Jay and Silent Bob are coming to virtual reality, whether you’re ready or not

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Filmmaker Kevin Smith first broke into the film industry thanks to his no-budget, 1994 indie comedy Clerks, and now that movie’s two most memorable characters will be coming to virtual reality. Jay and Silent Bob VR will be a live-action comedy series that will be written and directed by Smith, shot from the point of view of his Silent Bob character as Jason Mewes’ Jay “leads the way through a string of idiotic adventures.”

It’s just one of several VR projects in development that were announced today by STX Entertainment’s Surreal division, which handles VR and immersive entertainment production for the company. Among the other titles are an untitled live-action series from John Wick writer Derek Kolstad, about a government agent sent to…

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Flagship phones in 2018 will all have glass backs, whether we like it or not

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Glass has become the material of choice for premium mobile phones, and it looks like that’s set to remain in vogue this year. As my colleague Vlad Savov notes on Twitter, most of the 2018 flagship phones will feature glass from front to back.

The Nokia 8 Sirocco, Samsung’s Galaxy S9 devices, Sony’s Xperia XZ2, ZTE’s latest Blade V9, and the Asus Zenfone 5 all feature glass backs. Last year’s LG V30 and Huawei’s Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro devices used glass, and those companies are expected to announce new phones this year featuring more of that reflective material.

It looks like all the upcoming flagships from major phone companies will feature glass backs. LG revealed the G7 phone at MWC last week with a glass back, while leaked photos…

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Twitter is wondering whether Twitter is bad for society — and Jack Dorsey is starting new research to find out

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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey

How do you measure the health of online interactions? Twitter is determined to find out.

Are the conversations that people have on Twitter “healthy”? The company plans to figure that out.

That’s according to a series of tweets sent Thursday by CEO Jack Dorsey, who first issued a pseudo apology for the kinds of aggressive and abusive content that Twitter has become known for.

“We have witnessed abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human-coordination, misinformation campaigns, and increasingly divisive echo chambers,” Dorsey wrote. “We aren’t proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough.”

So now Twitter has a new plan: It wants to measure the “health” of conversations on Twitter, something that Facebook is trying to do as well.

“If you want to improve something, you have to be able to measure it,” Dorsey continued. “The human body has a number of indicators of overall health, some very simple, like internal temperature. We know how to measure it, and we know some methods to bring it back in balance.”

It’s not clear how you measure the health of a human interaction (or a human-to-bot interaction), but Dorsey intends to find out. He mentioned Cortico, a nonprofit that proclaims a mission on its website to “foster a healthy public sphere,” as an organization that is inspiring Twitter’s work. Specifically, Dorsey mentioned four “indicators” that Twitter could use for measuring the health of conversations. Cortico described them like this on its website:

  1. Shared Attention: Is there overlap in what we are talking about?
  2. Shared Reality: Are we using the same facts?
  3. Variety: Are we exposed to different opinions grounded in shared reality?
  4. Receptivity: Are we open, civil, and listening to different opinions?

Twitter also issued an RFP — a request for proposal — to get more ideas from others outside the company.

“We simply can’t and don’t want to do this alone. So we’re seeking help by opening up an RFP process to cast the widest net possible for great ideas and implementations,” Dorsey tweeted.

For years, Twitter has served as a home for some of the nastier internet users — a place where online harassment and bullying and conflict thrived, thanks in part to Twitter’s commitment to free speech and its willingness to allow anonymous users.

The company has tried hard to clean that up in recent years. It rewrote its user rules and guidelines, and has started cracking down on bot accounts. It has even started to punish well-known users by removing their account verification, or banning them entirely.

Now it’s taking an interesting step to try and quantify the “health” of its own product.

It all seems to stem from the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, in which we learned that Russian bots used Twitter to try and sow discord among voters. Ever since Donald Trump was elected and social networks were found to be somewhat responsible, tech companies have been grappling with their broader role in society.

Twitter’s move on Thursday feels like an olive branch of sorts for politicians in D.C. There has been speculation ever since the election that Congress may try and regulate social media companies that were caught sleeping at the wheel. This is a way for Twitter to show everyone that it’s proactively trying to improve discourse on its platform.

It’s one of the reasons Facebook is also trying to measure its impact on user health. Late last year, the social giant released a study that found that social media sometimes left people feeling crummy. The company then used that report as a reason to change its News Feed algorithm to start showing people more posts from friends and family, and less from publishers and businesses.

This feels like a similar moment from Twitter. The company is now asking an important question: What role do we play in the health of our users? It’s a question Twitter might not want the answer to.

Recode – All

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How to downgrade your Apple TV 4 to tvOS 10.2.2, and whether you should

We reported yesterday on the release of nitoTV, the package manager for tvOS. Just like Cydia does on iOS, it allows for the installation of unsigned apps and tweaks on Apple TV 4 and 4K, and currently supports tvOS 9, 10.0-10.1 and 10.2.2. All of these firmwares have jailbreaks, but only one of them is still being signed by Apple, ready to be downgraded to and jailbroken. But is it that simple?

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How to downgrade your Apple TV 4 to tvOS 10.2.2, and whether you should” is an article by iDownloadBlog.com.
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The internet can’t decide whether it loves or fears the Pyeongchang Olympics’ human-faced sacred bird

NBC isn’t even streaming the Winter Olympics opening ceremony until 8pm ET tonight, but in the time since the event happened live yesterday in Pyeongchang, Korean netizens have made enough fan art and memes out of the ceremony’s man-faced bird that it’s trending nationally on Twitter, and hitting #1 on Yahoo! Japan trending search results.

“인면조,” or Inmyeonjo, literally translates to “human-faced bird.” The trending tag “인면조 너무” translates to “Inmyeonjo is so,” which is a partial sentence people have completed in different ways, including “Inmyeonjo is so scary,” and “Inmyeonjo is so handsome.” People feel very strongly about this animal one way or another, but are divided on whether it’s terrifying:

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Apple considering whether to offer rebates for full-price iPhone battery purchases

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Apple may offer rebates to people who bought a full-cost replacement iPhone battery to get around throttled performance, according to a newly-published response from the company.
AppleInsider – Frontpage News

U.S. government investigates whether Apple violated securities laws with iPhone slowdown updates

Apple is now under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission to determine whether the company’s iPhone-slowing software update violated securities laws, according to a Bloomberg report. The inquiry is in early stages, and it’s uncertain whether an enforcement action will follow.

Last month, Apple admitted that software updates were responsible for slowing down iPhone 6 and newer devices, explaining that iOS would quietly reduce processor performance to keep pace with the diminished power output of aging batteries. The admission was met with widespread fury from customers, manifesting as dozens of class action lawsuits and multiple investigations by foreign governments, which could lead to large civil judgments, fines, and other penalties.

Inquiries by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission could focus on whether Apple either failed to disclose a material fact to investors in a timely fashion or enabled insiders such as executives to engage in beneficial stock trades using advance knowledge of non-public information. The window for non-disclosure could be large: Apple updated iOS in early 2017 with code that slowed down certain iPhones, but didn’t fully disclose the performance compromises until third-party reports spotlighted the issues in December. Bloomberg updated its original report to note that “[i]nvestigators are looking into public statements made by Apple,” and “are concerned that the company may have misled investors about the performance of older phones.”

Apple’s stock has skyrocketed in value over the past decade, reflecting the American computer maker’s evolution into a leading global vendor of consumer electronics and related services, while making key Apple executives into multi-millionaires. Prior to the announcement of U.S. investigations today, reports of disappointing iPhone X sales helped drive the stock down to three-month lows in the lead-up to its February 1 release of first quarter earnings.

Apple – VentureBeat

HomePod hands-on questions whether sound quality is worth $349, cites ‘distinct lack of mid-range’

Following a pair of hands-on looks earlier this week, Wired is the latest to share their initial thoughts on the HomePod following a “first listen.” Wired seems to have been given the same demo as other news outlets, but has slightly different thoughts…



Bizarre Report Flip-Flops on Whether Apple’s Building One New iPhone or Four

While it’s still very early on and plans are always subject to change, mumblings from the rumor mill have up until this point converged around the prospect of Apple readying three new iPhone models for a fall, 2018 debut:

  • A refreshed, 5.8-inch iPhone X successor with OLED display and Face ID
  • A 6.1-inch, edge-to-edge LCD-equipped variant with Face ID
  • And a larger, 6.5-inch OLED model which is currently being called the ‘iPhone X Plus’

Those predictions were spearheaded by the famed and historically spot-on KGI Securities analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo, who was also first to predict Apple’s development of a refreshed iPhone SE 2 boasting next-generation internals and wireless charging, which could possibly debut as early as May or June of this year.

Based on his track record, we have plenty of reason to believe that Kuo is accurate (until further notice, of course).. However a ‘bombshell’ new report fresh out of the Far East interestingly appears to breakaway from the current slate of rumors.

Suggesting in a bizarre twist that Apple has been testing at least “four next-generation iPhone projects,” the company may only release one of them in the OLED variety — the larger, 6.5-inch model — according to DigiTimes Research analyst, Luke Lin.

Breaking Down the Report

First and foremost, it’s worth noting that even Lin, himself, admits “Apple has not yet made the final decision.” And so it’s very possible, if not guaranteed, the company will ultimately change their mind — as they have so spontaneously done so in the past.

Also worth pointing out is that Kuo has a much better track record when it comes to accurately predicting Apple’s product plans — especially compared to DigiTimes, whose track record is notoriously hit-or-miss.

Interestingly enough, DigiTimes even goes on to corroborate Kuo’s own predictions, indicating that yes, in fact, “Apple originally intended to push the two OLED iPhones and the 6.0- to 6.1-inch LCD iPhone” model — however [for entirely undisclosed reasons] the company “started leaning toward the combination” of its two OLED models into the one — thus “abandoning” the rumored 6.1-inch LCD model.

Even more interesting, and perhaps lending credence to DigiTimes’ analysis, is that Kuo in his latest research note suggested Apple will be discontinuing its 5.8-inch iPhone X this fall — although it was said that another, 5.8-inch iPhone model will take its place in the company’s line-up, which has traditionally seen at least two new additions each year.

That, of course, is just part of what makes today’s report so sketchy. And while DigiTimes (being a Taiwanese publication featuring accounts from supply-chain level sources) may have access to “higher-level” information about Apple’s products or prototypes, it’s nevertheless unlikely they’d have access to anything substantial this far in advance of the company’s annual iPhone manufacturing season.

And since that doesn’t commence until sometime within the first few weeks of July, we highly recommend taking this (and all other) rumors with a heaping grain of salt. Especially since, you know, there’s “still a chance” Apple “may come up with another combination.”

iDrop News

AT&T says it supports net neutrality — but it’s staying quiet on whether it could charge more for faster access

It’s part of a new ad blitz, as the company suggests new regulation should target tech giants.

AT&T embarked on a major ad blitz on Wednesday to stress its support for net neutrality, promising it would not block websites or degrade speeds based on the content that its customers consume.

But the wireless giant’s pledge — appearing in major newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post — stayed mum on whether it might someday charge startups, tech giants and others for faster delivery of their sites and services, though AT&T has avoided such an idea in the past.

And the company’s chief executive, Randall Stephenson, even suggested that any new regulations should target telecom giants as well as their tech counterparts, potentially including companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter — an idea likely to draw a sharp rebuke in Silicon Valley.

AT&T’s public commitments come roughly one month after the Trump administration quashed rules that required internet providers to treat all web traffic equally. Like its peers in the telecom industry, AT&T has maintained that it supported net neutrality — but always felt that federal regulations adopted under former President Barack Obama were too heavy-handed and crimped investment.

For the moment, the FCC is finalizing its repeal, while court challenges — led by tech giants and consumer advocates — are beginning to materialize. In the meantime, though, AT&T said Wednesday in its open letter that it is still “committed to an open internet.”

As Stephenson defined it: “We don’t block websites. We don’t censor online content. And we don’t throttle, discriminate or degrade network performance based on content. Period.”

Absent from the company’s fresh pledge, however, was any explicit mention of “paid prioritization” — the idea that an internet service provider might offer or require tech giants and startups alike to pay for faster delivery of their streaming music, movies or other sites and services. Strong supporters of net neutrality long have derided these arrangements as “online fast lanes.” And some have feared that telecom giants like AT&T would pursue those deals in the coming months in the wake of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s repeal.

Asked about the omission, a spokesman for AT&T pointed Recode to the company’s comments dating back to 2014, when it said it wanted to ban some paid prioritization. Then, the only kinds of fast lanes that AT&T endorsed were those elected by consumers. It never panned out, but its unique proposal at the time might have allowed wireless customers to elect to receive their movies streamed faster than their music. Otherwise, AT&T and the rest of the telecom industry have always said that some paid prioritization is necessary, such as in the context of telemedicine.

Meanwhile, Stephenson also on Wednesday called for Congress to write a new law governing net neutrality, putting an end to the bitter war at the FCC and in the federal court system over the agency’s authority to oversee the internet. Already, tech giants in Silicon Valley have filed or pledged to support a number of legal challenges in a bid to restore the agency’s net neutrality protections.

But AT&T took aim at some of those very companies, suggesting that any new net neutrality law should govern not only telecom giants, but perhaps tech platforms, too.

“Congressional action is needed to establish an ‘Internet Bill of Rights’ that applies to all internet companies and guarantees neutrality, transparency, openness, non-discrimination and privacy protection for all internet users,” Stephenson wrote.

The AT&T executive did not mention any tech companies by name, but he added: “Legislation would not only ensure consumers’ rights are protected, but it would provide consistent rules of the road for all internet companies across all websites, content, devices and applications.”

In recent months, conservatives around the country — including the likes of Republican Sen. Ted Cruz on Capitol Hill — have fumed at reports that they see as evidence that Silicon Valley is biased against them. Meanwhile, tech giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter certainly support net neutrality, but oppose any regulation of the content that appears on their sites and services.

Recode – All