Raspberry Pi squeezes wireless onto tiny Zero

The Raspberry Pi lot now has built-in 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi as well as Bluetooth 4.1 and Bluetooth Low Energy. As well as all of its original spec: 1GHz processor, 512MB RAM, microSD card slot for the operating system and a mini HDMI port for 1080p video out.

This frees up the USB port for doing something else other than being jammed up with a clunky wireless adaptor. Which can break the kind of tight-space projects that Zeros tend to get used for. And/or, the budget. The original Pi Zero was only £4, but a wireless adaptor or USB hub could cost several times that. Still comparatively small change, but if you’re project involves ten or ten thousand Zeros running in a system, it all mounts up. The new Pi Zero W is $US10, bare bones.

Raspberry Pi, which is also celebrating its fifth birthday, has also released an official custom case for the Zero W, complete with different lids to work with the camera module or some kind of widget attached to the GPIO pins. 

But, as ever, the company’s many retail partners and enthusiastic community will be offering custom parts, accessories and bundle packs. Get started at Raspberrypi.org. We’ve got a Pi Zero W here and are embarking on some interesting stuff with it – watch this space.

This article originally appeared at Stuff.tv

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Hands-on Preview: Lenovo Yoga 720 – the 4K, GTX-powered 2-in-1 laptop

Lenovo’s Yoga lineup has always been about versatility. These 2-in-1 laptop/tablet hybrids are seriously portable, but they’ve typically been a little underperforming compared to their clamshell counterparts. This year’s Yoga 720 defies those ingrained preconceptions, packing Kaby Lake i7s, 4K displays and dedicated graphics.

Designed as a premium Windows 10 laptop, 2017’s Yoga 720 comes in two distinct flavours. The 13in model is markedly cheaper – with prices starting at $US860 – but you’ll have to fork out at least $US1,100 for its 15in counterpart. Obviously, there’s that screen-size difference, but what else differentiates the two? And are they decent enough to make a dent in the already-oversaturated hybrid market?

Lenovo Yoga 720 review: Key specifications and release date

Lenovo Yoga 720 (13in) Lenovo Yoga 720 (15in)
Up to 7th-gen Intel Core i7 Up to 7th-gen Intel Core i7
Up to 16GB RAM Up to 16GB RAM
Up to 1TB PCIe SSD Up to 1TB PCIe SSD
Intel HD Graphics 620 Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050M
13.3″ 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160)

13.3″ FHD (1,920 x 1,080)

15.6″ 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160)

15.6″ FHD (1,920 x 1,080)

1.3kg 2kg
Starting at $US860 Starting at $US1,100
April 2017 April 2017

Lenovo Yoga 720 review: Design, key features and first impressions

Both Yoga 720s are noticeably more impressive than their hybrid counterparts, at least at face value. With the 13in measuring just 13.9mm and the 15in 19mm, both are slim enough to be slipped into your rucksack and weigh just 1.3kg and 2kg respectively.

They’re gorgeous to look at, too. Considering you’re paying top-tier prices, you should expect lavish build quality, with both Yoga 720s seriously looking the part. That all-metal chassis is a welcome change of pace and isn’t too heavy either.

Take a look on the right side and you’ll spot a solitary USB 3.1 port, while the left houses both regular USB 3s and a USB Type-C port for charging. Both models ship with a fingerprint reader for Windows Hello login, too.

The biggest difference between the two lies in the graphics card options. While you’re stuck with the bog-standard integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 chip for the 13 (perfect for Minecraft but not much else), there’s the option to upgrade to a proper Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050. Should you go down this route, expect a big hit to both your battery life and your wallet. Pair that with the Kaby Lake processor and 16GB of RAM, though, and you’ll be all set for on-the-go gaming.

Let’s talk 4K. Both Yoga 720s come with 4K resolution options (Full HD is on the cards should you want to save your pennies), something first seen in 2016’s disappointing Dell XPS 12 hybrid. Hopefully, the screen doesn’t hog battery life as much here, but expect to run out of juice far quicker than its Full HD counterparts.

Lenovo Yoga 720 review: Early verdict

Let’s get down to pricing. Both Yoga 720s ship with a hefty premium, with Lenovo remaining tight-lipped about higher configurations’ prices, but expect to see the 15in model with all the bells and whistles to retail for nearly two grand. That’s not cheap, but remember, no other hybrid offers this choice when choosing specs. Yet.

Stay tuned for my full Lenovo Yoga 720 review in the not-so-distant future.

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Survios Announces ‘Sprint Vector,’ Introduces New VR Locomotion Technique

Raw Datacreator Survios revealed its next title, Sprint Vector, during the AMD Capsaicin and Cream event at GDC.

Sprint Vector is a first-person VR head-to-head race on “interdimensional courses” (whatever that means) that are meant to “challenge you both mentally and physically.” You’ll scale “skyscraper-height” walls and dive off of giant towers while approaching 300mph. That sounds like a recipe for a motion sickness-induced disaster, but Survios said that its Fluid Locomotion system makes it all possible.

Locomotion in VR is a big problem that many developers are trying to solve. If implemented poorly, movement systems in virtual reality games can induce nausea and dizziness, commonly referred to as VR sickness or motion sickness.

The standard thumbstick movement that we’ve enjoyed on consoles for more than a decade doesn’t translate well to most VR games because acceleration can trigger vestibular disconnect. There are a handful of cases where thumbstick locomotion works well (Onward, Arizona Sunshine, and Resident Evil VII come to mind) but you usually move slowly in those games. Moving fast in VR is a different ball game.

VR developers often use teleportation methods to navigate virtual spaces quickly, but some people find that teleporting breaks the immersion for them. Most other VR locomotion techniques, of which there are many, fall short of solving the problem. Survios thinks it might have cracked the nut, though.

Sprint Vector is a multiplayer parkour-like race first person foot-race in first-person VR that Survios calls an “adrenaline platformer.” For the game to go from idea to reality, Survios needed to find a locomotion system that could allow players to travel great distances at breakneck speeds, without spewing all over themselves in the process. (Our apologies for that mental image.) Such a technique didn’t exist before Survios started building Sprint Vector, so the developer created one for its purposes. Survios calls its locomotion system Fluid Locomotion.

“Survios is always creating unique solutions to tackle VR’s biggest challenges,” explained James Iliff, Survios’ Chief Creative Officer, and co-founder. “With Sprint Vector, we’ve taken one of the biggest challenges in VR right now—realistic motion—and created a smooth, intelligent locomotion system that not only feels comfortable but can also read the player’s intentions.”

Survios said that Fluid Locomotion is a natural and intuitive arms-driven movement system that uses natural “intended motion” to drive and steer your avatar. If you pay attention to how your arms move when you walk, you’ll notice that they swing back and forth each time you take a step. Survios used that observation to its advantage and mapped the movement controls to that swinging motion.

Fluid Locomotion resembles ArmSwinger locomotion, and its hard to say what’s different between the two before we get a chance to try it out. Just like with Arm Swinger locomotion, Fluid Locomotion lets you swing your arms to move, and you can reach out to grab onto objects to thrust yourself into the air. We’ve never tried ArmSwinger locomotion to travel at the speeds you’ll reach in Spring Vector, though.

Survios didn’t say when it plans to release Sprint Vector, but the developer is on-site at GDC this week giving demos of the game alongside the latest build of Raw Data.

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AMD Ryzen Motherboards Could Pose Heatsink Pressure Problem

Major new CPU launches rarely go without a hitch. Tom’s Hardware has learned that Ryzen motherboards (Socket AM4) could pose a potential problem with some of the announced CPU cooling solutions. This problem is specifically related to the backplates designed to secure the heatsink on the processors.

We’ve discovered that the backplates provided with some major motherboard brands could come with a screw that is too long. The screws reach their safety stop too soon, leaving the spring with too much headroom, and then the pressure of the sink on the CPU is inadequate.

According to our sources, AMD has provided the location of the fastening screws, but not the height of the screw holders. Sinks that use the backplate supplied with the motherboard could pose problems, especially those that have a compatibility kit.

We found that a few large cooling solutions may be impacted, as well as some popular motherboards.

The sinks (heatsink and waterblock) using their own backplates should not pose a problem, however.

In a statement an AMD representative said: “Our cooler works well and we have shared the platform design guide with NDA partners that includes the clamping force required to correctly mount coolers on the AM4 platform.”

This could also amount to some discrepancies in information between AMD and manufacturers, which might be clarified and addressed quickly. If we receive any further information or updates we’ll post updates here. Meanwhile, just in case, you’d be wise to make sure that your cooling solution comes with its own backplate.

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Bethesda pledges to optimize its PC games for AMD Vega and Ryzen

AMD just wrapped up its Capsaicin & Cream 2017 event today to show developers and fans alike what’s next for the graphics technology firm – as well as its latest partner: Fallout series creator Bethesda Softworks.

Held during this year’s Game Developer Conference, the event teased not just some of the features coming to the AMD Vega GPU architecture – its cards to now be known as Radeon RX Vega. But, perhaps most importantly, AMD also revealed the company’s newly made alliance with Bethesda.

Known for putting out games such as Fallout 4, Doom, and the Elder Scrolls series, Bethesda is teaming up with AMD in a long-term strategic partnership in an effort to further its PC gaming technologies.

More important than even a melding of mutual minds in the realm of PC gaming, AMD’s partnership with Bethesda looks to spell better-optimized games for PCs running the publishers games past, present and future.

The new name for AMD’s future graphics cards

GPUpping the ante

Specifically, one aim of the partnership is to “develop and accelerate” the adoption of lower-overhead APIs like Vulkan, (which was first implemented in a AAA-budget game last year with DOOM, according to a press release.)

AMD hopes buddying up with Bethesda will maximize the capabilities and computing power of its GPUs, including its AMD Ryzen and Vega cards, across the game maker’s library of titles. 

“Working independently, game developers and graphics companies will eventually address the challenges of this new era of gaming,” said AMD senior vice president and chief architect Raja Koduri, “but working in close collaboration, the pace of that progress can advance exponentially.” 

This means Bethesda games could potentially receive improved performance on computers running AMD tech, though exact details of how this would be accomplished (and when) were not provided. 

But what about Vega?

While noticeably lacking in any hard details like price or release date for AMD’s Vega technology, the announcement still demonstrated a healthy number of the upcoming GPU’s talents.

Designed with VR and 4K UHD gaming in mind throughout, Vega will feature High Bandwidth Cache Controller (HBCC) features to lower strain on graphically-intensive games and Rapid Packed Math (RPM) capabilities to cram exponentially more details into a frame, like individual strands of hair.

Vega will also be part of another AMD partnership, this time with LiquidSky – a game streaming service that plans to use Vega tech to beam top-tier games to not-so-powerful devices, like low-spec Windows laptops or even Android phones.

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Unity Unveils Version 5.6, Unity 2017 Engines, Adds XR Foundation Toolkit For VR Development

Unity revealed at GDC 2017 a new version of its namesake game engine. With Unity 5.6 developers will have access to a new API as well as additional VR platforms for their mobile games. A new market will also be available, and those working on VR titles will get a head-start with a new toolkit.

More API, More VR

Vulkan is still a fairly new API, but it can be a great option for developers as it reduces the overall overhead in the development stages while also increasing performance in the final version of the game. Now, mobile game developers can use the API to get better performance from their games. One slideshow during the presentation showed two versions of the same game with one Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphone utilizing OpenGL ES and another S7 phone with Vulkan running. According to Unity, the phone using Vulkan showed a 10-15% reduction in battery usage, which can make it an appealing choice not just for developers, but for players who fear running out of battery life while playing a game on the go.

Unity 5.6 also comes with support for Google Daydream and Cardboard. Along with high-end VR platforms such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, there is a rise in content for mobile VR. The addition to Unity means that more developers can use the engine to create even more mobile VR content.

The engine’s EditorVR package also received an update. Since the package’s alpha release in December, it was downloaded over 6,000 times in order to help developers create their VR games within the virtual world. With the release of 5.6, it will receive the XR Foundation Toolkit, which provides developers with the basic tools to create VR experiences so that they don’t have to build it from scratch. According to Clive Downie, Unity’s chief marketing officer, the toolkit contains content not just from the company, but from fellow developers as well. Additional content in the form of tools and plugins will continue to be added after the toolkit is launched. An open source beta is planned for the near future, as is a public roadmap.

The Next Unity Engine

Version 5.6 marks the end of the company’s two-year stint with the current version of the engine. In April, the company will begin a beta version of the next version of its engine, called Unity 2017. Aside from more improvements for programmers, the new version will also have some focus towards designers and artists as well.

One such example was the new Timeline feature, which lets developers control cinematics and scripted events. Within the program, designers can control the camera angle in a specific scene. Afterwards, the camera zooms back to its original position for gameplay. The transition is seamless, but the attractive part of the entire program is that there isn’t any programming script required to manipulate the camera or any of the cutscenes. In a way, it’s almost akin to the UI of Adobe Premiere Pro, and developers can drop in assets as needed to improve or add content. One sub-feature that Downie singled out on Timeline was its ability to extract and list all of the developer’s available animations. From there, a single person can add specific camera angles to an animation in an instant. In the past, a developer had to not only set the camera in the scene, but also create or implement a script that would allow for specific camera movements when the character hit a specific trigger in the area. With Timeline, the need for programming script is gone, and you can easily add any camera movement or angle you want by simply dropping it in the scene.

Two Engine Versions In 2017

The beta for Unity 5.6 is available today and is set to officially release on March 31. The beta for Unity 2017 will begin one month later. One might think that Unity is spreading itself thin with two versions of its engine this year. However, Downie believes that those using version 5.6 will eventually move on to Unity 2017 at some point.

“It’s a question of when, not if,” he said. “That’s how we also think about support as well. If you think about [version] 5.6, we already committed that 5.6 will release patches…for 12 months. Customers on 5.6 are going to benefit from critical patches for 12 months…but Unity 2017 will be available from beta anyway in April, and there will be a launch cycle after that. The two [versions] will run concurrently to make sure we service the maximum needs from developers, be they first-time developers just starting production, mid-production, or live. At some point, you are going to want [Unity 2017] because it will undeniably allow you to create better products.”

Unity will undoubtedly release more information on both version 5.6 and Unity 2017 in the coming weeks, but developers can now get a taste of 5.6 through the beta program. If you want to see this morning’s keynote in full, you can watch it on Unity’s website.

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CloudPets Teddy Bears Leaked Private Data, Voice Recordings

“Have I Been Pwned?” operator Troy Hunt revealed that internet-connected teddy bears dubbed CloudPets leaked personal information. This put voice recordings, email addresses, and other sensitive data pertaining to children and their parents at risk of compromise by who-knows-how-many people.

CloudPets are billed as “a message you can hug.” They read stories, play lullabies, feature interactive games, and let parents record messages for their children. The problem: The devices stored user data in an easily accessed database without any form of password protection. Hunt said in a blog post that the CloudPets database was indexed by Shodan, a search engine for Internet of Things (IoT) products, and has been accessed by “many people.”

Hunt said information from roughly 821,000 people was compromised in this way. Within the databases, he said, “are references to almost 2.2 million voice recordings of parents and their children exposed by databases that should never have contained production data.” That would be enough of a problem on its own, but upon further examination of the CloudPets mobile app, Hunt discovered still more easily exploited security problems.

CloudPets apparently stored user information in an Amazon S3 bucket that also doesn’t require any form of authentication to access. The only thing needed to view someone’s profile picture, the name of a child, and the name of the relatives with whom they can communicate via their futuristic teddy bears is the proper file path. Voice recordings from children and their family members can be found in the same way. Somehow it gets even worse.

Hunt discovered that CloudPets has no strength requirements for user passwords. Someone could just type “L” as their password–and CloudPets explicitly advises parents to use “qwe” as a password in a “getting started” YouTube video. Neither option is secure in any way, and Hunt explained that even though CloudPets stored passwords as a bcrypt hash, cracking those simple passwords would be trivial for any hacker worthy of the moniker.

But that’s not all! Hunt also discovered that the products’ creators were warned about these issues at least four times. The company never responded to any of those emails. Just to recap: a bunch of internet-connected teddy bears stored information in public-facing databases without password protection, served data via Amazon S3 buckets without other safeguards, actively encouraged people to use weak passwords, and ignored several warnings.

That’s all bad news. It gets worse still, though, because apparently this tale was destined to become a great epic like the Iliad. (With significantly more references to stuffed animals, databases, and security issues.) Eventually the databases were erased and held for ransom by unknown attackers…several times. Eventually the databases disappeared from Shodan and it seemed that CloudPets had responded to the problem.

Whew! Finally, it’s all done. Except, well, of course it wasn’t. Hunt wrote:

It’s impossible to believe that CloudPets (or mReady) did not know that firstly, the databases had been left publicly exposed and secondly, that malicious parties had accessed them. Obviously, they’ve changed the security profile of the system and you simply could not have overlooked the fact that a ransom had been left. So both the exposed database and intrusion by those demanding the ransom must have been identified yet this story never made the headlines.

So it seems the company knew about the issue but didn’t inform its customers of the problem. That violates California laws that require companies to disclose any data breaches. At every juncture, from setting up the databases to designing the mobile app to warning users that their and their children’s personal information was probably accessed by someone else, CloudPets did the worst possible thing it could do in regards to user privacy and security.

CloudPets aren’t the only internet-connected toys with privacy issues. EPIC, a digital privacy rights group, filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission in December 2016 alleging that Genesis Toys and Nuance recorded children’s voices without parental consent. Problems have also been found in Mattel’s “Hello Barbie” doll and other IoT playthings. Right now the message is clear: Don’t buy internet-connected toys for your kids.

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