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    Utah passes laws requiring parental permission for teens to use social media

    Utah’s governor has signed two bills that could upend how teens in the state are able to use social media apps. Under the newlaws, companies like Meta, Snap and TikTok would be required to get parents permission before teens could create accounts on their platforms. The laws also require curfew, parental controls and age verification features.

    The laws could dramatically change how social platforms handle the accounts of their youngest users. In addition to the parental consent and age verification features, the laws also bar companies “from using a design or feature that causes a minor to have an addiction to the company's social media platform.”

    For now, it’s not clear how Utah officials intend to enforce the laws or how they will apply to teenagers’ existing social media accounts. Both laws are scheduled to take effect next March.

    The effect that social media can have on teens, particularly younger ones, has been in the spotlight for some time. Earlier this year, the Surgeon General said that “13 is too early,” referring to the minimum age when most platforms allow teens to join. Lawmakers in Congress and in other states have also proposed laws that would limit teens’ ability to use social media apps.

    Not everyone agrees that laws restricting teenagers from using social media is the right approach, though. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization that promotes digital rights, has opposed the law, saying it would violate the First Amendment rights of young people. Other groups have voiced similar concerns

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    Twitter Blue subscriptions are now available worldwide

    You no longer have to wonder whether or not the revived Twitter Blue subscription is available in your country. Twitter has confirmed that Blue is now available worldwide. Pay $8 per month ($11 if you sign up through the iOS app) and you'll get the no-longer-that-special blue checkmark as well as 4,000-character tweets, higher ranking in replies, post editing and other perks.

    Organizations, meanwhile, can pursue a more useful tick next to their names. Twitter has begun accepting applications for the grey checkmarks that verify government officials and organizations, not to mention their equivalents at multilateral institutions. As you might guess, the criteria is stricter. Applicants have to use either their government ID or a valid email address, and have to describe their positions and functions. Businesses can already apply for gold checkmarks.

    The new Twitter Blue launched in November, but it quickly ran into problems. As the checkmark looked the same whether you'd paid for it or were a legacy verified user, people quickly used the membership to impersonate notable figures. Twitter soon blocked brand new accounts from signing up for Blue, and had to relaunch the tier in December with gold and grey checkmarks in tow. 

    A global rollout may be essential to boosting Blue's popularity. According to a leak source, the paid option reportedly had just 180,000 subscribers in the US as of mid-January. CEO Elon Musk is said to want half of Twitter's revenue to come from subscriptions, and that requires reaching a wide audience. Now, it's less a question of availability and more whether enough users will consider the extra features worth the outlay.

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    Here's what TikTok's CEO told Congress about the app's ties to China and teen safety

    At his first Congressional hearing, TikTok CEO Shou Chew tried to downplay TikTok’s ties to China and parent company ByteDance. But lawmakers at the House Energy and Commerce Committee were far from satisfied with his answers.

    In her opening statements, committee chair Representative Cathy Rodgers said that TikTok should be banned. "ByteDance is beholden to the CCP [Chinese Communist Party], and ByteDance and TikTok are one and the same," she said.

    Chew, who in his written testimony said that “ByteDance is not an agent of China” repeatedly pointed to Project Texas, the company’s sweeping plan to lock down US users’ data in the United States. But lawmakers on the committee were skeptical of the plan, which TikTok officials have said would do more to protect users than an outright ban.

    Chew repeated multiple times that US user data would be inaccessible to employees in other countries “after Project Texas” is completed later this year. Still, committee members were skeptical of the plan, which has been in the works for more than a year. Rodgers called it a “marketing scheme,” Representative Frank Pallone said "Project Texas is simply not acceptable," and Representative Angie Craig said the plan “doesn’t pass the smell test.”

    The more than five-hour showdown between Chew and lawmakers, who have found suspicion of TikTok to be a rare source of bipartisan agreement, comes as US officials have told the company it could ban the app if it doesn’t separate itself from ByteDance.

    As with previous hearings with social media executives, lawmakers pressed Chew for yes or no answers to complex questions, and grew frustrated when he declined to give one. In one exchange, Representative Tony Cardenas asked Chew whether ByteDance was a Chinese company. He would only admit that it was a “global” firm with a Chinese founder. In another, Representative Debbie Lesko asked if he would agree with a statement that the Chinese government persecutes the Uighur population in China. He would only say that "it's deeply concerning to hear about all the kinds of human rights abuse" and tried to pivot to saying those statements are allowed on TikTok.

    And Chew dodged other questions about the inner workings of ByteDance and its China-based employees. He was sharply criticized for his response to a question about whether ByteDance employees had spied on American journalists. “I don’t think ‘spying’ is the right way to describe it,” Chew said. “This is ultimately an internal investigation.” (TikTok was quick to point out Chew denied ‘spying’ had happened at the direction of the Chinese Communist Party.)

    The hearing was also notably different than previous hearings with other social media company CEOs because the vast majority of lawmakers are not active on TikTok. Not all of their questions were nuanced, though. At one point, Representative Richard Hudson demanded to know whether TikTok can “access the home WiFi network.” And multiple lawmakers asked why TikTok’s moderation practices are different from the aggressive censorship of its Chinese counterpart, Douyin.

    Beyond national security concerns, several lawmakers also raised the issue of teen safety, including TikTok’s content moderation practices and how it deals with viral “challenges.” Chew often pointed to recent updates like TikTok’d addition of a STEM-themed feed, new screentime settings and algorithm tweaks to limit “repetitive patterns” of potentially harmful content.

    But, after more than five hours of questioning, it seemed his testimony hadn’t done much to persuade the members of the committee that Project Texas will be able to address their concerns. 

    For now, TikTok’s future is uncertain, and even Chew seemed unwilling to speculate. Chinese officials said Thursday they oppose a sale of TikTok. When asked in the hearing if he agreed with those comments, Chew instead pointed to Project Texas."We will need to look at this because Project Texas is designed to move forward here in the United States and we are not discussing this," he said.

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    'Lord of the Rings: Gollum' will finally arrive on May 25th

    After a particularly long incubation process, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is almost ready to ship. Daedalic has revealed that its stealth action take on JRR Tolkien's fantasy world will be available May 25th on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. A Switch version is due later in the year. While the mechanics of the game are by now familiar, this still promises to be a fresh take if you weren't enthused with the hack-and-slash of Monolith's Middle-earth games.

    You play Gollum in a previously unrecorded story of his search for (what else?) the Precious during the first few chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring. He's clearly not a brawler, so he has to sneak and climb to survive. And crucially, the battle inside his corrupted mind plays a key role. You have to choose between giving into Gollum's darker impulses or hanging on to the shreds of kindness from Smeagol. While this is an original tale based on the books, you'll run into familiar characters and navigate a world heavily inspired by Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies.

    To say Gollum has taken a while to finish would be an understatement. It was originally unveiled in 2019, and even then wasn't expected to arrive until 2021. That year came and went (the pandemic didn't help speed development), and even a tentative September 2022 release didn't happen after a delay that was only supposed to last "a few months" as Daedalic took extra time to polish the title.

    The timing might work in the game's favor. In 2019, Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series was still in its infancy, and the last big Tolkien game (Middle-earth: Shadow of War) was old news. Flash forward to 2023 and it's another story. Amazon's The Rings of Power show is a major success, and movie effects house Weta Workshop is making its own game set in the franchise. There's a renewed interest in hobbits and orcs, and Gollum might benefit from that demand.

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    United and Archer will open an air taxi route to Chicago’s O’Hare airport in 2025

    Archer Aviation and United Airlines announced a partnership today to launch a commercial air taxi route in Chicago. The companies plan to open the flight path between downtown and O’Hare International Airport in 2025.

    Besides being United’s headquarters and largest hub, Chicago's airport commute makes it an ideal testbed for flying taxis. For example, the drive to or from O’Hare, in the western suburb of Rosemont, can take anywhere from 35 minutes to over an hour, depending on traffic; even in one of the city’s elevated trains, it can take around 45 minutes. But Archer estimates a flight in one of its air taxis will only take 10 minutes to travel from O’Hare to its destination at a downtown helipad. The program will initially be limited to the mainline O’Hare / downtown route, but the companies eventually plan to add smaller paths to surrounding communities.

    Archer describes the upcoming route as “cost competitive” for passengers without going into specifics. But even if it’s initially limited to deep-pocketed business travelers, the program should be good for the environment. Archer’s air taxis use electric motors and batteries and don’t produce emissions. “This exciting new technology will further decarbonize our means of transportation, taking us another step forward in our fight against climate change,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “I’m pleased that Chicago residents will be among the first in the nation to experience this innovative, convenient form of travel.”

    The partnership is the latest in United’s aggressive investments in flying taxis. Last year, the airline ordered at least 200 electric flying taxis from Eve Air Mobility; that followed a $10 million deposit it placed with Archer the month prior.

    In addition to Chicago’s (ground-based) taxis and ride shares, the city has a robust public transportation system built around elevated trains and buses, the latter of which the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has committed to converting to electric by 2040. (The CTA already deploys 23 electric buses.) If all goes according to plan, the flight path will help decrease emissions and traffic congestion, something most Chi-town residents can get behind.

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    ChatGPT's new plugins will deliver real-time stats

    Following the release the new GPT-4 engine and Whisper API in March, OpenAI announced Thursday that it has begun introducing plugins for ChatGPT. These will enable the chatbot to interact with 3rd-party APIs, tailoring its responses to specific circumstances as defined by the developers while expanding the bot's range of capable actions.

    Say you want to develop a chatbot that users can talk sports with. Before the latest GPT-4 upgrade, the chatbot would only be able to discuss games and scores that happened in the past, specifically in 2021 which is when GPT-3's training data was assembled. It wouldn't pull real-time data or even be aware that the year 2022 existed. With a chatGPT plugin, you'll be able to tack ChatGPT functionality onto your existing code stack where it will be able to do anything from retrieve real-time information calls (sports scores, stock prices, breaking news) to pulling specific knowledge-base information like your company's internal documents or from your personal cloud. It will even be able to take action on behalf of the user like booking a flight or ordering take-out — think, an installable Google Assistant made by the OpenAI folks.

    "The AI model acts as an intelligent API caller. Given an API spec and a natural-language description of when to use the API, the model proactively calls the API to perform actions," the OpenAI team wrote. "For instance, if a user asks, 'Where should I stay in Paris for a couple nights?', the model may choose to call a hotel reservation plugin API, receive the API response, and generate a user-facing answer combining the API data and its natural language capabilities."

    The company also notes that using plug-ins to bridge the knowledge gap between what the model was trained on and what has happened since should help reduce the AI's tendency to hallucinate facts when answering complex questions. "These references not only enhance the model’s utility but also enable users to assess the trustworthiness of the model’s output and double-check its accuracy, potentially mitigating risks related to over-reliance," the team wrote.

    The added capabilities and information afforded the model through its plug-in also greatly increase the chances of the model returning problematic responses. To avoid the $100 billion hit that Google took over Bard, OpenAI has reportedly stress-tested these plug-ins extensively. "We’ve performed red-teaming exercises, both internally and with external collaborators, that have revealed a number of possible concerning scenarios," the team wrote. They plan to use those findings to, "inform safety-by-design mitigations" to improve transparency and hobble the plug-in against partaking risky behaviors.  

    The plug-in itself is still in early alpha with limited availability. OpenAI granted early access to a handful of partner companies including Expedia, Instacart, KAYAK, OpenTable, Shopify, Slack, Wolfram, and Zapier for use in their existing apps. You'll need to add your name to the waitlist to try it for yourself.

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    You can now embed a legitimate audio workstation right on your website

    Digital audio workstations (DAWs) tend to be power-hungry, so it was already a pretty big deal when Soundation managed to fit most of the required features in a handy web app. But now the company has refined the code to allow anyone to embed a fully-functional music recording station right on their website.

    For the uninitiated, digital audio workstations are where the vast majority of modern music-making takes place. These software suites integrate with all manner of hardware and feature standard timeline-based recording functions. Soundation’s new tools open these features up to any person or company with an active website. All you have to do is copy and paste a bit of code and the software does the rest. Of note, you can place an empty DAW on your website, just waiting to be filled with music, or a DAW that already features audio content.

    What are the use cases here? You can drop a fresh and empty DAW just waiting for visitors to add sounds and effects. This is the ideal scenario for collaborative classes and the like. Remember, a DAW features all of the tools you need to record audio, edit audio, drag and drop MIDImidi, and add effects.

    Things get more interesting when you factor in DAWs pre-loaded with musical content, which could lead to a user-friendly way to remix pre-existing songs. The artist just has to embed a preloaded DAW on their site and let fans work their magic. This technology will also allow customers to “try before they buy” when it comes to sample packs and standalone beats. You can rearrange the samples on the fly and really get into the nitty-gritty, instead of just listening to demo clips.

    Embedding lets you change up the visual features of the DAW, including the thumbnail, aspect ratio, colors, and more. So your specific DAW should look completely different from the beatmaker next door, leading to unique remix competitions hosted by music marketplaces and teachers using different DAW templates for each class.

    The technology is available right now to try, but it does require a Soundation subscription that starts at $5 per month. However, subscribing also gets you access to real-time collaboration tools and other perks.

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ is getting a path-tracing 'Overdrive Mode' in April

    Nvidia wants game developers to remember that ray tracing isn’t the end of the line. A new Cyberpunk 2077 technology preview (“Overdrive Mode”) supports path tracing, the next goalpost to make games look even prettier and keep you buying expensive new GPUs. The two-year-old game joins Minecraft, Portal and Quake II — titles with relatively primitive graphics — in supporting the technology. In addition, Nvidia announced the availability of a developer kit to pave the way for the next generation of bleeding-edge graphics.

    While ray tracing follows a single beam of light across a virtual scene, path tracing follows the light as it bounces around an environment, more realistically mimicking how it works in the physical world. It determines how nearby surfaces reflect or absorb the light, producing physically accurate soft shadows that more easily convince our brains that we’re viewing a natural, real-life scene. And humans perceiving graphics as more realistic is (naturally) an advancement the gaming industry will pursue without hesitation. Hollywood has used path tracing for decades, but it was a slow and expensive process that couldn’t work on consumer gear or in anything close to real-time.

    However, we need to keep our expectations in check for the moment: You’ll need the most powerful Nvidia RTX 40-series GPUs to enjoy Cyberpunk 2077’s path tracing (and those who do may run into performance issues). Still, Nvidia is eager to nudge the industry toward what will be increasingly possible for consumer graphics in the coming years.

    Nvidia says two of its technologies were vital in producing this milestone: DLSS 3 (AI-based image upscaling without performance loss) and Shader Execution Reordering (more efficient ray tracing without losing quality). “DLSS allows games to render 1/8th of the pixels, then uses AI and GeForce RTX Tensor Cores to reconstruct the rest, dramatically multiplying frame rates, while delivering crisp, high-quality images that rival native resolution,” Nvidia explained in its announcement.

    Although we’ll probably have to wait a while before this technology becomes widely accessible, Nvidia launched a new SDK this week to let developers prepare. Owners of the latest and greatest Nvidia GPUs can test the Cyberpunk 2077 “Overdrive Mode” tech preview starting on April 11th.

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    Framework's Laptop 16 is a modular, upgradable gaming laptop

    There have been many attempts to build an upgradable gaming laptop, and all of them have failed. Technology moves on, or the manufacturer stops being able, or willing, to support users who have already bought a machine. The most infamous example must be the A51M, which had swappable GPU modules designed to keep it close to the cutting edge. But Dell killed off the plan to produce new modules for that machine the very next year. It’s this arena, littered with high expectations and broken promises that Framework is entering with its first gaming notebook. It’s called the Framework Laptop 16 and it could be the standard bearer for a new paradigm in portable computing. No pressure.

    The Framework Laptop 16 is the company’s second product after its perpetually-upgraded 13-inch notebook. That has earned it plaudits from across the industry, and has given it the confidence to turn its sights toward a far harder group to win over; gamers, creatives and power users. But despite the beefier internals, the machine retains the promise of being an entirely modular, fully-repairable laptop. “It’s all of the repairability and upgradeability that exists in the Framework Laptop 13, in a larger, higher-performance form factor,” said company founder Nirav Patel. He told me he believes that Framework is now “delivering on the holy grail in high-performance notebooks, which is the ability to upgrade the GPU independently of the rest of the system.”

    At first blush, it’s clear that the Framework 16 doesn’t try to disguise the modular nature of its construction like its smaller sibling. That’s both a function of the sheer level of customization on hand, and an intentional choice to be loud and proud about what this machine is. Patel said that while the default build is fairly discreet (I’d be tempted to disagree), “there’s so much you can reconfigure and customize that you can build something totally insane” so expect the models seen in the wild to be “immediately eye-catching.” And, if you had to sum up its aesthetics in a single word, I’d be tempted to coin the phrase legopunk.

    What we don’t have today, and won’t learn for a little while longer, is what specs are going to be found inside this chassis. Today’s announcements are essentially just preparing the ground for a fuller media blitz closer to when pre-orders open later this Spring. More importantly, it’s to get the ever-growing community of Framework developers and hobbyists attuned to what’s coming, and the tools that they’ll be given free-reign to play with to help customize and tweak their own machines. Patel believes that there’s plenty of potential toys for people to want to fiddle with, both inside the machine, and on the top of its deck. As part of this push, a slew of open source data, from mechanical drawings to electrical reference designs has been uploaded to GitHub.

    Much of our discussion focused on the big question that will likely hang over this machine for at least the next year or so. Plenty of companies have made gaming laptops with the promise of a future roadmap to upgrades, and none of them could deliver on that year-after-year. “It’s been tried in the past, it’s failed horribly, so much so that there’s a class action lawsuit,” admitted Patel. “What they did wrong, we learned all of [their] lessons so what we’re building is an expansion bay system. Rather than constrain components to a single size and hope that they can conform to those requirements forever, the laptop itself will grow (or shrink) as required.

    Framework has made room in the chassis to support both a current generation GPU module as well as future ones. “Instead of getting stuck where we can’t support new generations” he said, “we have that flexibility within that expansion bay to reconfigure any internal – or external – aspect of it to make sure it works.” This even stretches to the external dimensions of the laptop itself, and you can swap out the standard deck case for one with a longer rear vent, a common feature on many high-performance machines. “We’ve designed ourselves a way where we have pretty much complete flexibility to support changes when it comes to GPUs,” said Patel.

    Internally, the 16’s mainboard is set up in such a way as to allow a connection over PCIe x8, which Patel says offers enough “high power and display support in both directions” for a laptop of this intended size and class. When asked if that connection was enough, he said that the machine still has to behave like a gaming laptop, rather than trying to bolt on overpowered desktop-class modules. “It wouldn’t make sense to put a 300 watt GPU into such a fairly thin form factor,” especially given the thermal constraints any laptop has, let alone a gaming one.

    Image of the Framework Laptop 16 with the expansion bay cover attached to rear.

    It should be easy enough to make changes, with Patel explaining that those who need integrated graphics can just add a default thermal module into the bay. But when the person’s needs change, they can “fly in a graphics module” to get that higher level of performance. But the expansion card bay isn’t just designed for an annual cadence of new GPUs, but instead will be offered up for a variety of purposes.

    The bay, and its connection, will be opened up to Framework’s developer community enabling them to build their own modules. The company has already built a dual M.2 SSD that uses the bay, offering up to 16TB of additional storage. But Patel envisions a wide variety of other tools that could be plugged in, like a video capture card, streaming hardware, dedicated AI modules or even a software-defined radio transmitter.

    As well as the unprecedented level of internal customization, the 16 also offers hot-swappable keyboard, mousepad and anything-else-on-the-top-deck modules. Patel said, based on market research, there’s a clean 50-50 split between people who love, and those who hate, numpads. “So, we thought, why not let people choose?” Consequently, the whole top deck of the 16 is user reconfigurable. Patel added that owners can “actually remove the keyboard, remove the numpad, slide the keyboard into the center and add input modules to the left and right” all while the machine is running.

    Much like the expansion cards, Framework says it is opening these tools up to developers as well. Patel said that the company has already developed a secondary display, haptic slider and an LED matrix display. Framework is also developing regular backlit keyboards as well as, since this is a gaming laptop after all, an RGB-backlit version. Many of the modules are built on QMK keyboard software based on the Raspberry Pi RP2040 microcontroller, and the company is releasing open-source firmware to help enable the developer community to build their own projects. In its release, the company said it was hoping to see fans building their own “jog wheels, sliders, touchscreen displays, e-ink notepads, smart card readers and more.”

    Another holdover from the older Framework Laptop is the expansion cards: USB-connected peripherals which let you choose which integral ports your laptop has, and where you put them. The bigger chassis size means that the 16 has three ports on either side, compared to the two on its smaller sibling. But one of those, depending on how you feel about having a dedicated headphone jack, might already be reserved. “The gaming audience is either using wireless or USB headsets,” said Patel, who paused and smiled to himself before adding that the company has had the “courage” to remove the dedicated 3.5mm port from the bigger machine. “But we’ll introduce an audio expansion card [to replace it]” giving users the choice of having the port, or not, and to pick which side of the chassis they want that wire running to.

    If there’s one thing that will hopefully ensure that Framework doesn’t fall into the same trap as the A51M, it’s going to be its ties with component manufacturers. The company already makes its own mainboards with Compal and Patel said Framework was already plugged into the ecosystem necessary to build its own graphics cards. He added that, much like initiatives to tackle mainboard and battery waste, Framework would also work to ensure that legacy GPU modules, the ones that get swapped out from this machine a few years down the line, will also get a second life. “You can take the graphics module out of a Framework Laptop 16 and install it in an external enclosure to use as an eGPU,” said Patel. The company’s booth at the Game Developers Conference will be demonstrating a proof of concept for this, which will likely evolve into a purchasable product when the need arises.

    Patel notes that Framework now has a solid track record of supporting a model for several generations which should help quell any unease for would-be buyers. “We think, with the Framework Laptop 13 having shown this third generation of products all launching within the same form factor, all continuing support all the way back to the first laptop we ever shipped, it shows we are in this for the long haul.” He added that “when we say we’re building things for longevity, we’re gonna keep delivering upgrades, that is something we’re going to deliver on.” And that by open-sourcing many of its components, and offering comprehensive documentation, it enables third parties to “just jump in” with their own projects.

    Further details about the Framework Laptop 16 will be made available when pre-orders open toward the end of Spring. Patel said that there’s no word on pricing, but that you should use Framework’s existing cost structure to compare against the market as it stands. Shipments are expected to begin towards the end of the year, but the real test of this machine isn’t so much in its first launch, but what happens 12 and 24 months down the line. Then again, it’s a challenge Patel knows all too well, and believes that users are craving “stability” and a machine that “works well for them as long as they want to.” It’s wild to think that, in this day and age, those are considered to be lofty promises.

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    Framework brings updated Intel and AMD chips to its modular laptop

    If there was a question hovering over Framework’s much-lauded modular laptop, it was for how long the company would keep supporting it. After all, companies talk a good game about being green and sustainable at launch, only to abandon those plans a year or two later. Now, we’re three chip generations deep, and today we’re getting new mainboards carrying Intel’s 13th generation Core CPUs. Even better, users will soon have the option to ditch Intel in favor of AMD’s rival products, both for new machines and to upgrade in all of the models already shipped. It’s a remarkable sign of confidence in its platform, and a signal to users that Framework is in this business, with this chassis, for the long haul.

    Intel’s 13th generation Core CPUs were first announced at CES in January and Framework is rolling them out along with a number of other updates to its laptop. Since it sells (or sold) only one model of laptop, these changes will appear in the product from now on. And these annual updates are designed to address the criticisms that some users have had with the hardware thus far. That includes a new hinge that’s been redesigned to be more rigid compared to the ones found in units up until now. And, more importantly, a new, bigger 61Wh battery with a slew of firmware updates that should increase the laptop’s runtime by between 20 and 30 percent depending on how intense your workload is.

    The focus on addressing user complaints stretches to the display cover, which will now be matte as opposed to glossy. Similarly, Framework will now incorporate the 80dB louder speakers it offered in its Chromebook to some of its mainline laptops. All of these innovations will, as per Framework’s usual commitment to supporting its existing users, will also be able to buy as standalone parts. And, as I outlined last year, even someone with next-to-no aptitude for upgrading computer parts can make these fixes with relatively little fuss. Customers can now select their display bezel color and keyboard options at the buying stage, saving them from having to double purchase.

    The other change that we’ll need to address is that this machine has been rechristened as the Framework Laptop 13. That’s because it’s now sitting alongside the company’s new 16-inch gaming machine, which was announced today.

    I asked founder Nirav Patel if there wasn’t a temptation, since we’re now three generations in, to start messing with the chassis. “We plan to stick with it, we haven’t seen anything that makes us want to change it,” he said, “it’s really just being able to upgrade those modules.” He said that one of the key pillars of feedback he’s received is that users “actually just want stability” in their purchases rather than a constant stream of new hardware. He added that Framework’s pledge to keep supporting the same laptop chassis for so long is a good signal to would-be buyers that they’re investing in a “stable ecosystem.”

    Framework has promised price parity between Intel and AMD’s mainboards, which will offer a Ryzen 7040 in either a Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 7 flavor. Pre-orders will open at the same time for both, although it’s thought that the AMD version might ship a little later. Framework will open pre-orders to users looking for a new machine and just the new mainboards at the same time. Those in the latter camp, who want to ditch Intel in their existing Framework 13 for AMD, will also need to buy new RAM and a new WiFi card. The one other downside for would-be switchers is that, as Patel explains, “the port configuration is different in terms of what the expansion cards actually support.” This is because the Intel boards universally support Thunderbolt 4, while the AMD model offers two USB 4.0, one USB 3.2 plus DisplayPort, and one vanilla USB 3.2 port.

    There will be some changes and tweaks depending on which model you opt for, since the different chip options mean different default builds. For instance, the new Intel models will get the louder speakers, while the AMD units do not, although those quieter speakers have been tuned for better performance. Similarly, the base models with Core i5 and Ryzen 5 will keep the older 55Wh battery, while the i7 and Ryzen 7 options will get the newer 61Wh option. As such, you might want to examine the pre-order pages in more detail to make sure you know what you’re getting.

    As users upgrade their existing laptops with new mainboards, Framework is acutely aware there will be a raft of functional boards potentially left unused. Rather than create a new stream of e-waste, the company has so far worked to support 3D-printed cases and hobby projects. “We released these open-source design files where people could 3D-print their own case,” said Patel, “but most people don’t have 3D printers.” Which is why Framework has teamed up with PC case maker CoolerMaster to produce the first official standalone case for its mainboards.

    The case is a similar thickness to the laptop deck at present, and is designed so a user can “take that mainboard, drop it in, and [they] now have this nice simple little second PC,” said Patel. It will also accommodate the same expansion cards as the Framework Laptop 13, and all the user needs to provide is a USB-C power supply of 45W or higher. It includes both its own stand and the option to VESA mount the machine, tucking it neatly behind whatever display you choose to connect it to. It’ll be affordable, too, as it’ll cost just $39 when it launches later in Spring.

    Patel also expects plenty of Framework owners to upgrade their batteries for the new and improved model. He explained that the company is demonstrating “a proof of concept that turns the [first-generation Framework laptop] battery into a USB-C power bank that can power any device, including a laptop.”And you might expect that this, too, will get refined and polished by Framework’s committed community into something that plenty of people can experiment with.

    On that subject, the company is also announcing support for Fedora 38 and Ubuntu 22.04 Linux, both of which will work “fantastically out of the box” for both AMD and Intel models. Manjaro XFCE 22.0 and Mint 21.1 are also at an advanced stage of support, and the company says both are “working great” on the new hardware.

    The pre-built base model configurations of both Intel and AMD versions of the Framework Laptop 13 (2023) with Windows 11 will cost $1,049 before build-to-order upgrades. All units can be pre-ordered from today for the usual $100 deposit, with shipments for both expected to start at some point in May. In addition, Framework also announced that it would begin shipping to Belgium, Italy, Spain and Taiwan later in the year.

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    Atari buys the game studio behind the 'System Shock' remake

    Atari is betting that an acquisition will bolster its classic game library. The company is buying Nightdive Studios, best known for its upcoming System Shock remake, for $10 million in cash and stock. The move will help Atari both expand its catalog and use Nightdive's combination of technology and publishing to boost a "retro-focused" strategy. The deal is expected to close in April.

    Apart from the System Shock re-do, Nightdive mainly thrives on the KEX engine it uses to make vintage games run on today's PCs, in some cases with technical improvements. Its modernizations range from well-known hits like Quake and Blade Runner through to cult favorites like Darklands and Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri. Nightdive isn't a large company, having racked up $3 million in revenue last year.

    For Atari, this is part of a broader bid to refocus on gaming. The company has tried (and struggled with) multiple unusual ventures in recent years, including crypto, online casinos and even themed hotels. Nightdive lets Atari concentrate on making "premium" PC and console titles without relying solely on retreads of first-party games, and without spending as much time developing technology to port old software. Atari is nowhere near returning to its heyday, but it may become more relevant to gamers than it has been in a while.

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    ‘Sonic Origins Plus’ brings the hedgehog’s Game Gear entries to modern consoles

    Sega announced a new expansion today for Sonic Origins, its remastered collection of old-school Sonic the Hedgehog games. Sonic Origins Plus adds 12 classic Game Gear titles and new playable characters.

    Sonic Origins Plus adds the entire library of Sonic Game Gear installments, which includes: Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic Chaos, Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble, Sonic Labyrinth, Sonic Blast, Sonic Drift, Sonic Drift 2, Sonic 2 in 1, Tails Adventure, Tails' Skypatrol, Sonic Spinball. Additionally, the expansion lets you play as Amy Rose (Sonic’s hammer-wielding admirer first introduced in Sonic CD) in the first three Sonic games, and you can play as Amy or Tails in Sonic CD.

    You’ll receive all the content from the Sonic Origins base game, including remastered versions of Sonic the Hedgehog 1, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles and Sonic CD (as well as all previously released DLC). In addition, the collection still includes Classic Mode, where you can enjoy the games in their original and unaltered format, and Anniversary Mode, which stretches the aspect ratio to 16:9 and lowers frustration by giving you infinite lives. Finally, a 20-page book of classic art and a reversible coversheet are bundled if you buy a physical copy.

    If you own Sonic Origins, the expansion will cost an extra $10. However, if you’re new to the collection, you get Sonic Origins Plus — including all the base game’s content — for $40, the same price you’ll pay now for Sonic Origins alone. The expansion will be available for PlayStation (PS5 / PS4), Xbox (Series X / S and One) and Nintendo Switch on June 23rd, which marks the 32nd anniversary of the first Sonic game’s launch on the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive.

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    Relativity Space launched its 3D-printed rocket, but failed to reach orbit

    Relativity Space has finally launched its 3D-printed rocket after multiple scrubbed attempts, but the results are decidedly mixed. The startup's Terran 1 vehicle successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral late Wednesday, but it failed to reach orbit after the second stage engine ignited only momentarily. It's not clear what led to the failure, but Relativity is promising updates in the "coming days."

    The company still characterizes the mission as an accomplishment. Terran 1 endured Max-Q (maximum dynamic pressure), the moment expected to place the most stress on the 3D-printed design. The rocket wasn't carrying a customer payload. Instead, it carried the first metal produced from Relativity's 3D printing system.

    As CNNexplains, the two previous launch attempts were plagued with problems. Relatively had trouble cooling propellant in time for the first liftoff, while the second was hampered by both a wayward boat and a software flaw that prompted an automatic engine cutoff shortly after ignition.

    Relativity is using the expendable Terran 1 to demonstrate the viability of its 3D printing technique ahead of the reusable Terran R rocket's planned 2024 launch. The manufacturing process theoretically provides simpler, more reliable rockets that are cheaper to make and can be ready within weeks. That, in turn, could lower the costs of delivering satellites and experiments into orbit.

    While this launch represents progress, there's mounting pressure to complete testing. Relativity already has contracts that include launching OneWeb satellites and Impulse Space's commercial Mars mission. There's also the simple matter of competition: rivals like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Rocket Lab aren't standing still, and any setbacks limit Relativity's chances to win business.

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    The best GPS running watches for 2023

    Because I'm the editor of Engadget by day and a volunteer coach in my free time, I often get asked which GPS watch to buy. (People also ask what I'm wearing and the answer is: All of them. I am testing all of them.) For my part, the best running watches are quick to lock in a GPS signal, offer accurate distance and pace tracking, last a long time on a charge, are comfortable to wear and easy to use.

    Advanced stats like VO2 Max, or maximum oxygen intake during workouts with increasing intensity, are also nice to have, along with training assessments to keep your workload in check and make sure you're getting in effective aerobic and anaerobic workouts. It's also a plus when a watch supports other sports, like cycling and swimming, which all of these do to varying extents. As for features like smartphone notifications and NFC payments, they’re not necessary for most people, especially considering they drive up the asking price.

    Without further ado, I bring you capsule reviews of four running watches, each of which I ultimately recommend, none of which is perfect. And keep in mind, when it comes time to make a decision of your own, there are no wrong answers here: I like Apple and Garmin enough, for instance, that I switch back and forth between them in my own training.

    The best running watch that’s also a smartwatch: Apple Watch

    Pros: Stylish design; a great all-around smartwatch you'll want to use even when you're not exercising; automatic workout detection; heart-rate and blood oxygen monitoring; support for lots of third-party health platforms; auto-pause feels faster than on Garmin watches; zippy performance and fast re-charging; optional LTE is nice to have.

    Cons: For iPhone users only; shorter battery life than the competition might concern endurance athletes; fewer performance metrics and settings than what you'd find on a purpose-built sports watch.

    Don't think of the Apple Watch as a running watch. Think of it as a smartwatch that happens to have a running mode. Almost eight years after the original Watch made its debut, Apple has successfully transformed its wearable from an overpriced curiosity to an actually useful companion device for the masses. But being a gadget for the masses means that when it comes to running, the Apple Watch has never been as feature rich as competing devices built specifically for that purpose.

    Before I get to that, a few words on why I like it. The Apple Watch is the only one of these watches I’d want to wear every day. (And I do: After reviewing Apple Watches for years, I finally purchased one in fall 2021.) The most recent model is stylish, or at least as stylish as a wrist-worn computer can be, and certainly more so than any running watch I've encountered. The aluminum, water-resistant body and neutral Sport band go with most outfits and will continue to look fresh after all your sweaty workouts and jaunts through the rain. And the always-on display is easy to read in direct sunlight.

    The battery life is 18 hours, according to Apple. Indeed, I never have a problem making it through the day. I’m often able to put the watch back on after a night of forgetting to charge it and still have some juice left. If you do forget, even a few minutes of charging in the morning can go a long way, even more so now that the Watch supports even faster charging than before. Plus, the new low power mode in watchOS 9 can help you extend the life of your Watch on particularly long days.

    That said, it’s worth noting that other running watches claim longer usage time — between 30 and 40 hours in some cases. When it comes to workouts specifically, Apple rates the battery life with GPS at up to seven hours. Given that, I would trust the Watch to last through a short run or even a half marathon, but I'm not sure how it would fare in one of my slow, five-hour-plus marathons. We haven't put the higher-end Apple Watch Ultra through such paces yet, but it's worth mentioning that it has the longest battery life of any Apple Watch with a promised 36 hours (and we got about three days worth of regular use during our testing).

    The built-in Activity app is simple and addictive: I feel motivated to fill in my "move" (active calorie), exercise and stand rings each day. I enjoy earning award badges, even though they mean nothing. I'm grateful that the Apple Health app can pull in workouts from Garmin and every other brand featured here, and then count that toward my daily exercise and stand goals (but not my move goal, curiously).

    My one complaint is that the sensors don’t always track standing time accurately. I have failed to receive credit when standing for long periods in front of a stove, but occasionally I’ve been rewarded for doing absolutely nothing.

    The Apple Watch Series 8 on a wrist held up in mid-air.
    Cherlynn Low / Engadget

    As for running specifically, you're getting the basics and not much else. You can see your distance, calorie burn, heart rate, average pace and also rolling pace, which is your pace over the past mile at any given moment. You can also set pace alerts — a warning that you're going faster than you meant to, for example. Like earlier Apple Watches, you can also stream music or podcasts, if you have the cellular-enabled LTE model.

    Because the watch has a GPS sensor, you can leave your phone at home while running. Of course, no two brands of running watches will offer exactly the same distance readout on a run. That said, though Apple never explicitly claimed the Watch offers improved accurate distance tracking, the readouts here do feel more accurate than on earlier models. It’s possible that Apple is making ongoing improvements under the hood that have added up to more accurate tracking performance.

    For indoor runners, the Apple watch integrates with some treadmills and other exercise equipment, thanks to a two-way pairing process that essentially trades notes between the device and gym gear, formulating a more accurate estimate of your distance and effort using that shared data. In my experience, the Watch usually agrees with the treadmill on how far I ran, which is not always the case with other wearables.

    I also particularly appreciate that the Apple Watch automatically detects workouts after a certain period of time. I use this feature daily as I walk to and from the subway and around my neighborhood. After 10 minutes, the familiar vibrating tick, with a message asking if I want to record an outdoor walk. The answer is always yes, and the watch thankfully includes the previous 10 minutes in which I forgot to initiate a workout.

    Regardless of the workout type, all of your stats are listed on a series of pages, which you swipe through from left to right. In my early days using the watch, it was tempting to use the Digital Crown as a stopwatch button, similar to how I use other running watches. This urge has mostly subsided as I've gotten more comfortable with the user interface.

    Like many of its competitors, the Apple Watch has an auto-pause option, which I often use in start-and-stop workouts. I also found in side-by-side comparisons (one watch on each wrist), that auto-pause on the Watch reacts faster than on Garmin models.

    Conveniently, the Apple Watch can export workouts to MyFitnessPal so you get credit for your calorie burn there. Of note, the Watch has all of the health features that the previous generation, including a built-in ECG test for cardiac arrhythmias, along with fall detection, a blood oxygen test, respiratory tracking, emergency calls and menstrual tracking. Also like previous models, there’s a built-in compass and international emergency calling.

    Unfortunately, the stats themselves are fairly limited, without much room for customization. There's no mode for interval workouts, either by time or distance. There's also not much of an attempt to quantify your level of fitness, your progress or the strenuousness of your workouts or training load. None of this should be a dealbreaker for more casual runners.

    For more detailed tracking, your best bet is to experiment with third-party running apps for the iPhone, like Strava, RunKeeper, MapMyRun, Nike Run Club and others. It's through trial and error that I finally found an app with Watch support and timed intervals. But at the end of the day, it's easier to wear a purpose-built running watch when I'm running outdoors, sync my data to Apple Health, get my exercise and standing-time credit, and then put the Apple Watch back on the first chance I get. But if you can only afford one smartwatch for training and life, there's a strong case for choosing this one.

    The best for triathletes: Garmin Forerunner 745

    Pros: Accurate distance tracking; long battery life; advanced fitness and training feedback; stores up to 500 songs; works with Garmin Pay.

    Cons: Garmin’s auto-pause feature feels slower than Apple’s; more advanced features can sometimes mean the on-device UI is tricky to navigate; features like Garmin Pay drive up the price but may feel superfluous.

    If the Apple Watch is for people who want a smartwatch that also has some workout features, the $500 Garmin Forerunner 745 is for athletes in training who want a purpose-built device to help prepare for triathlons. The various sensors inside can track your heart rate, VO2 Max and blood oxygen (with the option to track all-day and in-sleep, as opposed to just spot checking). On the software side, you get daily workout suggestions, a rating that summarizes your performance condition, animated on screen workouts, a cycling power rating, a sleep score and menstruation tracking. You can also create round-trip courses as well as find popular routes though Garmin’s Trendline populating routing feature.

    Like other Garmin watches, even the entry-level ones, you also get feedback on your training load and training status (unproductive, maintaining, productive, peaking, overreaching, detraining and recovery), a “Body Battery” energy rating, recommended recovery time, plus Garmin Coach and a race time predictor. And you can analyze “running dynamics” if you also have a compatible accessory.

    The slight downside to having all of these features is that the settings menu can be trickier to navigate than on a simpler device like the entry-level Forerunner 45. Fortunately, at least, a home screen update released back in fall 2020 makes it so that you can see more data points on the 1.2-inch screen with less scrolling required.

    Speaking of the screen, the watch face, available in four colors, is easy to read in direct sunlight, and weighs a not-too-heavy 47g. That light weight, combined with the soft silicone band, makes it comfortable to wear for long stretches. Garmin rates the battery life at up to seven days, or up to 16 hours with GPS in use. (That figure drops to six hours when you combine GPS tracking with music playback.) In my testing, I was still at 88 percent after three hours of GPS usage. Most of my weekday runs are around 35 minutes and that, it turns out, only puts a roughly two- or three-percent dent in the battery capacity.

    In practice, the watch also seemed quicker than my older Forerunner 645 Music to latch onto a GPS signal, even in notoriously difficult spots with trees and cover from tall buildings. As always, distance tracking is accurate, especially if you start out with a locked-in signal, which you always should. Like I said earlier, though, I did find in a side-by-side test, Garmin’s auto-pause feature seems sluggish compared to Apple’s.

    Aside from some advanced running and cycling features, what makes the 745 one of the more expensive models in Garmin’s line are its smartwatch features. That includes Garmin Pay, the company’s contactless payments system, and music storage for up to 500 tracks on the device. You can also mirror your smartphone notifications and use calendar and weather widgets. Just know you can enjoy that even on Garmin’s entry-level model (more on that below).

    I can see there being two schools of thought here: if someone plans to wear this watch for many hours a week working out, it may as well get as close as possible to a less sporty smartwatch. Then there’s my thinking: You’re probably better off stepping down to a model that’s nearly as capable on the fitness front, but that doesn’t pretend as hard to be a proper smartwatch.

    For those people, there’s another mid-range model in Garmin’s Forerunner line that’s cheaper and serves many of the same people who will be looking at the 745. The Forerunner 245 offers many of the same training features. It also mostly matches the 745 on pool swimming, but you do appear to lose a bunch of cycling features, so you might want to pore over this comparison chart before buying if you’re a multisport athlete.

    What you give is Garmin Pay; the option of all-day blood oxygen tracking; the sleep score; a gyroscope and barometric altimeter; floors climbed; heat and altitude acclimation; yoga and pilates workouts; training load focus; the Trendline feature; round-trip course creation, Garmin and Strava live segments; and lactate threshold tracking (and for this you would need an additional accessory amway).

    At the opposite end of the spectrum (for people who actually wish the 745 could do more), there’s the Forerunner 945 LTE which, true to its name, adds built-in LTE connectivity. This model also holds 1,000 songs, up from 500 on the 745, and adds niceties like preloaded maps and a host of golfing features, if golf is also your jam.

    The best for most people: Garmin Forerunner 45S

    Pros: Accurate distance tracking, long battery life, heart rate monitoring and interval training at a reasonable price; lightweight design; offered in a variety of colors; smartphone notifications feel limited, but could be better than nothing.

    Cons: Garmin’s auto-pause feature feels slower than Apple’s.

    I purposefully tested the expensive Garmin Forerunner 745 first, so that I could start off with an understanding of the brand’s more advanced tech. Testing the Forerunner 45S, then, was an exercise in subtraction: If I pared down the feature set, would I miss the bells and whistles? And would other runners?

    It turns out, mostly not. As an entry-level watch, the 45S offers everything beginners (and even some intermediate) runners could want, including distance tracking, basic fitness tracking (steps, calories), heart rate monitoring and a blood oxygen test. Also, as much as the 45S is aimed at new runners, you’ll also find modes for indoor and outdoor cycling, elliptical machines, stair climbers and yoga.

    Coming from the 745, I was especially pleased to see that many of Garmin’s best training tools and recovery features carry down even to the base-level model. That includes training status, training load, training effect, Garmin Coach, Body Battery, stress tracking, a race time predictor and running dynamics analysis (again, an additional accessory is required). Like other Garmin watches, you can enable incident detection, with the caveat that you'll need your smartphone nearby for it to work.

    It even functions as a perfunctory smartwatch, with smartphone notifications, music playback controls, calendar and weather widgets, and a duo of “find my phone” and “find my watch” features. Although I’ve criticized Garmin’s smartwatch features in the past for feeling like half-baked add-ons, I was still pleasantly surprised to find them on what’s marketed as a running watch for novices.

    As for the hardware, the watch feels lightweight, at 32 grams for the 39mm model (36g for the 42mm). It’s available in five colors, slightly more than Garmin’s more serious models. The 1.04-inch touchscreen was easy to glance at mid-workout, even in direct sunlight. The battery, which is rated for seven days (or 13 hours in GPS mode) does not need to be charged every day. In fact, if it really is beginners using this, their short runs should barely put a dent in the overall capacity. As with the Forerunner 745, my complaint is never with the battery life, just the fact that you have to use a proprietary charging cable.

    And, while this watch wasn’t made for competitive swimmers, you can use it in the pool without breaking it. The 5 ATM water resistance rating means it can survive the equivalent of 50 meters of water pressure, which surely includes showering and shallow-water activities.

    For what it’s worth, there is a slightly more expensive model, the Garmin Forerunner 55, which adds respiration rate, menstrual tracking, an updated recovery time advisor and pacing strategies.

    The best under $100: Amazfit Bip S

    Pros: Lightweight design; long battery life; accurate GPS tracking; built-in heart rate monitor; water resistant; basic smartwatch features.

    Cons: Crude user interface; limited support for third-party apps; can’t customize how workout stats are displayed on the screen; pausing workouts feels labored (which is a shame because you’ll be doing it often).

    I kept my expectations low when I began testing the Bip S. This $70 watch comes from Amazfit, a lesser known brand here in the US that seems to specialize in lower-priced gadgets. Although I didn’t know much about Amazfit or its parent company Huami, I was intrigued by the specs it offered at this price, most notably a built-in heart monitor — not something you typically see in a device this cheap.

    As you might expect, a device this inexpensive has some trade-offs, and I’ll get to those in a minute. But there’s actually a lot to like. The watch itself is lightweight and water resistant, with a low-power color display that’s easy to read in direct sunlight. That low-power design also means the battery lasts a long time — up to 40 hours on a charge. Perhaps most importantly, it excels in the area that matters most: as a sports watch. In my testing the built-in GPS allowed for accurate distance and pace tracking. If you’re not a runner, or you just prefer a multi-sport life, the watch features nine other modes covering most common activities, including walking, yoga, cycling, pool and open-water swimming and free weights.

    And did I mention the heart rate monitor? These readings are also seemingly accurate.

    What you lose by settling for a watch this cheap is mainly the sort of polished user experience you’d get with a device from a tier-one company like Apple or even Garmin (not that Garmin’s app has ever been my favorite either). In my review, I noticed various goofs, including odd grammar and punctuation choices and a confusingly laid-out app.

    I was also bummed to learn you could barely export your data to any third-party apps, other than Strava and Apple Health. You also can’t customize the way data is displayed on-screen during a workout, while your goals don't auto-adjust the way they might on other platforms. Fortunately, at least, these are all issues that can be addressed after the fact via software updates — hopefully sooner rather than later.

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    How to take a screenshot on a Chromebook

    Chromebooks are designed to be simple and straightforward, but if you’re new to Chrome OS, it may not be immediately obvious how to do certain things. One potential source of confusion is figuring out how to take a screenshot, since the keyboards built into most Chromebooks contain keys you won’t see on a MacBook or Windows laptop. If you’re stuck, don’t worry: Capturing your screen is still easy on Chrome OS, and there are multiple ways to do it. Let’s break it down.

    In most cases, the fastest way to take a screenshot on a Chromebook is to press the Control (Ctrl) and Show Windows keys at the same time. This grabs a shot of your entire screen. The Show Windows key, which is unique to Chromebooks, looks like a rectangle with two lines next to it. It’s often located where the F5 key would be on a Windows PC.

    A screenshot of the screenshot tools built into Chrome OS, showing a user capturing a portion of an open window with a photo of two dogs in it.

    Hitting Ctrl + Shift + Show Windows, meanwhile, opens up the Screen Capture toolbar. This presents a menu with options to capture all of your screen, a specific portion or a single open window. You can also take a video recording of part or all of your screen from here.

    Alternatively, you can get to these tools through your Chromebook’s Quick Settings menu. To access this, click the clock in the lower right corner of the taskbar – or “shelf,” in ChromeOS terms – then click the Screen Capture icon that appears in the resulting menu.

    Note that some Chromebooks have a dedicated Screenshot key, marked by a little camera icon. If you have that, you can just press that button instead of using the shortcuts mentioned above.

    A photo of the Acer Chromebook Spin 713's keyboard, with arrows highlighting the location of the Shift, Ctrl, Show Windows and Screenshot keys.
    Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

    If you’re using an external keyboard without a Show Windows or Screenshot key, you can press Ctrl + F5 to take a full-screen capture, or Ctrl + Shift + F5 to pull up the Screen Capture menu and/or grab a partial screenshot. And if you have a ChromeOS tablet, you can take a screenshot by hitting the power and volume down buttons simultaneously.

    Once you take a screenshot or recording, Chrome OS will automatically copy it to your clipboard. You’ll then see it appear in a small window in the bottom corner of the display, from which you can edit or delete the capture. Recent screenshots will appear in a holding area on your taskbar/shelf called the Tote, while all of your captures will go to the Downloads folder in the Files app by default. To change that save location, press Shift + Ctrl + Show Windows, select the Settings gear icon, then choose Select Folder.

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    Audible original productions and podcasts are getting Dolby Atmos support

    Audible has teamed with Dolby Laboratories to introduce spatial sound in its library. Called Dolby Atmos on Audible, it's debuting on more than 40 titles including The Little Mermaid, The Sandman Act III and the music-oriented podcast, Maejor Frequency. The move represents another push into narrative audio content for Dolby, as Wondery (also owned by Amazon) started doing Atmos podcasts last year.

    The new collection covers multiple genres, including feature-length multi-cast productions, soundscapes, live performances and podcasts. "The Dolby Atmos collection celebrates and expands the possibilities of audio storytelling by highlighting the extraordinary talents of a variety of actors, writers, directors, sound designers and other creators," the companies said in a press release.

    Dolby Atmos might seem like overkill for audiobooks, but much as Dolby did for movies, it has the potential to make narrative stories more immersive on good headphones or sound systems. "Through the ability to create more layers of sound and control over the directionality of different audio elements, creators can draw listeners into a deeper, richer, and more lifelike spatial sound experience that fully engrosses them in each story," they wrote. The examples of originals the companies highlight in the announcement are more dramatic productions than straight readings, so you're likely not going to get spatial audio for every Malcolm Gladwell novel. 

    For instance, The Little Mermaid will feature a "magical underwater soundscape and original music," presumably enhanced by spatial sound. "Sound placement can now be used as a new element to draw audiences even closer to their favorite podcasts, audio narratives, and stories with Dolby Atmos," said Dolby vice president John Couling. 

    The Dolby Atmos titles are available to Audible members via the Audible app on compatible iOS and Android Dolby Atmos-enabled mobile devices. To see all the available titles, type “Dolby Atmos” into the search bar on the Audible website, or look for the Dolby Atmos logo in the Audible app.

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    The best smart scales for 2023

    Data is a useful tool in any battle, especially if you’re opting to wage war against your waistline in an attempt to be healthier. Back in 2007, I bought a dirt-cheap scale and drew my own graph sheets in order to chart my weight’s downward progress after a rough year at university. I think that while 2007 me wouldn’t be pleased with my own fitness journey, he would love the fact that the process is entirely automated, and affordable. Consequently, allow me to take you (and him) on a journey to pick the best smart scale to help you on your own journey toward behavior change.


    There are valid reasons to weigh yourself, but your self-worth shouldn’t be defined by the number that shows up between your feet. If you’re looking to alter your body shape, that figure could go up as your waistline goes down, since muscle weighs more than fat. Dr. Anne Swift, Director of public health teaching at the University of Cambridge, said that “weighing yourself too often can result in [you] becoming fixated on small fluctuations day-to-day, rather than the overall trend over time.” Swift added that “it’s sometimes better to focus on how clothes fit, or how you feel, rather than your weight.”

    (A meta-analysis from 2016 found there may be some negative psychological impact from self weighing. A 2018 study, however, said that there may be a positive correlation between regular weigh-ins and accelerated weight loss. It can be a minefield, and I’d urge you to take real care of yourself and remember that success won’t happen overnight.)

    What to look for in a smart scale


    A weighing scale that weighs you is probably the top requirement, right? One thing to bear in mind is that, with all these measurements, the figures won’t be as accurate as a calibrated, clinical scale. Consequently, it’s better to focus on the overall body weight trend up or down over time, rather than the figures in isolation.


    Most scales will either connect to your phone over Bluetooth, or to your home’s WiFi network, and you should work out your regular weighing routine ahead of time. A lot of lower-end, Bluetooth-only models will only record your weight when your phone is present and don’t keep local records. That means if you routinely leave your phone outside the bathroom, you could lose that day’s stats. WiFi-connected scales, on the other hand, post your stats to a server, letting you access them from any compatible device. But you need to be mindful that there’s a small risk to your privacy should that information be compromised.

    Bone density

    The stronger your bones, the less you’re at risk from breaks and osteoporosis, which you should keep in mind as you get older. Clinical bone density tests use low-power x-rays but higher-end scales can offer an approximation from your own bathroom. These bone mass tests pass a small current through your feet, measuring the resistance as it completes its journey. The resistance offered by bones, fat and muscle are all different, and your scale can identify the difference.

    Body fat percentage and muscle mass

    Fat and muscle are necessary parts of our makeup, but an excessive amount of either can be problematic. Much like bone density, a scale can identify both your body fat and muscle mass percentages using Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA). This measurement tests how well your body resists the electrical signal passing through your body. (It’s a rough rule of thumb that you should have a 30/70 percent split between fat and muscle, but please consult a medical professional for figures specific to your own body and medical needs.)


    A lot of scales offer a BMI calculation, and it’s easy to do since you just plot height and weight on a set graph line. Body Mass Index is, however, a problematic measurement that its critics say is both overly simplistic and often greatly misleading. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most common clinical metrics and medical professionals will use it to make judgements about your care.

    Pulse Wave Velocity

    French health-tech company Withings has offered Pulse Wave Velocity (PWV) on its flagship scale for some time, although regulatory concerns meant it was withdrawn for a period of time. It’s a measurement of arterial stiffness, which acts as a marker both of cardiovascular risk and also other health conditions. I’ve had anecdotal reports that PWV scales have sent people to the doctor, where they’ve found they were close to a cardiac event. It’s worth saying, as with all of these technologies, that there is limited, albeit positive, research into how accurate these systems are.


    Less a specification and more a note that smart scales have displays ranging from pre-printed LCDs or digital dot matrix layouts through to color screens. On the high end, your scale can show you trending charts for your weight and other vital statistics, and can even tell you the day’s weather. If you are short-sighted, and plan on weighing yourself first thing in the morning, before you’ve found your glasses / contacts, opt for a big, clear, high-contrast display.

    App and subscriptions

    You’ll spend most of your time looking at your health data through its companion app, and it’s vital you get a good one. This includes a clear, clean layout with powerful tools to visualize your progress and analyze your data to look for places you can improve. Given that you often don’t need to buy anything before trying the app, it’s worth testing one or two to see if you vibe with it.

    Several companies also offer premium subscriptions, unlocking other features – including insights and coaching – to go along with your hardware. Fitbit and Withings both offer these services, which you may feel is worth the extra investment each month.

    Data portability

    Using the same scale or app platform for years at a time means you’ll build up a massive trove of personal data. And it is, or should be, your right to take that data to another provider when you choose to move platforms in the future. Data portability is, however, a minefield, with different platforms offering wildly different options, making it easy (or hard) to go elsewhere.

    All of the devices in this round-up will allow you to export your data to a .CSV file, which you can then do with as you wish. Importing this information is trickier, with Withings and Garmin allowing it, and Omron, Xiaomi, Eufy and Fitbit not making it that easy. (Apps that engage with Apple Health, meanwhile, can output all of your health data in a .XML file.)


    It’s not a huge issue but one worth bearing in mind that each scale will either run disposable batteries (most commonly 4xAAA) or with its own, built-in battery pack. Sadly, all of our crop of smart scales use batteries, adding an environmental and financial cost to your scale life. That’s just about forgivable for scales that cost under $100, but this stretches even to the highest-end models. When you’re spending more than that on a device, the lack of a rechargeable cell feels very, very cheap indeed.

    The smart scales we tested

    For this guide, I tested six scales from major manufacturers:

    Mi (Xiaomi) Body Composition Scale 2 ($29.99)

    Stock image of Xiaomi's Body Comp Scale

    Our cheapest model, Xiaomi / Mi’s Body Composition Scale 2 is as bare-bones as you can get, and it shows. It often takes a long while to lock on to get your weight, and when it does you’ll have to delve into the Zepp Life-branded app in order to look at your extra data. But you can’t fault it for the basics, offering limited weight and body composition for less than the price of a McDonald’s for four.

    Fitbit Aira Air ($49.95)

    Image of Fitbit's Aria Air scale

    Fitbit, now part of Google, is the household name for fitness gear in the US, right? If not, then it must be at least halfway synonymous with it. The Aria Air is the company’s stripped-to-the-bare bones scale, offering your weight and little else, but you can trust that Fitbit got the basics right. Not to mention that most of the reason for buying a Fitbit product is to leverage its fitness app anyway.

    Anker Eufy Smart Scale P2 Pro ($79.99)

    Image of Eufy's P2 Pro smart scale
    Eufy / Anker

    Eufy’s Smart Scale P2 Pro has plenty of things to commend it – the price, the overall look and feel (it’s a snazzy piece of kit) and what it offers. It offers a whole host of in-depth measurements, including Body Fat, Muscle Mass, Water, Body Fat Mass and Bone Mass, as well as calculating things like your Heart Rate and Basal Metabolic Rate (the amount of calories you need to eat a day to not change weight at all) all from inside its app. In fact, buried beneath the friendly graphic, the scale offers a big pile of stats and data that should, I think, give you more than a little coaching on how to improve your lifestyle.

    Shortly before publication, Anker – Eufy’s parent company – was identified as having misled users, and the media, about the security of its products. Its Eufy-branded security cameras, which the company says does not broadcast video outside of your local network, was found to be allowing third parties to access streams online. Consequently, while we have praised the Eufy Smart Scale for its own features, we cannot recommend it without a big caveat. 

    Omron BCM-500 Body Composition and Scale with Bluetooth ($89.99)

    Image of Omron's 500 series scale

    Given its role in making actual medical devices, you know what you’re getting with an Omron product. A solid, reliable, sturdy, strong (checks the dictionary for more synonyms) dependable piece of kit. There’s no romance or excitement on show, but you can trust that however joyless it may be, it’ll do the job in question and will be user-friendly. The hardware is limited, the app is limited, but it certainly (checks synonyms again) is steady.

    Joking aside, Omron’s Connect app is as bare-bones as you can get, since it acts as an interface for so many of its products. Scroll over to the Weight page, and you’ll get your weight and BMI reading, and if you’ve set a goal, you can see how far you’ve got to go to reach it. You can also switch to seeing a trend graph which, again, offers the most basic visualization on offer.

    Garmin Index S2 ($149.99)

    Image of Garmin's Index S2 smart scale

    Garmin’s got a pretty massive fitness ecosystem of its own, so if you’re already part of that world, its scale is a no-brainer. On one hand, the scale is one of the easiest to use, and most luxurious of the bunch, with its color screen and sleek design. I’m also a big fan of the wealth of data the scale throws at you – you can see a full color graph charting your weight progress, and the various metrics it tracks in good detail. If there’s a downside, it’s that Garmin’s setup won’t hold your hand, since it’s for serious fitness people, not newbies.

    Withings Body Comp ($209.95)

    Image of Withings' Body Comp

    At the highest end, Withings’ flagship Body Comp is luxurious, and luxuriously priced, a figure I’d consider to be “too much” to spend on a bathroom scale. For your money, however, you’ll get a fairly comprehensive rundown of your weight, body fat, vascular age, pulse wave velocity and electrodermal activity. Its monochrome dot matrix display may not be as swish as the Garmin’s, but it refreshes pretty quickly and feels very in-keeping with the hardware’s overall sleek look. If there’s a downside, it’s that they ditched the rechargeable battery found in the Withings Body Cardio (its former flagship, and an excellent scale I’d recommend if it were within the parameters of this guide) in favor of AAA batteries. Which, when you’re spending this much on a scale, makes me feel very nickel-and-dimed.

    The best cheap smart scale: Fitbit Aria Air, Mi Body Composition Scale 2

    It’s very competitive at the low end for the best smart scale, and Xiaomi and Fitbit offer dramatically contrasting products for a very low price. Fitbit’s scale has far fewer features, but has better build quality, is faster and more reliable than its cheaper rival. Crucially, it also leverages the Fitbit app, which is refined and easy-to-use, offering clean, easy-to understand visualizations.

    Xiaomi, meanwhile, offers weight and some basic body composition checks, although this extra data is only visualized inside the app. From a data perspective, the Xiaomi has the edge, but its companion app – formerly Mi Fit, now branded as Zepp Life – is terrible. The lag time for each weigh-in, too, leaves a lot to be desired with the Xiaomi, although I had no qualms about its accuracy.

    When I was a kid, and complained about something, my nan would say “look, you can either have a first class walk or a third class ride.” And Fitbit’s scale here is the very definition of a first class ride – polished, snappy and with a world-class app by its side. The Xiaomi, meanwhile, offers more for your money, and charges less, but both hardware and software lack any sort of polish. It’s therefore up to you if you’d rather the first class walk or the third class ride.

    The best scale for people who want features (and aren’t fussed about security): Eufy’s P2 Pro

    Well, this is awkward. Not long before this guide was published, it was revealed that Eufy is in the midst of a massive security issue. Researchers found that its security cameras, which were promised to be secure, allowed internet users to access the stream using VLC player. Consequently the high praise for Eufy’s P2 Pro I have as a scale will need to be moderated by the fact that we don’t yet know how deep the company’s promises around privacy and security really run.

    It’s unfortunate, as the scale does leap head-and-shoulders above the competition at this level, and it surpassed my expectations by quite a bit. The ease of use was one thing, but the depth of metric data made available in the app, and the way it presents that information, is fantastic. While I don’t think the Eufy Life app is better than, say, Withings’ class-leading Health Mate, it offers exactly what a would-be weight-watcher would need.

    The fact you can get plenty of your vital statistics graphed by hitting two buttons helps you visualize your progress, but the stat dashboard laying out everything, including your BMR, is so useful. If you’re going all Quantified Self, you could theoretically calculate your daily calorie intake to the finest of fine margins looking at this thing every morning.

    The best scale for athletes: Garmin Index S2

    I’m very partial to Garmin’s Index S2, but I also think it’s the sort of scale that needs to be used by people who know what they’re doing. Almost everything about the hardware is spot-on, and the only fly in its ointment is the low refresh rate on its color screen. I can’t say how upsetting it was to see the display refresh in such a laggy, unpolished manner, especially when you’re spending this much money. But that’s my only complaint, and the rest of the hardware (and software) is otherwise pitch-perfect. If you’re looking to alter your body shape, this probably isn’t the scale for you – it’s the scale you buy once you already calculate your BMR on a daily basis.

    The best scale for the worried well: Withings Body Comp

    Naturally, if you’re looking for a machine that’ll cater to your every whim and hypochondriac urge, then Withings’ Body Comp is the way forward. It’s a luxury scale in every sense of the word, and you should appreciate the level of polish and technology on show here. Apart from the batteries, which I’ve already said is a cheap and nasty way to save money given that you’re dropping this much money on a product.

    The group of people who think it’s reasonable to spend $200 on a scale is, especially with food and energy prices spiking, a fairly small one. But if you’re the sort who already spends hand over fist to keep your body in check, this is probably justifiable as an “investment.” Knowing all of the extras about your nerve health and arteries is a bonus, but let’s be clear and say this isn’t the scale for everybody. Hell, you might have second thoughts even if you do have a subscription to Good Yachting Magazine.

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    FTC wants to make it easier for you to cancel subscriptions

    You might not have to go to great lengths to cancel subscriptions in the future. The Federal Trade Commission is proposing rule changes that would require providers to make it as easy to cancel subscriptions as it is to sign up, including through the same medium. If it only takes a few clicks to join an online fitness class, for instance, you should have the option to cancel online in just as many steps.

    The proposal would also let you decline to hear pitches for additional offers when you want to cancel service. Providers would have to provide annual reminders of renewals for subscriptions to anything besides physical goods, the FTC says. Other rule updates would require clear explanations of what people are getting and bar misleading claims.

    The FTC's effort would revise the Negative Option Rule from 1973, and would echo European Union policy on subscriptions. This will ideally prevent companies from either fooling customers into paying for services they don't want or are done using, commission Chair Lina Khan says. It's also meant to prevent the all-too-common tactic of forcing customers to call or visit a store in order to make the cancellation process difficult.

    The proposal doesn't outline specific penalties for violations. It's not clear how effective the updated rules would be at deterring offenders. If implemented, though, the approach could make it easier to experiment with services. You could subscribe for a few months without worrying that you'll struggle to cancel your plan. Telecoms, meanwhile, might also have to let you leave without making last-ditch offers or asking you to talk to a shop clerk.

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    How and where to buy refurbished tech online

    Yes, I’ll probably want the iPhone 15 when it comes out. But as I consider a tablet for my six-year-old (so he’ll stop stealing mine), I don’t think a brand new device is necessary. Both economically and environmentally, refurbished tech might be a better bet if you don’t need the latest edition. Sometimes called “renewed,” refurbished has no legal definition, but typically refers to an item that’s not new but has undergone cleaning and diagnostics tests at the minimum, and includes replacement components when necessary. A refurbished device should operate and perform as if it were a new version of itself, with the only drawbacks being possible cosmetic imperfections.

    In addition to being more budget-friendly, buying refurbished keeps electronics out of landfills and cuts down on the overall carbon footprint, since the majority of a device’s environmental impact comes from manufacturing. It’s also better than recycling in terms of keeping rare earth elements in circulation. But since the refurbished trade isn’t regulated, there are things to watch out for. We cover the salient points below, along with our recommendations on where you can safely buy refurbished tech and where you can browse renewed tech offerings.

    What to consider when buying refurbished devices

    Refurbished vs used

    Refurbished is not the same as used. Used items tend to be sold “as-is,'' which means you’re simply inheriting whatever mileage and quirks a device had when the previous owner said goodbye to it. It’s true that most refurbished items were previously owned, and many are a result of the growing trend of trading in your old device when you upgrade. But others were hardly used at all and are one of the millions of returns generated each year. Either way, a properly refurbished item has undergone testing to verify that it works, along with cleaning, repairs and parts replacement as needed.

    Since there are no government regulations for renewed items, it’s up to the sellers to define what steps they take to ready a device for sale. And it’s up to the buyer to find out what those steps are before taking the plunge. The processes for refurbishing devices from Apple, Bose, Microsoft and Samsung, for example, include cleaning, inspection, parts replacement as needed and shipment in a new box with the originally supplied accessories. They also all provide a one-year warranty.

    Warranties and returns

    A refurbished device should perform as well as its new counterpart, but the only way to guarantee that’s the case is to make sure it comes with a warranty. All of the sites we recommend below include a warranty with the products they sell. If you see something labeled as refurbished, but doesn’t include some sort of guarantee as to its reliability – shop elsewhere.

    Also, a good return policy will let you send the item back (preferably with the same free shipping a new item gets) for any reason — including that you just changed your mind. That way if a refurbished product doesn’t look as good as you thought it would, you can send it back without having to prove there’s something wrong with it.


    Most refurbished tech was used before it made its way back on the market. And while renewed items are cleaned, you’ll still need to consider your comfort with sanitation issues when buying things like headphones and earbuds.

    Laptop and smartphone on round wooden table in cozy interior.
    Polina Lebed via Getty Images

    Where to buy refurbished tech

    We recommend going directly to the manufacturer whenever possible, especially for more technical items like smartphones and laptops. If you need a new MacBook, check out Apple’s refurbished stock first; if you want a new Galaxy phone, hit up Samsung before anyone else. Repairs will be handled using genuine parts and you’re far more likely to get items that were properly unpaired from the original owner and all data wiped.

    Retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy are decent options if you’re on a tighter budget or if you’re looking for gadgets from a manufacturer that may not have its own refurbished outlet. Refurbished marketplaces like Decluttr and BackMarket can be useful if you’re looking for older, more specific items, or if price is the number one factor for your purchase.


    They may offer less than they once did for trade-ins but Apple is still pulling in a decent inventory of refurbished MacBooks, iPads and other devices. Each refurbished piece undergoes an inspection and repairs using original Apple parts, with refurbished iPhones and iPads getting new batteries and outer shells. In addition to phones and tablets, Apple sells refurbished MacBooks, Watches, Apple TVs and accessories like the Apple Pencil. Everything is shipped in a new box with whatever cables, accessories and operating systems a new item would get. Items get the same one-year warranty and 14-day returns window that Apple offers on new products as well.

    Shop Apple Refurbished


    While they accept just about any device as a trade-in, Samsung only regularly offers refurbished smartphones on its site – you’ll have to look elsewhere for a renewed Samsung tablet or smartwatch. That said, a refurbished Galaxy phone can sell for as much as 30 percent off the standard price. The phones come with a new battery, are tested and repaired with Samsung parts and get new packaging, cables and the latest software. One-year warranties come standard, too.

    Shop Samsung Renewed


    On a given day, you’ll find between three and 30 refurbished Bose items on the company’s site, including speakers, headphones, soundbars and almost always a few pairs of Bose Frames. Savings range from 10 percent to 45 percent and each item undergoes measures similar to Apple and Samsung, with testing, repairs and cables in a new box, plus internal cleaning and replacement parts like earcups. Bose also includes a 90-day, free returns policy and a one-year warranty to make sure the device works as it should.

    Shop Bose Refurbished


    Sonos devices don’t often go on sale, which makes the brand’s refurbished program even more enticing. You’ll typically only find a handful of the company’s renewed speakers and soundbars available at one time, so it pays to keep checking the site. Each refurbished device undergoes testing and gets repaired with Sonos parts as needed. They ship in new boxes and include all accessories and the same 45-day returns policy and one-year warranty as a new device.

    Shop Sonos Refurbished


    Like Bose and Sonos, you’ll typically only find a few refurbished Razer laptops available at a time. The savings can be pretty significant – on the order of a few hundred dollars off the list price. The refurbishment process involves full data wipes and a new OS installation, along with cleaning, testing and repairs as needed. Each device gets a 14-day returns policy, a one-year warranty and tech support.

    Shop Razer Refurbished


    You’ll mostly find Surface tablets and laptops on Microsoft’s refurbished page. If you’re looking for an Xbox, renewed Series X and Series S consoles have their own destinations (and could be something to look into when the Series X goes in and out of stock). All refurbished Microsoft products get tested, repaired and cleaned and come in new packaging along with the usual accessories plus a 30-day returns policy and year-long warranty.

    Shop Microsoft Refurbished

    Other retailers

    Some smaller manufacturers like Dyson, Vitamix, Nintendo and JBL offer their own refurbished products, but for many other brands, you may need to head to a retailer.


    Amazon Renewed is different from Amazon Warehouse, which sells used items that have been tested and graded, but haven’t undergone any refurbishment. Items under the Renewed designation have been cleaned and professionally inspected and come with replacement accessories as needed.

    Refurbishment isn’t always conducted by an in-house team, as Amazon mostly lists items sold by third-party refurbishers. The exception to that is with Amazon devices like Kindles, Ring doorbells and Echos, which are tested, shipped and sold by Amazon. Find those items on the certified refurbished Amazon device page, formerly called Kindle Refurbished.

    The guarantee on all refurbished items sold on the site only extends for 90 days, but that’s a combined warranty and returns policy, which includes sending the device back because it simply wasn’t what you expected, regardless of whether there’s something wrong with it.

    There’s a wider allowance for condition ratings with Amazon’s refurb program, allowing for the minor cosmetic imperfections of “premium” and “excellent" ratings, along with visible marks and scratches at the “good” and “acceptable” condition levels.

    That said, Amazon Renewed offers a wide selection of products you might not be able to get directly from a manufacturer, including kitchen equipment, tools and gaming accessories.

    Shop Amazon Renewed


    Like Amazon’s program, Walmart Restored uses third party sellers and refurbishers and also grants a 90-day combined return and warranty period. The products are rated as having no cosmetic defects when viewed from one foot away, unless otherwise noted in the listing. Products include tools, tablets, kitchen appliances, TVs and video game consoles.

    Shop Walmart Restored


    Unfortunately, the warranties for Target’s refurbished program varies by item. Depending on the listing, you’ll see warranties that extend six months, one year or have no warranty at all. However, all items we checked did include a return period ranging from 15 to 30 days – though you’ll need to bring the item back to a Target store. Obviously we don’t recommend going for any tech device (refurbished or not) without a warranty, but like Amazon and Walmart, Target’s program may offer a way to find deals on a wider selection of tech than going through a manufacturer. Just be sure to scroll down to the warranty details in the About This Item section on the product page.

    Shop Target Refurbished

    Best Buy

    Best Buy combines open box, clearance and refurbished items under the Best Buy Outlet umbrella. They even run a few brick and mortar Outlet stores that sell clearance, open-box and returned items. For the most part, however, those don’t include items that have undergone the refurbishment process. For that, you’ll want to look at items marked “Geek Squad Certified Refurbished” online. These are products that have been spruced up either by Best Buy's own repair centers, by the manufacturers or by third-party refurbishers. The devices come with a 90-day warranty, which covers defects, in addition to Best Buy’s standard 15-day return policy.

    Shop Geek Squad Certified Refurbished

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    Lenovo LOQ15 hands-on: Affordable but not cheap

    Just a few months ago Lenovoannounced updates to its high-end Legion gaming PCs. But now the company is back to introduce some fresh budget-friendly fare as part of its new “value-oriented” LOQ line. Though they aren’t quite as powerful as their more expensive siblings, after checking them out, I like how these new devices don’t feel cheap despite their lower prices.

    At launch, the LOQ family (pronounced “lock”) will consist of either a 15 or 16-inch laptop and a 17L desktop PC. The LOQ 15 and 15i will be the least expensive of the bunch starting at $900 for either an AMD Ryzen 7 7840HS or Intel Core i7-13700 chip, while the LOQ 16 and 16i (the “i” denotes an Intel-based config) will go for just a bit more at $960 and $1,150, respectively. Finally, for people who don’t need to move their gaming rig around, the LOQ tower will be priced at a reasonable $980.

    One difference on the LOQ family compared to the more premium Legion line is that you only get white or four-zone lighting instead of a full per-key RGB setup.
    Photo by Sam Rutherford / Engadget

    But more importantly, while Lenovo is trying to keep costs down, it doesn’t feel like it cut too many corners with its new machines. Not only do they have similar styling to the Legion line, they also have solid specs with the laptops offering support for up to NVIDIA RTX 4060 GPUs. And like the premium Legion line, you also get rear IO to help keep wires from getting too cluttered.

    The main differences between Lenovo’s LOQ and Legion gaming notebooks are that instead of an aluminum chassis, the LOQ line features a plastic body, with either a white or a four-zone RGB backlit keyboard (instead of per-key). The new machines also carry slightly smaller batteries (either 60 or 80Whr depending on the model). And while the LOQ line doesn’t support super fast 240Hz refresh rates, you can still get 165Hz displays going up to 2,560 x 1,600 with variable refresh rate support (both G-Sync and FreeSync), as well as 350 nits of brightness. All told that’s not too shabby, especially when you consider that Lenovo’s cheapest Legion Pro laptop currently starts at just over $1,600.

    To help keep clutter to a minimum, the LOQ 15 and 16 rely primarily on rear IO with only a couple of ports on the sides for easy access.
    Photo by Sam Rutherford / Engadget

    Now, in person, the smaller LOQ 15 came off a bit chunky, and I swear it felt heavier than Lenovo’s 5.3-pound listed weight, while the LOQ 16 is even heftier at 5.7 pounds. However, I appreciate that even on Lenovo’s budget gaming laptops, the company still included a full HD webcam and an electronic shutter switch to disable it.

    Alternatively, if you’re looking for something a bit more powerful that’s still easy to carry around, today Lenovo also announced two additions to the Legion family in the Slim 7/7i and the Slim 5/5i.

    At just 0.78 inches thick and weighing 4.4 pounds, the Legion Slim 7 and 7i are the more portable of the two. It also packs Intel Core i9-13900H or Ryzen 9 79040HS chips, up to NVIDIA RTX 4070 graphics and up to a 3.2K 165Hz display or a 2,560 x 1,600 240Hz screen. You can also get optional per-key RGB lighting and a big 99.9 WHr battery, along with an aluminum frame in either storm gray or glacier white. So while I like the price of the new LOQ line, the Legion 7 Slim laptops would make me think long and hard about shelling out some extra cash for the sleeker design.

    While similar in design to the more affordable LOQ line, the Legion Slim 5 and Slim offer slightly more powerful specs in a more premium aluminum chassis.
    Photo by Sam Rutherford / Engadget

    Meanwhile, the Legion 5 Slim models still feature solid specs, including the same CPUs and a slightly wider range of graphics options (RTX 4050 up to RTX 4070 depending on the specific config). And unlike the 7 Slim which is only available as a 16-inch model, the 5 Slim will come in 14-inch and 16-inch sizes.

    The new LOQ 15i is slated to go on sale first sometime in April, followed by LOQ 15 and the larger LOQ 16i in May. The AMD-based LOQ 16 will arrive in June. Meanwhile, the Legion Slim 5i and 7i are expected to go on sale in April starting at $1,350 and $1,770, with the Slim 5 and Slim 7 arriving later in May starting at $1,200 and $1,770, respectively.

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    ‘Star Trek: Picard’ thinks the kids aren’t alright

    The following article discusses Star Trek: Picard, Season Three, Episode Six, “The Bounty.”

    When the Original Series cast made their swansong, they left Star Trek in the rudest health it had ever been in. The Next Generation had reached its creative peak, Deep Space Nine was a year away from starting, and the movie series was making good money. The Undiscovered Country gave fans one last adventure with Kirk and co. that gently highlighted why it was time to move on. By comparison, Nemesis’ soft box office meant there would be no grand finale for the TNG crew. DS9 and Voyager were done, and it wouldn’t be long before pre-Kirk prequel-series Enterprise would leave our screens. There was quite literally nobody to pick up from where Picard and co. left off as “current day” Trek went into enforced stasis. Now, it feels like 2002 all over again, with the only “current” Trek series, Discovery, canceled and the only other live-action Trek show yet again being a pre-Kirk era prequel. They say that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

    This sense of unease about the future permeates “The Bounty,” as Star Trek: Picard hints that the next (next) generation aren’t up to scratch. Picard, Riker and LaForge are all fathers struggling to deal with the gifts and curses they handed down to their children. The show keeps implying that there’s less hope in these kids because they’ve spent so long in their parents’ shadow. Sidney LaForge isn’t speaking to her father, who grouses to Picard how hard it was to raise her. The show has already hamfistedly tried to cover Riker’s grief over Thaddeus, while Picard has given his son a terminal case of Irumodic Syndrome. When Jack gets the idea of stealing the Bounty’s cloaking device, he and Sydney can’t get it working without Geordie’s resentful help. Come on kids, get out of the way while dad, once again, picks up your mess and fixes the things you can’t cope with. The subtext is one of disappointment, of darn kids with their avocado lattes and oat milk toast who can’t do anything as well as their baby boomer forebears.

    It’s an interesting perspective from a franchise that has always worried about its own coolness, fretting that it’s too thoughtful, too middle-aged. Chekov joined The Original Series cast because producers wanted to woo a younger crowd with a Davy Jones-type mop-topped pretty boy. This anxiety is most visible in the Next Generation movies, which are constantly battling each other in attitudes around age, aging and relevance. Generations leaves Picard at peace with his own age, but everything that follows repudiates that position, mostly as Patrick Stewart’s behind the scenes power grew, so did his desire to remake the character in his own image. The vest-clad man of action in First Contact, the romantic lead of Insurrection and the off-roading petrolhead in Nemesis all stem from this desire. Rather than a desire to become the wise, elder statesman of the Star Trek universe, Picard raged against the dying of his own light. And rather than lay the table for his successors, he judged them all and found them unworthy.

    This mistrust of youth goes hand-in-hand with a fetishization of the past that goes beyond nostalgia and into paraphilia. “The Bounty” has not one, but two trips to space museums so that the fans can gawk at objects of desire, stripped of their context, there for nothing but fan service. Riker, Worf and Raffi beam onto Daystrom Station, home of Starfleet’s “most off the books tech, experimental weapons, alien contraband,” which when you think about it is really daft. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think the US Navy stores secret chemical weapons at MIT, which is, or was, the best point of comparison for a civilian robotics research institute. Along the corridor, there’s the Genesis Device! (Why? It was blown up when the Reliant combusted and turned into the Genesis Planet, its existence makes no sense) A Tribble! And James Kirk’s Corpse!... Wait, that seems weird, why do that? That seems weirdly perverse, why would you store a decorated officer’s dead body in a site for military weapons when there’s nothing special about his physiology in this timeline? Oh, that’s why, because our heroes don’t get to gracefully die in Star Trek any more, they just become objects of fetishization.

    We get a brief cameo from Daniel Davis’ Moriarty as part of Daystrom’s not-quite security system before we hit the big reveal of the episode: Data!. Or, something else, a Soong-type android with the brains of Soong, Lore, B-4 and Data all mashed up in one body. (Why B-4 and Lore? Why would you put the unworkable prototype and the psychotic brains in there with the two functional ones? Because we’ll need an inevitable betrayal two or three episodes down the line, not because it makes sense.) And then we’re off to the fleet museum for a brief interlude of spaceship porn and, wouldn’t you know, the ships deemed worthy of preserving are almost all hero vessels from the Star Trek franchise. I mean, look, I’m a starship porn type of guy, and any loving shot of Andrew Probert and Richard Taylor’s Enterprise model will always have my heart soaring. But it just feels all so soulless, like the characters in Star Trek are now behaving like Star Trek fans.

    The conclusion of the episode reveals the changelings stole Picard’s corpse from Daystrom Station for reasons as-yet unknown. Meanwhile, Riker has been captured by Vadic and taken to the Shrike, where he’s shown that the baddies have also captured Deanna. But not before the 70-year-old Riker is given a dose of good old 24-style face punching, to match the rest of the series’ Bush-era politics.

    The biggest problem with this sort of all-the-characters-grew-up-watching-Star Trek nostalgia, of course, is that it collapses the size of your narrative universe. Star Trek is big and broad enough to sustain a massive trans-media ecosystem covering every corner of its fictional universe. But Star Trek: Picard makes out that Starfleet is made up of five ships not called Enterprise, none of which are worth remarking upon. The notion that the Enterprise is just one of hundreds, or thousands, of starships having wild and crazy adventures on the frontiers of space is beyond comprehension. In a way, I’m glad nobody in TV-land is familiar with Star Trek: New Frontier, lest it turned out that someone at Daystrom has collected Mackenzie Calhoun’s eyeballs on a shelf for the lolz.

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    Samsung SSDs and memory cards are up to 54 percent off at Amazon

    You can grab Samsung SSDs and microSDs at a discount right now from Amazon if you're looking to expand the storage space of your computers, consoles or mobile devices. To start with, Samsung's 1TB T7 Shield portable SSD is down to $80. At 50 percent off retail, it's now available for the lowest price we've seen it sell for on the e-commerce website. We named the non-rugged (or non-Shield) T7 as one of our best SSDs for 2023, and this has similar specs and features. Take note that the beige, blue and black color choices are all on sale, and the 2TB T7 Shield is also listed for a discounted price of $140.

    The T7 Shield was designed to be durable, to be dust and water-resistant and to have the ability to endure being dropped for up to 9.8 feet. It has a read/write speed of 1,050/1,000 MB/s and is compatible with PC, Mac, Android devices and consoles. 

    If what you need is an internal SSD, though, Samsung's 980 PRO 1TB SSD is also on sale for $80. Like the T7, that's the lowest price we've seen for the component, which retails for $110. You can also get its 2TB version for $160 in case you want a drive with a bigger capacity. The model was specifically designed for gamers and tech enthusiasts and offers high-performance bandwidth that can help make heavy-duty applications run smoothly. 

    The Amazon sale has other SSDs to choose from, but if you're looking to buy a memory card, there's Samsung's EVO Plus 256GB Micro SDXC. It's currently listed for $23, which is an all-time low for the microSD card that retails for $50. Need even more space? The 512GB version of the model is also on sale for $51.80, or 48 percent lower than its usual price.

    Buy Samsung SSDs and memory cards at Amazon - up to 53 percent off

    Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    The Morning After: TikTok CEO says its owner is 'not an agent of China’

    TikTok CEO Shou Chew is preparing to tell lawmakers that banning it will damage the US economy. “Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” Chew said in written remarks released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee before today's hearing on TikTok. The hearing, Chew’s first Congressional appearance, comes when the stakes couldn’t be higher for the company.

    US officials recently told Bytedance TikTok could be banned in the US if the company doesn’t divest itself. Chew detailed the app’s safety features, including Project Texas, TikTok’s billion-dollar effort to lock down users' data. “Earlier this month, we began the process of deleting historical protected US user data stored in non-Oracle servers; we expect this process to be completed later this year,” Chew writes. “Under this structure, there is no way for the Chinese government to access it or compel access to it.”

    Lawmakers will likely grill Chew in depth about TikTok’s ties to ByteDance and China, and whether they can trust the company to protect US users. How will the hearing fare? Congress has a track history of completely misunderstanding the underpinnings of tech companies, whether that’s Iowa’s Steve King complaining to the head of Google about iPhones, Senator Orrin Hatch not knowing Facebook makes most of its money from advertising or the iconic claim from then-Alaska Senator Ted Stevens that the internet is a series of tubes. Who will embarrass themselves this time?

    – Mat Smith

    The Morning After isn’t just a newsletter – it’s also a daily podcast. Get our daily audio briefings, Monday through Friday, by subscribing right here.

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    Tesla’s Wireless Charging Platform is well made and exorbitant

    A charger with Cybertruck aesthetics.


    In December last year, Tesla and Freepower announced the Wireless Charging Platform. Like many of the carmaker’s other products, though, it’s almost ludicrously expensive. At $300, Tesla’s offering is twice the cost of the priciest item from our wireless charger round-up. It’s probably not worth it, but it’s also, annoyingly, pretty good at what it does.

    Continue reading.

    Spotify may have spent less than 10 percent of its Joe Rogan apology fund

    The company claims it has spent more of the $100 million fund but didn’t specify further.

    In its first year of operation, Bloomberg sources claim Spotify has spent less than 10 percent of its $100 million Creator Equity Fund, a pool meant to foster diversity in podcasts and music. A Spotify spokesperson denies this 10 percent figure, claiming the company has spent more, but hasn't provided a specific figure. Spotify established the fund after an artist-led backlash to Joe Rogan’s COVID-19 vaccine misinformation spread through his Spotify-exclusive podcast. While that was the catalyst, critics also pointed to Rogan using racist language and making transphobic statements.

    Continue reading.

    The Tripod Desk Pro is a portable standing desk that upgraded my WFH setup

    And when work’s finished, you can hide it.

    Taken by Mat Smith / Engadget

    It’s hard to make standing desk coverage compelling, but hey, I tried. I’ve been testing out a premium portable standing desk from Intension, and it’s shaking up my WFH setup. It combines an incredibly solid tripod (with optional wheels) and a desk surface that slides on like a camera. It’s rather expensive, but I might have to buy one once I return this sample.

    Continue reading.

    Nothing’s $149 Ear 2 wireless buds have improved connectivity and more customization

    It’s a competitive price for ANC buds.

    Nothing’s revealed its second-generation Ear wireless buds. The eye-catching design sticks around, and the company has tried to address some of the issues that bedeviled the original, with some much-needed improvements to connectivity and setup. Fortunately, the price of the Nothing Ear 2 is the same as the Ear 1: $149, which undercut a lot of the established true wireless competition. Read on for our full impressions.

    Continue reading.

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    WhatsApp on Windows now supports up to eight people in video calls

    WhatsApp has rolled out a new desktop client for Windows that brings its calling features up to par with its counterpart for mobile. In an announcement, Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg said the new app enables users to host end-to-end encrypted video calls with up to eight participants. For audio calls, up to 32 people can participate, making it a viable choice for company meetings and family reunions where all the aunts, uncles and extended relatives can join in. WhatsApp says it will increase these limits further to allow for even larger calls in the future. 

    In addition to announcing the new client's improved calling features, it also touched upon some of its other recent upgrades. The messenger updated its multi-device capabilities to make it easier and faster to link new devices to user accounts. WhatApp also enabled better syncing so that people can simultaneously access their chats on up to four linked devices. 

    The service launched true multi-device syncing in 2021, allowing people to access their accounts even if their phone is offline or nowhere nearby. After that, WhatsApp must have recognized the need for better apps on different platforms for users to be able to enjoy using the messenger on multiple devices. WhatsApp first released a native app for Windows 10 in 2022, and back in January, it made the beta version of its native app for Mac available to all users. Since the latter was optimized for Mac hardware, it works better than the previous web-wrapped app for Apple's desktop OS.

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    Apple Music bug on iOS is reportedly mixing up people's playlists

    Apple Music users on iOS are highlighting a fairly serious bug that is causing other people's playlists and songs to appear in their libraries, according to multiple Redditors. On top of that, some users have complained that their own playlists have outright disappeared or been replaced by others, 9to5Mac has reported.

    The issue appears to be limited to the iOS Apple Music app and could be caused by an iCloud issue that's syncing up the wrong data between users. Some wrote that disabling iCloud syncing and then re-enabling it has cleared up the issue. That button is located in Settings > Apple ID > iCloud > Show All. 

    Apple has seen similar iCloud syncing issues in the past. Shortly after the iPhone 13 was released, some users lost access to their Music libraries if they transferred their data from another phone. And last year, Windows iCloud users complained about corrupt videos and images from other users appearing in their Photo Libraries. Apple has yet to comment on the latest problem, but Engadget has reached out for more information. 

    This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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    Programmatically Identifying Political Media

    With the US election coming up, the amount of political media in my face has reached an all time high. In fact this is a common complaint I hear among people I talk to, even those not in the US. So I thought to myself what if there was a way to identify political media before I ever got to the content...Keep that thought in mind as you read through this post and think how you or someone else could use this technology.…

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    Max Does Europe


    You've made it to one of the longest blog posts I may ever write. So long that I'd consider it more of a short novel rather than a single blog post. If you're more of a picture person head over to or my Facebook page for all the images from my trip (including ones not shown here). Alternatively, find me, buy me a beer and sit back and relax while I tell you the epic stories from my journey. Estimated read…

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    Rendering 12,000 Image Albums at Imgur

    Today marks a great day for wallpaper enthusiasts everywhere. Today's the day a newly designed Imgur launches, and with it comes some great performance improvements. My favorite is our new way to load giant albums without ridiculous lag. To put this new algorithm to the test I'm going to compare the perceived load speed of this 12,000 image album to what was previously on the site.


    • Utilized React.js more
    • Only render DOM elements that are in the viewport buffer zone
    • Saw FPS…

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    My Experience Making My First Android App

    Like too many people these days I tend to spend a lot of time on my phone. It's a tough habit to quit. So is playing DotA, my favorite game. Allow me to take you back over the past 3 weeks of getting to know Android development (I'll try to skip through some of the boring parts).

    The Start (3 weeks ago)

    With the largest e-sports tournament to date kicking off in a few weeks I saw an opportunity to corner a…

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    From 0 To 500 Users In 7 Days

    I recently launched an idea I had been thinking about for quite some time called Problem of the Day. If you haven't checked it out the basic run down is a new programming or logic puzzle every Monday through Friday. Most of the problems are meant to be solvable over breakfast, lunch, or whenever you have some free time.

    My goal for this post is to give you some ideas on what I did for my launch so that you can see…

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