10111-Chinarsquos plan to organize its society relies on lsquobig datarsquo to rate everyone

China’s plan to organize its society relies on ‘big data’ to rate everyone

BEIJING — Imagine a world where an authoritarian government monitors everything you do, amasses huge amounts of data on almost every interaction you make, and awards you a single score that measures how “trustworthy” you are. 

In this world, anything from defaulting on a loan to criticizing the ruling party, from running a red light to failing to care for your parents properly, could cause you to lose points. 

And in this world, your score becomes the ultimate truth of who you are — determining whether you can borrow money, get your children into the best schools or travel abroad; whether you get a room in a fancy hotel, a seat in a top restaurant — or even just get a date.

This is not the dystopian superstate of Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report,” in which all-knowing police stop crime before it happens. But it could be China by 2020.

It is the scenario contained in China’s ambitious plans to develop a far-reaching social credit system, a plan that the Communist Party hopes will build a culture of “sincerity” and a “harmonious socialist society” where “keeping trust is glorious.”

A high-level policy document released in September listed the sanctions that could be imposed on any person or company deemed to have fallen short. The overriding principle: “If trust is broken in one place, restrictions are imposed everywhere.”

A whole range of privileges would be denied, while people and companies breaking social trust would also be subject to expanded daily supervision and random inspections.

The ambition is to collect every scrap of information available online about China’s companies and citizens in a single place — and then assign each of them a score based on their political, commercial, social and legal “credit.” 

The government hasn’t announced exactly how the plan will work — for example, how scores will be compiled and different qualities weighted against one another. But the idea is that good behavior will be rewarded and bad behavior punished, with the Communist Party acting as the ultimate judge.

This is what China calls “Internet Plus,” but critics call a 21st-century police state.

A version of Big Brother?

Harnessing the power of big data and the ubiquity of smartphones, e-commerce and social media in a society where 700 million people live large parts of their lives online, the plan will also vacuum up court, police, banking, tax and employment records. Doctors, teachers, local governments and businesses could additionally be scored by citizens for their professionalism and probity.

“China is moving towards a totalitarian society, where the government controls and affects individuals’ private lives,” said Beijing-based novelist and social commentator  Murong Xuecun. “This is like Big Brother, who has all your information and can harm you in any way he wants.”

At the heart of the social credit system is an attempt to control China’s vast, anarchic and poorly regulated market economy, to punish companies selling poisoned food or phony medicine, to expose doctors taking bribes and uncover con men preying on the vulnerable. 

“Fraud has become ever more common in society,” Lian Weiliang, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s main economic planning agency, said in April. “Swindlers have to pay a price.” 

Yet in Communist China, the plans inevitably take on an authoritarian aspect: This is not just about regulating the economy, but also about creating a new socialist utopia under the Communist Party’s benevolent guidance.

“A huge part of Chinese political theater is to claim that there is an idealized future, a utopia to head towards,” said Rogier Creemers, a professor of law and governance at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

“Now after half a century of Leninism, and with technological developments that allow for the vast collection and processing of information, there is much less distance between the loftiness of the party’s ambition and its hypothetical capability of actually doing something,” he said.

But the narrowing of that distance raises expectations, says Creemers, who adds that the party could be biting off more than it can chew. 

Assigning all of China’s people a social credit rating that weighs up and scores every aspect of their behavior would not only be a gigantic technological challenge but also thoroughly subjective — and could be extremely unpopular. 

“From a technological feasibility question to a political feasibility question, to actually get to a score, to roll this out across a population of 1.3 billion, that would be a huge challenge,” Creemers said.

A target for hackers

The Communist Party may be obsessed with control, but it is also sensitive to public opinion, and authorities were forced to backtrack after a pilot project in southern China in 2010 provoked a backlash.

That project, launched in Jiangsu province’s Suining County in 2010, gave citizens points for good behavior, up to a maximum of 1,000. But a minor violation of traffic rules would cost someone 20 points, and running a red light, driving while drunk or paying a bribe would cost 50.

Some of the penalties showed the party’s desire to regulate its citizens’ private lives — participating in anything deemed to be a cult or failing to care for elderly relatives incurred a 50-point penalty. Other penalties reflected the party’s obsession with maintaining public order and crushing any challenge to its authority — causing a “disturbance” that blocks party or government offices meant 50 points off; using the Internet to falsely accuse others resulted in a 100-point deduction. Winning a “national honor” — such as being classified as a model citizen or worker — added 100 points to someone’s score.

On this basis, citizens were classified into four levels: Those given an “A” grade qualified for government support when starting a business and preferential treatment when applying to join the party, government or army; or applying for a promotion. 

People with “D” grades were excluded from official support or employment.

The project provoked comparisons with the “good citizen cards” introduced by Japan’s occupying army in China in the 1930s. On social media, residents protested that this was “society turned upside down,” and it was citizens who should be grading government officials “and not the other way around.”

The Suining government later told state media that it had revised the project, still recording social credit scores but abandoning the A-to-D classifications. Officials declined to be interviewed for this article.

Despite the outcry in Suining, the central government seems determined to press ahead with its plans.

Part of the reason is economic. With few people in China owning credit cards or borrowing money from banks, credit information is scarce. There is no national equivalent of the FICO score widely used in the United States to evaluate consumer credit risks.

At the same time, the central government aims to police the sort of corporate malfeasance that saw tens of thousands of babies hospitalized after consuming adulterated milk and infant formula in 2008, and millions of children given compromised vaccines this year. 

Yet it is also an attempt to use the data to enforce a moral authority as designed by the Communist Party. 

The Cyberspace Administration of China wants anyone demonstrating “dishonest” online behavior blacklisted, while a leading academic has argued that a media blacklist of “irresponsible reporting” would encourage greater self-discipline and morality in journalism.

Lester Ross, partner-in-charge of the Beijing office of law firm WilmerHale, says  the rules are designed to stop anyone “stepping out of line” and could intimidate lawyers seeking to put forward an aggressive defense of their clients. He sees echoes of the Cultural Revolution, in which Mao Zedong identified “five black categories” of people considered enemies of the revolution, including landlords, rich farmers and rightists, who were singled out for struggle sessions, persecution and re-education.

Under the social credit plan, the punishments are less severe — prohibitions on riding in “soft sleeper” class on trains or going first class in planes, for example, or on staying at the finer hotels, traveling abroad or sending children to the best schools — but nonetheless far-reaching. 

Xuecun’s criticism of the government won him millions of followers on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, until the censors swung into action. He fears the new social credit plan could bring more problems for those who dare to speak out.

“My social-media account has been canceled many times, so the government can say I am a dishonest person,” he said. “Then I can’t go abroad and can’t take the train.”

Under government-approved pilot projects, eight private companies have set up credit databases that compile a wide range of online, financial and legal information. 

One of the most popular is Sesame Credit, part of the giant Alibaba e-commerce company that runs the world’s largest online shopping platform. 

Tens of millions of users with high scores have been able to rent cars and bicycles without leaving deposits, company officials say, and can avoid long lines at hospitals by paying fees after leaving with a few taps on a smartphone.

The Baihe online dating site encourages users to display their Sesame Credit scores to attract potential partners; 15 percent of its users do so.

One woman, who works in advertising but declined to be named to protect her privacy, said she had used Baihe for more than two years. Looking for people who display good Sesame Credit scores helps her weed out scammers, she said.

“First I will look at his photo, then I will look at his profile,” she said. “He has to use real-name authentication. But I will trust him and talk to him if he has Sesame Credit.”

But it is far from clear that the system will be safe from scams.

William Glass, a threat intelligence analyst at cybersecurity expert FireEye, says a centralized system would be both vulnerable and immensely attractive to hackers.

“There is a big market for this stuff, and as soon as this system sets up, there is great incentive for cybercriminals and even state-backed actors to go in, whether to steal information or even to alter it,” he said. “This system will be the ground truth of who you are. But considering that all this information is stored digitally, it is certainly not immutable, and people can potentially go in and change it.”

Jin Xin contributed to this report.


The Internet was supposed to foster democracy. China has different ideas.

China’s scary lesson to the world: Censoring the Internet works

America wants to believe China can’t innovate. Tech tells a different story.

10109-Blue Coral Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Confirmed Release Date On Nov 5

Blue Coral Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Confirmed: Release Date On Nov. 5

Moving on from the fiasco that stemmed from the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung is pushing the two previous flagships it has in store — Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge. To do just that, it’s rehashing one of the most popular color options of the phablet and bringing a Blue Coral Galaxy S7 edge to the table on Nov. 5.

Before anyone gets too excited, it should be pointed out that the big news comes from Samsung Singapore, and the release date it disclosed doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll become available in the United States on the same day.

“Samsung today also announced the retail availability of the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 4G+ in Blue Coral, adding a stunning color variant to this sleek and stylish device. Currently available in Black Onyx, Gold Platinum, Silver Titanium and Pink Gold, the new color variant of the Galaxy S7 edge 4G+ features a refined design coupled with powerful functionality while encased in a cool blue hue,” Samsung Singapore says, introducing it along with the new 10.1-inch 2016 Galaxy Tab A with S Pen in the region.

Interestingly enough, there were no images included and no mention of the Galaxy S7, so there’s more or less a chance that the Blue Coral is limited to the Galaxy S7 edge only.

At any rate, this confirms that the smartphone maker is working on rolling out a Blue Coral Galaxy S7 edge, and that’s good news for fans of the color option.

It’s also worth mentioning that this comes hot on the heels of when a leaked image of the Galaxy S7 edge’s rear shell in Blue Coral surfaced earlier this month. At the time, it was believed that Verizon would be the first to offer — or at least, announce — it, as the Big Red’s logo was found on the back of the casing in plain view.

Nevertheless, that leak confirms that the Blue Coral Galaxy S7 edge will indeed land on U.S. shores in the foreseeable future.

To boil things down, the Blue Coral Galaxy S7 edge is set to launch on Nov. 5 in Singapore, but it’s still unclear when it’ll arrive in the United States and whether or not the color option will be available for the Galaxy S7 too.

With all said and done, what do you think of the upcoming color option? Feel free to hit us up in the comments section below and let us know.

10105-Swappa Brings Streamlined App For Buying  Selling

Swappa Brings Streamlined App For Buying & Selling

For years, Swappa has been known as one of the best and easiest ways to buy and sell used electronic devices on the internet. Their website makes it simple and easy to not only browse through devices that are for sale, but also getting paid for selling that phone or a tablet that’s been sitting in your desk drawer for a year. They are also known for their great team, who assist in making it feel safe and inviting to conduct transactions through their website. Swappa has now matured from not only buying and selling phones and tablets to now being able to buy and sell VR headsets, wearables, and Chromebooks. In the past, this all worked okay going through a desktop browser or through a mobile browser. Now, Swappa is hoping that their new Android application is not only going to make things easier, but possibly more accessible for those who prefer a more streamlined interface through an app. It’s also worth noting that this is different from the “Swappa Price” app that was launched last Summer, which would only serve as a means to figure out what your device was worth.

When you first open the Swappa app, you are greeted with a list of carriers at the top. This will help you find or sell a device that is is tied to one of the wireless carriers. If you’d prefer to buy or sell an unlocked device, that option is there too. Navigating down, you can choose from different categories including: Unlocked Devices, Tablets, Chromebook and Wearables. You have the option of selecting from a device in one of those categories, or, if you know already what you want to buy or sell, you can select the search option from the top right and type in what you are looking for. After you’ve selected the device, and just like the Swappa website, you can scroll through the various listings to find the device that your are looking to buy.

If you’d rather sell that particular device, tapping on the circular plus icon at the bottom right will take you to the “Create Listing” page to fill out the information needed to list your device. In addition to buying and selling, you can also view your profile which will include things like location, Swappa rating, my listings and feedback. Overall, using the application is very simple and intuitive allowing you to buy or sell items in minutes. It’s nice to know that there is an additional option available to sell devices through Swappa over an app rather then through the mobile version of their website. If you are thinking about buying or selling any gadgets in the near future, click on the Google Play button down below to grab the app from the Google Play Store.

Google playGoogle Play Button NEWSwappa-appSwappa-appswappa-app

10099-Opinion The Pixel Camera Software Pushes Google Beyond Other OEMs

Opinion: The Pixel Camera Software Pushes Google Beyond Other OEMs

Google has finally outclassed other companies when it comes to cameras. This is a statement that some individuals might have thought they never would have heard. When it comes to the camera, Google’s line of hardware which up until now resided in the Nexus camp for smartphones, was never thought of as the best phone on the market for photos. Each passing year presented consumers with a new Nexus phone that ultimately had better pictures than the phone that was released the year before, but they have never actually had the best smartphone camera. That changed this year with the Pixel and the Pixel XL, which has helped push Google past other OEMs in the photo department. This isn’t just due to the sensor that Google has used inside of the phone, although that does factor in quite a bit, but rather a large part of it has to do with the camera software. This is the real magic behind the curtain.

Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL have a handful of special little tweaks and perks that are part of the software side of things which are aimed at enhancing the smartphone experience for users, and while Google did pack special features in throughout the software in numerous areas, such as with the unlimited photo and video storage backups at full resolution, the special software used in the camera is a huge focus this year it seems, and that’s a good thing because it will help Google’s two new phones succeed more than they likely would have if their camera wasn’t rated the highest smartphone camera to date. On the specifics, a large portion of the camera software on the Pixel and Pixel XL are automatic and intelligent. When you pick up the Pixel and snap a photo, things happen quickly and rather effortlessly, the camera opens extremely fast and is ready to take a shot in pretty much no time at all. Now, speed of the camera is one very good aspect of what Google has done here with the camera software, but more of what makes this camera great should be attributed to the HDR+ mode that Google has switched on by default.


It’s HDR+ that is the real star of the show for the way the Pixel and Pixel XL handle images, and there are more than a few elements to this, but one important factor that boosts the camera up is the way HDR+ takes multiple image shots before the shutter button is pressed. This makes it so that capturing pictures is more of an instant affair and aside from giving a person more time to take more shots, it also better ensures that people are going to get the “right” shot, and that’s the key detail. Getting the right shot. While HDR+ is on by default and Google trusts it to give you the perfect photo every time (and it expects you to trust it as well), the reality is that it likely isn’t going to give you the perfect picture every single time you press the shutter button. That said, the likelihood of getting a great image that you can feel proud to show off to friends and family is much higher than on past Nexus devices, and probably much higher than on other top-end flagships from this year. You might be asking, if the pictures are already saved to the sensor (which is a state of the art Sony IMX378 sensor) before the shutter button is pressed, then what does the shutter button actually do? Well, you still have to press the shutter button to get the image and have it saved, it just isn’t taking the image at that time any more. It does however use the time you pressed the shutter button as a timestamp for the photo.

The other thing that HDR+ does differently than HDR modes on other devices is combining multiple images that are taken only in low exposure instead of mixing multiple images in high, medium, and low exposure levels. Google’s argument here is that using multiple low exposure shots helps them get a better set of low-light image results. In shorter terms, underexposing the images is key to what makes the camera on the pixel produce the shots that it can. Google’s software is great at denoising images (getting rid of most of the noise in images taken in low-light) which is a point we made in our full review of the Pixel and Pixel XL, and this leads to Google being able to keep colors saturated in those low exposure shots which makes for a vibrant and colorful picture with more depth and clarity than you would expect with less light. The Pixel’s software also keeps a little bit of the noise in images, as this allows the pictures to keep some of the texture that add to the overall quality of the shot. Of course, it’s important to note that you can switch HDR+ off if you want to, but as mentioned above it’s set to HDR+ Auto as the default setting, and even though HDR+ auto takes multiple images at low-exposure, you can easily adjust the exposure manually by simply dragging your finger up and down the screen to fine tune things to just the way you want them, with a range of +2.0 all the way down to -2.0.


While the Pixel and Pixel XL lack optical image stabilization, they do carry electronic image stabilization so there is still some stabilizing of photos going on, and OIS, according to Google, is actually not needed as much with HDR+, making for yet another way that the Pixel’s default camera mode helps to push the pictures on the device past those of its competitors. Because HDR+ is capable of taking multiple shots at low exposure and then blending those together for the end result, the image doesn’t really need to be stabilized in the way that OIS would provide, as OIS is typically meant for a photo at longer exposure times. This doesn’t mean that the Pixel camera will win out every single time against competing devices with similar hardware that do have OIS included, but it’s quickly becoming apparent that HDR+ was Google’s ace in the hole as far as the camera is concerned, as it seems to have allowed them to achieve a really great image quality in a number of ways. Having said that, HDR+ is not the only thing that makes this a great camera, as there are still options for other camera modes and there are a handful of other elements that you can adjust to make your pictures your own. As with past Google devices, those of which belonged to the Nexus line, panorama is a mode that has returned to allow you to grab wide frame shots by stitching together multiple images. Other modes like Photo Sphere, and Lens Blur have returned as well, and there’s even a Slow Motion mode which can grab imagery at either 120fps in 1080p resolution, or 240fps in 720p resolution. While the 720p resolution is lower quality, the 240fps is something that not many other high-end flagships have included in their smartphone cameras, giving the Pixel an edge here too. If this is a feature that you plan to use.

While relatively small compared to something like HDR+, other features in the software like a quick double tap on the power button to the open the camera (which works both while the screen is sleeping and while it’s awake) give the camera an extra boost. It is also worth noting that the Pixel is not the only phone which allows for such quick access to the camera, but when paired with everything else in the software it simply adds to appeal. So, while Google’s Pixel camera software may not have as many modes or scene effects that can be applied when taking pictures, HDR+, and the capability to snap photos extremely fast still helps it to achieve greatness beyond what other OEMs have done with their phone cameras so far. Of course, each person is different and other users will appreciate the unique features that their own device provides, but it’s still hard to argue against Google coming closer to perfecting the camera software on an Android device when they were able to grab the best rating for a smartphone so far. That said, it’s highly likely and very probable that Google as well as other OEMs will continue to improve their cameras and camera software as new devices are developed, so this is really a win for everyone.

10107-Instagram is testing Live videos

Instagram is testing Live videos

A Russian publication has spotted an experimental Instagram feature it obviously got its from parent corporation’s repertoire: live videos. One of T Journal’s readers sent in screenshots and a video of a curious icon lined up with Instagram Stories on top that’s clearly marked “Live.” It led to a “popular live broadcasts” page, but it refused to load — not surprising since the company hasn’t even officially announced the feature yet. T Journal also posted a screenshot of the app’s camera screen that says “Go Insta!” at the bottom, which we’re assuming starts a live broadcast.

Facebook, Instagram’s overlord, launched Live videos to the masses back in January following Periscope’s and Meerkat’s success. While Meerkat had to shut down after being eclipsed by Periscope, Facebook’s Live videos continue to thrive. It makes sense for the mega-social network to bring the capability to its popular photo app, but at this point, it’s still unclear if and when it’ll get a wider release. Those hoping and wishing to get an early glimpse of Instagram Live, though, take note: T Journal’s reader was using a Nexus 6P.

10089-Phone Comparisons Samsung Galaxy S7 vs Google Pixel

Phone Comparisons: Samsung Galaxy S7 vs Google Pixel


Do we have a good one for you today – the venerable Samsung Galaxy S7 goes up against the latest Google Pixel device. By now, we know all about Galaxy S7’s all glass and metal frame construction. It is a genuine workhorse and has an excellent reputation. The new kid on the block, the Google Pixel, is designed out of polished glass and metal and available in your basic black, white, or bright blue. This is the smartphone that Google hopes will carry them into the future. They want the Pixel to help them develop an Apple-like ecosystem that keeps you coming back for more. Pricing is high, but so are the specs for the most part. Just how does this new entry from Google stand up to the tried and true Galaxy S7? Let’s take a look at just what these two have in common before we take a closer look at each.

The Galaxy S7 and the Google Pixel do have a few things in common, and we can start with physical size. Even though the Pixel is slightly larger than the Galaxy S7, the S7 weighs in at 9 grams heavier. They both have some water resistance, but the Galaxy S7 takes the prize here with its IP68 rating. The displays are almost identical in size – 5.1-inch on the S7 and 5.0-inches on the Pixel – and they use the same AMOLED technology, Gorilla Glass 4, but have different resolutions. They both use a Snapdragon processor, 820 and 821, and the same Adreno 530 GPU for graphics. They both have 4GB of DDR4 RAM, and they both offer a 32GB variant of internal memory – the Galaxy S7 can be expanded, but the only option in the Pixel is to purchase a 132GB model. The main camera areas are very similar, and both take excellent shots. They both have a non-removable battery with fast charging built in and both enjoy a fingerprint sensor for unlocking the device or authorizing mobile payments. The usual suspects are here – WiFi, Bluetooth v4.2, GPS, NFC, and a USB port (microUSB v2.0 on the S7 and Type-C reversible on the Pixel.)

Please take a thoughtful look at the detailed Specifications Comparison chart below and here you will see just how these two great devices stack up against one another – click on the “View Full Comparison” link at the end of the chart to expand the details. After that, we will look at each device in greater depth and point out some of its pros and cons. From all of this information, we will try to determine the winner based on specs and execution of design and functions.


SpecOut | Graphiq

Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung-Galaxy-S7-Gold-AH-NS-05It is no secret that what Samsung does, so too does the rest of the market. The other manufacturers look to see what the new Samsung Galaxy S series will bring to the table and then try and keep up or exceed that bar. The Galaxy S7/S7 Edge outsold all other Android smartphones. Besides the new processor, the Galaxy S7 is a refinement of last year’s complete makeover. Other than a few minuscule design changes, the same metal and glass construction can be found on the outside. The camera area was the big talk this year as we all expected to see a 21MP sensor; but instead, Samsung used a Dual Pixel 12MP shooter.

The Galaxy S7 sports a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display with a QHD resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels with 577 pixels-per-inch (PPI.) Samsung added an ‘always-on’ display, to help save battery life by allowing you the ability to glance at the time, date, and notifications without turning on your main device. If you purchased your Galaxy S7 in the US, your processor would get the 64-bit Snapdragon 820 quad-core with dual cores clocked at 1.6GHz and dual cores clocked at 2.15GHz. In other countries, Samsung will use their Exynos 8890 octa-core processor with four cores clocked at 1.6GHz and four cores clocked at 2.3GHz. The Galaxy S7 packs 4GB of DDR4 RAM and has 32GB of the faster UFS 2.0 memory, as well as possible expansion up to 200GB via a microSD card.

Samsung surprised everybody this year by using a new Dual Pixel 12MP camera that has a larger sensor than the old 16MP. Samsung increased the aperture to f/1.7, included a faster phase detection autofocus (PDAF), auto HDR and OIS. The Galaxy S7’s front-facing camera (FFC) comes with a 5MP sensor, a wide-angle lens, the same f/1.7 aperture as the primary camera, and Live HDR. This allows excellent low-light selfies and video chatting. Samsung did increase the non-removable battery to 3000mAh, and it features Quick Charge 2.0 and Quick Wireless Charging.

The Galaxy S7 is able to use both Android Pay as well as Samsung Pay to make mobile purchases just about anywhere you can swipe a credit or debit card. It has IP68 certification against dust and water; it sports a heart rate and oxygen sensor, High-Res audio for listening through earphones, and has wireless charging. The Galaxy S7 measures 142.4 x 69.9 x 7.9 mm, weighs in at 152 grams, is available in Black, White, Gold, and Silver, and costs about $670. Please make note that many special promos are being run all of the time.

Google Pixel

android-nougat-pixel-ah-1I feel like a broken record, but just in case you haven’t heard, Google has made a huge change by getting rid of the Nexus line. Their new line of smartphones is called Google Pixel with two models – the Google Pixel or Google Pixel XL. Google claims they are in this for the long haul and that by building hardware and software together, they can more quickly get their own ecosystem going. Let’s see how this newly designed Pixel with its polished glass and metal construction holds up to the Samsung Galaxy S7’s design and specifications.

The Google Pixel sports a 5.0-inch AMOLED display with an FHD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels with 441 PPI. It is using the newest Qualcomm 821 quad-core processor with a dual-core clocked at 1.6GHZ and a dual-core clocked at 2.15GHz. The Snapdragon 821 is supposed to give a boost in performance of 10-percent over the regular 820 model. It packs 4GB of DDR4 RAM and 32GB or 128GB of fast UFS 2.0 memory with no means to expand. It uses a 2,770mAh non-removable battery for power and has rapid charge capabilities.

Google engineered a great camera in the Pixel devices even though the specifications do not seem that impressive – a 12.3MP sensor for their primary camera along with an aperture of f/2.0, phase detection autofocus (PDAF) and laser autofocus, a dual-tone LED flash, and no OIS. Even with these specs, the Pixel camera was tested by DxOMark and received a score of 89 – the highest yet for a smartphone. There is a large 8MP FFC that comes with a f/2.0 aperture, a 1.4µm pixel size, and 1080p. This setup should offer excellent selfies and video chatting.

A rear-mounted fingerprint sensor will allow you to unlock your device or authorize mobile payments, including Android Pay. The Pixel is IP53 rated splash and dust resistant. It will be running Android 7.1 Nougat out of the box. The Google Pixel measures in at 143.8 x 69.5 x 8.5mm and weighs in at 143 grams. It comes in Quite Black, Very Silver, and Really Blue (as a limited edition) and the 32GB Google Pixel will cost you about $650.

…And The Winner Is…


The Final Word

We are looking at two flagship devices that cost basically the same, and for this reason, I had to go with the Galaxy S7 as the winner of this comparison.The Pixel does come with Android Nougat and will be the first device to receive the next upgrade, but it takes more than that to be chosen the winner.

The Galaxy S7 has a Super AMOLED QHD ‘always-on’ display. It has expandable memory, is IP68 certified, incorporates a heart rate sensor and oxygen saturation sensor, Hi-Res Audio, Samsung Pay, a larger battery, and wireless charging.

It is also true that the Google Pixel uses the Snapdragon 821 versus the 820 in the Samsung. This addition will theoretically give you a 10-percent boost in performance. However, when you look at the entire package, the Galaxy S7 seems to offer just a little bit more. The Google Pixel is a solid buy, and if you are an old Nexus fan, it may just be your cup of tea.

10087-Facebook Announces More Liberal Content Standards

Facebook Announces More Liberal Content Standards

While censorship is generally frowned upon in the West, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Facebook has 1.7 billion users and some regulation simply needs to be put in place due to the sheer variety of content that people post. As Joel Kaplan, the company’s vice president of global public policy recently explained, it’s often hard to figure out whether some content is offensive or even illegal in some countries. Going too far with liberal community guidelines has landed Facebook in trouble with certain governments in the past but the same can be said for the way in which the social media giant has sometimes handled news stories censorship.

In other words, when you’re running a social media service with close to two billion users, you simply can’t please everyone. Facebook is aware of that but that doesn’t mean the company gave up on finding that golden mean which would make the largest number of people happy. Following that line of thinking, Facebook’s latest experiment won’t directly change its community standards but as Kaplan explained earlier today, it will allow for exceptions to these rules in certain scenarios. More specifically, Facebook will soon change its content regulation in a way which will enable displaying of more graphic content provided that the thereof is important enough. Important as in newsworthy, that is.

In a short press release published earlier today, Kaplan explained that the Internet giant is currently working extremely closely with its partners and general community in order to figure out what kind of content would be important enough to warrant an exception to general community standards. Nevertheless, the company’s executive stated that Facebook still won’t risk allowing content which would pose a safety risk to anyone or present graphic images to its underage users and anyone else who doesn’t want to see them. Unfortunately, Kaplan didn’t go into any more details regarding this upcoming change. We do know that this approach will be implemented in the coming weeks but there’s still no word on what exactly it will entail. Still, given the subjective nature of judging newsworthy content, it’s to be presumed that Facebook will employ more actual moderators who will judge content on a case-by-case basis. More information will hopefully follow soon.

10093-Top 10 Best Google Chromebooks ndash October 2016

Top 10: Best Google Chromebooks – October 2016

Every month the Chromebook market becomes even better thanks to a number new Chromebooks arriving. This month has seen quite a few announcements and rumors circulating which means the next few months are likely to be filled with even more choices. Although earlier this month saw Acer announce a revised edition of their popular Chromebook 15 model. One which is a little more affordable but offers a greater degree of battery life. If you do happen to be in the market for a new Chromebook and are unsure of which to go for, then here are our current top 10 best Chromebook picks for October 2016.

10. ASUS Chromebook Flip


The ASUS Chromebook Flip is one of the Chromebooks which adopts a less-than-traditional Chromebook design. Instead of being more like a laptop, this one looks to straddle the tablet and Chromebook market. As such, with the Chromebook Flip you can expect a tablet-sized device and one which can be used in a variety of positions, but one which comes running on Chrome OS. This is also a Chromebook which can be picked up in different variants depending on your needs or budget. Although, the best option is the one which comes loaded with 4GB RAM, 16GB internal storage and a Rockchip (RK3288) processor. There is little change in price on this one with the current October price for the Chromebook Flip coming in at around $270.

9. Acer Chromebook C740

The Acer Chromebook C740 is much more of a traditional shaped and designed Chromebook, albeit one which is on the small size as it comes loaded with an 11.6-inch display. However, while it is small it is a powerful Chromebook as it does come packing a 1366 x 768 resolution, 4GB RAM, 16GB internal storage and an Intel Celeron (3205U) processor. Which means that this is a good option for those looking for a powerful, yet portable and well-designed Chromebook. Although, this is not the most affordable Chromebook on the market and especially considering its size as it will currently cost you around $255 to buy.

8. HP Chromebook 14


Those interested in the Chromebook market, the HP Chromebook 14 will need little introduction. This is one of the staples of the Chromebook world and as such, is an extremely reliable and good-performing option to go for. While it is not the most premium designed Chromebook, it is one which offers a good all-round level of specs and performance. Most notably is the larger display as the Chromebook 14 comes with a 14-inch display and makes use of a 1366 x 768 resolution. The rest of the specs depend on which model you opt for with a 2GB RAM and Intel Celeron (N2840) option available, as well as a 4GB RAM and Intel Celeron (N2940) option. Of the two, the 4GB RAM one is the highest priced and is currently priced at $279.99

7. Acer Chromebook 11 CB3-131

Acer Chromebook 11 CB3-131 deal (1)

So far, the Chromebooks on the list have all been similarly-priced Chromebooks. However, there are those which are primarily designed to be super affordable and the Acer Chromebook 11 is one of those. This is a Chromebook which is available to buy for about $175 which makes it a great option for those on a tighter budget. In return for that low-cost, you are getting a smaller display as the Chromebook 11 boasts an 11.6-inch display with a 1366 x 768 resolution. While the specs are also on the more budget side and include 2GB RAM, 16GB internal storage and an Intel Celeron (N2840) processor.

6. Lenovo 100s Chromebook

Lenovo Chromebook 100S-32

Each month the Acer Chromebook 11 and the Lenovo 100s Chromebook do battle for the same position as they are (on paper) the same Chromebook. Like the Acer Chromebook 11, the Lenovo 100s Chromebook is also an 11.6-inch Chromebook with a 1366 x 768 resolution. Likewise, the Lenovo 100s Chromebook is also a Chromebook which comes packing 2GB RAM, 16GB storage and the same Intel Celeron (N2840) processor. Which means that each month the only notable difference between the two is the price. While both do come with a $179.99 retail price they do fluctuate each month and right now, the Lenovo 100s Chromebook does pip the Acer Chromebook 11 to the 6th position as you can pick this one up for a little under $170.

5. Samsung Chromebook 3

Samsung Chromebook 3

While the Acer Chromebook 11 and the Lenovo 100s Chromebook continually switch places each month, one Chromebook which has remained just ahead of the two on this list is the Samsung Chromebook 3. This is another ultra-affordable option and generally speaking, comes with very similar specs to the Acer and Lenovo options and at the same price. So for under $180 you can get the Chromebook 3 with an 11.6-inch display, 2GB RAM, 16GB storage and an Intel Celeron (N3050) processor. However, where the Samsung option stands out is that this one is also available in a 4GB RAM model which is priced at just under $200. In fact, this month is a great time to pick up the Samsung Chromebook 3 4GB RAM model as it is currently available at only $179. Essentially, the same price as the 2GB Samsung model and both the Acer and Lenovo 2GB RAM options.

4. Dell Chromebook 13

Dell Chromebook 13

Those looking for more power from a Chromebook will inevitably have to pay more and for those people, the Dell Chromebook 13 is worth checking out. This is a Chromebook range which looks to offer not only a choice of specs, but also a very premium build quality and design. The downside is though, that this is one of the more pricey Chromebook ranges. Although, you are getting what you pay for here. In terms of the specs, you are able to customize the RAM, storage and processor based on your needs but the middle of the road option is the 4GB RAM model which comes with 16GB storage and an Intel I3 processor. This one comes in at $429. Regardless of which model you opt for, the Dell Chromebook 13 comes loaded with a medium-sized 13.3-inch display.

Buy the Dell Chromebook 13

3. Lenovo ThinkPad 13

Lenovo Chrome ThinkPad 13 AH (1)

The Lenovo ThinkPad 13 is another good option to consider and especially as this is a relatively new Chromebook and one which is designed with choice in mind. So as well as being able to choose a RAM level between 4 and 8GB, and the choice of Intel Core processor and even the choice of display resolutions, you can even choose between operating systems with a Chrome OS and a Windows option both available. The one consistent aspect though is the screen size with all models of the ThinkPad 13 coming equipped with a 13.3-inch display. At the moment, you are looking at spending $279.00 for the most affordable option and that price rises depending on the RAM, processor and resolution chosen.

2. Acer Chromebook 15


The Acer Chromebook 15 is another one of the staples of the Chromebook world and for a long time remained the best choice to go for. This was largely due to this Chromebook being available in a number of variants and priced extremely competitive. However, its big selling point is that it does come with a very large 15.6-inch display. Which makes it ideal for those looking for a larger Chromebook. The price of this one does largely depend on which model is selected as the Acer Chromebook 15 is available in 2GB RAM/16GB storage, 4GB RAM/16GB storage and 4GB RAM and 32GB storage options. Although, the best options for the money is the 4GB RAM and 32GB storage model which can currently be picking up for only $249.99. Interestingly, Acer very recently released an updated version of this Chromebook which comes with a battery that is expected to offer up to 12 hours of usage before needing to be recharged. This newer model is available for only $199.99, although the downside is that it is only available in a 2GB RAM and 16GB storage option. Not to mention, it can only currently be purchased through Walmart.

New Acer Chromebook 15 – Walmart

1. Acer Chromebook 14

Acer Chromebook 14 Main AH-1

While the Acer Chromebook 15 is no longer the best Chromebook to buy, it has been replaced by another Acer model, the Acer Chromebook 14. This one does come with a smaller display (measuring 14-inches), but does come with a much more premium build quality and design. Not to mention the rest of the specs are also pretty good and include 4GB RAM, 32GB storage and an Intel Celeron N3160 processor. The other big selling point is that in spite of the premium design and decent specs, this is a fairly affordable Chromebook and can be picked up for just under $300. For what you are getting for the price, this is the best Chromebook to consider buying in October.

10103-Report ATT Close To Acquiring Time Warner For $85 Billion

Report: AT&T Close To Acquiring Time Warner For $85 Billion

US telecom giant AT&T is reportedly in serious talks to acquire Time Warner, a proud owner of popular TV networks including HBO, Warner Brothers and CNN. According to a report by Wall Street Journal, the deal is fast approaching advanced stages and could become finalized as early as this weekend, with AT&T potentially offering the company around $85 billion, or about $110 per share. Just recently, there have been incidents where telecoms show continued interest to acquire media and tech companies. Verizon, America’s largest wireless carrier has already acquired AOL and is in another deal to acquire Yahoo as well. AT&T, America’s second largest wireless company only after Verizon, has been promoting Time Warner’s entertainment assets through its mobile, broadband and satellite TV services and it is now about time it acquires the company.

Time Warner has a market capitalization of about $65 billion and this makes it a perfect acquisition target for AT&T which has a market capitalization as high as about $238 billion. If the deal goes through, this means AT&T will add a host of media companies to its assets which would include HBO and the others mentioned above. AT&T has had a series of some acquisitions and one of the most recent ones was another satellite provider – DIECTV, which has proven to be a good investment for them so far.

As it appears now, the acquisition deal focuses on AT&T and Time Warner, but other reports state that it’s rumored Verizon could also place its bid near in the future if the deal between AT&T and Time Warner did not end well. This could increase tension between AT&T and Verizon, forcing the former to strengthen its bid in order to knock out the latter as its rival. It can be recalled that Timer Warner rejected a $75 billion buyout from 21st Century Fox two years ago, this shows that AT&T would likely need to offer a stronger bid mark to be able to close the deal with the company. Though the deal could close possibly this weekend, it is still unclear how much AT&T would offer Time Warner or what the settled on price would end up at, if the acquisition talks are true in fact more than just rumors. For the acquisition to go through, it is expected to go under some standard regulatory procedures before it closes.

10081-Six reasons to be hyped for the Nintendo Switch (and four reasons tonbspworry)

Six reasons to be hyped for the Nintendo Switch (and four reasons to worry)

Yesterday saw the introduction — after many leaks and rumors — of the Nintendo Switch, the company’s next game console. It isn’t due to arrive until March of next year, which is infinitely frustrating because it looks amazing for several reasons, not all of them obvious. Here’s why I’m more excited about the Switch than for any Nintendo product in a long time.

It’s totally different from the Wii and Wii U

New-Super-Mario-Bros-Wii-UThe Wii was a blast, and sold like hotcakes. But the Wii U was a strange and some would say lazy upgrade that attempted to squeeze more money out of the same ideas. In the end, their entire strategy was compromised and they lost both players and games. The Switch jettisons all that baggage, cutting things off clean except for useful accessories (more to come) like the Pro Controller.

This fresh start means Nintendo can start a completely new dialog with gamers, developers, and consumers, all of whom have been somewhat abandoned over the last few years.

It’s also totally different from the PS4 and Xbox One

While Nintendo distanced itself from… well, itself, it also managed to keep separate from the competition. It does things neither the PS4 or Xbox One does, while those two systems are, in many ways, almost identical.

What that means is that, while very few people are going to buy both Microsoft and Sony’s consoles, it’s totally possible people will want a Switch in addition to the “traditional” console of their choice.

Perhaps the failure to launch in time for the holidays was a strategic move: steer clear of the marketing push by the 900-pound gorillas, and strike later, when people are looking for something new (and have recouped their holiday expenses with a few paychecks).

Its gimmick is easy for anyone to understand

2-assembleWith the Wii, people “got” it when they put their hands on it. “Oh, you actually move around!”

With the Wii U, people… didn’t get it. I still don’t get it, and I have one! “It’s a second screen? But also the main screen, sometimes? But you have to be in Wi-Fi range, because it’s not the actual console? And sometimes you have to look at both screens?!”

With the Switch, people will get it as soon as they see it. “Oh, you can use it anywhere, and the controllers come off!” If people can imagine a way to use it, Nintendo probably already thought of it and put it in the reveal commercial. There are a few questions remaining, of course, but the basic idea explains itself. That’s a big plus.

It keeps multiplayer on the couch

Here’s a picture of my coffee table.


Hmm, there’s… actually a lot going on there, but mainly I wanted to show that I love playing awesome Nintendo games on my couch so much that I’ve literally never put away the SNES I got as a kid.

Couch co-op (or competition) is in Nintendo’s DNA, more so than perhaps any company in the world. It’s something Nintendo cares about deeply, and has always made a priority. The Wii and Wii U emphasized couch multiplayer, and the Switch does too, but so fundamentally that it’s literally built into the console itself, off the shelf. That’s a great sign.

It’s gaming that’s mobile, but not mobile gaming

4-standaloneNintendo may finally, finally be embracing mobile as a platform, but that raises the question of whether something like the 3DS is even necessary. The Switch is the answer to that question.

You don’t use the Switch in the same places you use your phone. It’s not for wasting time while you wait for your sandwich to come up, it’s for when you might otherwise pull out a book, watch a show, or listen to a podcast. It’s just as powerful as your home console, because it is your home console. And that also means that, unlike the Vita or even 3DS, you’re not getting ports or handheld-first games — yet games that are better on handheld will be just as much at home.

It isn’t aimed at kids, but it will be great for kids

6-splitCount the number of kids shown in the reveal video. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Did you get zero? Good, that’s what I got.

Nintendo knows that its real user base is an aging cohort of gamers attached to the franchises it holds. They don’t need to show a thing like with the Wii U, where Junior can play Mario while Dad watches the game. More likely is a situation where Dad’s playing Mario while Junior is playing Gears of War.

Yet the simplicity and flexibility of the setup (and ease of replacing individual pieces, it bears mentioning) means they definitely were keeping kids, especially smaller ones, in mind when designing it. Bring it in the car so the kids can play Smash on a road trip. Easy cleanup, no cords, no wrist straps or arguing over who gets the Wiimote Plus.

On the other hand…

Now, I said I was hyped, but I didn’t say I don’t have any reservations. The announcement was a little short on details, in that special Nintendo way, which leaves me wondering…

What about a touchscreen?

mario-maker3dsNo one touches the screen in the reveal video, and Nintendo has refused to comment. No touchscreen would be a big change for them, since the Switch is meant to encompass both home and handheld gaming, and the last million or so DS iterations had touchscreens. People expect screens they handle to be touchable, and Nintendo wants the device to be easy to relate to.

My guess? It has a touchscreen but they’re not sure whether it’s going to be resistive or capacitive, and the stylus situation is similarly unanswered. Let’s hope, anyway. How else will we get Mario Maker Switch?

What about the specs?

This comes up pretty much any time Nintendo releases anything — and with good reason. Are we going to get 60 frames per second? What resolutions will it drive? What are the modern conveniences developers will appreciate, or the bottlenecks they will curse?

We’ll know more later — my feeling is they are hammering out the nitty gritty details and seeing what they can get to fit under a $300 price point (the logical price) by March or whenever they ship.

What about the back catalog?

suspendNintendo knows one of its strengths is its huge collection of games stretching back three decades. They’re not going to abandon that — but they might have to abandon the last five years or so. The Switch is just too different from the Wii or Wii U to port over games, meaning great games from those consoles will stay there. Can we expect Switch-specific remakes of Super Mario 3D World, Pikmin 3, and others?

The Switch will also be an amazing platform for playing your old NES and SNES games — expect the interface from the NES Classic Mini to appear here — but will we have to re-buy everything? Is it going to be a fuss? How much from our old accounts and Nintendo consoles will carry over?

What about the 3DS?

new-3ds-xl-3The Switch is a handheld, but will it be Nintendo’s only handheld? In some ways, it makes sense: unify everyone under the same strong brand, hardware, and message. In other ways, it’s completely insane: Nintendo’s handhelds are among the best selling systems of all time and they, too, are part of the company’s DNA.

Does the Switch signal a change to the home/handheld divide that Nintendo has held for so long? Will its smartphone division pick up the pieces? What will mega-franchises like Pokemon and Monster Hunter do? I can’t imagine Nintendo leaving the dedicated handheld market behind, but I also don’t know what they can do to keep it fresh and distinct from the Switch.

A winner is us

awinnerisyouEven with the uncertainty around some features and the future of the space Nintendo is defining, I think the Switch is a hugely positive move for the company. It focuses on fun and sharing that fun with friends, while avoiding questionable gimmicks like 3D and whatever you’d call the Wii U. Instead, it makes an advance others have yet to try, as did the original Wii and DS, both of which added something unique and intuitive to a games market that needed it.

I can’t wait for it, and not just because of the new Zelda. And the new Mario. And the newish Splatoon. And god willing, a new Metroid. But because I want to see Nintendo a household name again, and I think the Switch may just be the platform that makes that happen.

Source: Tech Crunch in Gadget / October 21, 2016 / 0 Comments