Latest 'Mass Effect: Andromeda' Update Teases Batarians, Platinum Difficulty For APEX Missions

In addition to the search for a new home for the races of the Milky Way galaxy, Mass Effect: Andromeda lets you participate in APEX Missions, which are story-based variants of the game’s multiplayer mode. In the middle of the July 4 festivities yesterday, the team at Bioware teased some new content for the missions, which include a higher difficulty setting and new foes.

The 11-second trailer briefly showed the icon for a new difficulty level in APEX Missions. At launch, you can choose from Bronze-, Silver-, or Gold-level difficulties for each sortie. With the latest update, which arrives tomorrow (July 6), you’ll get an even tougher challenge with Platinum-level missions. Successfully surviving multiple waves of enemies at the Platinum level provides you with some high-end rewards to use in the single-player campaign.

You can also try the new difficulty level against a familiar enemy from the original Mass Effect trilogy. The main attraction of the teaser trailer was the four-eyed batarian. These aliens were known in the Milky Way as drug smugglers and slave traders. Some of the more reputable alien races, such as the salarians and turians, have their own ships on the way to the Andromeda galaxy, and it’s possible that the batarians illegally hitched a ride and are looking for new customers or slaves in the uncharted galaxy.

The batarians and the introduction of the Platinum difficulty are the latest in Bioware’s additions to the Mass Effect: Andromeda multiplayer experience. Right after launch, the studio added the first of its APEX Missions to the game, and subsequent chapters, which relate to Andromeda’s new species, came out on an almost-weekly basis. It’s safe to say that the developers will continue to implement more features to the multiplayer, but the addition of new content to the single-player story is still in the air. Unlike most games today, Mass Effect: Andromeda did not include a Season Pass for additional downloadable content, which casts the arrival of additional stories or characters in the main campaign in doubt.

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EarStudio Bluetooth receiver review: Bring high-res wireless streaming to any wired headphones

Wireless headphones are undeniably convenient, but the blunt truth is they just can’t come close to the fidelity of wired headphones. Radsone promises to change that perception with its EarStudio, a smaller-than-a-package-of-Tic-Tacs Bluetooth receiver that brings wireless high-resolution streaming and hands-free calling to any wired headphone.

Radsone is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to bring the EarStudio to market. It achieved its modest $20,000 goal on the third day, and has received nearly $85,000 in pledges as of this writing. The company expects to ship the EarStudio to its backers in September. As you might know, TechHive typically does not cover crowd-funding campaigns. When we do, it’s because the product met three criteria: Very strong appeal for our audience, the availability of a finished product or an advanced pre-production sample, and the manufacturer’s understanding that we will review the sample as a finished product. 

The 20mm x 40mm EarStudio will slip into any pocket with ease, but a large clip on its back is designed to fasten the EarStudio to your clothing. The clip’s tension on this pre-production sample was very loose and quickly lost its grip on my shirt or pants pocket. I would expect that Radsone will address this issue when it goes to manufacturing.

The EarStudio will clip to your clothing. Radsone

The EarStudio will clip to your clothing.

The four sides of Radsone’s EarStudio have all all the control options you might need: There’s power; track-forward; track-reverse; and a 2.5mm fully balanced, double-voltage output on one side. Volume, a 3.5mm double-current output, and a hands free microphone are on the other side. There’s a single micro-USB charging port on the bottom.

All the remote control options worked great. I made some calls using the EarStudio as well. People on the other end had no problem hearing me. My only complaint is that the 3.5mm jack sticks out from the side of the unit and sits too close to the volume-up button.

The EarStudio comes with a companion iOS and Android app. Radsone

The EarStudio comes with a companion iOS and Android app.

The EarStudio will come with a companion iOS and Andriod app that will allow you to customize the receiver’s sound and EQ settings, but Radsone wasn’t able to provide early access to the app.

For such a small unit, it delivers a lot of up time—up to 14 hours of continuous playback life from its 350mAh battery. Radsone didn’t specify the standby battery life, but it should exceed a day or two since I got this easily with the pre-production model.

EarStudio features Radsone

The EarStudio’s hardware features.

The EarStudio has dual AKM AK4375a DACs built in. This is a 192kHz/32-bit DAC with an integrated Class G headphone amplifier that’s rated to deliver 25mW at 32 ohms and 40mW at 16 ohms, with a signal-to-noise ratio of 110dB. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a mainstream headphone that this little guy won’t be able to drive.

Rights Groups Object To 'Secret' Warrants For Facebook Data

Access Now, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and other rights groups have objected to the U.S. government’s use of secret warrants to obtain Facebook user data as part of a not-so-secret investigation. The complaint arrived after Facebook “sent out a kind of bat signal,” the EFF said, by asking the D.C. Court of Appeals to allow these groups to file amicus briefs in a case that involves fighting secret search warrants for user data.

These warrants are particularly worrisome because without disclosure from service providers, many people have no way of knowing their information has been given to law enforcement agencies. Facebook is trusted with information about more than a billion people, and if the company receives a gag order alongside a warrant for user data, all that information can be handed over, and no one would be the wiser.

The EFF said in a blog post that it believes Facebook’s case involves the January 20 protests against the inauguration of President Donald Trump. More than 200 people have been charged with felony rioting, inciting or urging to riot, conspiracy to riot, and counts of destruction of property for their involvement with the protests. This investigation isn’t secret–major news outlets have covered the story ever since the arrests were made.

Yet now the rights groups believe that U.S. law enforcement has served Facebook with search warrants for user data as part of this investigation. Those warrants are also thought to have been served with gag orders that prevent Facebook from telling its users their data might be handed over. The government is conducting a very public investigation while also using gag orders that are supposed to apply only to secret operations.

But it doesn’t actually matter if the investigation involves the January 20 protests. The EFF said:

Whether or not this case involves the J20 protests, the fact that Facebook says the underlying investigation is already public is almost certainly enough to strike down the gag orders. Government gags that prevent a provider from notifying its users are an example of prior restraints, which are the ‘most serious’ and ‘least tolerable’ infringement on First Amendment rights. As a result, the Supreme Court has said they are only constitutional if they meet the most ‘most exacting scrutiny.’

The rights groups have filed an amicus brief in support of Facebook; you can find it here. The EFF said it believes oral arguments for the case have been scheduled for sometime in September 2017, and that it has “requested an opportunity to address the court to represent the public’s interest in ensuring that prior restraints such as this don’t issue without the most exacting scrutiny our court system is prepared to provide.”

If the case is related to the January 20 protests, this will simply be the latest in a series of privacy scares resulting from the police’s response. Law enforcement is said to have collected some 188 cellphones from people arrested for their connections to the protests, and City Lab reported in January that police appeared to have started to mine data from the confiscated devices “almost immediately after the arrests.”

Those suspicions were confirmed in March, when prosecutors said they obtained data from the cellphones even though they were locked. It’s not clear how they gathered this information, what data they were able to access, or how they plan to use what they collected. If the prosecutors also used secret warrants to collect data from companies like Facebook, they could have access to even more information, and the defendants would never know.

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Synology DiskStation DS1817

Those who have tracked Synology NAS hardware over the past 13 years since its first NAS box was released may have noticed a subtle evolution. Namely, a shift from single-core ARM-based hardware to progressively more powerful architectures, given the increasing demands that home and business users are making on their gear.

At the heart of this movement is Synology’s DSM operating system, a Linux derivative built to provide a solid platform for both file serving and services. It now sports nearly 100 installable applications, and the temptation is there to use more of them simultaneously.

That’s the scenario that the DS1817 is built to address, handling multiple service functions and lots of users, while providing a failure-resistant storage facility.

Pricing and availability

The DS1817 costs £827 ($850 in the US) without any drives, almost the same price as its next-tier DS1817+ (2GB) brother. While the pricing is somewhat confusing, it’s cheaper than the comparable QNAP TVS-863+ 4GB at £1,198, and much less than Netgear’s ReadyNAS 528X at £1,144 ($1,600).

The obvious choice might be to get even more processing power and M.2 module support in the DS1817+. That would work, although the DS1817+ doesn’t come with 10GbE out of the box, requiring the extra expense of adding a 10GbE PCIe card.

The initial cost of these devices can be a moot point in many respects, however, simply because filling them up with 10TB drives is likely to cost you three times as much as the machine – and that’s not the end of the outlay.

With eight slots to fill you do have the option to partially occupy the bays, then add more drives later. But our experience is that this isn’t the wisest course to take, as this mixing of drive specs and sizes can often become problematic, as can volume resizing exercises.

A better use of those slots is to leverage the possible capacity or create multi-layered redundancy. The options are numerous: mirroring, redundant array and the allocation of hot-swap drives ready to jump into action if the array goes critical due to failure.

All these possibilities are available for those who have a healthy level of data loss paranoia, in whatever way they wish to express it.

This hardware isn’t cheap, but on balance it’s acceptably priced considering the high build quality, scalability and flexibility that the DS1817 has to offer.

As for availability, the DS1817 should go on sale globally later this month.

Spec Sheet

Here is the configuration of the Synology DiskStation DS1817  TechRadar reviewed:

CPU: Annapurna Labs Alpine AL-314 (quad-core, 1.7GHz)

RAM: 4GB DDR3L (expandable to 8GB) 

Storage: 8 x 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch SATA drives

LAN ports: 2 x 1GbE (RJ-45), 2 x 10GbE (RJ-45)

External ports: 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x eSATA

Expansion: Via eSATA (2 x DX517) 10 extra drives

Weight: 5.31kg without drives

Size: 157 x 340 x 233mm (W x D x H)

Warranty: 3-year limited (more in some regions)

Design and features

From the outside the DS1817 is practically identical to the design of the DS1815, which is the unit that this offering supersedes. However, there is something inherently calming about Synology’s signature black drive enclosure with an embossed logo on the side.

There are some minor differences, but other than the tiny DS1817 label you’d be hard-pressed to tell them apart at first glance.

They both accept up to eight 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch SATA drives, giving a potential array of 80TB with current drive options. With optional external expansion boxes (DX517) you can add a further 10 drives and boost total capacity to a gargantuan 180TB.

The only real limitation of this scale is the maximum single volume capacity of 108TB, should you have an enormous amount of data you’d like to access in a single file structure. 

To get all those drives to spin in unison, Synology utilised the Annapurna Labs Alpine AL-314 CPU – a quad-core Cortex-A15 SoC clocked at 1.7GHz.

The system comes with 4GB of DDR3L memory in a single socket, and an easily accessible second socket enables that to be increased to 8GB.

Network connectivity is excellent, having both dual 1GbE LAN ports and dual 10GbE ports. Each of these dual port combinations can be organised either to link aggregate or failover depending on your priorities.

There are also two eSATA ports for connecting the external drive enclosures, and a pair of USB 3.0 Type-A ports for connecting portable storage or a USB peripheral (printer) that you may wish to network share.

Our only query about the specification of this design is that surely more than two USB ports could have been squeezed out of this SoC.

A quick word on the use of eSATA as an expansion technology – this seems dated, as all the drives connected through it effectively share the bandwidth of a single SATA III port.

With conventional hard drives this is not a significant limitation, though it would be if you used SSDs or Hybrid drives in the expansion box.

The motivation for Synology to use a technology with more bandwidth, like Thunderbolt 2, is that the firm might be able to offer eight bay expansions, and not just five.

Being a ‘Value Series’ design, the DS1817 targets the advanced home user or small workgroup deployment.

Traditionally these machines aren’t powerful or upgradable and they don’t contain high-end features. The DS1817 seems to fly in the face of all those criteria, being the first Value Series DiskStation that Synology has made with user accessible RAM sockets and 10GbE networking.

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The best monitor deals in July 2017

Update: These monitor deals have been verified for the month of July, so save away!

Even in a computing scene turning down desktops more and more for laptops and 2-in-1 laptop devices, nothing beats owning a big, shiny screen. Whether you’re watching a film or working on a giant project, we all need that extra bit of display real estate that only a monitor can offer.

Fortunately for you, monitors have evolved nearly as far as smartphones and other modern devices of today. Screens come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, sharpness and style. To help you make sense of it all, we’ve narrowed down the best monitor deals, according to the most common categories.

Best Full HD monitor deal

Dell UltraSharp U2414H

Factory calibrated
Fully adjustable stand
Some IPS glow issues
Only okay for gaming

The Dell UltraSharp U2414H is the cream of the crop of standard, 24-inch displays. It offers a sharp, Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) picture with vibrant, but accurate colors and deep contrast. Best of all, Dell personally calibrates every U2414H unit, so you won’t have to screw with the gamma, contrast or a multitude of other settings just for a decent picture.

Best QHD monitor deal

Omen 32-inch QHD display

Massive 32-inch screen
Slick design and base
75Hz only in FreeSync mode

If you’re looking for a little more sharpness in your computing life, a QHD monitor is the way to go, and the Omen 32-inch QHD screen from HP offers the best frequent deals we’ve found so far. With 2,560 x 1,440 rich pixels, this Omen display can make everything from movies, games and even websites look that much better. The display also comes packed with AMD’s FreeSync technology to reduce gaming frame rate drops, though you’ll need an AMD graphics card to use the feature.

Best 4K monitor deal

ViewSonic XG2700-4K

Fast, pixel pushing display
144hz refresh rate
FreeSync only
Clumsy interface

We’re officially entering the 4K age, and finally we’re beginning to see some sizable deals on the Ultra HD monitors we’ve been wanting for so long. The 27-inch ViewSonic XG2700-4K is arguably one of the best 4K monitors around with a 3,840 x 2,160 resolution. Its SuperClear IPS panel tech is no slouch either, with the ability to produce rich colors while outputting a gamer-grade 144hz refresh rate and 5ms response time.

Best gaming monitor deal

Low blue-light mode
1ms response time
Serviceable color reproduction
Freesync only

Gaming is a pricey hobby, but there are plenty of ways to penny pinch with mid-range components, budget accessories and, of course, excellent deals on displays. The Asus VG245H is one of the most budget gaming monitors we’ve ever tested. It’s no 1,440p panel, but you do get a 75hz refresh rate, blue-light filter and, thanks to its TN panel, response times as quick as 1 millisecond.

Read the full review: Asus MG248Q

Best curved monitor deal

Perfect aspect ratio for movies
Great for multitasking
75Hz only in FreeSync mode

Curved monitors are ideal for movie buffs; however, their price tags can be scary. Fortunately, the LG 29UM68 is a steal of a deal. Though it’s technically just a Full HD monitor with its 2,560 x 1,080 pixel count, you’ll likely be too busy immersed in its visual wingspan to care. This IPS panel produces 99% of the sRGB color gamut. Plus, that 21:9 aspect ratio is just too wide to pass up if you’re tired of seeing letter-boxed movies on traditional, 16:9 screens.

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Samsung Begins Shipping NAND From New Pyeongtaek Fab

Samsung has started to ship 4th generation V-NAND from its new Pyeongtaek campus semiconductor fabrication line in South Korea.

Construction began at the Pyeongtaek fab, which is currently the largest single fab in the industry, in May 2015 and concluded last month. The new fab comes just three years after Samsung completed the Xi’an campus in China, and the company plans to construct a second fabrication line in Xi’an in the future, with several sites under review.

“With the dedication and support of our employees, customers and partners, our new Pyeongtaek campus represents a new chapter in Samsung’s semiconductor operations,” said Oh-Hyun Kwon, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Samsung Electronics.

Samsung plans to leverage 64-layer NAND for traditional and emerging markets such as Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and automotive technologies. The company has yet to introduce new consumer or enterprise solid state drives (SSDs) with the new 4th generation NAND technology, but we suspect those products will come in the next few months. Samsung usually introduces new SSDs in Q3 or Q4 with limited availability before increasing supply by Q1 of the next year.

Samsung’s new 64-layer NAND comes just in time to help bring the NAND market out of the largest shortage in history. IMFT (Intel Micron Flash Technologies) and Flash Forward (Toshiba and Western Digital’s manufacturing joint venture) have also announced 64-layer NAND flash production in recent months with products now shipping. Fellow South Korean NAND manufacturer Sk Hynix today announced production of new 72-layer 3D technology.

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Doomfist Might Finally Join The 'Overwatch' Roster

Overwatch players have been waiting for a specific character to debut ever since Blizzard Entertainment released its team-based shooter: Doomfist. Waiting for Doomfist almost became the Overwatch equivalent to waiting for Valve to announce Half-Life 3, but a new teaser on the game’s blog suggests that unlike the final installment to that revered series, people will actually be able to play with Doomfist some time in the near future.

Doomfist has been hyped since the first Overwatch cinematic trailer. In it, Widowmaker and Reaper fight Winston and Tracer in a museum housing the titular Doomfist, and a teenage boy ends up punching the lights out of Widowmaker when he dons the weapon. The gauntlet was also part of the Numbani map until it was stolen in February, and a banner depicts three Doomfist wearers as The Savior, The Scourge, and The Successor.

So it’s safe to say that Blizzard has been teasing Doomfist throughout Overwatch‘s ludicrously profitable one-year history. Those little teasers have gained enough attention that actor Terry Crews has repeatedly asked to be cast as the character. We might find out whether or not Crews–and the many people, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who have also said they want him to voice Doomfist–got his wish sooner than later.

‘Overwatch’ Cinematic Trailer

On the Fourth of July, Blizzard published a new blog post ostensibly written by the Times of Numbani Staff. The mock newspaper article describes the recent attack on Numbani and explains that Talon, a terrorist organization, attacked the city because it wanted to free a man named Akande Ogundimu. Who is Ogundimu? The Times of Numbani Staff didn’t play coy–they flat-out said that he’s “better known as Doomfist.”

That’s either the cruelest joke Blizzard can play on Overwatch players or final confirmation that Doomfist is coming. And he might end up bringing a few pals with him, according to this line from the fake news report:

Helix officials have been unwilling to reveal whether or not there were additional escapees or items taken from the facility, but sources have indicated that it is likely that there were further security breaches in addition to Ogundimu.

Here’s hoping this isn’t another teaser setting up a new hero who isn’t Doomfist. We want him, Terry Crews and Dwayne Johnson want him, and we aren’t sure we could take the sucker-punch of getting a different hero after Blizzard’s blog post.

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