iFixit finds dust covers in latest MacBook Pro keyboard

iFixit finds dust covers in latest MacBook Pro keyboard
Apple released a refreshed MacBook Pro this week and top among the new features is a tweaked keyboard. Apple says its quieter than the last version and in our tests, we agree. But iFixit found something else: thin, silicone barriers that could improve the keyboard’s reliability.
This is big news. Users have long reported the butterfly switch keyboard found in MacBook Pros were less reliable than past models. There are countless reports of dust and lint and crumbs causing keys to stick or fail. Personally, I have not had any issues, but many at TechCrunch have. To date Apple has yet to issue a recall for the keyboard..
iFixit found a thin layer of rubberized material covering the new butterfly mechanism. The repair outlet also points to an Apple patent for this exact technology that’s designed to “prevent and/or alleviate contaminant ingress.”
According to Apple, which held a big media unveiling for new models, the changes to the keyboard were designed to address the loud clickity-clack and not the keyboard’s tendency to get mucked up by dust. And that makes sense, too. If Apple held an event and said “We fixed the keyboards” it would mean Apple was admitting something was wrong with the keyboards. Instead Apple held an event and said “We made the keyboards quieter” admitting the past keyboards were loud, and not faulty.
We just got our review unit and will report back on the keyboard’s reliability after a day or two at the beach. Because science.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Apple announces clean energy fund in China

Apple announces clean energy fund in China
Apple has announced a new investment fund to foster clean energy usage in China. The company isn’t just trying to switch its own offices and facilities. Apple is also working with its suppliers to expand the use of clean energy across the board.
For this fund in particular, Apple and 10 suppliers will invest $300 million over the next four years. Overall, the company expects to finance multiple clean energy projects to produce 1 gigawatt of renewable energy in China.
Apple isn’t going to manage the fund itself. The company is partnering with DWS Group, a division of Deutsche Bank. DWS will also participate in the fund.
The company started working on renewable energy projects a few years ago. Earlier this year, Apple claimed that 100 percent of its offices, retail stores, data centers and Apple-owned facilities are now powered by renewable energy.
Apple is not there yet when it comes to suppliers. The company has launched the Supplier Clean Energy Program back in 2015 with 23 manufacturing partners, and regularly shares updates — Foxconn seems to be missing so far.
By 2020, Apple and its suppliers hope to generate 4 gigawatts of clean energy. And let’s be honest, this is great news for the planet.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Sales of PCs just grew for the first time in six years

Sales of PCs just grew for the first time in six years
Don’t look now, but the PC might not be dead. According to Gartner, collector of marketshare and industry metrics, worldwide shipments of personal computers just experienced the first year-over-year growth since 2012. Shipments totaled 62.1 million units, which is a 1.4 percent increase from the same time period in 2017. The report states “experienced some growth compared with a year ago” but goes on to caution declaring the PC industry as in recovery just yet.
The top five PC vendors all experienced growth with Lenovo seeing the largest gains of 10.5% — though that could be from Lenovo completing a joint venture with Fujitsu. HP grew 6.1%, Dell 9.5%, Apple 3% and Acer 3.1%. All good signs for an industry long thought stagnate. This report excludes Chromebooks from its data. PC vendors experienced growth without the help of Chromebooks, which are the latest challenger to the notebook computer.
Gartner points to the business market as the source of the increased demand. The consumer market, it states, is still decreasing as consumers increasing use mobile devices. Yet growth in the business sector will not last, it says.
“In the business segment, PC momentum will weaken in two years when the replacement peak for Windows 10 passes.” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner said in the report. “PC vendors should look for ways to maintain growth in the business market as the Windows 10 upgrade cycle tails off.”
Consumers will likely continue, for the most part, to keep a computer around but since the web is the new desktop, the upgrade cycle for a causal user will keep getting longer. As long as a home has a computer that can run Chrome, that’s likely good enough for most people.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Adobe could bring Photoshop to the iPad

Adobe could bring Photoshop to the iPad
Adobe currently has three dozens apps in the App Store. But one app is still missing. According to a report from Bloomberg, the company could be working on a full-fledged version of Photoshop for the iPad. And it makes sense for a ton of reasons.
First, it’s clear that the iPad has become powerful enough to run complicated image editing software. Just two days ago, Serif launched Affinity Designer for the iPad, an Adobe Illustrator competitor. You can also look at benchmarks to find out that the iPad Pro is now more powerful than most mid-range laptops.
Second, now that you can effortlessly sync your files and projects across multiple devices, many people work using multiple devices. It’s been true for many years if you’re just working on a Microsoft Word file on your work computer and your personal laptop for instance. Maybe you use Dropbox or OneDrive to stay on the same page. But it’s also true with huge media libraries now.
A few years ago, people looked at their devices based on contexts. Maybe you had a work laptop, a couch-computing iPad, a big desktop computer for games, etc. But this is a thing of the past now that you can literally work from all your devices.
And when it comes to Photoshop, the Apple Pencil and touch screen makes the iPad a particularly useful device. Maybe you need a big screen to look at a photo, but maybe you want to use the Apple Pencil to interact with the photo.
Bringing Photoshop to the iPad could let you seamlessly work on the same file across multiple devices, switching back and forth between those two devices. Illustrators could really use this kind of flexibility and ditch their Wacom tablet.
You might remember that Apple has put together a Pro Workflow Team for the same reason. You could imagine launching Final Cut Pro X or Logic Pro X on an iMac and on an iPad to interact with a project in different ways. Apple may not be working on Macs with a touchscreen, but it’s clear that there will be ways to interact with a creative project using your finger or the Apple Pencil.
Finally, bringing Photoshop to the iPad makes sense on a business model perspective. Now that Adobe has shifted to a subscription model, the company needs to increase stickiness as much as possible. If you end up spending more time in Adobe apps because your favorite app is on all platforms, you’ll keep paying for Creative Cloud every month.
This project will be an engineering achievement. But this isn’t the first time Adobe is developing a single app for multiple platforms.

TIL the new Lightroom CC is almost entirely built in Lua, running the same codebase on iOS, Mac, Windows & Android using Adobe's new UI system & design language. Seems significant…
— Steve Troughton-Smith (@stroughtonsmith) July 13, 2018

Bloomberg says that we might hear more from Photoshop for iPad at the Adobe Max conference in October. Adobe’s chief product officer of Creative Cloud Scott Belsky confirmed that the company was working on releasing these new versions as quickly as possible.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Blue Origin could charge $200k-$300k for a trip to space

Blue Origin could charge 0k-0k for a trip to space
How much would you pay to leave our dumpster fire of a world for just a few minutes? Blue Origin is considering charging $200,000 to $300,000 according to a Reuters report. For that price, passengers would get a seat on Blue Origin’s New Shepard, the commercial space vehicle from Jeff Bezos’ rocket company.
The rocket would take passengers to suborbital space to experience weightlessness and see the curvature of the Earth. This is done autonomously and can hold six passengers. Parachutes will return the capsule back to solid ground.
This claim comes from two people with knowledge of the space program’s pricing, Reuters says.
Passengers have time to start saving. Ferrying passengers to space is still a ways off for Blue Origin. The company has completed eight test flights including landing the rocket vertically, but has yet to strap a human into one of the seats. That’s apparently coming within weeks, one employee is quoted on saying in the Reuters’ report.
Blue Origin isn’t the only one selling tickets to space. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic says it has sold about 650 $250,000 tickets to space aboard its craft; launch dates have yet to be announced for that trip too.
Bezos has larger ambitions than just being an amusement ride. In May, speaking at the Space Development Conference in Los Angeles with the inimitable Alan Boyle, Bezos chatted about the idea of making the moon a center for heavy industry, which he thinks will help conserve resources here on Earth. When the time comes, he hopes that lunar residence and industry will be a shared privilege, with countries working together in a “lunar village” and combining their strengths rather than testing them against one another.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

The Rising STAR robot can run, flip, and crawl

The Rising STAR robot can run, flip, and crawl
A clever little robot made by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev can roll around, flip itself over, and even crawl like a turtle through rough terrain. The robot uses wheels, a set of star-shaped rollers, and cleverly articulated arms to ride along at various speeds.
The robot, called Rising STAR, uses wheels and spoked “whegs” to roll around at about one meter per second and it can fold itself flat and pull itself forward when it finds mud or sand. It can also make itself very skinny to ride through tight spots and can even flip itself over if it falls.
A weighted “head” can keep the robot balanced as it tools along, allowing it to climb up and over steep surfaces and, the researchers say, even sneak through pipes or between tight walls.
Rising STAR is an updated version of the university’s Sprawl-Tuned Autonomous Robot that it displayed in 2013. This new version is far more capable and, thanks to its “whegs” and turtle-gait, far cooler.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Summer road trip tech essentials and extras

Summer road trip tech essentials and extras

Makula Dunbar
Contributor

Makula Dunbar is a writer with Wirecutter.

More posts by this contributor

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Editor’s note: This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and TechCrunch may earn affiliate commissions.
Gearing up for a pleasant road trip entails more than picking an exciting destination. The mode of transportation, and what you’re able to do while traveling, sometimes makes or breaks hours spent on the road.
Whether you’re taking an older car on a short solo excursion, or piling in with family and friends for a cross-country drive, your road trip gear and setup can add to the experience. We’ve gathered some of our favorite picks that cover the basics.

iPad Headrest Mount: Arkon Center Extension Car Headrest Tablet Mount
If getting comfortable in a backseat and watching a movie sounds like an ideal way to pass time, do so with the help of a tablet mount. The Arkon Center Extension Car Headrest Tablet Mount securely holds iPads and most 9- to 12-inch tablets.
It attaches to the metal rods of the front seat headrest and its holster is attached to an extendable arm that can be positioned so one or multiple backseat passengers can get a clear view.
Photo: Rik Paul
Car GPS: Garmin DriveSmart 51 LMT-S
Before the wheels start rolling, knowing where you’re going and how to get there is likely the first order of business. Using a standalone car GPS means your smartphone doesn’t have to be held hostage and you don’t have to rely on a live data connection.
The Garmin DriveSmart 51 LMT-S has maps and a database with points of interest built in so that navigation — even off of the beaten path — is straightforward. It works via Bluetooth, can display alerts or searches from a smartphone and its maps are updated over Wi-Fi. During testing, its voice-control system was the simplest to use and its audible directions were the most precise.
You’ll like that its 5-inch touchscreen displays easy-to-follow lanes and road signs, along with nearby stops and speed limits.

Bluetooth Kit: Anker SoundSync Drive
There’s no fun in a road trip that doesn’t include your favorite podcasts and music playlists. Older cars without built-in Bluetooth pose a problem when it comes to streaming curated entertainment from a smartphone.
Bypass installing a new stereo system and use an inexpensive Bluetooth kit instead. We recommend the Anker SoundSync Drive for cars with an aux-in port as well as other options for different setups. The SoundSync Drive will allow you to listen to music and makes hands-free calls.
It offers high-quality audio that’s on par and better than competitors we tested, and it has convenient track-control buttons. Keep it powered by plugging its USB-A charging cable into any car charger or USB power source.
Photo: Michael Hession
Car Mount: iOttie Easy One Touch 4 Air Vent Mount
For a car mount that won’t get in the way of other devices that have to be placed on a windshield or dashboard, we recommend the iOttie Easy One Touch 4 Air Vent Mount. It fits into an air vent and its grip — which is secured by long rubber-lined arms and a spring-loaded clamp — places it above similar models.
Its cradle holds firm, it can be placed on vents of all thicknesses and it’s easy to position. The Easy One Touch 4 Air Vent Mount’s build makes it easy to access and it works against weighing down vent slats.
Photo: Nick Guy 
USB Car Charger: RAVPower RP-VC006
The RAVPower RP-VC006 USB car charger is small but packs a punch (up to 2.4 amps) with two USB ports for powering smartphones or tablets. It isn’t difficult to insert or remove, and when it’s dark outside, its LED and white ports make it easy to locate.
We like that it’s compact and doesn’t stick out too far. The RAVPower RP-VC006 plugs into a 12-volt power jack and it’s capable of charging two devices — simultaneously and in little to no time. It comes with a lifetime warranty, and if you’re concerned about misplacing it or running out of juice, it’s cheap enough to buy a few.
This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter.
When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commissions.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

You can now stream to your Sonos devices via AirPlay 2

You can now stream to your Sonos devices via AirPlay 2
Newer Sonos devices and “rooms” now appear as AirPlay 2-compatible devices, allowing you to stream audio to them via Apple devices. The solution is a long time coming for Sonos which promised AirPlay 2 support in October.
You can stream to Sonos One, Sonos Beam, Playbase, and Play:5 speakers and ask Siri to play music on various speakers (“Hey Siri, play some hip-hop in the kitchen.”) The feature should roll out to current speakers today.
I tried a beta version and it worked as advertised. A set of speakers including a Beam and a Sub in my family room showed up as a single speaker and a Sonos One in the kitchen showed up as another. I was able to stream music and podcasts to either one.
Given the ease with which you can now stream to nearly every device from every device it’s clear that whole-home audio is progressing rapidly. As we noted before Sonos is facing tough competition but little tricks like this one help it stay in the race.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Court victory legalizes 3D-printable gun blueprints

Court victory legalizes 3D-printable gun blueprints
A multi-year legal battle over the ability to distribute computer models of gun parts and replicate them in 3D printers has ended in defeat for government authorities who sought to prevent the practice. Cody Wilson, the gunmaker and free speech advocate behind the lawsuit, now intends to expand his operations, providing printable gun blueprints to all who desire them.
The longer story of the lawsuit is well told by Andy Greenberg over at Wired, but the decision is eloquent on its own. The fundamental question is whether making 3D models of gun components available online is covered by the free speech rights granted by the First Amendment.
This is a timely but complex conflict because it touches on two themes that happen to be, for many, ethically contradictory. Arguments for tighter restrictions on firearms are, in this case, directly opposed to arguments for the unfettered exchange of information on the internet. It’s hard to advocate for both here: restricting firearms and restricting free speech are one and the same.
That at least seems to be conclusion of the government lawyers, who settled Wilson’s lawsuit after years of court battles. In a copy of the settlement provided to me by Wilson, the U.S. government agrees to exempt “the technical data that is the subject of the Action” from legal restriction. The modified rules should appear in the Federal Register soon.
What does this mean? It means that a 3D model that can be used to print the components of a working firearm is legal to own and legal to distribute. You can likely even print it and use the product — you just can’t sell it. There are technicalities to the law here (certain parts are restricted, but can be sold in an incomplete state, etc.), but the implications as regards the files themselves seems clear.
Wilson’s original vision, which he is now pursuing free of legal obstacles, is a repository of gun models, called DEFCAD, much like any other collection of data on the web, though naturally considerably more dangerous and controversial.
“I currently have no national legal barriers to continue or expand DEFCAD,” he wrote in an email to TechCrunch. “This legal victory is the formal beginning to the era of downloadable guns. Guns are as downloadable as music. There will be streaming services for semi-automatics.”
The concepts don’t map perfectly, no doubt, but it’s hard to deny that with the success of this lawsuit, there are few legal restrictions to speak of on the digital distribution of firearms. Before it even, there were few technical restrictions: certainly just as you could download MP3s on Napster in 2002, you can download a gun file today.
Gun control advocates will no doubt argue that greater availability of lethal weaponry is the opposite of what is needed in this country. But others will point out that in a way this is a powerful example of how liberally free speech can be defined. It’s important to note that both of these things can be true.
This court victory settles one case, but marks the beginnings of many another. “I have promoted my values for years with great care and diligence,” Wilson wrote. It’s hard to disagree with that. Those whose values differ are free to pursue them in their own way; perhaps they too will be awarded victories of this scale.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Nerf updates laser tag with smartphone AR

Nerf updates laser tag with smartphone AR
There’s nothing like a great new toy to make you mourn the ghost of bygone youth. I don’t have the opportunity to try many out at this job, but when I do, there’s an invariable pang of jealousy for kids today who have much broader access to sophisticated playthings than we did in our day.
Nerf Laser Ops Pro is a pretty solid example of this. It finds the company combining a solid bit of nostalgic IP with some modern technology, to good effect. The new toys, which hit virtual store shelves next Monday, look like a Nerf, play like a Lazer Tag and incorporate your smartphone to help take them a step beyond what either line has offered in the past.
Arguably the most compelling bit in all of this is the price point, with none of the sets running more than $50. I have a vague memory of the original Lazer Tag system being prohibitively expensive in my youth — or maybe that’s just what my parents told me because they didn’t want any fake guns lying around the house.
There was, after all, some controversy with the line from the outset. Here’s a pretty depressing story from the height of Lazer Tag’s success that no doubt caused its manufacturers to rethink the product’s presentation. In 1998, the brand was purchased by Hasbro, and in 2012, it was rolled into the Nerf line.
The foam gun brand has always offered a warmer, fuzzier take on toy weapons, and that’s very much at play here. The likelihood of ever mistaking Nerf Laser Ops Pro for a real gun is slim to none. That said, true diehards will likely miss the Knight Rider-esque black and red vibe of the original product. But if that’s enough to ruin your childhood, it was probably already on shaky ground to begin with.
The more important question is whether Laser Ops Pro is fun. I only played with it briefly today (reminder: I’m an adult with a job), but I can unequivocally state “yes” on that front. Habro’s done a good job marrying the new with the old here. The guns are big and plasticky and hearty, combining digital technology with mechanical haptic feedback.
Smartphone use is optional, which is good for the little ones. When you add that in, however, you get the benefit of things like leaderboards, states and GPS tracking (all secure and private, the company assures me). There’s also a fun little AR shooting game you can play when you’re all by your lonesome.
The blasters will be available online July 16, with retail availability next month. They’re a solid summer purchase for parents looking for ways to get their video game-obsessed offspring up off the couch while the weather’s still nice.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch