Nintendo Switch UI shown off as one gamer gets console early

With the Nintendo Switch launch date a mere two weeks away, it was only a matter of time before someone posted a video of themselves playing around with the new hardware.

Lo and behold, today on NeoGAF a guy going by the username hiphoptherobot did just that.

The NeoGAF user posted a short three-minute video of himself playing around with the Nintendo Switch’s start-up screen before walking us through the system’s home and settings menus. It’s a bit dry, honestly, but it does provide our first look at what the system’s user interface is going to look like.

That being said, there aren’t many gems to be mined from the video, with the exception of the data storage screen. The menu shows that a brand-new Nintendo Switch has about 30GB of free space – meaning the hard drive is about 32GB, the same size as the Deluxe Edition of the Wii U .

The video shows us our first look at the Switch’s user interface – a simple, straightforward one by the looks of things. It’s reminiscent of the Nintendo 3DS start screen, if you’ve ever seen that, or a condensed version of the Wii’s interface.

Hiphoptherobot wouldn’t give us the location of where he got his unit early, instead citing that it came from an “unnamed store” who decided to ship him an early Switch. Too bad this “unnamed store” couldn’t ship him any games to go along with the console.

Productivity primed: MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar now supports Microsoft Office

Apple”s newest MacBook Pro is getting more features from an unlikely source, as Microsoft is rolling out Microsoft Office support for the laptop’s unique Touch Bar.

Originally previewed last week for beta users, MacBook Pro owners at large can now access special shortcut features on the Touch Bar for Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel and even Outlook.

Similar to supported apps like Spotify and Photoshop , Touch Bar support allows users quicker and easier access to the Microsoft Office suite’s most used features, as well as make the Touch Bar itself more enticing to customers than just a fancy way of playing DOOM .

Office stays in Touch

As for how this new update can actually help a MacBook Pro user’s workflow, Word now cuts out clutter for a clearer screen, moving several formatting tools to the Touch Bar.

PowerPoint pros can use the keyboard-inlaid screen to track their presentation and timer (a major plus for timed school or keynote presentations), while Excel spreadsheets can use the Touch Bar to quickly access important functions and cell formatting.

Outlook on the Touch Bar can tack on attachments to emails with a single press of the touch-sensitive screen, as well as look up calendar appointments and even join in on meetings via Skype.

Though useful for productivity, some folks might want to be wary where they use their MacBook Pro, as some law examination boards in the US have banned the Touch Bar from bar exams. (We guess you can say it…didn’t pass the Bar?)

IBM’s hub for wearables could have you out of the hospital faster

Researchers at IBM have developed a hub for wearables that can gather information from multiple wearable devices and share it with a doctor, potentially cutting down on the time patients need to spend in a hospital.img 0514

The gadget, which IBM has dubbed a ‘cognitive hypervisor,’ funnels data from devices such as smart watches and fitness bands into the IBM Cloud. There, it’s analyzed and the results are shared with the user and their doctor.

The idea is that patients can be monitored reliably through the device so they can be sent home to recover from illnesses a day or two earlier than they might otherwise have been allowed. It also means that should a problem develop, a doctor can be alerted immediately and an ambulance dispatched if it’s serious enough.

IBM demonstrated a prototype of the device in San Francisco on Tuesday.

“I am Chiyo, your new companion. During this time, please touch me to start,” it said after powering up. “Every time you touch me, I will tell you about your status.”

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IBM’s Chiyo health device as seen during a demonstration in San Francisco on February 14, 2017.

Fed with simulated data, the prototype alerted to a low blood oxygen level and a high temperature after it was tapped.

The device will react to voice commands and interact through a text-to-speech engine. One of the jobs facing researchers is to make the digital speech more realistic and more conversational.

Doing that will encourage users to interact with the device, said Rahel Strässle, a researcher working on the technology at IBM Research in Switzerland.

In developing the system, IBM isn’t planning to get into the wearables business. Instead, it plans to offer the service as a platform on which other companies can build their own health services.

“They can use this technology to build their own wearable devices,” said Bruno Michel, manager of smart system integration at the same IBM Research office.

The prototype is about the size of a grapefruit and is built with off-the-shelf components such as a Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards, but Michel thinks it can be made much smaller.

“I think in about five years, we will be able to have that fit into the ear canal,” he said.

Microsoft’s Email Insights finally adds some useful search smarts to Outlook

Email Insights, a new experimental app from the Microsoft Garage, is the answer to a problem Google’s Gmail solved more than a decade ago: how to search Outlook and find exactly what you insights search

Google’s Gmail gained enormous traction in part because it allowed a quick, convenient way to search emails. Today, you can search Outlook, but it arranges the results in order with no real preference given to what might be most relevant.

Email Insights works with both your Microsoft Outlook desktop application as well as Gmail, and attempts to bring the three most relevant results to the top of your inbox via an “intent pane.” The tool also provides contextual autocomplete, spelling correction and a fuzzy name search that will pull up the name of a contact, even if you’re not entirely sure how to spell it.

email insights intent pane


The “intent pane” within Email Insights brings up relevant search results to the top of your inbox.

Users can open tabs within Email Insights to perform multiple searches. The search box can also be used to fire off a quick, one-line email to a contact, or even set up a quick meeting—functions that are becoming more common in the notifications window within smartphones.

If you’d like, you can even “detach” the Email Insights toolbar from Outlook itself and drag it down to your taskbar, Microsoft said.

 Let’s face it: Gmail is still easier to use than Outlook, at least where everyday email searches are concerned. If Email Insights proves as useful as it sounds, maybe Outlook will incorporate it into a future release. The problem, though, is that this app is being published via Microsoft Garage, Microsoft’s online home for app experiments. If you like Email Insights, encourage others to download it, too. Otherwise, Microsoft could kill it, as it recently did with Cache, its erstwhile Google Keep killer.

AT&T plans a national IoT network with LTE-M by midyear

AT&T is accelerating its rollout of LTE-M, an IoT network that’s already being used to track shipping containers and pallets, monitor water use, and connect fleets to the internet.Sign at AT&T's flagship San Francisco store

The carrier said Tuesday it will have nationwide LTE-M coverage in the U.S. by the middle of this year, six months ahead of schedule. Previously, AT&T had said LTE-M would cover the U.S. by year’s end.

That means everywhere in the country that AT&T has an LTE network, it will also offer LTE-M. By the end of the year, it will have LTE-M across Mexico too, creating a broad coverage area for businesses that operate on both sides of the border.

LTE-M is one of several LPWANs (low-power, wide-area networks) that are emerging to link sensors and other devices to the internet of things. It’s not as fast as the LTE that smartphones use, but it’s designed to allow for longer battery life, lower cost, smaller parts, and better coverage. LTE-M has a top speed of around 1Mbps (bits per second) upstream and downstream and a range of up to 100 kilometers (62 miles), including better penetration through walls.

AT&T is part of a wave of mobile operators considering or rolling out LTE-M. Others include Orange in France and SoftBank in Japan. AT&T launched its first commercial trial of LTE-M last October in San Ramon, California, and has since opened another in Columbus, Ohio.

Several companies are already using the network for enterprise and consumer applications, AT&T said. They include Capstone Metering, a supplier of wireless water meters; RM2, which makes storage pallets with sensors for monitoring inventory; and PepsiCo, which is using LTE-M to collect usage data from soda fountains. Consumers can dispense their own blends of soda from these fountains, and PepsiCo uses sensors to keep the fountains stocked and learn what blends are popular.

There are already several emerging LPWAN systems from mobile operators and other service providers. The growing LoRaWAN, Sigfox and Ingenu technologies come from outside the traditional mobile industry.

LTE-M and another technology, NB-IoT, are based on LTE and are designed to run over carriers’ licensed spectrum. They may be the best options for enterprises concerned about interference and security, Ovum analyst Daryl Schoolar said.

Though alternative LPWAN providers got a head start as these LTE-based standards were developed, mobile operators can roll out the LTE technologies quickly because they often require nothing more than a software upgrade.

Doubts abound over US action on cybersecurity

How should the U.S. respond to cyber attacks? That’s been a major question at this year’s RSA security conference, following Russia’s suspected attempt to influence last year’s election.p1170191 1

Clearly, the government should be doing more on cybersecurity, said U.S. lawmakers and officials at the show, but they admit that politics and policy conflicts have hampered the government’s approach.

“I wish the federal government could do this, but it’s very hard, unfortunately, due to partisan politics,” said Virginia State Governor Terry McAuliffe, during a speech at the show. “They haven’t been able to take the lead on this issue as they should have.”

Instead, it might be up to the states to assume a larger role in promoting cybersecurity, given that divisive U.S. politics at the federal level have been stalling government action, McAuliffe said on Tuesday.

RSA conference 2017
The RSA conference 2017.

Collectively, state governments store more data than the federal government, including residents’ tax returns, healthcare records and drivers’ licenses, he said. That can make them targets of hackers, so McAuliffe has been urging other states to make cybersecurity a priority.

“It’s up to the governors of this country to lean in and take the lead,” he said.

At the RSA show, U.S. Representative Michael McCaul also spoke and said the U.S. is falling behind on cybersecurity, pointing to the numerous hacks from state-sponsored hackers. “We are in the fight of our digital lives and we are not winning,” he said.

McCaul, who also chairs the House committee on Homeland Security, said Russia’s suspected involvement in influencing last year’s election was a “wake up call.” But he was disappointed with the responses from the  administration of President Barack Obama and Donald Trump, then a presidential candidate,  to the Kremlin’s alleged meddling.

“If there are no consequences for bad behavior, the bad behavior will continue,” he said. “Unfortunately, we still do not have a clear proportionate response, policies for striking back.”

However, actually coming up with a U.S. doctrine on stopping serious cyber attacks is easier said than done.

“One of the big questions out there is what is an act of war in cyberspace?” said Daniel Lerner, a staff member at the U.S. Senate committee on Armed Services, who also spoke at the show.

Currently, the U.S. treats every serious cyberattack on a case-by-case basis, which does little to dissuade the state-sponsored hackers from attacking in the first place, he said.

“That’s no way to project deterrence. And it really undermines our overall security posture, if every instance is a crisis,” Lerner said.

It doesn’t help that trying to accurately prove a foreign country was behind a cyberattack can be incredibly hard and might involve sensitive intelligence.

For instance, U.S. intelligence agencies have declined to share publicly classified evidence showing why they suspect Russia was behind last year’s election-related hacks. In addition, the Kremlin has denied any involvement.

Nevertheless, more officials in the U.S. government want to see the country take action in the event of another cyberattack, said Brendan Shields, staff director at the House committee of Homeland Security.

“The fuse is getting shorter and shorter,” he said at a panel discussion at RSA. “I think there is a growing desire for making sure deterrence is real.”


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Virginia state governor Terry McAuliffe (left) speaking at the RSA conference.

However, going after state-sponsored hackers is only one aspect of the problem. Much more of it has to do with defense, and protecting users from hacking threats that are coming over consumer-made products or websites.

It’s an area where the private sector also needs to play a crucial role, given that IT vendors have most of the cybersecurity talent, said the Virginia governor.

“We need your ideas. We need the private sector,” McAuliffe said. “We at the state government cannot drive this. The federal government cannot drive this.”

India launches 88 earth imaging satellites from Planet Labs

India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C37) has launched into space 88 satellites from earth imaging company Planet Labs, giving the startup the ability to “image all of Earth’s landmass every day.”ISRO PSLV-C37 satellite launch vehicle

Planet Labs earlier this month entered into an agreement to acquire Google’s Terra Bella business, including the SkySat constellation of satellites, and said that Google upon closing, will enter into a multi-year contract to purchase Earth-imaging data from Planet.

The startup expects its data to be useful for a variety of applications such as measuring agricultural yields, monitoring natural resources, or aiding first responders after natural disasters.

The launch of the PSLV-37 on Wednesday morning local time was a record for India’s space program as it carried 104 satellites into orbit, the largest number so far on a single launch.  Launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in south India, the PSLV-C37 launched its primary payload, the 714 kilograms Cartosat-2 series satellite for earth observation, and 103 co-passenger satellites that weighed about 663 kg at lift-off into a 505 kilometer polar Sun Synchronous Orbit.

A Sun Synchronous Orbit ensures that a satellite passes over a section of the planet’s surface at the same local time each day.

Planet Lab’s Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Robbie Schingler said that as a result of the PSLV launch, the company now has 144 satellites in orbit.

Besides miniaturizing its Dove satellites and learning to build them at scale, the company has “constructed the world’s second largest private network of ground stations; custom built an automated mission control system; created a massive data pipeline able to process the vast amount of imagery we collect; and developed a software platform that lets customers, researchers, governments and NGOs access imagery quickly,” Schingler wrote in a post soon after the launch.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said Wednesday that besides the Cartosat-2 series satellite, the PSLV-37 carried 101 co-passenger satellites, consisting of smaller nano-satellites, including one each from Kazakhstan, Israel, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates and 96 from the U.S., besides two nano-satellites from ISRO.

The ISRO nano-satellites are modular units weighing less than 10 kg and with payloads of up to 5 kg. They are designed to travel into orbit as co-passenger satellites to accompany larger satellites on PSLV. Besides satellites from Planet, the PSLV also launched eight satellites from remote tracking company Spire.

Apple sues Qualcomm over patent licensing and $1B in payments

A nasty spat between Apple and Qualcomm broke into public view on Friday when the smartphone maker accused the chip supplier of charging “exorbitant” licensing fees for its cellular technology.Apple

Apple is asking a Southern California court to order Qualcomm to pay it nearly $1 billion that it says Qualcomm is holding back. Apple says it is owed the money but Qualcomm is holding it back because Apple cooperated with a South Korean government investigation into Qualcomm’s licensing practices.

The lawsuit alleges that Qualcomm charges high licensing fees to the companies that make iPhones for Apple. Those companies pass the fees on to Apple but aren’t allowed to show Apple the specifics of the licensing deals, leaving Apple unsure what it is paying for.

“For many years Qualcomm has unfairly insisted on charging royalties for technologies they have nothing to do with,” Apple said in a statement. “The more Apple innovates with unique features such as TouchID, advanced displays, and cameras, to name just a few, the more money Qualcomm collects for no reason and the more expensive it becomes for Apple to fund these innovations.”

The lawsuit comes just months after Apple began using Intel radio chips in some units of the iPhone 7. And it follows two recent legal actions by antitrust regulators against Qualcomm’s licensing practices.

In December, antitrust regulators in South Korea levied an $854 million fine against Qualcomm for unfair licensing practices. Qualcomm vowed to appeal the decision.

Then, earlier this week, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission followed with allegations of its own: that Qualcomm had engaged in anticompetitive practices by forcing some phone makers into accepting unfavorable licensing terms while giving Apple a break in exchange for exclusivity.

Apple cooperated with the South Korean investigation. It alleged on Friday that Qualcomm withheld nearly $1 billion in rebates as punishment for that.

In response to the FTC’s lawsuit earlier this week, Qualcomm denied it did anything of the sort and said the FTC’s lawsuit is “significantly flawed.”

“Qualcomm has never withheld or threatened to withhold chip supply in order to obtain agreement to unfair or unreasonable licensing terms,” it said in a statement. “The FTC’s allegation to the contrary—the central thesis of the complaint—is wrong.”

It has not commented on Apple’s lawsuit.

Lavabit developer has a new encrypted, end-to-end email protocol

The developer behind Lavabit, an email service that noted leaker Edward Snowden used, is releasing source code for an open-source end-to-end encrypted email standard that promises surveillance-proof messaging.img 20170120 171638 01

The code for the Dark Internet Mail Environment (DIME) standard will become available on Github, along with an associated mail server program, said its developer Ladar Levison on Friday.

DIME will work across different service providers and perhaps crucially will be “flexible enough to allow users to continue using their email without a Ph.D. in cryptology,” said Levison.

To coincide with its launch, Levison is also reviving Lavabit. The encrypted email service shut down in 2013 when federal agents investigating Snowden demanded access to email messages of his 410,000 customers, including their private encryption keys.

Levison decided to shut it down, rather than help the U.S. government violate his customers’ privacy, he wrote on Friday.

“I chose Freedom,” he said. “Much has changed since my decision, but unfortunately much has not in our post-Snowden world.”

Levison said he is relaunching the service, citing “recent jaw-dropping headlines” over how email remains insecure.

“Today, we start a new freedom journey and inaugurate the next-generation of email privacy and security,” he wrote on Lavabit’s site.

The revived Lavabit is also built with DIME, which Levison started a Kickstarter fund back in 2014. It is designed to encrypt the email and its transmission, including the metadata such as the message’s subject line, sender and recipient.

The new Lavabit will operate in three encryption modes that range from Trustful, Cautious to Paranoid. Each mode handles message encryption and private key storage differently at the expense of ease of use.

For instance, Paranoid mode means Lavabit’s servers will never store a user’s private keys.

Initially, however, Lavabit will only be accessible to existing users of the service and only in Trustful mode. New users must pre-register and wait for the eventual rollout.

Lavabit is a subscription-based service. On Friday, it was offering a discount deal. For $15 annually, a user can have access to 5GB of email storage. For $30, a user can have access to 20 GB of space.

Prices plummet for AMD’s beastly Radeon Pro Duo graphics card ahead of Vega’s release

The long, confusing lifecycle of AMD’s beastly Radeon Pro Duo is quietly entering its final days as retailers clear the deck for the forthcoming Radeon Vega graphics cards.radeon pro duo

The $1,500 MSRP Radeon Pro Duo sits reigns as AMD’s graphics champion with not one but two high-end Fiji graphics processors, exotic high-bandwidth memory, and integrated closed-loop water cooling that kept the board running at chilly temperatures. But the timing and messaging around the graphics card just felt wrong from day one.


AMD first teased a then-unnamed dual-Fiji graphics card at E3 2015—a decidedly consumer-focused gaming event—alongside the Fury, Fury X, and Radeon Nano. While those gamer-focused cards launched in relatively short order, the Radeon Pro Duo languished all the way until March of last year, when it released with a newfound focus on professional users and hellacious GPU compute chops.

That bummed out enthusiasts hoping to unleash the power of two Fury X GPUs in a single card, but it made sense for AMD to focus on development scenarios instead as the effective 4GB capacity of first-gen HBM memory would no doubt hinder gaming performance at the resolutions and detail settings that two Fiji GPUs could push. Plus, multi-GPU gaming has been punched in the gut over the past two years, with few major game releases supporting CrossFire or SLI setups, further diminishing the Radeon Pro Duo’s potential effectiveness.

Unfortunately the marketing for the Radeon Pro Duo was muddled and confusing right up until its launch, and once the ferocious GeForce GTX 1080 released a mere two months later there was little reason for many users to consider buying AMD’s technological champion no matter how impressive it was on paper. AMD never even sent the Pro Duo to consumer publications for testing.

radeon pro duo innards

Now that AMD’s publicly showing off its high-end Radeon Vega graphics cards, which pack performance upgrades and second-gen HBM memory that ditches the limitations of the initial product, the Radeon Pro’s days are numbered, as TechPowerUp pointed out. While Amazon’s selling the XFX Radeon Pro Duo for $1150, a $350 discount, Newegg’s selling the XFX Radeon Pro for $800, as is Japan’s PC4U—nearly half off!

Or at least it was. The remaining stock sold out quickly at that price on Newegg, proving yet again that there’s no such thing as bad hardware, only hardware at bad prices. The XFX Radeon Pro is available once again on Newegg, but for $820 now.

If you’re curious about what’s to come in Vega, Gordon Mah Ung and I recently chatted with Radeon SVP and chief architect Raja Koduri for more than 40 minutes at CES, drilling deep into the details of AMD’s next-gen graphics cards. Check out the full interview below.