Amazon is getting its IoT on with the $30 Echo Wall Clock

Tick tock: In Amazon’s relentless pursuit for complete control over your household, they’ve created the diabolical Echo Wall Clock, another device meant for spying on your children – wait what? It doesn’t have a microphone or camera? Then what does it do?

First announced in September, the Clock has built up a surprising amount of excitement amongst Echo fans, largely due to its attractive $30 price point. Even without connecting it to the internet it’s still a good looking 10” clock, making the many added features a real bonus.

Once it’s paired with another Echo device it’ll connect to the internet and set the time itself. Its ability to check if it’s running fast or slow or adjust to daylight saving time is pretty appealing, saving you the hassle of pulling a clock off the wall and awkwardly adjusting it yourself. Its primary feature, however, is the ability to visually display and manage multiple timers, countdowns and alarms all at once.

Just beneath the white perimeter of the Clock is a circle of 60 white LEDs, each of which lines up with a minute on the clock. When you set a timer, each LED will light up as time passes. When a countdown’s set it will light up the LEDs then turn them off one by one, and if a timer’s on then the corresponding LED will be lit until an alarm goes off on the paired Echo.

While your phone or even Alexa herself can do all these things, there’s something surprisingly pleasant about a visual interface. Whether it’s reminding the kids (or yourself) that they’ve been playing Xbox for too long or reminding you that you can finish work in 15, a visual display on the wall may be less stressful than compulsively checking a phone or listening out for an alarm.

What made Amazon’s original Echo groundbreaking was the way it unlocked a new way to interact with the internet in your living room (on the cheap, too). And while those kind of devices are certainly part of the Internet of Things, the Echo Wall Clock is a good example of a first generation device that embodies what IoT was always imagined to be: a standard object that adds a little bit of functionality through a connection to the internet, at no additional cost to the user.

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Rocket Lab launches NASA's first dedicated cubesat mission

Trevor Mahlmann/Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab isn’t quite done establishing firsts. The company has successfully launched ElaNa-19 (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites), NASA’s first cubesat mission to get a dedicated ride to space. Until now, the agency’s tiny satellites have piggybacked on missions carrying larger payloads. It’s also the first Venture Class Launch Services mission for the company, and the first time Rocket Lab has conducted two launches that are relatively close together. Its initial commercial flight, “It’s Business Time,” lifted off five weeks ago.

This represents Rocket Lab’s third (and last) orbital flight of 2018, although it will get a quick start to the new year with another Electron rocket “on the pad” in January 2019.

You can likely expect this kind of mission frequency in the future. Rocket Lab aims to corner the market for small satellite deployments, and that means offering as many launch dates as possible at costs that are typically more affordable than hitching a ride on a larger vessel. If it achieves this, it could encourage greater use of cubesats and make space more accessible to companies and scientists alike.

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Review: Whitestone Dome Glass for iPhone XS is a great screen protector w/ a unique installation process

In general, I have mixed opinions about using screen protectors with the iPhone X and iPhone XS. The phones are absolutely beautiful without any sort of protection, but with the ever-increasing cost of the devices themselves, as well as repairs, some added peace of mind can go a long way. In comes Whitestone, who has an interesting take on how a screen protector should work for the new age of curved screen devices.


The post Review: Whitestone Dome Glass for iPhone XS is a great screen protector w/ a unique installation process appeared first on 9to5Mac.

NY Times report explores the ‘mess’ that was Apple’s attempt to build the Macintosh in Silicon Valley

As Apple announces continued investment in the United States, and certain politicians call on the company to make its products stateside, The New York Times is out with a closer look at Apple’s history manufacturing in the U.S.


The post NY Times report explores the ‘mess’ that was Apple’s attempt to build the Macintosh in Silicon Valley appeared first on 9to5Mac.

HQ Trivia boss Colin Kroll is dead at 35 after an apparent drug overdose

Image: Bryan Steffy/Getty Images for Variety

Colin Kroll, the 35-year-old CEO and co-founder of mobile game sensation HQ Trivia, was found dead after an apparent drug overdose on Saturday night.

An NYPD official confirmed to The Daily Beast that authorities found Kroll in his bed, unconscious and unresponsive, shortly before midnight on Saturday. Police were there to perform a welfare check, though it’s not clear who alerted them or when.

The unnamed official who confirmed the news — which was first reported by TMZ — also noted that narcotics and drug paraphernalia were found in Kroll’s apartment, and that the death is being investigated as a narcotics overdose.

Kroll was best known in recent years for the part he playing in building HQ Trivia, a free-to-play mobile trivia game in which all participants have a chance at winning cash prizes. The game’s popularity peaked in 2017, though it’s still around today and still trying out new ideas on its sizable audience.

Previously, Kroll and his HQ business partner Rus Yusupov made a name for themselves in tech as the founders of Vine. Twitter acquired the short-form video hosting service in 2012, only a few months after it launched, and it became a go-to source of memes and other examples of viral internet until Twitter shut it down in late 2016.

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People are dragging Offset on Twitter for his manipulative Cardi B stunt

Cardi B was not amused and neither were a lot of other people.
Cardi B was not amused and neither were a lot of other people.
Image: Getty Images

In a stunning if ultimately unsurprising display of ashiness, Cardi B’s recently estranged husband Offset showed up onstage at the Rolling Loud festival to beg Cardi to take him back after he cheated on her.

Offset’s “apology” included flowers and a series of cakes that spelled out “TAKE ME BACK;” he was escorted off the stage after Cardi B expressed discomfort that he interrupted her show. 

As and after the drama unfolded onstage, people on Twitter took Offset to task for his stunt, rightfully claiming that his grand gesture was more “manipulative performance of headassery” than “super effective way to apologize for sleeping around on your wife.” 

Some people also pointed out that it was particularly wrong of Offset to interrupt Cardi B while she was working. Cardi was the first female headliner in Rolling Loud history, and in prioritizing himself he made what should have been a professional accomplishment all about his personal relationship. 

Women shared their stories of their own partners coming to their place of work and why workplace gestures are more controlling than romantic. 

It looks like Offset’s interruption hasn’t had an effect on Cardi B’s decision to leave him, and it’s in everyone’s best interest that he learn to take an L and deescalate his attempts to make up for his infidelity.

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Believe the hype: Weighted blankets have an online cult following for a reason

Weighted blankets are essential.
Weighted blankets are essential.
Image: Vicky Leta / Mashable

Essentials Week spotlights unexpected items that make our daily lives just a little bit better. 

From Twitter to Reddit to Instagram, tons of internet folks are raving about a glorified tarp. 

Weighted blankets, also known as gravity or anxiety blankets, gained the attention of the self-care community late last year and have been picking up widespread (and emphatic) support ever since.

Purported to assist with stress and sleep, weighted blankets are exactly what they sound like — blankets with added weight, typically around 10% of the user’s body weight. As you slide under the heavy, comforter-like fabric, you will likely experience a therapeutic sensation, one that I would compare to that extra sip of wine taking you from conversationally relaxed to full-blown tipsy. 

Weighted clothing and blankets aren’t new in the world of therapy, but a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign by Gravity Blanket in 2017 helped to expand the established concept for more general use within the wellness community.

While I tend to be wary of self-care products (nothing about those oils is essential, by the way) and the shifty science behind their marketing, I’m surprisingly all-in on this craze. After my boyfriend gave me a gravity blanket for my birthday last year, I saw genuine improvement in my mornings, nights, and occasionally afternoons. (Plus, Tiffany Haddish loves hers, and if there’s one thing I love in this world, it’s anything Tiffany Haddish even remotely likes.)

Here’s a rundown on the pros and cons of these blankets, at least as my very sleepy ass sees it. 

Pro: Each use feels like a massive hug. 

A distinctly less awkward alternative to the boyfriend pillow, weighted blankets are excellent for an emergency snuggle session.

Living in New York City, far away from my traditional cuddle cohorts (shout out to my long-distance boyfriend, my mom, and my college roommates), I relied heavily on my gravity blanket to get me through last winter. On particularly tough or gloomy days, I would rush home to my cozy apartment, sip a hot cup of tea, and spend some quality time with my blanket buddy. It was, as you might imagine, delightful.

Con: That’s one expensive hug. 

Beginning at $125, weighted blankets typically cost a few hundred dollars. Like regular bedding, that price will fluctuate depending on the size and quality of the item. Whatever you decide, financially speaking, it’s a big bucket of “ouch.”

That being said, while I can’t speak to their effectiveness, some DIY experts claim to have created their own weighted blankets with reasonable success. So, if you’re on a budget and feeling crafty, you could follow along with one of these tutorials.

Pro: It can help you fall asleep.

Research on the relationship between weighted blankets and insomnia is fairly lacking. However, some basic logic explains why so many of the blanket’s fans are falling asleep quickly.

It’s sort of like swaddling a newborn. Users of weighted blankets experience “deep pressure stimulation.” The feelings of peace and calm associated with physical touch are known to most people, so it makes sense that even a simulated version of that experience would send you toward snoozeville. 

I find that the weighted blanket cuts my falling asleep time in half. If I’m already tired, my typical 20-minute wind-down is reduced to 10. If I’m wide awake, the 45 minutes it usually takes me to force unconsciousness is shortened to somewhere between 25 and 35. Of course, your mileage may vary.

Con: They’re heavy and consequently annoying to move.

My (very kind) significant other dragging my gravity blanket birthday present up five flights of stairs to my apartment remains one of the grandest romantic gestures I have ever witnessed.

These suckers aren’t total back breakers, but they are inconveniently heavy. Whether it’s folding it up to change the sheets or trying to lug it out to your car, you will likely find moving your newfound sleep accessory pretty annoying. 

Pro: It can help you stay asleep.

Between my rowdy cat and generalized stress, I have a remarkably hard time sleeping through the night. But my weighted blanket can typically keep me from becoming fully awake.

Picture this: Your eyes flutter open. Your thoughts dance through typical drowsy logic. “Where am I? What’s going on? What time is it?” 

Then your trusted blanket pal uses her pleasant weight to say, “Shhhhhhhh, you’re all good, sweetie. Nothin’ going on here. Go back to dreaming about those waffles playing tennis.” And just like that, you’re back to dreaming about those waffles playing tennis. Magic.

Con: You’ll need some time to get adjusted.

The flip side of that last pro is that weighted blankets can really freak you out upon first use.

Most people aren’t used to having a large, heavy piece of fabric pin them to their mattress. As such, when you wake up in the dark to find yourself accosted by your linens, you might become a bit startled. 

When I first tried my weighted blanket, I had an all out Ryan Reynolds in Buried dream and considered never using it again. The second time I used it, the blanket’s heaviness combined with my apartment’s steam heating, and I was so boiling hot I considered throwing it out.

However, I assure you that with time you will get used to having a weighted blanket as part of your sleep setup. It may take a little practice and finessing to figure out how it makes you most comfortable — but you’ll land on something that maximizes the blanket’s benefits as well as meeting your personal needs. (In my case that meant avoiding scary movies, opening all of my windows, and pointing a tabletop fan directly at my head. Steam heat or no steam heat, I was keeping that blanket.)

Pro: It’s a helpful option to have at your disposal in moments of panic, stress, or anxiety.

Not all panic is created equal. Sometimes your brain says, “You need to walk around the block six times.” Other times, it recommends a dozen deep breaths and a pint of Halo Top. And while weighted blankets are not a be-all end-all vehicle for calming down, having one as an option may prove useful for you at some point.

Gravity Blanket’s original assertions that its product could “treat” an array of sleep and anxiety disorders were farfetched, and they had to retract some of their marketing statements when the FDA came around. From personal experience, however, I can say that it does help with my overall wellbeing. Placebo effect or no, the blanket is a useful tool that I have added to my repertoire of self-care techniques. 

If you’re thinking about hopping on the weighted blanket train, make sure to do plenty of research beforehand. Select the right weight, find the right price point, and get ready to nap, my friend. Some extremely weighty z’s are headed your way.

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HQ Trivia and Vine co-founder Colin Kroll found dead of suspected overdose

Colin Kroll, the 35-year-old co-founder and CEO of the HQ Trivia app, has been found dead of an apparent drug overdose in his apartment, TechCrunch has confirmed.

A spokesman for the NYPD told us that a female called 911 for a wellness check on Kroll’s apartment and he was found dead inside at 08:00 hours today.

The police department said the investigation is ongoing but added that the cause of death is “allegedly a drug overdose”.

“We’re still waiting on the ME’s report to confirm that,” he added.

The story was reported earlier by TMZ — which cites a police source saying cocaine and heroin were believed to be involved.

We reached out to HQ for comment but the company has declined to make a statement at this time.

Kroll was only named CEO of the HQ Trivia mobile game show app three months ago, replacing fellow co-founder Rus Yusupov who moved over to serve as chief creative officer.

Prior to taking the CEO role Kroll served as HQ’s CTO. He co-founded the startup in 2015, a few months after moving on from Vine — the Twitter-owned short video format startup which got closed down in 2017.

It’s not clear who will take over the CEO role for HQ Trivia at this stage but Yusupov looks a likely candidate, at least in the interim.

In recent months the startup has been beta testing a follow up mobile game show, called HQ Words. Its original trivia format show airs twice per day and awards winners as much as $100,000 for successfully answering 12 questions.

The app debuted last August and was a viral success. But the question hanging over HQ Trivia and its co-founders has increasingly been how to sustain an early winning streak, once the novelty of the original show ran its course.

As we reported previously, HQ Trivia’s ranking in the app store has been steadily decreasing in recent months.

Kroll started his career as a software engineer at Right Media, which went on to be acquired by Yahoo in 2006. From then until 2011, he led the engineering team in Yahoo’s search and advertising tech group before joining luxury travel site Jetsetter as VP of Product — where he went on to be promoted to CTO.

In 2012 he left to start Vine with co-founders Dominik Hofmann and Yusopov.

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Vine, HQ Trivia co-creator Colin Kroll reportedly found dead in New York City apartment

Colin Kroll, the co-creator of Vine and the wildly popular game app HQ Trivia, has died of a suspected drug overdose in New York City, according to published reports.

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A representative for the New York City Police Department told CNBC that a 35 year-old male was discovered in his Lower Manhattan apartment shortly after midnight. Upon entering, authorities found the person unresponsive in his bedroom.

The NYPD declined to name the deceased pending notification, but entertainment website TMZ and The Daily Mail reported that the deceased was Kroll. His girlfriend hadn’t heard from him, and contacted police in order to do a welfare check, the reports said. Cocaine and heroin were also found on the premises, the publications reported.

Representatives for HQ Trivia were not immediately available to comment.

Created by Kroll and Rus Yusupov, HQ Trivia is a live trivia game that streams at 9PM every day, and 3PM on weekdays. Each show features 12 questions players must answer correctly within 10 seconds to win a cash prize.

HQ Trivia was considered a viral hit when it launched last year, but recent reports suggest internal turmoil as the game’s popularity ebbed. Last month, Recode reported that an HQ employee filed a formal complaint against Kroll for his aggressive management style.

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