Report: Facebook releasing its own smart speakers in July

Facebook is reportedly releasing two smart speakers later this year to compete with the Amazon Echo. The two devices, apparently codenamed “Fiona” and “Aloha,” could be released as early as July. Reports about the speakers first surfaced last year, with Business Insider naming Aloha. Bloomberg later revealed the second device and gave more details about how the two would operate, with one being a touchscreen device similar to the Echo Show and the other a more traditional smart speaker. Today, Digitimes reported the two devices are set to release in July at the latest. Aloha, the larger of the two with a 15-inch touchscreen, will have…

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‘Atlo’s Odyssey’ from Snowman Is Finally Releasing on February 22nd, Pre-Order Available Now

Snowman’s Alto’s Odyssey [] was originally supposed to launch in Summer last year. It was delayed to make sure it is as polished as can be and after some silence, we finally have not just a release date but also a pre-order for the long awaited sequel to Alto’s Adventure [$ 4.99]. This is a standalone experience and you can go into it without playing Alto’s Adventure. There will be unlockable characters here with their own abilities and a relaxing mode called Zen Mode. This will remove all coins, power ups, and scores and just let you explore the endless desert.

Instead of being a direct sequel with similar gameplay, Alto’s Odyssey takes things in a different direction. There will be wall jumping, balloon bouncing, and more. Alto’s Odyssey even has a photo mode that lets you get the perfect shots to perfectly soak in the gorgeous artwork. As expected, every single screenshot on the App Store for this game is wallpaper worthy and I’m always impressed by the art direction from the team at Snowman.

Alto’s Odyssey is a single purchase with no in app purchases or ads and it will sync your progress across iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV through iCloud. You can pre-order it on the App Store right now. I’m glad we finally have a release date for it and can’t wait to play Alto’s Odyssey. In the meantime, you can check out our forum thread for it.


Google’s CEO has no problem releasing employees from nondisclosure agreements so women can speak out

Some companies use NDAs to keep former employees from going public with their negative experiences.

Google’s top executives say that they don’t want employees, particularly women, to be forcibly silenced when it comes to speaking out about workplace issues like sexual harassment.

In a conversation with Recode’s Kara Swisher and MSNBC’s Ari Melber today, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that he would have “no issues” with releasing women from contracts known as nondisclosure agreements, which some companies use to keep women from talking publicly about workplace issues once they’ve reached a settlement with a company.

The exchange took place during the taping of a new Recode TV show coming to MSNBC, called “Revolution.” YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, who was also part of the discussions, agreed.

Here’s the exchange:

Kara Swisher: “Will you release the women at Google from their nondisclosures that you may or may not have signed so they can tell their stories?”

Sundar Pichai: “I have no issues with that. I don’t think we typically do nondisclosure agreements around these types of issues.”

Susan Wojcicki: “I mean, I think we’re open to it. We haven’t discussed this, but I think it can make sense. We want to provide a more open environment and if there are issues and stories, we want to hear about them and talk about them. And I think at the end of the day it comes from the CEO, it comes from the very top. And we need the leadership to be able to say, ‘This is the right thing to do, this is how you run a tech company.’ And we need the CEOs of Silicon Valley to take a strong stance that they want an open and diverse environment.”

It’s not known if there are any former Google employees currently under such NDA agreements.

Update: A Google spokesperson reached out to confirm that the company does not have any agreements — employment, NDA or settlement agreements — that would prevent a Google employee from publicly discussing a harassment issue.

When BuzzFeed wrote a story about these kind of NDAs last November, a Google spokesperson told the publication: “We encourage our employees to report concerns about harassment … Our employment agreements don’t prohibit anyone from talking publicly about instances of harassment.”

(Employment agreements are not the same as nondisclosure agreements, though.)

Today’s discussion came on the heels of what was a significant year of self-reflection in Silicon Valley with regard to issues of workplace culture.

At Uber, for instance, numerous top executives, including CEO Travis Kalanick, stepped down or were fired as stories of the company’s bro culture leaked out. Others, including some well-known Silicon Valley investors, have been exposed for similar issues related to sexual harassment.

At Google, the company dealt with its own discrimination issue, though it may not be what you would have expected. A former engineer, James Damore, was fired after he sent an internal memo suggesting that women were underemployed in the tech industry because of biological reasons. He’s now suing the company for discriminating against white men.

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Attention ‘Skullgirls’ Mobile Players: New App Releasing Next Week, Make Sure You’re Ready to Migrate Your Progress Over

If you’re an active player of the mobile Skullgirls then this is likely old news for you, but if you’re like me and played the game a bunch when it came out in May but haven’t been playing recently then this might be useful information for you to know. To back up a bit, Hidden Variable Studios and Autumn Games partnered with LINE, the juggernaut messaging company, to publish Skullgirls on mobile. However, the fit just wasn’t right and so Hidden Variable/Autumn Games have mutually agreed to end their partnership with LINE and self-publish the game on the App Store. Unfortunately this means that the existing LINE version of Skullgirls is no longer available on the App Store, all IAP has been disabled as of January 9th, and on January 15th that version of the game will cease to function at all. It’s a sticky situation.

The good news is that the new self-published version of the game is coming on January 18th and the developers seem to have put a plan in place to ensure that all existing players can transfer their progress over to the new version seamlessly. If you’re an active player you should already know all this because as of the version 1.6 update to LINE Skullgirls which released in mid-November the game will automatically prompt you to create a Skullgirls Login which is how all your existing progress will be transferred to the new app. It’s very easy to do so with a simple pop-up in-game and all you’ll need is an email address and a created password. If you’ve previously linked Skullgirls to your LINE account or Facebook for save syncing, this will NOT allow you to transition your progress, the ONLY way you can do so is by creating a Skullgirls Login through the in-game prompt. Let me say it again a bit louder…


Sorry for shouting. I have to admit, this is kind of a sticky situation as it usually is when devs divorce themselves from publishers. Apple did implement a system for transferring products on the App Store in between companies to avoid this type of situation, but apparently that’s not possible here and it simply must be a brand new, separate app. Thankfully it appears the developers have prepared to make the transition as seamless as possible for players, but it’s all reliant on you making an Skullgirls Login account before January 15th.

Transition stuff aside, this change should be much better on the whole for Skullgirls mobile going forward. As Hidden Variable states in the FAQ on their forums about the transition, “As an independently operated game, we will not be restricted by corporate policies or other limiting factors that might impede our ability to rapidly implement new, exciting features. We’re extremely hyped about what this means for Skullgirls in 2018 – we can’t wait to share more information about what we have planned!​” Related to that, the new version of Skullgirls that launches January 18th will be version 2.0 which will include proper full screen support for the iPhone X and similar widescreen Android devices, in-game drop rates for the Relic loot boxes, lots of bug fixes and optimizations, and more. You can read a full rundown of version 2.0 right here.

As annoying as this whole transition thing is, I think it will be better in the long run, and as a self-proclaimed afficionado of these mobile swipe-fighters I think Skullgirls is perhaps the best of the bunch. If you’ve enjoyed the game previously and have progress you’d like to keep but haven’t opened the game since November 16th, be sure to open it before January 15th and create a Skullgirls login so your progress can transfer over to the new app. More information about the transition can be found on the official Skullgirls forums.


AMD is releasing Spectre firmware updates to fix CPU vulnerabilities

AMD’s initial response to the Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws made it clear “there is a near zero risk to AMD processors.” That zero risk doesn’t mean zero impact, as we’re starting to discover today. “We have defined additional steps through a combination of processor microcode updates and OS patches that we will make available to AMD customers and partners to further mitigate the threat,” says Mark Papermaster, AMD’s chief technology officer.

AMD is making firmware updates available for Ryzen and EPYC owners this week, and the company is planning to update older processors “over the coming weeks.” Like Intel, these firmware updates will be provided to PC makers, and it will be up to suppliers to ensure customers receive these. AMD…

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