editorial and customer reviews. There are literally hundreds of indoor TV antennas available, so we narrowed our search to only popular, well-reviewed, and easy-to-find models. We prioritized antennas that came with their own coax cable, though it wasn’t a necessity. For the most part, the antennas we tested used flat, omnidirectional designs, though we did try two larger antennas to see if the extra bulk equated to higher quality.

We tested indoor antennas in two locations: Hatfield, Pennsylvania, and Brooklyn, New York. To read in detail about the broadcasting conditions of each location, please see our full guide to indoor TV antennas.

We assessed each antenna by evaluating the signal strength and quality of eight major networks, as well as some local broadcasters. We scanned for channels multiple times with each antenna, and recorded the total number (which was often higher than 40). We also used a Silicon Dust HD HomeRun external tuner to objectively test each channel’s signal strength using software.

For good measure, we also built our own antenna using aluminum foil, cardboard, and coax cable. Our “Trashtenna” performed surprisingly well in New York, but fared less favorably in Pennsylvania. It also ripped the first time we tried to move it, proving to be the least durable of the antennas we tested.

Our pick

The Antennas Direct Eclipse attaches easily to most surfaces, without any hardware or tape. Photo: Grant Clauser

In our tests, the 35-mile-range Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse proved to be the best-performing antenna in both locations. Its design and extra features, alongside its overall strong performance, made it our pick.

The Eclipse takes the flat-antenna concept in a slightly different direction by eliminating much of the plastic casing. It’s essentially a flat, circular piece of plastic with the antenna element inside. Thanks to its tacky Sure Grip substance, you can easily attach and remove the Eclipse from the wall. We love this feature because proper placement of an indoor antenna is almost as important as its design. The Eclipse also includes a 12-foot removable cord.

The sample antenna we tested came with a plug-in amp, and our results with the amp varied depending on where we used it. The amped version costs a little more, and in our tests the unamped antenna worked well enough that we suggest you try that model first, especially if you’re within 15 miles of a broadcast station. If you’re farther away than that, or separated by mountains or other obstructions, give the amped version a try, and be sure to move the antenna around to find the best location.

A budget option

The Channel Master Flatenna worked pretty well in our tests, but it’s cheaply made (you can see the crease in the photo that occurred in shipping). Photo: Michael Berk

If the Eclipse is sold out or otherwise unavailable, or if you just don’t want to spend that much money on an antenna, the Channel Master Flatenna is a good alternate.

In our initial tests in Pennsylvania, the Flatenna pulled in 49 channels. All the target channels came through, although NBC had some slight breakup (but not enough to make it unwatchable). The Flatenna performed slightly better when placed behind the TV, except that then it couldn’t pull in The CW. In New York, the Flatenna pulled in all channels in decent quality, and nine channels in exceptionally high quality.

However, the Flatenna is very basic, with the antenna wire embedded in a flimsy plastic case that’s easy to damage. Another knock against it is the short, nonremovable cord. If you plan to mount it behind your TV, the length won’t matter, but if you need to move it any farther than six feet from your TV, you’ll need to add cable with a coupler.

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The best gear for building your home theater

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By Grant Clauser

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter, reviews for the real world. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

Everyone loves watching a great movie on a big screen with a kickass speaker system, but few would complain about losing the sticky floors, uncomfortable seats, and kids with smartphones (unless they’re your own kids). Our A/V team spends thousands of hours each year to find the best-looking and -sounding home theater equipment. Whether you have a dedicated theater room planned or are thinking of upgrading your weeknight living room movie night, we have recommendations covering whatever space and budget you have.

The best home theater projector

If your room is large enough (you can check using this calculator) and you want the best picture quality, we heartily recommend the Sony VPL-HW40ES. After testing five leading models in the same price range, our projector guru Geoff Morrison concluded that the Sony offers the best combination of performance and price. It’s easy to install, has accurate colors, and creates very little noise (which is great if you have a small room and the projector is mounted above your head).

The best home theater screen

A good home theater screen should reflect the right amount of the projector’s light back at you and accurately reproduce colors, but shouldn’t create hot spots, shimmer, or blind you. That’s not always an easy task, as our home theater screen tester Chris Heinonen discovered when he tested 10 screens in his home theater. He also found out that price isn’t necessarily a predictor of performance and concluded that the bargain-priced 100-inch Silver Ticket screen was the smartest option for most home theaters.

The best dedicated home theater AV receiver

The AV receiver is the hardest-working component in a home theater. If you’re planning on a 7.1 surround system or you want to power a second zone of stereo speakers, we think the Denon AVR-S730H is the best home theater receiver for you. Compared with the other models we tested, the Denon was extremely easy to set up and use. It offers great sound quality even at high volumes, and has tons of streaming features. It also has six HDMI inputs, and one HDMI output.

The best dedicated room home theater speakers

A great-sounding home theater doesn’t need the biggest or the loudest speakers, just the best ones for your room and budget. We set out to find the best 5.1 home theater speaker system without going over $2,000, and eventually settled on the ELAC Debut system. They have a smooth, natural balance and deftly handle quiet scenes and outbursts of action. You can also calibrate the subwoofer to your room’s shape, an uncommon feature for subs in this price range.

The best projector mount

Selecting a ceiling mount for your projector can be complicated, though you may get lucky the first time. The problem is that one best mounting kit doesn’t really exist because there’s no industry-wide standard for mounting patterns. That being said, our personal favorite projector mount is the Omnimount PJT40. It’s the closest we’ve found to a true universal mount, having used it to mount multiple projectors. The Omnimount is a cinch to install, and you can easily make fine adjustments.

The best Blu-ray player

Photo: Chris Heinonen

A Blu-ray player, spinning Blu-ray discs, is going to provide the best video and audio for your home theater. Most current Blu-ray players are fairly equal when it comes to video and audio quality. Some, like the Oppo BDP-103D, use video processing magic to improve contrast and detail. Often processing like this causes more harm than good, but the Oppo performs admirably. However, it’s quite expensive. If you’re looking for a cheaper option, we suggest the Sony BDP-S3500.

The best streaming media player

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Even though a Blu-ray disc provides a better picture and better audio than streaming services, we know most people depend on streaming for most of their viewing. And although lots of your other devices come with streaming services built in, we still think the best way is a stand-alone media player. We’ve tested them all, and think the Roku Streaming Stick is the one you should buy. It’s very customizable and easy to use, with a large content selection.

The best universal remote

Photo: Michael Hession

The remotes that come with your devices usually do a decent job of operating them, but if you’ve got a bunch of gear and have ever done the remote shuffle just to watch a movie, you can understand the appeal of a universal remote. There’s very little competition anymore, so these days, our reviewers are mostly comparing different Logitech Harmony products against each other. They settled on the midrange Logitech Harmony 650 as the best universal remote for most people. It can control up to eight components at a time, and can connect with more than 6,000 different products.

The best TV antenna

After testing 11 leading indoor TV antennas, we recommend the newest version of the Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse as the best indoor antenna for most people who live within 20 miles of their broadcast towers. In both our urban and suburban tests, the Eclipse pulled in all our target channels easily. And its Sure Grip tack system lets you quickly attach it to a wall without any hardware.

The best HDMI cable

You’re going to need a few HDMI cables for your home theater, just don’t pay too much for them. We think you should buy the Monoprice 6105 six-foot HDMI cable because it can transmit any current audio or video standard, including Ultra HD 4K video, has Ethernet data and Audio Return Channel capabilities and costs less than $1 a foot. There’s no reason most people should pay more than that.

The best wireless HDMI kit

Photo: Michael Hession

Sometimes your TV or projector sits too far away from your source devices or is separated by obstacles, so a wireless approach seems best. If that’s the case in your home, we think you’ll like the IOGear Wireless HD Digital Kit. This system includes a transmitter with two HDMI inputs to connect to your sources and one receiver to connect to your display. It uses WHDI technology, which can easily travel through walls and other obstacles with no noticeable signal degradation.

The best speaker wire

Don’t believe the hype spread by high-end speaker wire manufacturers. Yes, you need good speaker wire for your home theater system, but you don’t need to spend a ton of money for it. We assembled a panel of experienced audio reviewers and asked them to conduct a blind listening test on a wide assortment of speaker wires using a blind listening test. They found the Monoprice 2747 12-gauge sounded great, even better than a high-end wire costing 100 times more.

The best surge protector

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

One of the least fun (but potentially most important) devices for your home theater is the surge protector. We spent 30 hours testing leading models to determine that the Tripp Lite TLP1008TEL is the best surge protector for most people. It includes 10 well-spaced outlets (four big enough for large wall-warts), which should cover all but the most extreme home theater setups. We also liked that it stops delivering power when the protection circuit is worn out.

The best wireless headphones

Sometimes you want to enjoy your home theater while other people are asleep (or maybe even just doing something that requires quiet). Unless your theater room is soundproofed, wireless headphones are the way to go. After researching 32 models and putting 14 through extensive testing, we think you should get the Power Acoustik Fahrenheit HP-902 RFT. We thought they struck the right balance of sound quality, value, and user-friendly features.

This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

 

 

Wirecutter's best deals: Save $50 on an Ecobee4 smart thermostat

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This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter, reviews for the real world. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read their continuously updated list of deals here.

Aukey Mohawk Drone

Street Price: $65; Deal Price: $38 w/ code 5H86P2FT

Use code 5H86P2FT to knock over $25 off the price of the Aukey Mohawk, our sub-$100 drone pick for more experienced pilots. We’ve seen this drone hit $50, then $40, both with similar promo codes, but this is a new low at $38 after the code is applied in cart. This deal is slated to last until 1/31, but there’s no telling if stock will last that long.

The Aukey Mohawk is our experienced pilots pick in our guide to the best sub-$100 drone. Signe Brewster wrote, “If you’ll accept a more difficult learning curve in exchange for faster flying, or if you’re already a capable drone pilot, the Aukey Mohawk might be the right drone for you. In our tests, it responded nimbly to flight controls, performing the best of the larger drones we flew through our obstacle course. It also has a few autonomous features, such as returning to home and flipping.”

Anker PowerDrive 4

Street Price: $16; Deal Price: $12 w/ code ANKER312

Use code ANKER312 to drop the price of this 4-port USB car charger to $12, the lowest price we’ve seen for it in a few years. As this car charger typically goes for $16, this is a nice savings. If you’re tired of running out of USB ports for charging, the PowerDrive 4 may be a nice option for you, especially at this price.

The Anker PowerDrive 4 is our more ports for more gadgets pick in our guide to the best USB car charger. Nick Guy wrote, “It might seem crazy to some people, but if you really need to charge more than two devices at once in the car, the Anker 4-Port USB Car Charger is a great pick. It puts four USB-charging ports that can handle a total of 9.6 amps in a package that’s of course much larger than the PowerDrive 2 and ReVolt, but still impressively compact.”

Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat

Street Price: $250; Deal Price: $200

At $200 (price reflects in cart), this matches the pricing we saw during the holidays and again in early January for our upgrade smart thermostat, the Ecobee4. While we anticipate the price falling further eventually, right now this is as low as we’ve seen this new generation’s pricing go. This deal is slated to end 1/27.

The Ecobee4 is our upgrade pick in our guide to the best smart thermostat. Grant Clauser wrote, “Thanks to a built-in Alexa, the Ecobee4 can play music, relay the news, and control your home’s smart lights as well as adjusting the heat and air conditioning. Like other Ecobee thermostats, the 4 also works with remote sensors, which is useful if your thermostat isn’t in the best part of your house to measure the temperature: Ecobee4 uses the remote sensors’ readings, along with occupancy detectors, to achieve the target temperature in multiple occupied rooms, rather than just wherever the thermostat is installed. (One sensor comes with the unit, and you can add up to 32 more.) Because it has Alexa built in, you don’t need a separate Echo to control it by voice, and if Alexa isn’t your smart-assistant choice, Ecobee4 also works with Google Assistant and (via Apple’s HomeKit) Siri. However, it doesn’t have the level of intelligence of the Nest Thermostat E for automatically figuring out your schedule, and it’s worth spending the extra money on only if you have real issues with cold spots in your home, or really want an Alexa in your thermostat.”

Because great deals don’t just happen on Thursday, sign up for our daily deals email and we’ll send you the best deals we find every weekday. Also, deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go to thewirecutter.com.

 

 

The exquisite torture of Kickstarter exclusives

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A month or so ago, I discovered a project on Kickstarter that made my heart ache with desire. It was a tabletop game called The Wilson Wolfe Affair by Simulacra Games, which is unlike any other I’ve seen. Each “game” is really a crate full of 1930s cartoon memorabilia, which contain clues and hidden secrets to a larger, unsolved mystery. The artwork is incredible and the puzzles themselves look fantastic — you’d find solutions through reading letters, using a Viewmaster, playing games, looking at objects under a UV light, and more. The game invites you to essentially play amateur detective, which is the kind of game I love.

There’s one big caveat though, and it’s that due to the unique nature of the game, it can’t be scaled to sell in traditional retail. That means that it would remain “exclusive” to Kickstarter. If I wanted this game, I needed to back it within the next few days or risk missing out on it, potentially forever.

It’s part of a “Kickstarter exclusive” trend that’s been on the rise in recent years. After some initial research, this strikes me as a phenomenon that seems relatively unique to tabletop games, due largely to three factors: The high cost of manufacturing, the niche audience that they serve and the fact that a lot of the companies who make them are small, independent outfits.

After all, these are often games with intricate plastic miniatures or simply too many components to be sold in a normal retail environment. In a way, Kickstarter, or other crowdfunding sites like it, are the only way these games can exist.

“It would never sell alongside Monopoly in a supermarket,” said George Fox, who created the Wilson Wolfe Affair. “And would probably sell very slowly even in a specialized game store, since the price point is relatively high.” He also said he felt that the nature of the game lends itself to being a one-time thing, like an event you buy a ticket for. “I think the more niche your game is, the more sense it probably makes to stay Kickstarter exclusive.”

Another popular Kickstarter exclusive in recent years has been Serious Poulp’s 7th Continent, a choose-your-own-adventure-style game of epic proportions. “The game is a Kickstarter exclusive mostly because of its manufacturing costs,” said Bruno Sautter, one of the game’s designers. “It would prohibit a distribution through ‘classic’ retail circuits.” Sautter did put the game up on the company website as a “Late Pledge” pre-order for a few months after the Kickstarter was over, but it’s still considered part of a one-time deal.

Although it makes some sense, Kickstarter exclusives present a few issues. For one, you need to have heard about them in the first place in order to get them. So, if you get wind of the campaign months after the fact, well, too bad. Another issue is that even if you do manage to catch the campaign while it’s in progress, you’re sort of cornered into making an on-the-spot decision on whether to plop down money on something you’re not entirely sure is worth it.

Now, for the most part, Kickstarter campaigns for tabletop games don’t set out to be exclusive. There might be a few components exclusive to the Kickstarter but the game itself isn’t marketed that way. Sure, there’s still a chance that the game might not make it to retail, but there’s a chance it could, especially if the company behind the Kickstarter is established.

Cool Mini Or Not (also known as CMON), for example, is a pretty well-known company that often runs campaigns for its games, but then follows them up with retail copies if they gain enough interest. At the moment, however, CMON is running a Kickstarter exclusive campaign for HATE (inspired by Adrian Smith’s Chronicles of Hate graphic novel series).

CMON says that while HATE will not be available through traditional channels, individual retailers can still choose to get the game through a special Kickstarter retail pledge. The game will also be available through conventions throughout the year. Admittedly, that still means the game will be hard to get, but at least there will be opportunities beyond the initial Kickstarter.

“The thing about Kickstarter-funded board games is that you really don’t know what the future holds for them,” said Quintin Smith, who runs Shut Up and Sit Down, a board games review site. “Which is part of the reason that they receive funding — this might be your only chance to buy it!”

Some games are Kickstarted once and never again, some might get Kickstarted a second time (7th Continent had a second run last year), while others might even get to retail later on, as is the case with a large company like CMON.

“Kickstarter games making it to standard retail is a bit like a spacecraft trying to make it through Earth’s atmosphere to touch down on a landing strip,” said Smith. “It might make it missing a few pieces, or it might not make it at all.”

And, of course, the problem is that few people get a chance to see and review these games at all, so you don’t know how good the game is before backing it. “The only solution that I’m aware of,” continued Smith, “and the one that I suggest to my audience, is that if they don’t want to get stuck with a disappointing game then just wait until the first Kickstarter is over. If a game is really, really good then it’ll either get a second Kickstarter or it’ll arrive in retail.”

That’s sort of the issue with Kickstarter; it’s not a store. Instead, Kickstarter is a place where ideas are brought to life through the power of crowdsourcing — ideas that might not otherwise see the light of day. As alluded to earlier, games like 7th Continent and the Wilson Wolfe Affair could only exist in the Kickstarter era, as they bypass the usual rules and barriers to getting your product to market. As a backer, I’m more than a customer; I’m an early investor.

But as with all investments, there’s always a chance that they could fail. And while I’m happy to see ambitious projects like these get funded — it increases the likelihood they’ll run a second campaign, for one thing — the idea of Kickstarter exclusives “forcing” me to back it does make me feel a touch uncomfortable.

This is, of course, a thoroughly modern problem. Kickstarter (and sites like it) have allowed wonderfully specific and whimsical products to become a reality that otherwise would have remained on someone’s bar napkin. It enables the weird and wonderful products of our dreams, as long as you show up at the right time and you’re willing to take a chance on something you haven’t seen. It’s a modern-day quandary that technology and crowdfunding have conspired to create, which delights and frustrates in equal measure.

For my part, I know that the question of “what if” would always hang over me. What if the game happens to be great? What if it happens to be the single greatest gaming experience of my life? What if I’ll regret missing out on this one-time exclusive? Is it worth it?

And that’s why I breathed a heavy sigh, took out my wallet, and backed the Wilson Wolfe Affair regardless.