Sony adds HDMI to last year’s Android phone, charges $2,500

We’ve seen smartphones with stratospheric price tags before, but usually, something is special about them. Phones like the Samsung Galaxy Fold and the Huawei Mate X are anywhere from $2,000-$2,600, but those were first-gen foldable smartphones with brand-new display technology. Sony’s latest entry into the smartphone market, the Sony Xperia Pro, is a boring old slab phone that seems utterly forgettable until you look at the price: an astounding $2,500, or the price of three brand-new, $800 Samsung Galaxy S21s. Sony has really outdone itself.

Mostly the Xperia Pro seems a lot like the Xperia 1 II, Sony’s already-overpriced $1,300 flagship smartphone from 2020. Both have 6.5-inch, almost-4K, 3840×1644, 60Hz OLED displays, the Snapdragon 865 SoC, three rear cameras, an IP65 rating, and a 4000mAh battery. This year’s Xperia Pro gets a tier bump to 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, but that’s only usually worth $100 extra. There’s also mmWave 5G this year, two “app shortcut” buttons on the side, and a shutter button. Fancy.

None of that explains why this phone is at least $1,000 more than it should be. Sony’s justification for the outrageous price is (drumroll please) an HDMI port. Yes, in addition to the USB-C port on the bottom, there is also a Micro HDMI port that can be used as a video input. Sony suggests either hooking the phone up to a Sony Alpha camera and using it as a live video monitor or pushing an external video source out to the internet for live streaming. Just this one feature and the camera-adjacentness is worth $1,000 extra by Sony’s logic.

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Source: Tech – Ars Technica

SpaceX adds laser links to Starlink satellites to serve Earth’s polar areas

Starlink logo imposed on stylized image of the Earth.

Enlarge / Starlink logo imposed on stylized image of the Earth. (credit: Starlink)

SpaceX has begun launching Starlink satellites with laser links that will help provide broadband coverage in polar regions. As SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter on Sunday, these satellites “have laser links between the satellites, so no ground stations are needed over the poles.”

The laser links are included in 10 Starlink satellites just launched into polar orbits. The launch came two weeks after SpaceX received Federal Communications Commission approval to launch the 10 satellites into polar orbits at an altitude of 560km.

“All sats launched next year will have laser links,” Musk wrote in another tweet yesterday, indicating that the laser systems will become standard on Starlink satellites in 2022. For now, SpaceX is only including laser links on polar satellites. “Only our polar sats have lasers this year & are v0.9,” Musk wrote.

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Biz & IT – Ars Technica

Microsoft Mocks Apple’s Doomed Touch Bar in New Surface Ad

Microsoft has a habit of reigniting the Mac vs. PC conflict for its Surface ads, and this time it’s going after Apple’s Touch Bar. In a new TV commercial, aired during Sunday night’s NFL championship games, Microsoft pits Apple’s MacBook Pro against the company’s Surface Pro 7. It’s a chance for Microsoft to mock Apple’s Touch Bar in a TV commercial for the first time. From a report: “Mac gave me this little bar, but why can’t they just give me a whole touchscreen?” asks a boy comparing the two laptops. That’s something that some MacBook Pro users have been calling for, or just the removal of the Touch Bar altogether. Apple is now reportedly planning a redesign for the MacBook Pro later this year, with the Touch Bar rumored to be replaced by physical function keys. Elsewhere in the ad, Microsoft tries to position the Surface Pro 7 as a gaming device. “It is a much better gaming device,” claims the ad, which is an unusual way to frame Microsoft’s popular Surface device.

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Source: Slashdot

iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 hit supported devices today

The 2020 iPad Air—one of several devices supported by today's new software releases.

Enlarge / The 2020 iPad Air—one of several devices supported by today’s new software releases. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Today, Apple began rolling out iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 to supported iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices. The company also pushed watchOS 7.3 to Apple Watches and tvOS 14.4 to Apple TVs.

iOS 14.4/iPadOS 14.4 is a somewhat small feature update. New additions in the release notes include the ability to read smaller QR codes with the iPhone cameras, notifications to tell users “when the camera of your iPhone is unable to be verified as a new, genuine Apple camera,” and a number of bug fixes.

Here are Apple’s full iOS 14.4 release notes:

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Source: Tech – Ars Technica

Plex Launches Retro Video Game Streaming Service

Brian Fagioli, writing at BetaNews: Today, Plex launches a retro video game streaming service that should make playing older titles even easier. Called “Plex Arcade,” it currently only offers games licensed from Atari, so we are talking really old-school stuff here, folks (think Centipede and Combat). At $4.99 month ($2.99 for those with Plex Pass) it is rather affordable. Unfortunately, there is one big catch — Linux users are being left out.

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Source: Slashdot

North Korean Hackers Have Targeted Security Researchers Via Social Media

Google said today that a North Korean government hacking group has targeted members of the cyber-security community engaging in vulnerability research. From a report: The attacks have been spotted by the Google Threat Analysis Group (TAG), a Google security team specialized in hunting advanced persistent threat (APT) groups. In a report published earlier today, Google said North Korean hackers used multiple profiles on various social networks, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Telegram, Discord, and Keybase, to reach out to security researchers using fake personas. Email was also used in some instances, Google said. “After establishing initial communications, the actors would ask the targeted researcher if they wanted to collaborate on vulnerability research together, and then provide the researcher with a Visual Studio Project,” said Adam Weidemann, a security researcher with Google TAG.

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Source: Slashdot

Apple Execs Discussed Not ‘Leaving Money on the Table’ When Setting Apple TV Subscription Fees

In Apple and Epic’s ongoing court battle over App Store fees, one of the key sticking points has been Apple’s insistence on maintaining a 30 percent cut as a cornerstone of the storefront. But newly revealed Apple executive emails from the case show that the App Store rules that Apple flouts as essential to the fairness of the app economy were carefully negotiated into existence over time in a way that ensured Apple wasn’t “leaving money on the table.” From a report: The emails date back to a 2011 discussion, which included Apple software and services leader Eddy Cue, around how Apple would handle subscription video applications on the Apple TV — an important conversation, given the rise in popularity of streaming services. And while the discussion doesn’t offer much insight on Apple’s existing 30 percent fee for the App Store, it does reveal how malleable those rules were when it came to maximizing profit. The company examined a variety of options, including a 40 percent one-time cut, a 30 percent one-time cut, a 30 percent ongoing fee, or more individualized deals with services like the NBA and MLB.

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Sony’s best noise-cancelling headphones are down to their lowest price today

Sony’s best noise-cancelling headphones are down to their lowest price today

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Today’s Dealmaster is headlined by nice discount on Sony’s WH-1000XM4, as the high-end wireless noise-cancelling headphones are currently down to $278 at various retailers. That’s more than $70 off Sony’s MSRP, about $50 off its typical street price online, and tied for the largest discount we’ve tracked to date, which we also saw on Black Friday.

At the moment, the WH-1000XM4 are our top pick among noise-cancelling headphones. There are certainly better-sounding headphones for the price, but the XM4’s bass-forward sound is still enjoyable for those who like a boosted low-end, and it’s possible to customize the audio profile through Sony’s companion app. Either way, the XM4s are very comfortable to wear for hours at a time, get an excellent 30 or so hours of battery life, and have several useful features, such as USB-C charging, a “speak to chat” function that automatically mutes music when you speak to someone else, and a great “ambient sound” mode that blends external noise with your music while you’re outdoors. More than anything else, their noise-cancelling quality is excellent, muting lower-frequency rumbles and, to a lesser-but-still-impressive extent, higher-pitched tones alike.

A pair like Bose’s Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 has better call quality, a more neutral sound, and the ability to customize noise-cancelling strength, but overall, we think Sony’s pair is the better deal, particular at this price. Elsewhere, our deals roundup also includes discounts on Apple’s M1 Mac Mini and Magic Keyboard, a budget pair of noise-cancelling headphones from Anker that we like, LG’s latest OLED TVs, and more. You can check out our full roundup below.

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Source: Tech – Ars Technica

Google Play bans video app for standard “.ass” subtitle support

Google's app review robots can't be reasoned with, they don't feel pity...

Enlarge / Google’s app review robots can’t be reasoned with, they don’t feel pity… (credit: Carolco Pictures)

Google Play’s crazy automated app review process strikes again.

This time, the puritan robot overlords that run the Play Store briefly decided that listing support for common subtitle files is enough to get your app banned. The developer for Just (Video) Player posted their story to Hacker News, writing in the app’s bug tracker, “After a tiny unrelated description update, Just Player got suspended from the Google Play Store for “Sexual Content and Profanity policy“. Google finds issues with following: Full description (en_US): “* Subtitles: SRT, SSA, ASS, TTML, VTT.””

Yes, just listing standard video player features like support for the “ASS” subtitle format was apparently enough to temporarily earn a suspension. The developer says they “immediately filed an appeal” and today, the app is back up with the ASS subtitle listing still in the description.

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Source: Tech – Ars Technica

Gmail, Slack, Amazon, Spotify, Twitch, Hulu, Google Are Suffering Outages for Some Users

A wide-range of services including Gmail, Google, business collaboration service Slack, Amazon, Twitch, Hulu, and Spotify are suffering outages, several users and readers have reported. The reports started to come in half an hour ago, but the cause of the disruption is yet to be identified.

Update: Verizon says there is a fiber cut in Brooklyn. Further reading: Verizon Fios is experiencing outages on the East Coast.

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Source: Slashdot