Wednesday, March 2, 2016

IT News Head Lines (Techradar) 03/03/2016


Video: How to watch Scott Kelly's return to Earth Iive stream
Video: How to watch Scott Kelly's return to Earth Iive stream
Update 8:26pm PT: American astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko have landed back on Earth after 340 days on the International Space Station (ISS). NASA is streaming the proceedings and should have live coverage from the landing site before long. Tune in below.
YouTube :
Kelly has returned to Earth today after nearly a full year aboard the ISS, where he celebrated his birthday, ate lettuce grown on in space and shared a lot of photos.
This was Kelly's fourth time on a space mission, and after breaking the record for the more time spent in space by any American late last year, now has a total of 520 cumulative space days under his belt.
Kelly and Kornienko traveled to the ISS for the record-breaking, year-long mission in the hopes of discovering more about the long-term effects of space and space travel on the human mind and body.
Along with parallel tests done on Kelly's identical twin brother, Mark Kelly, who is a retired astronaut, the results will provide more insights into how the human body adjusts to weightlessness, isolation, radiation and the stress of long-duration spaceflight.

Coming back home

NASA is providing live coverage as the two "year in space" crew, along with cosmonaut Sergey Volkovcosmon, return to Earth later today in the Soyuz capsule.
NASA's live broadcast, which you can watch on NASA TV or via YouTube above, will begin at 4:15pm ET today, as the astronauts bid farewell to the ISS and fellow crew members who are remaining onboard.
This is followed immediately by coverage of the hatch closure, scheduled at 4:40pm ET, as the returning astronauts prepare themselves for the Soyuz's undocking from the ISS.
NASA's broadcast will then pick up again at 7:45pm ET for the undocking, which is scheduled for 8:05pm ET, and then again later tonight at 10:15pm ET for coverage of the de-orbit burn (scheduled for 10:32pm ET) and landing at Kazakhstan (scheduled for 11:25pm ET), after which we should see Kelly and Kornienko emerge to stand on Earth for the first time in a year.
Kelly will return home to Houston tomorrow, to be welcomed back by Second Lady of the US Dr. Jill Biden, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, along with Kelly's twin brother. A full media briefing will be held later this week on Friday, March 4, when Kelly will answer questions about his year in space.

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14 photos from Scott Kelly's year in space that will take your breath away
14 photos from Scott Kelly's year in space that will take your breath away
If you're like me, then you've got a few hours of downtime before Scott Kelly completes his journey back to Earth after spending an eye-watering 340 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS) (Update: He's back!).
Kelly, along with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, has spent the longest amount of time aboard the ISS ever. Kelly also now holds the American record for most time spent in space.
While he was up there doing important astronaut stuff that will, among other things, one day help humans travel to Mars, he also became a social media darling with 889,000 Instagram followers, 936,010 Likes on Facebook and 939,000 Twitter followers.
His pictures captured the wonders of Earth from 249 miles up, and gave those of us down below a view of our planet and space that we wouldn't have had otherwise, served up with a healthy dose of inspirational messages on the side.
NASA put together some of Kelly's best shots over on Flickr, but below you'll find some of the most stunning photos Kelly took while traveling at 17,150 miles an hour along with the post he wrote to go along them. It was hard to pick just 14 - trust me.
Planet Water
South America
Aleutian Islands
Star Wars
Canadian rockies
Earth Art
Himalayan Frozen lake
Milky Way
Southeast Asia

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Video: Apple vs the FBI: here's what happened in Congress today
Video: Apple vs the FBI: here's what happened in Congress today
Apple and the FBI testified before the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee today in a hearing that lasted for over five hours.
The hearing was titled: The Encryption Tightrope: Balancing Americans' Security and Privacy, and served to let the committee members grill the parties with questions on encryption, specifically the San Bernardino iPhone unlocking case that has the FBI and Apple heading to court later this month.
A replay of the proceedings is happening now:
YouTube :
FBI Director James Comey was up first, and while he handled himself congenially before the committee, he made a number of comments that will almost certainly find themselves in Apple's quiver (and are earning him derision across the internet).
First, Comey said that the decision in the San Bernardino case could influence other decisions down the line, though he reiterated the government's argument that the FBI's request is about one specific case. He later said, however, that "of course" the FBI would leverage the precedent set by the San Bernardino case in other cases.
He also admitted "there was a mistake made" when the Apple ID password linked to the iPhone 5C used by terrorist Syed Farook was changed, which was done at the FBI's request. Up until this point, the FBI has not characterized the change, which prevented the phone from making an auto-back up to iCloud, as an error. Comey was quick to add though that a backup would not have turned up all the information the FBI is seeking from the iPhone.
There were more head-scratching moments from Comey.
Comey said he hadn't reviewed the ruling issued in a case yesterday in which the government lost in its effort to force Apple to unlock an iPhone under the All Writs Act, the same law the FBI is using against Apple in the San Bernardino case. Again, internet reaction.
He also repeated the assertion that Apple's refusal to help the FBI is a business-model problem rather than the result of any technical inability to do so. In his testimony, Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell said "it makes my blood boil" when he hears that claim.
"To say that it's a marketing ploy or about PR, diminishes what should really be a serious conversation," he said.

Apple's turn

Sewell was joined by Susan Landau, a professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Cyrus Vance, district attorney for New York County who has said there are iPhones tied to crimes in his jurisdiction that law enforcement can't unlock, in a second panel.
Sewell went to many of Apple's earlier arguments that the San Bernardino case isn't about one iPhone, and if Apple was forced to build the software to unlock the phone it would set a precedent and put millions of users at risk.
"We do not believe this is a one-phone issue, that it would be contained to one phone," he said.
Vance took issue with Sewell's and Apple's use of the word "millions," asking for more specific figures.
Sewell was also chided by committee members for calling for legislative action on the matter of encryption and what companies should be required to do, but not recommending anything specific. When asked if Apple will submit legislation for Congress to consider, Sewell said Apple might after there is debate on the matter.
Sewell also addressed whether other countries have asked for access into an Apple product in the way the FBI has.
"To date we have not had demands like that from any other country," he said. "If we are ordered to do this, it will be a hot minute before we get those requests from other places."

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gallery: 5 must-see cars from the Geneva Auto Show
gallery: 5 must-see cars from the Geneva Auto Show

Welcome to Geneva

Bugatti Chiron
The Geneva Auto Show opens up to the public later this week, but automakers aren't waiting till then to debut new vehicles, teasing and announcing new cars left and right. Highlighting the show is the Volkswagen Auto Group (VAG), with major salacious debuts from Bugatti and Lamborghini.
Koenigsegg is using the opportunity to show off the production version of its latest hypercar, while Volvo and Kia have new station wagons for practical-minded folks, like myself.
Regardless of price, here are the must-see debuts that caught my attention.

Bugatti Chiron

Bugatti Chiron
The Bugatti Veyron was the fastest street-legal, production car at the time of its debut a decade ago. It's insanity was propelled by a quad-turbocharged 8.0-liter W16 (it's like two V8 engines joined at the crank) that produced about 1,000 horsepower (hp) to start. It set top speed records at 253 mph at launch and was refined to max out at 267.7 mph
Bugatti tuned the marvelous W16 engine to 1,200 hp by its retirement, so its successor has to be better, faster and even more insane in every way.
Bugatti Chiron
Meet the Chiron, Bugatti's latest showcase of madness. The Chiron takes the quad-turbocharged 8.0-liter W16 motor and turns up the power to 1,478 hp and monstrous 1,180 pound-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque. Nearly 1,500 hp is achieved without the use of hybrid technology; it's a pure-bred machine.
Bugatti claims a top speed of 261 mph for the Chiron, which is faster than the Veyron at its debut, but not quite as fast as the special edition Veyron Super Sport. But let's be honest, who cares? The Chiron is a monster.
The Chiron can go from 0 to 186 mph in 13.5 seconds, which is half the time it takes an American muscle car to reach 150 mph. Gratuitous use of carbon-fiber ensures the chassis is stiff, but the Chiron tips the scale at 4,400 lbs, which is how much a typical minivan weighs.
Bugatti Chiron
Inside, the Chiron has a simple interior with a mechanical speedometer sandwiched between two LCD's. The car only seats two, so I can't talk my wife into one for a family car, unfortunately. Bugatti doesn't mention whether the Chiron will have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay support, but I don't think the infotainment system will hold back prospective buyers.
Regardless of smartphone connectivity, the Chiron is a technological marvel and extremely drool-worthy. Just look at it - it's beautiful.
Bugatti plans on keeping the Chiron exclusive with a production run of 500 units, but you can pre-order your Chiron for $2.6 million (about £1.9 million, AU$3.6 million).

Koenigsegg Regera

Koenigsegg Agera
If the $2.6 million price tag for the Bugatti Chiron is too hard to stomach, Koenigsegg debuted the production version of its luxurious, but still-insane Regera hybrid hypercar. For a more affordable $2 million (about £1.4 million, AU$2.8 million), the Regera can reach 186 mph in a mere 10.9 seconds, a full 2.5 seconds faster than the Chiron, so it's a much better bang-for-the-buck.
The insanity is driven by a 5.0-liter twin turbo V8 that puts out a mere 1,100 hp on its own. Because 1,100 hp isn't enough for a hyper car, Koenigsegg slaps an electric motor to each wheel and backs it with an 800-volt, 4.5 kWh battery pack, that combines with the internal combustion engine (ICE) for 1,500 hp. And, like a Glade air freshener, you can plug it in to charge, too.
While I was never fond of the Veyron, and to an extent, the Chiron looks, the Regera is gorgeous inside and out.
Koenigsegg Regera
Inside, the Regera packs a 9-inch infotainment screen and LCD gauge cluster. The infotainment system supports Apple CarPlay, but not Android Auto, unfortunately. Wi-Fi connectivity is included, but the Regera is stuck with a 3G internet connection that's not quite as fast as the car itself.
There's a 360-degree camera system that can stitch together images for a bird's-eye view of the car, which is a must have, considering car has very little rear visibility.
Koenigsegg Regera
Koenigsegg claims the Regera is the first roboticized production car, which uses hydraulics that open and close every body part imaginable. The best part of this is the ability to open the doors, hood and trunk from the key fob or smartphone app.
Here's how the use of the robotics feature plays out in my head: you pull up to a car meet or car show, get out, walk around and wait for the crowd of people to surround your vehicle. When there's a crowd, you press the key fob buttons to open everything and amaze all who've gathered. That alone is enough for me to lust for the Regera over the Chiron.

Lamborghini Centenario

Lamborghini Centenario
If the Bugatti Chiron's 500 unit production run isn't quite exclusive enough for you, or the Koenigsegg Regera is still out of your budget, the Lamborghini Centenario is the supercar for you. Lamborghini plans to produce 40 total units, with an even split of coupes and topless roadsters.
For about $1.9 million (about £1.4 million, AU$2.6 million), you get exclusivity and the most powerful V12 motor ever built by Lamborghini. The V12 is good for 770 hp, without the aid of turbochargers or electric motors, and revs up to 8,600 eargasmic revolutions per minute (RPM). Just the thought of that harmonious exhaust note gives me goosebumps and other inappropriate thoughts.
Lamborghini Centenario
Unfortunately, the Centenario isn't as fast as the Chiron and Regera. The Centenario takes over twice as long as the Regera to reach 186 mph – 23.5 seconds. But, on a positive note, it reaches 62 mph in 2.8 seconds, which is plenty fast.
Inside, there's an LCD gauge cluster and 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, web browser and internet connectivity. Apple CarPlay is supported, too.
Lamborghini Centenario
The infotainment system also provides detailed telemetry data so you can see and record speed, lap times and G-forces. Check the box for the two interior cameras option and you can record your driving experience, too.

Volvo V90

Volvo V90
Volvo is on a roll with knock-out, gorgeous vehicles. It started with the XC90 and followed up with the S90 sedan. But the Volvos I've lusted after weren't sedans and CUVs - it was the long-roof station wagons.
Now, take the stunning S90 sedan, slap a long-roof on it, and we have the new V90, a proper station wagon (or estate, for you Brit's.). I'm a big fan of wagons for their practicality while maintaining the fun-to-drive nature of a car, if you haven't noticed.
There's no doubt the V90 is a Volvo, with its giant LED taillights that extend past the height of the D-pillar. The car only seats five, unfortunately. I can still hope for a third-row jump seat option, but that feature was abandoned by all modern cars, except Mercedes-Benz in the E350 wagon.
Volvo's are all about safety, too, and the V90 will not disappoint. Like its sedan counterpart, the V90 comes standard with Pilot Assist driver assist technology, that includes adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, large animal detection and automatic emergency braking technologies.
Volvo V90
The car can drive semi-autonomously up to 80 mph, with autonomous steering, acceleration and braking. However, you'll still have to change lanes manually, unlike Tesla's auto pilot technology or the next-generation Mercedes-Benz E-class. A 360-degree camera, blind spot monitor and automatic parking park assist technologies are optional, too.
The interior is to die for, with plenty of leather covering every surface, a 9.3-inch touchscreen, installed in portrait mode, and comfortably-shaped seats. The infotainment system is the same Volvo Sensus system in the XC90, complete with Apple CarPlay support in tow.
Volvo V90
Powering the V90 is a selection of turbocharged four cylinder gasoline or diesel engines. The base engine is the turbocharged T5 with 254 hp, exclusive to front-wheel drive models. Opting for the T6 adds a supercharger to the turbocharged four cylinder, boosting power to 320 hp and adding all-wheel drive.
If that's not enough power, there's the range-topping hybrid T8 that straps on a 9.2 kWh battery and electric motor that boosts combined power output to 407 hp. D4 and D5 Diesel engines will be available as well, but those will most likely not be available in the US.
Volvo hasn't announced pricing yet, but since the V90 is a flagship, it won't come cheap.

Kia Optima Sportswagon

Kia Optima
If the Volvo V90 ends up giving you sticker shock, Kia announced its first mid-sized station wagon, a vehicle segment that Americans continue to ignore for taller and smaller CUVs. The new Optima Sportswagon takes everything I loved about the Kia Optima and adds a long-roof for more cargo space and a taller trunk opening.
Aside from the long-roof, the Optima Sportswagon features the same infotainment system with Android Auto support as the sedan. However, Kia does tout Apple CarPlay support, which means the feature is almost ready and should reach American Optima's as well.
Kia Optima
Expect the same automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitor and 360-degree camera driver assists to be available as the sedan. Kia does offer a few extras not available in North American Optima's, like lane keep assist, parallel and perpendicular parking assist, and engine start/stop technology.
Expect the Kia Optima Sportswagon to have similar pricing to the sedan, which starts at £28,895 ($40,000 or AU$56,000). Kia has no plans to offer the Optima Sportswagon in North America, unfortunately.


Volvo V90
It's easy to be wowed by the Bugatti Chiron or Koenigsegg Regera, which are marvelous engineering feats, but I'm a practical guy that appreciates attainable cars, so my favorite debut in Geneva is the Volvo V90 station wagon.
It's a car that encompases everything that defines Volvo as a brand to me: safety, turbocharged power, simplistic design and station wagons. I'm a major fan and wish more Americans would buy them so manufacturers would crank them out like it was 1986, but alas, the buying public favors CUVs.
Nevertheless, the Volvo V90 is probably the best luxury wagon that'll ever be made. It doesn't have the insane tire-shredding capabilities of a Mercedes E63 AMG wagon, but it checks off the right boxes to be my perfect daily driver and family car.

Now, you probably think I'm crazy for fawning over a station wagon instead of the Regera or Centenario, but the V90 is a car I can one day afford, and for me, I like to dream realistically.

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Have an Android? Have an iPhone? This miracle charging cable doesn't care
Have an Android? Have an iPhone? This miracle charging cable doesn't care
Have a household of both Apple and Android devices? Ever wondered why no one has created a single charging cable for both your Lightning and micro USB connector needs?
The LMcable Kickstarter project is trying to answer this question, with what it calls the world's first iOS and Android common connector. It's a single cable connector that works for Lightning and micro USB devices.
It's actually both connector types in one with the standard USB connector on the other side. All you have to do when switching between a Lightning or micro USB port is turn the the connector upside down, according to the team, equating it to flipping over a coin.
The LMcable supports "fast data transfer and 2.4A fast charging," notes the Kickstart project page, and it has a premium design: four different leather styles with a small brass buckle belt for coiling away.
Luckily, the campaign, which has only been live for less than two weeks, has already reached its goal. You can pre-order one now for US$21 (about £15, AU$30), with shipping expected in April.
You can check out the LMcable's campaign video for a better look of the cable below.
YouTube :
Via Mashable

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New iOS 9.3 beta brings us one step closer to the iPhone and iPad update
New iOS 9.3 beta brings us one step closer to the iPhone and iPad update
Apple's iOS 9.3 beta 5 update is now available to everyone, whether you're a paying developer or just beta testing the newest version of the operating system for free.
This simultaneous release is good news for the final version of the iPhone and iPad software, anticipated next month. We're finally seeing it a little more polished and a little more stable.
Apple's blue screen-tinting Night Shift mode is once again the major focus of the iOS 9.3 beta, with a tweaked icon and an easier toggle implementation in the Control Center menu overlay.
Some Apple Pencil functionality, lost in a previous beta, has also be resorted, reports 9to5Mac. Your iPad Pro and its eraser-absent stylus are less amateurish again.

How to download iOS 9.3 beta 5 today

You can install the 159MB iOS 9.3 beta 5 update by following our how to download iOS 9.3 directions. It's worth the few minutes of trouble solely for its sleep-aiding Night Shift mode.
Everyone else who isn't adventurous enough to test Apple's unfinished software will have to wait for the final version. That's something we expect at the company's next launch event.
iOS 9.3 may be paired with the debut of an 4-inch iPhone SE and iPad Air 3, which, more and more, is sounding like an iPad Pro that's rumored to have a normal-sized 9.7-inch display.

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Review: Updated: Microsoft Band
Review: Updated: Microsoft Band

Introduction and display

Update: The Microsoft Band 2 is available now, but how does it stack up with the first Band? So far, it seems like there are a lot of improvements and we're glad to see Microsoft has taken all the critiques of the first fitness tracker to heart.
The original Microsoft Band hasn't been totally outpaced by its successor in terms of feature updates and speed, but as you can see in our latest photos, it hasn't handled normal wear-and-tear all too well.
Regardless of its looks, the Microsoft Band still holds up as a good purchase for both new and current owners alike. If you're a fitness nerd who loves tracking multiple metrics with insane detail, you can't go wrong with Microsoft's debut wearable. What's better is that it's cheaper than ever now that it has a successor.
Read on for our full review of the Microsoft Band.
Microsoft Band
Microsoft quickly and quietly launched its Microsoft Band when no one was really expecting a wearable. The company promptly released the sensor-intensive Microsoft Band after its announcement (without much fanfare, with a price tag of $199 (£170, around AU$230).
Despite the high cost, the ninja release and the Microsoft brand seemed enough to keep people curious and ravenous for the Redmond ware, which sold out quickly at its initial US launch.
Sneaking into a growing ocean of wearables, Microsoft has a long way to go if it wants to remain a top contender in the fitness tracking competition.
Jawbone already has the successful UP24, plus the UP3 coming out soon. Fitbit also has a lineup that's gotten the masses in a running frenzy, including the newest three of the brood - the Fitbit Flex, Fitbit Charge (and Charge HR), and Surge. Whew. Not to mention every smartwatch has some version of fitness tracking built in.
With the space inundated, what's to keep everyone interested in the Microsoft Band other than brand name recognition? The answer is health, health, health.


The 1.4-inch TFT (320 x 106 pixels) full color display screen is crisp and bright with no pixelation in sight. Its 11mm x 33mm is much smaller than the Samsung Gear Fit's curved 1.85-inch AMOLED screen.
But you don't need a huge screen, since the fitness tracker isn't going to be showing off any intensive graphics. If you want this to be your smartwatch for reading and responding to emails, however, that display real estate might be a bit limiting.
Microsoft Band display
The Band's display is big enough that I can read everything clearly but small enough to remain unobtrusive. Not many fitness trackers even have screens, let alone colorful screens - except the aforementioned Gear Fit.
The Fitbit Force, Surge and Razer's Nabu have simple OLED displays which are far less fancy than the Microsoft Band's. In most cases, this is perfectly sufficient considering a lot of fitness trackers are also simplified notification hubs. The Band also fits in this category but like the Gear Fit, it lets you read and reply to messages with generic pre-written responses - but not on the iPhone.

Design and comfort

The Microsoft Band isn't going win any prizes for being the most attractive fitness tracker - the display is rigidly flat, while the band isn't - but it's not the most hideous either. It could just do with being a bit more comfortable.
However, despite the amount of tech packed inside and its 11mm x 33mm screen, the band retains a relatively slim form factor. It's a little thick where the clasp is, but it doesn't jut out too far. The Band also looks bulkier and feels heavier in the hand than it really is, mostly because of the sensors taking up a lot of space.
There are only two buttons on the device - a power button and an action button. I'm used to just tapping on the center portion or touch screen of other fitness trackers, so pressing the power button took some getting used to.
I found myself wishing that a simple tap could activate the band. The action button, however, isn't too bad. Basically, it starts or stops workout session timers, sleep tracking and the stopwatch.
Microsoft Band
So far, the band only comes in black and isn't interchangeable. It's made of a thermal plastic elastomer material and is pretty comfy against the skin. The band can get a bit linty, and became annoying to dust off, while the screen can be easily scuffed up.
Unfortunately, the bezel around the display has taken most of the damage, and I honestly don't even know how. Despite that it doesn't feel delicate - it could probably survive a few drops.
Almost all the trackers in the wild have their own unique way of fastening around your wrist, and the Microsoft Band is no exception. So far I've seen a simple wrap-around like the Jawbone, pinholes like the Misfit Flash and different variations of both. The Band has chosen a sliding clasp route that is both easy to use and easy to adjust.
Microsoft Band


The Microsoft Band fits on the wrist like a Jawbone UP24 in the sense that both are a little rigid, and don't completely wrap around small wrists. But the adjustable clasp helps the Band fit better; people with larger wrists shouldn't have this issue.
There are three base sizes (small, medium, large) that fit snugly once you fiddle around with the clasp.
Microsoft Band
There are two ways you can wear the band, and I found myself switching between both. When typing at my desk, if I wasn't charging it, I would have the screen on top because I didn't want it constantly hitting the desk. When I wear it out and about, I like to have the clasp on top with the screen on the inside of my wrist.
Admittedly, I can see people feeling annoyed at switching, but I enjoy that you can wear it whichever way you want. For some people, wearing the Band on the inside is much more comfortable, though seeing the clasp on top isn't as visually appealing.

Specs, performance and interface

As I mentioned earlier, the Microsoft Band has a whopping ten sensors: an optical heart rate sensor, 3-axis accelerometer, gyrometer, GPS, ambient light sensor, skin temperature sensor, UV sensor, capacitive sensor, microphone and a galvanic skin response sensor.
To crunch the data from the sensors, the band has 64MB internal storage and an ARM Cortex M4 MCU processor.
Sadly, the band isn't waterproof, though it claims to be "splash resistant" meaning light rain and hand washing it is A-OK. Everything else, showering, swimming and submerging it in water is off the table.


The sensors are pretty self-explanatory, but accuracy is a whole other story.
The heart rate monitor has worked consistently for the most part. I've only experienced one occasion so far in which it randomly spiked from 75 to 140 beats per minute, then back down to 78. I wasn't doing anything but sitting on a stool watching the most boring concert of my life, so I'm not sure why it would have suddenly jumped.
Microsoft Band
The sleep tracking has felt consistent as well. The first night I used it, my "actual sleep" was five hours and I woke up only twice. I felt great the next day despite the short duration. The next night I slept for eight hours and felt horrible. The app told me I woke up 10 times which seems like an accurate assessment of why I was so tired even though I had a full night of sleep.
Microsoft Band_sleep trackingI think I would have to keep using it more and comparing the graphs - which incidentally are really easy to read - and all the metrics. The sleep function has now been updated to automatically track you without needing to push the button.
Step tracking, like the other pedometers in all the fitness trackers and smartwatches out there, is dubious at best. There were times when I felt like it wasn't tracking my steps because the counter wouldn't change. But for the most part, the band's sensor kept up with my mental calculations. I reset the steps and walked the same distance - one block - at about the same speed - two steps per sidewalk crack - with the resulting number remaining consistent every time.
On the whole, the band runs quite smoothly with its platform-agnostic operating system. Interestingly, Microsoft decided to use a wearable architecture that has been optimized for low-power micro-devices, instead of Windows 10 or a modified version of Windows.
There's been no lag, and the touchscreen is super responsive. At times, it was actually a little too sensitive; I would be scrolling through the apps and it would open one, falsely registering that I had selected it.
Two of the best features of Microsoft's wearable are the GPS and the band's ability to download workouts. This basically means you don't have to lug your phone around if you're exercising or going for a run. You still need a phone at the end of the day to sync your info though. Still, I liked how I didn't have to worry about carrying around a phone for the band to function.
The second function allows you to "download" workouts from the Microsoft Health app to your phone over Bluetooth. Similar to the GPS, you won't have to carry around your phone to start exercising.


Microsoft Band login
The set up is easy enough on the band, but you'll have to sign up for a Microsoft account right off the bat if you don't already have one. This made for extra faff, but it's necessary for Microsoft to glean all that Health data from you that will be constantly syncing with the Cloud.
It takes an extra five minutes or so and then another couple of minutes for the band to sync and pair up with your phone over Bluetooth. I used my iPhone 5S to start with, which worked perfectly fine. We also tried it with Android Lollipop - no problems.
If you don't like the thought of using anything remotely Lumia-esque or reminiscent of the Windows 8 tiles, you're out of luck. The interface of the Microsoft Band is essentially a simplified Windows platform. But instead of a bunch of resizable, colorful squares you get… a fixed number of small, non-resizable, colorful squares. It's not as awful as it sounds, though. The interface actually works really well with such a small amount of real estate.
Microsoft Band with iPhone 5S
If you've enabled the always-on watch face, it will show the time and date. Pressing the power button takes you to the home tile which displays the time in color; you can replace the date by pressing the action button and customizing it to show your heart rate, steps taken, calories burned, or miles from the day.
You can also pick from 12 different wallpapers for the home tile alone, with 10 colors that will also deck out the tiles, plus three "discreet" options - or dark grey solid colors with three different font colors.
Microsoft Band
Scroll horizontally to go through the list of apps and vertically to read messages. Tapping on the main watch face (after pressing the power button) takes you to a list of your fitness goals, like steps taken, miles walked/run, calories burned and the heart rate monitor. Holding down the home watch face and pulling to the right will display battery life (no percentages though), show whether you've enabled the heart rate monitor and your Bluetooth connection.
Notifications were easy to read, but if someone sent an extra long text message, you'd have to read it off your phone. You can't reply with non-Windows devices; all you can do is read social media messages, texts, calls and so forth delivered to your wrist, which I guess is sufficient enough for a fitness tracker.
Though a little unsettling at first, Quick Read has become a staple in my daily Microsoft Band usage. Essentially, any message you get can show up as fast one word messages on the screen so you can quickly eyeball without needing to scroll.
All you need to do is simply press the action button and incoming texts, emails and other notifications, like Facebook and Twitter, will be scanned and "read" to you.
Microsoft Band
It's an extremely straightforward interface that isn't hard to grasp at all, which I appreciate since I find Microsoft's Windows 8 interfaces tend to be cluttered and difficult to figure out. The only change I'd make is to include the option for continuous scrolling.
It's a little thing, but it would have been ideal if I didn't have to scroll all the way back to the home screen to see the time or another feature. I can also see the perk of having vertical orientation like the Gear Fit but reading messages wouldn't work well on the band's small screen.

Apps and fitness

More apps would be a boon for the Microsoft Band, because there aren't very many right now. It's nice how you can sync up so much data from other apps, but do I really want to have five different app accounts along with all my Band fitness data? Not really. I wasn't using the partnered apps in the first place and I didn't really feel like downloading them.
Microsoft Band
Microsoft offers 17 stock tiles, or apps, you can mix and match from the Microsoft Health app. Of the 17, you can choose 13 to display on the band.
Microsoft Band weather
Your options are the run of the mill apps: messaging, mail, calls, calendar, run, exercise, sleep, alarm/timer, guided workouts, cycling, weather, finance, UV, Starbucks, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Twitter and a notification center. You can also sync up the UP by Jawbone app, Runkeeper, MapMyFitness and MyFitnessPal so Microsoft Health app has more info on you.
Microsoft Band starbucks
There are a few random ones, like UV which takes a reading - low, moderate, high, very high, no UV - of the UV rays when you're outside. While fun to try, it gets old after using it once. It seems a little unnecessary since it doesn't really do anything - it's pretty obvious if you're being exposed to too much sun.
The Starbucks app is pretty neat in that it stores the barcode of a gift card for easy access when you're the cafe. You can only store one card at a time though.


This wearable was basically made to make you an exercise machine. There are so many sensors and apps dedicated to fitness, it's kind of crazy, if verging on excessive. However, it's definitely been fun using them all (and painful realizing how out of shape I am).
Microsoft Band tiles
My favorite fitness feature is the guided workouts app. In the US Microsoft partnered with Gold's Gym, Shape, Men's Fitness and more to compile a series of workouts that you can "download" to your band. For the UK it's teamed up with Nuffield Health.
It's not as fancy as it sounds, but it gets the job down. Essentially you pick whatever workout you want from the Microsoft Health app under "Find a workout." These range from activities under running, bodyweight and strength categories that last for five minutes to an hour and incorporate different reps.
Microsoft Band guided workouts
I chose a 14-minute beginner's crunch and plank routine to start with. The app synced with my band and after choosing the tile, it would start the timer and I would begin the workout. After each rep, the haptics would buzz, letting me know there would be a moment to rest, then it would buzz again beginning the next set.
If you aren't sure how to do an exercise, there are short videos that accompany each workout that you can watch from you phone beforehand. It's a barebones way to exercise, but easy and great for people like me who prefer to keep an already arduous chore as hassle free as possible.
Since launching, five new indoor biking workouts have been added to the Guided Workouts app, including: Indoor Bike Tabata Sprints, Indoor Bike Hour of Sweat, Indoor Bike Total Body, Indoor Bike Pyramid and Indoor Bike Intervals.
A completely new Bike app has been added to the band's exercise-heavy roster as well. It lets you track your rides outdoors, or indoors if you prefer, hence the new guided workouts. When the Bike tile is active, the heart rate monitor becomes "optimized specifically for biking activities."
It can also track elevation and elevation gain, distance and duration and calorie burn which is viewable in the Microsoft Health app. Plus, you map out your ride via GPS, track your current and average speeds both on the band and in the mobile app, and review your custom splits and see an estimate for how long it will take your body to recover from the ride.
The running app is even simpler. All you have to do is select it, and it begins a timer. Keeping the GPS on measures the distance you've run and tracks your pace and route. the app can also retrace your steps, so you can challenge yourself later. The metrics then show up on the band under the Run app and on your mobile device.
You can also measure yoga sessions, weight lifting and cycling. Basically, Microsoft is trying to say the Band can do everything to make you the most macho, buff, fit person ever.
In fact, the Microsoft Health platform has been touted as being an actual service that uses a series of algorithms to collect the data you input from the Band, and even Jawbone or Runkeeper, etc. It then continuously changes up routines, tells you different things and so forth to help motivate you.
Most of the sensors are used when you're exercising to give you the fullest picture of well, you. But it's not quite there yet … I was expecting a lot more from what Microsoft has plugged about the platform. I even downloaded and signed up for the partnered accounts, but it's been disappointing so far.
Just like the lack of apps, it's too early for the Health app to really work. Where are the suggestions to help motivate me? I was expecting some sort of creepy AI to be my personal trainer and yell at me (through haptic feeds and text messages or something) to get my lazy bum away from Netflix binging and into a pair of running shoes. OK, maybe that's wishing for too much, but Microsoft did promise "valuable, personal insights" to help me reach my fitness goals.
The Microsoft Band webpage reads, "Built in the cloud, Microsoft Health will continually evolve to offer you better experiences and more valuable data over time. The more you share with Microsoft Health, the more accurate and helpful your insights will become."
Again, what insights? The graphs that charted my sleep and exercising have been great so far, but where's the part where Microsoft said it would help me be a healthier person? Apparently it's not ready yet.
I spoke with Zulfi Alam, General Manager of Personal Devices at Microsoft about the lack of solid data from insights. He said that the new update with the Band is the first step in creating a wider net to catch more information because the "back engine needs rich data, and thousands of users are needed to generate this." In other words, the more people who use the fitness tracker and fill it with data, the more we'll actually see the insights with heightened accuracy.
One of the ways Microsoft plans on helping you glean more information? The Microsoft HealthVault - which is now connected to your Band. Data from the wearable, including workout and sleep info, is automatically uploaded to the HealthVault account - which you should be able to log into with the same credentials used for the Band. According to Microsoft, the HealthVault is supposed to help you organize your health information in one place, and help gather, store, use, and share information and records with healthcare providers. To link a Microsoft HealthVault account to Microsoft Health data, simply go to "Connected Apps" in the menu of the Microsoft Health app.
Microsoft Health Web Dashboard
Microsoft Health Web Dashboard has also been added as an upgrade. The web dashboard is basically a bigger version of the information stored in your mobile app but it can be accessed through any web browser.

Compatibility and battery life

It's such a little luxury, but the first world problem of having too many devices really is a hassle. That's why it's fantastic that the Microsoft Band is compatible with iOS 7.1, iOS 8, Windows Phones 8.1 and Android 4.3-4.4 devices through Bluetooth. Most fitness trackers are cross-platform, but there are still a few out there that aren't. The majority of smartwatches are in the Android Wear camp, meaning you can only use Android phones. Then there's the Samsung-only Gear series.
Microsoft Band
Despite the cross-platform support, the band works best with Windows Phones, thanks to Cortana. Using the Halo-inspired virtual assistant requires a data or Wi-Fi connection, but with it, you can use voice commands to set alarms, dictate short voice notes, create time/location/people based reminders, ask Bing questions, create calendar events, play music through your phone, and tell it to call or text message people.
You can also respond to notifications with short, pre-written responses but again, the band only lets you do so with Windows Phone devices.

Battery life

Microsoft says the band should last two days with regular usage; prolonging battery life means going into your settings and turning off watch mode (so the display is blank), setting the brightness to auto or low, shutting off the GPS when running and toggling off the display when exercising.
Microsoft Band settings
Despite the recommended settings, I was actually able to get two full days with almost everything on after fully charging the band. I received notifications from Facebook Messenger, Twitter, other app notifications (Instagram likes, LinkedIn requests, etc), phone calls and text messaging. I kept the heart rate monitor running, left the GPS on, had the brightness on high and had the clock face showing constantly - except at night when I was sleeping though the band was still on tracking my sleep. I didn't exercise for long amounts of time during the first two days though.
I attached the little magnetic end of the USB charger in the afternoon on Monday for a full charge and, like clockwork, it died at the same time on Wednesday. The band powered down a bit sooner from Thursday to Friday after using it for multiple exercising sessions - two 20 minute guided workouts - and having the GPS on while running, but it still managed to last a day and half, opposed to a full two days.
Microsoft says it takes about an hour and a half to get a full charge. This matches up well with my experience. The band was in the red low battery warning stages when I plugged it in after the first two days of usage, and after 60 minutes it was at 80% which was faster than I expected. It took the full hour and a half after exercising and using more of the band's features.
Microsoft Band syncing
At the end of my week, I was pretty pleased with the band's battery life and charging time. It did what I expected, and there are reasonable ways to conserve its energy.
Trying to figure out how to keep the batteries alive as long as possible is a huge sore spot for wearables, but something a lot of companies are making headway in solving. Misfit's Flash and Shine fitness trackers last up to six months and the Garmin Vivofit lasts a year by using old fashioned watch batteries. However, both are pretty simple devices, with neither screens nor the ability to give you notifications.

Using Cortana with Microsoft Band

Since the Band is slightly different with Cortana, I decided to add an extra page dedicated to the little voice assistant.
As I mentioned before, you can do several things with a Windows phone and Cortana, like use voice commands and respond to notifications with short, pre-written responses.
For Cortana to work with your Microsoft Band, it needs to be installed on both your Windows Phone and our Microsoft Band, though it should show up automatically on the wearable if you have Cortana.
After holding down the Action button for a couple of seconds, Cortana uses the mic on your Microsoft Band to "listen" when you speak, and it displays answers and requests on the phone. I noticed shorter responses can be displayed on the actual band.
Asking "What's the weather in San Francisco?" will pull up the full report on the phone and a short "Right now, it's 62 degrees and sunny in San Francisco" from Cortana directly on the band.
Microsoft Band Cortana
Using Cortana hasn't become something that's completely necessary to fully enjoy the band especially since my usual handset is an iPhone.
Notes I've created are also stored in OneNote, another service I don't always use. Now if I was able to choose where my notes went (say, Evernote?), I'd feel more inclined to use it.
Telling Cortana to send someone a text has been handy (or relatively handless) as well as vocally inputting calendar reminders. The AI will listen for a certain amount of time then revert to "thinking" as it processes your request. It will then ask if your message is correct to send, prompting you to press the action button.
A tiny keyboard pops up as another option you can use to send messages, or to correct your voice dictated one. It actually works pretty well and has been quite intuitive. Compared to other itty bitty wearable keyboards I've typed on, this one has been the best.
If Cortana makes it to other devices, I'd definitely use it all the time. It's a service that puts the Microsoft Band on a higher level compared to other fitness trackers but it still seems firmly stuck in the Microsoft ecosystem. I've already become surprisingly dependent on my wrist for notifications so performing tasks, even simple ones, would be an amazing bonus.


Time and again, Microsoft has been known to throw curveballs, or enter markets prematurely - Microsoft Tablet PC, anyone? - and it's rarely been good for the company.
The Microsoft Band didn't necessarily release prematurely, but there's definitely work to be done. None of this is to suggest that the tracker won't be excellent one day, but this is what you should know before hitting up the Microsoft Store.
Microsoft Band

We like

The battery life isn't spectacular, but for something running a lot of programs, lasting a full two days, or nearly so, isn't too shabby. The fitness-centric ecosystem is also so intensive, you probably wouldn't need any other fitness tracker after the Microsoft Band.
It's also been a really comfy device to wear - it has practically become an extension I don't even notice anymore.
The GPS function also helps the band be a little more independent and helps it feel untethered even though it's not.

We dislike

I really wish the Microsoft Health app was as good as it claimed to be. I was looking forward to a device that could send me motivational messages or tips straight from the tracker. A variety of apps is also sorely missing from the band.
Having Cortana and quick replies on iOS or Android would have been really neat too, but the appeal of cross-platform has been slightly squashed because of the Windows Phone favoritism. That said, this is also likely because the CPU inside the Band likely isn't capable of running Cortana on its own.
Also, for how jam packed the band is for active types, I'm really surprised it's not waterproof.

Final verdict

There is so much potential here it's killing me. I love the Microsoft Band, but it's breaking my heart knowing it can do so much more.
It seems as if Microsoft thought cramming fitness, fitness and some more fitness would make the band a feasible tracker. It's not a bad idea, but it would be nice to do something with all that data. I can see the Microsoft Band reaching Jawbone UP24 levels of awesome once the Health app really gets going.
The company has struck a fine balance between fitness and functionality, but I'd like to see it executed better, and I feel like Microsoft can definitely be 100% amazing - heck, it's practically 80% there in my book.
For now, the price is a little too high a price to pay for a fitness tracker. That's especially knowing you can find a device among the hordes of other trackers out there that is, dare I say, just as good as the Microsoft Band in a lot of ways.
With more improvements to Microsoft's Health platform, the Band could easily become one of the strongest contenders on the market. There's promise inside, Microsoft just needs to make it happen.
Original review written by Lily Prasuethsut

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Review: Microsoft Band 2
Review: Microsoft Band 2

Introduction and display

Update: The Microsoft Band 2 has only been out for a handful of months, but it's doing well to hold onto its crown as one of the most fully-featured fitness trackers around.
Microsoft announced at CES 2016 that the Band 2 will soon be able communicate with select Volvo vehicles and the functionality sounds awesome. Right from the Band 2, you'll be able to set the navigation, start the heater, lock the doors, flash the lights, or honk the horn. We're still awaiting further details on when the update will roll out.
Next up, if you'd like to see the matchup between Microsoft Band 2 vs Microsoft Band, we go into deep detail on each and every change made.
Lastly, we compared the fitness capabilities of the Microsoft Band 2 to some of the leading contenders in the smartwatch category, such as the Samsung Gear S2 and Apple Watch.
Looking ahead, the Microsoft's latest wearable could be usurped of its title as the smartest non-smartwatch by the Fitbit Blaze, but we'll have to wait and see.
Read on for our full review of the Microsoft Band 2.
Microsoft Band 2
There were a lot of design and comfort issues with the first Microsoft Band that irked many, but the Microsoft Band 2 is cleaner and better form fitting than before.
It's still not the most visually appealing fitness tracker, but it makes up for that by adding yet another sensor – a barometer – to an already sensor-packed device. Microsoft also included a few more apps, and the Band 2 hardware runs better all around.
With a curved screen and new sensor, Microsoft upped the price to $249 (£200, AU$380) versus the relatively lower price of the first one, just $199 (£170, around AU$230).
It's right up there with the Fitbit Surge in terms of price and functionality, except the Band 2 has a bright, colorful touchscreen. There are also Garmin and TomTom devices that could give the Microsoft Band 2 a run for its money in terms of specs, but this is actually the more affordable one compared to the higher-end sports watches.
Aside from the clunky design of the first Microsoft Band and a few annoyances with compatibility, there was little I disliked. I've felt the same using the Band 2, except it's noticeably improved in ways I didn't expect.
Microsoft Band 2


One of the biggest issues many people had with the original Microsoft Band was its stiff and uncomfortable design, which is mostly the fault of the rigid, flat display.
The new Microsoft Band has integrated a curved screen that fits better on the wrist and makes it much easier to see notifications.
The Corning Gorilla Glass 3, AMOLED screen is larger, at 32 x 12.8mm and a 320 x 128 resolution, or 255 pixels per inch (ppi), whereas the older Microsoft Band's TFT display measures 33 x 11mm for a 320 x 106 pixel count, or 247 ppi.
Microsoft Band 2
The larger screen doesn't feel like it makes a huge difference, since it's still smaller than your average smartwatch, but when comparing with the older Band, you can definitely tell: the new Band is bigger.
The Band 2 has more noticeable pixelation than the first one. It doesn't necessarily matter, since you're only getting text notifications. But, be warned: it's definitely noticeable.
Other than that, the screen remains bright and vivid, yet it still magically retains battery power – but more on that later.

Design and comfort

The first Microsoft Band wasn't exactly a looker. The all-black look the company went for was likely to make it sleek and discreet, but ended up a tad boring and forgettable for most.
The Band 2 has a silver metallic finish on the edges instead of the plastic on the previous wearable. This little change has certainly increased the visual appeal, but it still isn't entirely what you'd deem attractive. It's also far larger than the first Band, which means you get more screen real estate but it's less discreet.
Microsoft Band 2
The new Microsoft Band is made of thermal plastic elastomer silicone vulcanate. In English, that just means soft, durable plastic that feels smooth on the skin.
Along with the flat screen, the rigid band is gone. Instead, Microsoft opted for a more flexible strap. Many people notified me about the deteriorating condition of the first Band over time, which I noticed started happening with my own device. However, with the side sensor compartments gone, I feel like the problem should be solved on the second Band – at least, I hope so.
Microsoft Band 2
The home and action buttons are back and in the same spot underneath the screen. They're less resistant than the first set, and depress more quickly and easily. They're also brushed silver instead of black, matching the border of the Band.
The clasp is also basically the same adjustable one found on the previous wearable, except it's larger and silver. It also houses the UV sensor and the charge port, showing that Microsoft very deliberately utilized each and every inch of the Band 2.


I thought the first Microsoft Band was moderately comfy in spite of its awkward fit. It would get annoying when I was typing, forcing me to take it off. And, regardless of me wearing the small version, it still didn't quite sit around my wrist properly.
I've found a similar comfort level with the Band 2.
Microsoft Band 2
In addition to the flexible strap, the curve has definitely helped making it fit much better. But, because the screen is larger, I can actually fit two fingers in between my wrist and the band. If I tighten the strap any further, it feels like my circulation is cut off. However, if I loosen it, the wearable dangles like an annoying bracelet.
I experienced similar issues with the first Band, so I'm not entirely surprised. Wearables are rarely a good fit for people with tiny wrists, but they're getting better, thanks to the increasing amount of size variations.

Specs, performance, interface and apps

The same 10 sensors are still jammed into the Microsoft Band 2: an optical heart rate sensor, 3-axis accelerometer, gyrometer, GPS, ambient light sensor, skin temperature sensor, UV sensor, capacitive sensor, microphone and a galvanic skin response sensor – with the addition of a barometer.
This means you'll get all the metrics from before, plus measurements of elevation gains from hiking or biking uphill, not to mention climbing steps.
The placement of the sensors are different this time around. You can see the mic and barometer on the sides of your Microsoft Band 2 and the heart rate monitor and galvanic skin response (GSR) contact points on the inside surface. The charging port and UV monitor are on the clasp. Other items, like the accelerometer and GPS, are sealed inside behind the display.
Microsoft Band 2
Like the first Band, the Band 2 isn't waterproof but remains dust and water resistant. With the IP67 rating, it can stand temporary immersion in water at a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes, but it's not recommended and could ruin the tracker.
The lack of waterproofing is an unfortunate downside of the Bands, but I suppose sealing in the sensors would have hiked up the price a bit more. Still, it means I can't take this wearable swimming or kayaking to measure my metrics, which is disappointing.


The processing unit has remained the same as the first Band - 64MB internal storage and an ARM Cortex M4 MCU - though I've noticed a slight change to the speediness of the interface. The operating system still isn't Windows 10, but whatever changes were made show through, for the better.
The interface largely remains the same – tiles and apps laid out in a row. Again, same guts, but the performance has improved. There's less lag throughout when scrolling, and the Band 2 is much quicker to respond when pressing the home button.
Microsoft Band 2
Press the power button to see the Me Tile, which is the home screen on your Band. From the Me Tile, swipe left to see the rest of your tiles on the Start Strip.
From the Me Tile, you can tap to see the progress you've made toward your goals. Press the action button to cycle through the indicators for your heart rate, miles walked and ran, calories burned and floors climbed. Drag the tile to the right to see the status bar showing battery level, daily heart rate monitor status (if the heart monitor is turned on) and Bluetooth status (if Bluetooth is turned on).
Just like the first Band, head to the Microsoft Health app on your mobile device to load tiles and rearrange or delete them.
Microsoft Band 2
There are a few new colors and designs you can customize your Band 2 with. The watchface is also back with a twist called "Rotate on." The new watch mode will ask which wrist you wear your Microsoft Band 2 on and whether you wear it with the display facing outward or inward. Then, much like smartwatches out there, the clock will pop on when you turn your wrist.

Apps and fitness

There are a few more apps to choose from this time around. Your options include the usual: messaging, mail, calls, calendar, run, exercise, sleep, alarm/timer, guided workouts, cycling, weather, finance, UV, Starbucks, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Twitter and a notification center.
You can also sync with the UP by Jawbone app, Runkeeper, MapMyFitness and MyFitnessPal, all so the Microsoft Health app has more info on you. Golf was added in a previous software update, so it isn't exactly "new".
Microsoft Band 2
However, Xbox Wire is a new tile you can add from the "Tile Gallery." It's a bit useless right now, since you technically can only read headlines from the Xbox blog.
Microsoft Band 2
You can't even open a link of the story from your Band to read on your phone. Gold's Gym Inspirations is even worse, as it gives you snippets of inspirational stories that read like an un-ironic motivational poster. I get that this is Microsoft's push for more tiles to add to the Band 2 – but c'mon, really?
Thankfully, it's not bloatware, as in neither app is stuck on your Band. Since the Band 2 has launched, the Tile Gallery has gone from displaying "More tiles coming soon…" to actually showing tons of tiles made by both Microsoft and the community of developers. Indeed, more tiles were coming soon and they have now arrived. However, the usefulness of each varies and, on the whole, there doesn't seem to be a single tile available that provides a deep, satisfying experience.
I'm interested in gaming, so I thought the community-crafted Steam RSS tile would be right up my alley. Unfortunately, it's just an aggregator of Steam press releases, which is pretty boring.
Next, I checked out BBC's USA tile, expecting a bit more. Not to slight the Microsoft Band 2, as it's tough to elegantly cram a bunch of text on a small screen, but what you're getting here is just the headlines and nothing else.
As we detailed earlier, tapping the headline or bit of content in a tile doesn't do anything. It doesn't open up the article on your phone, as you might think it would. Tiles don't add all that much to the already great experience, but if you're after the most basic information at-a-glance, you'll find something like.
You can mix and match these tiles, but again, only 13 apps can be viewed on the actual wearable.
The sleep app has changed a tiny bit with Microsoft adding a smart timer. After using the sleep tracker and gathering enough information, the Band 2 will set an alarm at your "optimal wakeup time." This could just be 30 minutes before or after your usual alarm. It's not automatic, and you can turn it off whenever you want.
I found it to be handy since I set two alarms anyway to help me wake up. Using the smart alarm is the same idea.
Microsoft Band 2
There are also two ways to use the sleep tracking app. Once in the tile, you can choose to press the action button or let it automatically detect you. It seems like the action button works best but you do have to remember to switch it on at night and off in the morning. Auto-detect is great for these moments. Though, Microsoft notes that if you're stationary for a long period of time, the Band 2 will think you're sleeping.


I haven't had time to fully test out the five fitness apps just yet. However, it's already obvious that not much has changed – that isn't necessarily a bad thing for Microsoft's second Band. I was already duly impressed with the simplicity and effectiveness of the first Microsoft Band's fitness apps.
Guided Workouts, found in the Microsoft Health app which can be downloaded and loaded onto the Band 2 one at a time, has been updated since its launch. It now offers even more workouts than before, ranging from beginner to advanced.
If you've used any of the fitness apps, it's the same premise: choose a workout, and the haptics buzz. Choose the running tile and it records your heart rate, calorie burn, GPS coordinates, lap times and personal bests.
Microsoft Band 2
You can then view recorded maps of your runs and analyze your data for ways to improve. Choose the Exercise app and track your progress during group fitness classes, body weight or strength training and yoga, all with the same metrics.
Cycling lets you track your rides outdoors, or indoors. When the Bike tile is active, the heart rate monitor becomes "optimized specifically for biking activities." It can also track elevation and elevation gain, distance, duration and calorie burn– all viewable in the Microsoft Health app.
Microsoft Band 2Plus, you can map out your ride via GPS, track your current and average speeds and distance both on the band and in the mobile app. Then, you can review your custom splits and see an estimate for how long it will take your body to recover from the ride.
The Microsoft Health Dashboard has also greatly improved. True to its word, further insights have been included over time, allowing you to take actionable steps for a healthier lifestyle. With each use, the algorithms calculate your metrics to let you know what you can do to get a better night's rest or your calorie burn trends. The metrics are all handily displayed in charts comparing your daily, weekly and monthly activities. The app on the phone also displays a decent amount of information though the Dashboard is much more detailed.
VO2 max is a new calculation Microsoft Band 2 is offering – and it's the only fitness tracker doing it. Your body's capacity to transport and use oxygen during exercise is the VO2 max. It's the most precise measure of overall cardiovascular fitness.
From five run or bike workouts with an elevated heart rate, Microsoft then plops your heart rate into its proprietary algorithm to give you an estimated score. It's not as accurate as being hooked up to a machine and running on a treadmill, but it's more convenient. Why is this important to know even if you're not a pro athlete? Well, the higher your VO2 max is, the easier it is to workout longer.

Compatibility and battery life

The days of selective compatibility seem to be over. Certain Android Wear smartwatches can be used with iPhones. Albeit in a limited capacity, but nevertheless, you can still use them together.
The same can be said for the Microsoft Band 2. You can still use it with Android and iOS devices but it works best with Windows 8.1 (and soon Windows 10 Mobile) phones.
I was hoping the virtual keyboard or Cortana would somehow magically be available on my Samsung Galaxy Edge or iPhone 6S, but alas, the compatibility only goes so far.
Aside from those features, you can still get notifications, alerts and even Google Maps directions right on your wrist.
The other compatibility feature, or rather integration, I would have liked is the new Band with Xbox One and Windows 10. With all the fuss over the new operating system, I thought Microsoft would somehow have incorporated its wearable into that mix.

Battery life

I was able to get a full two and half days out of my Microsoft Band 2 – and that's with everything (except always-on watch mode) turned on. I did keep the heart rate monitor running and used the rotate-on clock. The wearable finally gave out after I used it to track my sleep, as it promptly died in the morning after I woke up. Annoyingly, it made me reset the time and date upon charging.
Microsoft Band 2
Microsoft states 48 hours is the average you'd get without the GPS on constantly and on various power saving modes, like sparse notification alerts and not activating the always-on clock face.
It's the same amount of time you get with the first Band, but I was able to get a bit extra. I doubt the results will be the same the next time I use the Band 2 if I go for a long run, use Guided Workouts and turn on sleep tracking, because it all depends on usage.
Microsoft Band 2
As mentioned before, the charge port is now part of the clasp, as opposed to its former spot behind the display body. The magnetic charger fits snugly and is less of a hassle than the former cord, where the Band had to sit a certain way so that the charger wouldn't fall off.
Charge time is pretty quick, taking about 35 minutes, a marked improvement from its previous hour and a half for a full charge.


Like many other wearables this year, the Microsoft Band 2 is the result of a ton of smart choices that have greatly improved the device.
It's still not a looker nor is it the comfiest. But, the Band 2 is all-around far better than the first iteration – which was already a pretty decent fitness tracker to begin with.

We liked

The design this time around is a lot more sturdy than the previous Band, which was prone to falling apart. The battery life has also hit slightly above the average fitness tracker mark, especially for one with a screen, notifications and GPS. I'm sure it will vary depending on what you use the Microsoft Band 2 for, but generally two and a half days is nothing to scoff at.
Health Dashboard is also much better, providing more insights and thus incentive to use it. The addition of VO2 max adds another layer of metric complexity that gives users even more information and motivation to continue wearing the new Band.

We disliked

I would have liked greater functionality for non-Windows phones, so that Android and iOS users can take advantage of Cortana and the virtual keyboard. On the opposite end, further integration with other Microsoft platforms would have been nice, too.
The Band 2 is also on the pricier side, as far as fitness trackers are concerned. This could be a problem for some, especially since the first Band cost less.

Final verdict

In some ways, the Microsoft Band 2's $249 (£200, AU$380) price tag is justified, since there's an improved design and new screen on top of another sensor. It also costs the same as a Fitbit Surge, but it looks a tad better with its color touchscreen – though the Band 2 can't control music from your wrist and has a shorter battery life. The Band 2 is also cheaper than high-end sports watches – but it's not waterproof.
Basically, there will always be some sort of caveat with the fitness tracker you choose. With the Microsoft Band 2, you get a comprehensive health dashboard with a whole lot of sensors packed inside a device that doesn't look too bad or fit too uncomfortably.
I feel like the Microsoft Band 2 would have been better as a sports watch, since it almost has the same amount of features. But, alas, it remains a band. Still, it's a much better device than its predecessor and a more than capable fitness tracker to pick up if you're a fitness enthusiast or looking for a reason to be.
Original review written by Lily Prasuethsut

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Hands-on review: Dell OptiPlex 24 7000/7440 All-in-One
Hands-on review: Dell OptiPlex 24 7000/7440 All-in-One
No, laptops, tablets and smartphones haven't killed the market (and demand) for traditional desktops.
Sure, tastes have evolved over the past decade with a gradual shift, thanks partly to Apple and its iMac, to all-in-one (AIO) PCs, but from an overall perspective there is still a case for tethered, fixed computers especially in businesses and enterprises.
That stems, according to Dell, from the need for organisations to maximise space and productivity in a commercial environment.
And that's exactly why Dell embraced the AIO concept with the latest iteration of its product line being the OptiPlex 24 7440 AIO, which the company calls the world's most secure AIO desktop.
Dell OptiPlex 24 7000/7440 All-in-One close up
Competitors include HP, with the ProOne and EliteOne range, Lenovo, with the ThinkCentre Edge/M series, the Fujitsu Esprimo X9xx series and obviously, Apple's celebrated iMac.
"No bulk. No Nonsense." That's the 7440's tagline and it's easy to see why. This is a compact 24-inch device that keeps to a tried-and-trusted recipe when it comes to enterprise: stick to the essentials when it comes to hardware and get best-of-breed management software.
When it comes to the former, Dell has done a decent job by offering a solid piece of kit, and indeed it is rather heavy at over 8kg.
The extra premium comes from a number of add-ons including a keyboard and a mouse, items many companies might want to keep if they're upgrading their existing stock. It also comes by default with a three-year next business day onsite warranty, something that many businesses will appreciate.
The Optiplex 24 7440 has a down-to-earth, functional design, with plenty of plastic, and isn't going to win any design awards.
Assembling it out of the box can be done by one person and takes a couple of minutes at most. The standard model comes with a tilt-and-swivel stand with a large square base. There's no straightforward upgrade to the angle poise-inspired, articulated stand on the UK website.
Most of the AIO itself is, unsurprisingly, dominated by the touchscreen, a 23.8-inch model with a thick bezel (65mm at its thickest and 22mm at the thinnest part).
Dell offers a full HD model with anti-glare coating as standard, with 4K resolution available as an option, as is a capacitive touchscreen. There's a 2-megapixel webcam that can be manually hidden behind a flap and a myriad of ports and buttons on either side and at the back, pointing downwards.
Dell OptiPlex 24 7000/7440 All-in-One ports
The list is long: there are eight USB ports, HDMI in and out, DisplayPort, RJ-45, Line-out and Audio socket. Oh and there's an SD card reader as well.
The machine we were sent came with a sixth-generation Intel Core i5 CPU, the i5-6500, a model clocked at 3.2GHz with 6MB cache and four-cores/four-threads. Note that it is not a laptop CPU but a full-fledged one with a 65W TDP and integrated Intel HD Graphics 530.
In its simplest form, this model costs £772.80 excluding VAT and shipping. Intriguingly, Dell lists it at £869 excluding VAT and shipping ($1049 over in the US, which is around AU$1460), stating that its recommended price is a hefty £1,337 ($1498 in the US, which is around AU$2090).
A £30 upgrade buys you a Core i7 CPU and a 1TB hard drive, which in our eyes is a no-brainer. Cheaper models are also available with a Core i3 CPU, a non-touch display and 4GB of RAM for £260 less.
In terms of memory you get 8GB DDR4 (one module, one free slot), along with a 2.5-inch 500GB 7200RPM hard disk drive, a DVD drive, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and Gigabit Ethernet.
There's a second free 2.5-inch bay should you want to upgrade although Dell doesn't give you that option online (yet), which makes another option from the website configurator, RAID-0, rather useless. In addition, there are two free M.2 slots that can accommodate either a Hardware Crypto Accelerator, a Wi-Fi card or another solid state drive.
Dell OptiPlex 24 7000/7440 All-in-One keyboard
The bundled keyboard has an island-style layout which may put some of us off while the mouse is reasonably accurate; functional but without the bells.
When it comes to operating systems, Dell offers three Windows versions: Windows 10 Pro, Windows 8.1 Pro and Windows 7 Pro, the last two coming with or without a free Windows 10 Pro license. Dell oddly has a Windows 7 Pro Polish on its website.
While the hardware is unspectacular, the OptiPlex 24 7440 makes up for it thanks to its management and security features. System administrators will appreciate Dell's effort to make BIOS management and system configurations as frictionless as possible across entire desktop fleets.
Intel's vPro which is available out of the box allows the AIO to be remotely managed including out-of-band BIOS management. Also included in the package are Dell's Client Command Suite, TPM (Trusted Platform Module), Data Protection (Security, Encryption) and Secure Works. A Data Protection Encryption Accelerator is available as a £21.45 upgrade.

Early verdict

We didn't carry out any standard benchmarking as this is an office computer, one that is more than capable of tackling the type of workload that is usually expected from this category of PC. After all, this is neither a gaming PC nor a workstation in the traditional sense.
The brief encounter we had with the computer left us with no doubt about how it will perform in real life. Bear in mind that there might be processes running in the background, many of which are likely to be Dell's own software stack and that will have an impact on performance.
Fortunately, Dell made sure that no unnecessary applications were loaded at start-up.
This is a solid all-in-one from Dell but you do pay a premium for it compared to bog-standard AIO machines. Its touchscreen capability and sysadmin-friendly attributes, however, dominate its feature list and justify the extra outlay.
Enterprises will appreciate Dell's commitment to create a best-of-breed AIO that doesn't skimp on the essentials and blends a combination of hardware and software solutions that help to reduce the management burden on IT teams.

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Exclusive: Keeping the spirit of film alive in the Olympus Pen-F
Exclusive: Keeping the spirit of film alive in the Olympus Pen-F

Behind the Design: Olympus Pen-F

Olympus has a knack for translating its rich history of analog cameras into beautiful, modern digital cameras. It's a been part of Olympus' philosophy since 2009, when the company launched its Micro Four Thirds Standard with the Pen E-P1.
The camera was introduced with a rangefinder-like design reminiscent of the company's popular half-frame Pen-F camera and came equipped with one of the industry's smallest 12-megapixel (MP) sensors at the time.
Now, five years and several cameras later, Olympus has officially introduced a digital Pen-F both in styling and name. The new rangefinder hews even more closely to the original half-frame camera by introducing the first electronic viewfinder for the Pen series and the company's first 20MP sensor. But, beyond specs, the new Pen-F is Olympus's most beautifully designed body yet.
Olympus Pen-F
"In the past, the Pen was highly regarded by photo enthusiasts, amateurs and professionals alike," Olympus technical specialist Eric Gensel says. "It's from that background that the original Pen-F was so popular, and we wanted that same thing for people who have that passion for photography [today]."

In the pursuit of perfection

According to Gensel, the Pen-F took three years to develop, a longer lead time than most of the company's imaging systems. In that time, the Olympus team went through several prototypes get the physical layout just right.
"They wanted to rethink the entire Pen lineup, specifically for the 80th year anniversary," he explains "There were more mockups than usual, more design and R&D work than normal."
The time and effort put into this camera shows when you hold and look at it. For one, there aren't any screws on the body. Meanwhile, the dials are positioned closely enough to keep device compact, but not so much that you'll accidentally change multiple settings at the same time.
Olympus Pen-F
Gensel says the Pen-F's nearly perfect ergonomics come from the camera being largely designed by hand, rather than using computer-aided design (or CAD) or 3D renderings.
"This product took an extreme amount of hands on, which I think speaks to you when you're holding it," Gensel says, noting the Olympus team made multiple mockups with wood blocks and clay. "Somebody really put a lot of time and energy into and care into this, not just what is the best for the average human hand. This was definitely an art form, as far as its creation and sculpture."
Olympus Pen-F
Interestingly, the Olympus Pen-F is also unique in that it has virtually no front grip, meanwhile the concave thumb grip is a first in its own right.
"Rather than having a thumb grip be an extension of the camera shell, it's specifically created for an indentation, so that my thumb can actually rest inside where the body would be to get a firmer grip," Gensel says.
Because of this layout, your thumb effectively falls into a groove while your fingers grasp the flat front plate. Most cameras come with a generous front grip to claw at, but, because of this design, you're applying almost all the pressure you need on the back plate.
Olympus Pen-F

Down to the last millimeter

Olympus's design team was meticulous, down to picking the right texture for its dials. At a CES 2016 briefing for the camera, I was shown a video of an Olympus engineer swapping lugs repeatedly, looking for the best setup.
"When you're holding the dials, making adjustments or interacting with the mechanical portions, you see a lot of the dials are a milled aluminum that was cut down to the proper size, shape and texture," he says.
With the Pen-F, Olympus introduces its first dedicated exposure compensation dial, a small but indispensable addition for most photographers. Gensel argues that it didn't come sooner to Olympus' other cameras, like the OM-D E-M5 Mark II and E-M10 Mark II, because it makes more sense to have assignable functions with electronically driven cameras.
"However, exposure compensation is an integral part of photography that you'll be using constantly," he continues. "You're always going to be overriding metering in some way to get the image you're envisioning. So having the added wheel makes sense."
Olympus Pen-F

A technical marvel

Olympus's first 20MP sensor inside the Pen-F is a huge deal when you consider that the Japanese camera company has used the same 16MP resolution sensor since 2012, when it first introduced the OM-D E-M5.
"We didn't move into 20MP until we could maintain the same quality of noise level and dynamic range that we had with the previous 16MP sensor," Gensel explained. "We're now able to do that and likewise, we wanted something that could satisfy that electronic shutter, because it's another aspect of technological growth in photography."
Electronic shutters have slowly made headway in digital cameras for users who need to shoot in complete silence. What's more, electronic shutters can actuate at incredibly fast speeds, up to 1/32,000 of a second. (A mechanical shutter tops out at 1/8,000 of a second.) Plus, it's a handy when you're trying to shoot in broad daylight with a fully open aperture.
Olympus Pen-F
This rangefinder also happens to be the first in Olympus' Pen series to come with an electronic viewfinder (EVF). According to Gensel, this camera comes with the same OLED, 2.36m dot EVF as the OM-D E-M10 Mark II, and it has added almost nothing to its dimensions.
"The viewfinder here being as compact and small, does lend itself to fit well in here," he says. "But understand with most of our products, especially in the compact space, when you open them up they're completely filled."
"I guarantee you, a lot of [the design] was just, okay we have the shell, now make it all fit – because it's definitely packed," Gensel boasts with a laugh.
Olympus Pen-F

Recreating film in the digital age

Olympus has also done plenty on the software side, introducing the company's first ever film simulation modes, which you can access by flicking the front dial – another call back to the original half-frame camera.
Of course, adding the look of film to digital frames has been done before. Fujifilm, for one, has included the popular feature across its range of X series cameras. And we've been doing this with Instagram, VSCO and dozens of other smartphone apps for a while.
Olympus's way of reproducing film emulsions is different in that it's adaptive and allows you to tweak the finer details. The color filter, for example, has customizable hues on the surface but you can adjust sharpness, contrast, high and low key lighting as well.
"If we're talking about monochromatic, there's film grain adjustments from high, low to mid," Gensel explains. "It's a very organic and adaptive process, because it's not going to be the same amount of grain throughout the picture."
Olympus Pen-F
"As the tonal areas of the picture change, the grain will change too, like the way film did for that really realistic emulation creation," he continues. "This was [the result of] a very hands on process consisting of comparing fiber prints from negatives and fiber based films from digital stills, then adjusting until the profiles treatment of tone and grain was emulated."
Gensel says he's more interested in what profiles the community will come up with as they share. For now, there isn't a way to upload or download shooting profiles between cameras, but you can share what you've moved around.
"Most people had their favorite film, that they know what it's going to do and how it's going to respond," he says. "They know the level of either the realism or exaggeration they want, and there were some films that were just so rich and so beyond reality but it was still just so insanely fun."
The Olympus Pen-F was made to celebrate the joy of photography with a body and abilities that harkens back to the film days. But it's only when you pick it up that you realize how simple and addictive it can be to play with film – even if only in spirit.

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Interview: Palmer Luckey is already thinking about Oculus Rift 2
Interview: Palmer Luckey is already thinking about Oculus Rift 2

Palmer Luckey Interview

Palmer Luckey is going to have a big year. The Oculus Rift is about to launch its first consumer version in a few weeks and today, he and Xbox Chief Phil Spencer announced that one of the biggest games on the planet, Minecraft, will be available on the Rift when the goggles get here.
The creator of Oculus Rift and founder of a now-massive VR company is on track to top last year, though that might be difficult considering that in 2015 he appeared on the cover of both Forbes and Time Magazine.
He's a busy guy even without the launch of the Rift looming.
But while standing next to the demo booth for Minecraft in virtual reality, he found a few minutes to discuss the future of Rift, games he'd like to see in VR and the hurdles the headset has to overcome to reach its fullest potential.
Techradar (TR): We're mere weeks away from the Oculus Rift's launch. How are you feeling?
Palmer Luckey (PL): Really good. We're launching at the end of March. We launched Gear VR with Samsung on Black Friday a few months ago. So we've been really busy.
TR: What Rift features are you most excited about? Were any great features cut at the last minute?
PL: The whole process of designing a product is deciding what makes it in and what makes it out. Nothing has been cut, though. For something to be cut, it has to be in, and we've known what we were making for quite some time.
Palmer Luckey Interview
TR: Was there anything that you didn't have time to include that you would consider adding to the next Rift?
PL: There are a lot of things that sound really interesting and sound like good ideas that are not necessarily possible to implement with our technology.
TR: That's true. But you guys do have a lot of third-party support. What accessory or app are you most excited about from third-party developers?
PL: We're building a lot of first-party software and we have some second-party stuff that we're funding. There's also a lot of third-party developers working on stuff. I can't play favorites and pick any one application or one product.
TR: It's like picking a child, right? You have to love them all?
PL: Well ... you have to say that you love them all.
TR: Let's talk about the cost of virtual reality. Is the cost of the VR hardware prohibitive to people going out and buying a headset on impulse?
PL: It depends on what type of experience and device you're talking about. Like Gear VR is $99 on its own and it's being bundled for free for every person who buys a Samsung Galaxy S7. So that's on the low end, obviously, and that's very accessible.
On the higher end, the limiting factor isn't the cost of the headset, it's actually the cost of the PC. Like, if we had a really high-end Gear VR headset that only ran $200, you're still going to need a high-end GPU that only gamers really have today to use it.
So $200, $300, $600, there is obviously a difference there, but it's not going to greatly expand the market one way or another until the cost of the horsepower driving it comes down. That's really the biggest limiting factor.
Palmer Luckey Interview
TR: Is untethering Oculus from a PC in the cards?
PL: In the long-run, everything will be rendered on the headset. But it's all a matter of having enough power. It's a trade-off of weight, ergonomics, cost and power. All those things have to align in the right places. And right now, I don't think that they're in the place that they need to be to justify the cost of a wireless Rift.
TR: Would it be possible if there was a better way to optimize the software? If the processor didn't need to produce two images, do you think wireless would be possible?
PL: Unfortunately, it is fundamental to the technology. There are tricks you can do, but the only way to do it properly is to render two images, one for each eye. That's just the way we see the world and there's no real way to get around that.
TR: Let's talk about games. You've obviously a huge gamer. Is there any franchise you'd want to secure exclusively for Oculus?
PL: I'm torn because the games I'd want to see in VR, I really like that franchise obviously, but the fact of the matter is that not every game needs to be in VR. My favorite game of all-time is Chrono Trigger. I would love to see a VR version of that franchise. But at the same time, though, I can't really say that the gameplay would lend itself to VR. That's just not true. That is an IP that I'm a big fan of, but I think that the best VR games are the ones that are built from the ground up for virtual reality usually. Some types of games port over well into virtual reality. Some don't. A lot of my favorite games are not the type that would just port over into virtual reality.
Palmer Luckey Interview
TR: OK, but let's say for a second that I'm Game Freak and I come to you and say, "Listen, I've got an idea for one of the main series of Pokemon games in virtual reality. What do you think?"
PL: I can't say. Well, you're listening to us … nope, I'm not going to say anything.
TR: Can you talk a little bit about the future of Oculus? Will it follow in other hardware manufacturer's footsteps and release a new product every year?
PL: You're going to see a release schedule somewhere in between a mobile phone and a console. You're not going to see huge updates every year or multiple times per year, but I can't talk about it too much just yet.
TR: Just curious, what would an update look like? If you were thinking about the next product, what could you change?
PL: The obvious things are a higher resolution, better field of view, lighter weight, more comfortable, lower the cost … there's a lot of obvious wins to be had. But then of course there are other new features that I can't talk too much about.

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In Depth: Scott Kelly became a lab rat in space. Here's what we'll learn
In Depth: Scott Kelly became a lab rat in space. Here's what we'll learn

A year in space

Scott Kelly
At around 4:40pm ET today, American astronaut and devoted Instagrammer Scott Kelly will hop in a Soyuz capsule and, several hours later, plummet through Earth's atmosphere until he and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko land in the barrens of Kazakhstan.
It'll be their first time on Earth in 340 days. That's not the longest time anyone's ever spent in space, but it's a little less than double the time most astronauts spend on shifts to the International Space Station (ISS).
More to the point, both Kelly and Kornienko have traveled around 143,846,525 miles while hanging around in the ISS, which is decently close to the distance astronauts will end up traveling on a trip to Mars. With Kelly's return, earthbound scientists can start the long examination of how well he's held up, which will ultimately prove if we're truly, physically ready to go to the Red Planet.
Here's why Kelly's examiners will be so happy to see him on the ground.

What we can learn from Scott's identical twin

Scott and Mark Kelly
Not only is Scott Kelly a model astronaut, he's also blessed with his twin brother Mark Kelly, himself (incredibly enough) a retired astronaut. Mark, who's been on Earth this whole time, thus serves as a perfect control to gauge how space has affected Scott's body.
Both of the Kelly brothers have been taking blood, urine and fecal samples so researchers can discover any significant changes to Scott's blood cells, fluid distribution and immune system.
The comparison won't be perfect: after all, Mark hasn't spent all of his time eating astronaut food like Scott has. But considering the brothers essentially share the same DNA, the circumstances for accurate data are virtually miraculous.

The long-term effects of weightlessness

Long-Term Weightlessness spacewalk
Mark Kelly will be particularly useful for painting a more or less accurate picture of how weightlessness affects the body after so long.
Some of the dangers are fairly intuitive, such as the way Scott Kelly's muscles and bones are expected to have weakened significantly despite his daily exercise sessions on the station (which generally used bungee cords to mimic gravity).
Yet plenty of other side effects aren't immediately obvious. Kelly's vision, for example, has started to deteriorate a bit on account of the extra pressure inside his skull after prolonged time spent in microgravity (body fluid moves upward - facial puffiness is another side effect). The heart shrinks, too, as it no longer has to transport blood with the same force it has to on the ground.
Astronauts who've spent a long time in space also have a troubling tendency to develop kidney stones, and it's thought the reason stems from the fact that there's 10 to 20 times more carbon dioxide on the ISS than we normally find here on earth.

Can we walk on Mars right away?

Walk On Mars
Kelly will have little time to savor the sight of things like grass and wild animals when he gets off the craft tonight, as researchers will be closely watching how he handles himself in a field test and a functional task test.
Among other things, he'll be expected to try to walk in a straight line, heel-to-toe, and then try to complete some form of small obstacle course. In addition, he'll have to try to sit up from a lying position and stand still for three minutes.
These are easy feats for most of us here on the ground, and they'll also need to be easy for anyone who plans on leaving that first footprint on Mars soon after arriving.
All of the data gathered on Kelly and how he performs in these tests will be used to see whether so-called countermeasures - like in-flight exercises and special body-fluid suits - are effective or need to be updated in order to help humans better cope with the effects of space travel and can land on a planet with some degree of functionality intact. These countermeasures will be useful when we eventually send humans to Mars.

The effects of prolonged exposure to radiation

Here's one of the darker ones. There's nothing like an ozone layer up in space to deflect the brunt of the sun's radiation, and, indeed, you're bombarded with it every time you fly in a plane.
Kelly and Kornienko have been up where the sun's radiation pummels them (even inside the space station) every second of the day, to the point that NASA says one of us groundlings would have to fly from Los Angeles to New York 5,250 times to get the same amount of radiation exposure. That puts Kelly at high risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and immunity complications.
Yet even up there you'll find some scant protection from the Earth's own magnetic field. In the vast distances between Mars and Earth, though, there's practically nothing. But with Kelly's data from living through what basically amounts to the same time needed for a trip to Mars, researchers will have a much better starting point than they had previously.

The psychological toll of long-term space flight

Even though NASA is actively funding related research, we're still not anywhere near the point where we can put astronauts in suspended animation for long trips to places like Mars. That's still largely the domain of science fiction. This means the astronauts who go to Mars will have to put up with each other, and only with each other, during their long trip.
For 340 days now, Kelly and Kornienko have only seen one another and the other astronauts who come and go on the station. Kelly himself has held up well, saying in a recent CNN interview that he "could go for another 100 days or 100 years." But the comparative isolation has certainly affected him.
"The hardest part is being isolated from people on the ground who are important to you," he said.
But Kelly at least had the shuffle of ISS visitors and his daily Instagram interactions to keep him company, and he could always look out the window and see us living our lives below him. The astronauts who go to Mars won't have that luxury. They'll be stuck in a smaller craft alone for the better part of three years, with e-mail likely being their only communication with the blue marble. Will that break them?

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DJI Phantom 4 is the human-tracking, obstacle-avoiding drone you shouldn't fear...yet
DJI Phantom 4 is the human-tracking, obstacle-avoiding drone you shouldn't fear...yet
DJI has announced the Phantom 4 - the latest in its line of camera-mounted drones that will not only let you snag that difficult tracking shot, but do it without your help.
The Phantom 4 features subject tracking, which allows it to stay focused on a single target without additional steering, as well as the ability to autonomously avoid collisions.
In essence, the Phantom 4 is less a remote-controlled and more a self-piloting eye in the sky. It utilizes an array of GPS, sonar, and optical sensors to navigate its surroundings, allowing it to focus on the shot while also preventing a nasty run-in with the nearest wall.
In addition to self-adjustment and tracking, the Phantom 4 also features an upgraded camera that can shoot footage at 1080p and up to 120 fps on an eight-element lens.
The drone also sports a 28-minute sustained flight time, alongside a maximum control range of just over three miles, in case you ever need to outrun one of these bad boys in the eventual robot uprising - not that we're paranoid or anything.
YouTube :
Drone enthusiasts and budding cinematographers will have to save up a bit if they want to get their hands on the Phantom 4, as DJI announced that each camera drone will retail for $1,399, and estimated to ship sometime around March 15.
Consider that price an investment, should thee obstacle-avoidance feature of the Phantom 4 result in fewer crashes due to amateur piloting, and thus less money spent at DJI's costly repair service.

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Xbox One just expanded its backward compatible games list, party chat
Xbox One just expanded its backward compatible games list, party chat
The Xbox One update for March has arrived on time today, and that's good news for gamers because it includes new backward compatible games and pushes the limits of party chat.
This next iteration of Microsoft's monthly software updates is rolling out right now, but only to members of the company's Preview beta test program. Everyone else can expect to download it later this year when it's fully beta tested.
Microsoft's decision to include Xbox 360 digital games in the Xbox One storefront expands the platform's success with backwards compatibility.
In the last six months, it claims that more than 30 million hours have been played of backward compatible titles and it hopes by including them directly in the Xbox One store that number will grow.
Xbox One March Update

16-player party chat

The other major addition coming down the pipeline is expanded party chat that will soon allow for 16 players to jump into a party at once - a boon for the Rocket League, Halo 5: Guardians and Battlefield players who have needed to divide up into parties in bigger matches.
If you're enjoying the party so much and want to share it with the world, the latest update will also allow you to stream the game - along with the party's banter - to Twitch for the first time. Microsoft made it clear that it will notify all players in the chat that you are streaming before it makes you internet famous, and will given the option to participate.
Beyond the two major updates, you'll soon be able to select where audio comes from - whether game volume or party chat comes your TV speakers or your headset - and will be able to change long recorded gameplay clips are, with a new maximum of five minutes.

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Xbox One hardware upgrades are coming, Xbox chief teases
Xbox One hardware upgrades are coming, Xbox chief teases
Consoles have classically set a static point in the gaming world with non-upgradable hardware, but that might all change with the Xbox One.
Microsoft's Xbox chief Phil Spencer hinted at possible "hardware innovations" for its home gaming console. While on stage, Spencer envisioned a future where the Xbox One could see numerous upgrades, bucking the long history of users having to upgrade to a 'Next Box' every couple of years.
The head of Xbox also mentioned Microsoft's hope to combine its game development efforts for Windows 10 and Xbox One under one umbrella called the "Universal Windows Platform." The first of these efforts include a newly announced version of Forza 6 titled Apex, which will allow PC gamers to finally get behind of the wheel of the Xbox exclusive driving simulator for the first time later this spring – albeit with a stripped down free-to-play version.
However, in order to achieve visual parity between the two platforms, Spencer explained consoles could and should be upgradable to keep up with PC, which may lead to doing away with the generational shifts of consoles.
"Consoles lock the hardware and the software platforms together at the beginning of the generation," Spencer said. "Then you ride the generation out for seven or so years, while other ecosystems are getting better, faster, stronger. And then you wait for the next big step function."
Moving forward, the Xbox chief said he believes users will see more hardware innovation in the console space than ever before.
"You'll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation allowing the same games to run backward and forward compatible," he continued. "Because we have a Universal Windows Application running on top of the Universal Windows Platform that allows us to focus more and more on hardware innovation without invalidating the games that run on that platform."
If the future of Xbox turns out as Phil Spencer imagines, it will be an interesting and unprecedented move from Microsoft. Such a shift would effectively end the cycle of console launches in exchange for optional hardware upgrades.
But it raises questions of how Microsoft will implement such a disruptive system. Will the next Xbox be modular to support these upgrades? How will Microsoft manage delivering different experiences across different hardware specs? We'll have to wait and see.
Of course, one of the most immediate concerns for most users is whether the current Xbox One will support a modular, upgradable system.
Unfortunately, Phil Spencer wasn't prepared to go into detail, but we're hoping to hear more about this upgradable Xbox future at E3 2016.
  • Will Sony make the PS4 just as upgradable?

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In an emergency, humans are too trusting of robots
In an emergency, humans are too trusting of robots
Engineers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute have published results showing that people trust robots more than they should in emergency situations.
The goal was to originally find out if building occupants would trust the robot at all, but it turned out that the opposite was true. During a mock building fire, participants in an experiment followed instructions from an "Emergency Guide Robot", even after the bot had shown itself to be unreliable, and after some test subjects were told that the robot had broken down.
The experiment involved a group of 42 volunteers, most of them college students, being told to follow a brightly coloured bot. The bot lead the group to a conference room, where they were asked to complete a survey about robots and read a magazine article.
In some cases, the robot (which was remote controlled by researchers) would lead the volunteers to the wrong room or behave erratically. In a few cases it stopped entirely, and one of the researchers told the group it had broken down.

Flamebot 3000

Once in the room with the door closed, the hallway was filled with artificial smoke to set off a smoke alarm.
When the subjects opened the door, they saw the robot lit up with red LEDs and white "arms" that pointed the subjects to a door in the back of the building, rather than the doorway (marked with exit signs) that they had used to enter the building.
"We expected that if the robot had proven itself untrustworthy in guiding them to the conference room, that people wouldn't follow it during the simulated emergency," said Paul Robinette, a research engineer who conducted the study as part of his doctoral dissertation.
"Instead, all of the volunteers followed the robot's instructions, no matter how well it had performed previously. We absolutely didn't expect this."
YouTube :

'Authority figure'

The researchers theorised that the robot had established itself as an "authority figure" that the subjects were more likely to trust in the midst of an emergency. In previous research, done without a realistic emergency scenario, the subjects didn't trust a mistake-prone robot.
"These are just the type of human-robot experiments that we as roboticists should be investigating," said Ayanna Howard, a professor at the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
"We need to ensure that our robots, when placed in situations that evoke trust, are also designed to mitigate that trust when trust is detrimental to the human."

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Android advert does not confirm death of app drawer, says Google
Android advert does not confirm death of app drawer, says Google
The latest suggestion that Google will kill the Android app drawer is all a big misunderstanding. Although a piece of Android marketing has suggested it will be cut, Google has confirmed that it's not a certainty.
Google Maps released an advert of new software running on the Nexus 6P, and in the video the app drawer - something that has featured on Android since its inception - is missing on the phone.
Some people took that to be a confirmation that the Android N software update will lose the app drawer from Android.

Not just yet

Google since spoke to Droid-Life, which said Google confirmed the video is an inaccurate version of their UI "and that this is not a hint or preview of what's to come, as has been rumored over the previous couple of weeks."
Droid-Life doesn't provide the exact quote, but the way that is worded suggests that Google doesn't want to confirm the app drawer won't disappear. Maybe that means in the future it will - there have certainly been a lot of rumors.
Google doesn't usually comment on speculation either, so it's interesting that Google saw fit to at least calm the fire - but it hasn't put it out entirely.

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For the PC Players: PS4 Remote Play coming to Windows and Mac 'soon'
For the PC Players: PS4 Remote Play coming to Windows and Mac 'soon'
The PS4 is one step away from being able to stream games to Windows PCs or Macs remotely, a move set to bring Sony's popular console into line with the Xbox One.
Announcing the update on the PlayStation Blog, Sony held back from providing further information - only that you can "look forward to it soon". Sony announced that it was working on PC-to-PS4 streaming functionality back in November.
Technically the functionality already exists courtesy of a dubious third-party app called Remote Play PC that uses the PS4's built-in Remote Play software to trick PCs into thinking they're another Sony device, before accepting a stream from the nearby console.
Sony's decision to officially support streaming to the PS4 gives Mac users a reason to pick the console over the Xbox One, which lacks such compatibility.

Requested features

PS4 Remote Play for PC/Mac won't be included in the PS4's 3.50 system software update that's set to push onto consoles tomorrow (if you signed up to the closed beta, that is).
The new system software version adds a host of other features, including an option to be notified when friends sign into PSN, the long-awaited ability to appear offline, a new way place to manage storage in Playstation Plus, and the ability to create user-scheduled gaming events.
Additionally, Sony has partnered with French video website Dailymotion, which is bringing a live streaming service to the PS4 as part of the update.

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HTC One M10 name spotted on HTC's own website
HTC One M10 name spotted on HTC's own website
After a cheeky teaser last week, we now have more evidence that we'll see the HTC One M10 arrive in the coming months.
There's been much musing about the One M10 over whether HTC will stick with the codename regime it's employed publicly since the One M8. Internally it was used for the original HTC One (M7), but that phone came out without a M-related suffix, and there have been questions over whether the 'M10' would take a new naming direction.
The HTC One M10 name has now been spotted on HTC's website, in a drop down box for a customer services satisfaction survey.
The survey exists in two forms (here and here), and both end with a personal information box where it asks you to select the model of phone you have. It's within this drop down where the HTC One M10 name can be found.
HTC One M10
HTC One M10

Say cheese

HTC One M10 - LEAK
How long the One M10 name has been hiding in this list is unclear, but TechTastic goes on to reveal a photo of a keyboard which claims to have been taken with the M10 too.
It's hardly a scintillating shot, but the EXIF data suggests the aperture will get a bump from f/2.2 on the M9 to f/1.9 on the M10, allowing more light in to improve low light snaps.
That fits in with previous leaks, with various rumours pointing towards a 12MP snapper on the rear on the handset set to rival the iPhone 6S and Samsung Galaxy S7.
While HTC is yet to set a date for the One M10 launch, current rumours suggest it'll take place in London on April 11 - so fingers crossed there are only a few weeks to wait until we find out what it has in store for us.

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