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Netgear adds gigabit routers to its Orbi mesh

My favorite mesh gear, Netgear’s Orbi, has gotten a considerable speed update. The new router, called the RBK50, supports Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax technology which will send gigabit wireless speeds from router to router in your mesh.
WiFi 6 is still new to the industry and there isn’t much support outside of specific hardware like this.
Performance of the industry leading Orbi Mesh Wi-Fi Systems is improved by adding 1024 QAM with a 4×4 Wi-Fi 6 backhaul, increasing the speeds, coverage and capacity of this dedicated wireless link between the Orbi router and satellites.
With an advanced Wi-Fi 6 networking SoC from Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., Orbi with Wi-Fi 6 will support even higher performance simultaneous Wi-Fi streams, making it possible to deliver gigabit internet to far more devices and enable these gigabit internet homes to take advantage of new Wi-Fi 6 performance, which will be designed into the next generation of mobile and smart home devices.

The new routers will ship in Q3 2019 or later. No pricing is available yet.

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D-Link thinks 5G will cut your cords forever

Network gear maker D-Link just announced a 5G router that sends high-speed Wi-Fi through your house without cables. The router, called the DWR-2010, should allow users to get massive speeds over 5G networks without running cable. Don’t expect to pick this up at the local Best Buy, however, as the 5G router will probably ship from wireless service providers.
The DWR-2010 also offers customization options for service providers, making it suitable for deployment on a range of network configurations. The gateway features an embedded 5G NR (New Radio) NSA module and can operate on the sub-6 GHz or mmWave frequencies in 200 MHz (2 x 100 MHz) or 800 MHz (8 x 100 MHz) configurations. Complete with remote management (TR-069) and FOTA, the DWR-2010 provides hassle-free operation and a better customer experience.
D-Link also announced some new Exo mesh routers as well as a cute little mydlink devices including a smart switch and a weird little water sensor that will warn you when your water heater explodes. The Indoor Wi-Fi Smart Plug (DSP-W118) and Outdoor Wi-Fi Smart Plug (DSP-W320) will control your lights and appliances both indoors and out.
Expect these cool tools to hit stores in Q2 2019.

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AT&T is lying to customers with 5G marketing

After a recent update some AT&T phones now have a 5G E icon. This icon replaces the one indicated the phone is running on a 4G network. But here’s the thing: The phone is still on a 4G network. AT&T has played these games before, too.
This nonsense is a marketing ploy by AT&T. The so-called 5G E (5G Evolution) network is just a beefed-up 4G network and not true 5G, which is still far from being ready for general consumption. AT&T used the same deceptive tactics before launching its LTE network.
Right now only select phones in a few markets will see the change. The wireless carrier intends to roll out this madness to even more phones and even more markets throughout the year.
Disclosure: TechCrunch is a Verizon Media company.

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Court says Vizio’s secret smart TV tracking class-action settlement can move forward

A long-running class-action lawsuit filed after consumer electronics giant Vizio was caught spying on customer viewing habits can be settled, subject to a final approval, a court has ruled.
The group of Vizio customers alleged in its 2016-filed complaint that the company was covertly collecting viewing data from customers’ internet-connected smart TVs.
U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton said in a ruling on Friday that the settlement is preliminarily approved, subject to any final complaints or objections from Vizio. That will secure a settlement of $17 million for an estimated 16 million Vizio customers affected by the television tracking.
That should amount to a little over a dollar per affected customer, but will be drastically less after attorneys fees and expenses.
Vizio will also be compelled to make “certain business practice changes,” including displaying on-screen prompts and give the customer the ability to opt-out of data collection. Any historical viewing data collected to date must also be deleted, the proposed order says.
A spokesperson for Vizio did not immediately respond to a request for comment
The proposed settlement comes almost two years after the Federal Trade Commission took a shot at the company, fining the company a total of $2.2 million for its covert tracking.
According to the FTC, the company’s covert customer data collection was vast. Vizio collected a portion of the television display “on a second-by-second basis” to see if “matched to a database of TV, movie, and commercial content,” allowing the company to know exactly what consumers were watching at any given time.
Vizio captured “as many as 100 billion data points each day from millions of TVs,” according to the FTC’s initial complaint.
The company said that this was part of its “smart interactivity,” part of which was to suggest television and movie content based on what a customer has already watched.
But the FTC said that Vizio “turned that mountain of data into cash by selling consumers’ viewing histories to advertisers and others.” Not only that, this data was provided to data aggregators to build up profiles on unwitting consumers who were further targeted by trackers and advertisers.
And it did this without the user’s consent or knowledge. The FTC forced the company to stop tracking what its customers watch. Yet, as part of the FTC’s settlement, Vizio neither admitted nor denied the allegations.
A final decision on the class action suit will be held before the next hearing on May 31.

Cybersecurity 101: Five simple security guides for protecting your privacy

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Samsung is launching a bunch of new robots and a wearable exoskeleton

Okay, this is a fun surprise. In addition to all of the standard TV and appliance talk, Samsung used its CES press conference today to announce a number of different robots — an entirely new field for the consumer electronics company. The company offered a sneak preview of the Samsung Bot Care on stage at the event.
The rolling home robot is a health care assistant designed for elderly users and other people in need of home assistants. The robot can offer health briefings, give out medication and check a user’s vitals.

There’s also the Samsung Bot Air, which is an in-home air quality monitor and the Samsung Bot Retail, which brings that technology into a brick and mortar setting. In addition to all of these, we got the briefest sneak preview of Samsung Gems, a mobility assisting exoskeleton that appears to be targeted athletes.
Samsung really blew through all of that as a kind of “one more thing” at the end of an event in which it spent a majority talking about Bixby on washing machines and the like. Between that and the general lack of information around availability, I suspect we won’t be seeing any of these products in stores any time soon. Hardware is hard and robots are harder.

Still, a fun little glimpse at what might be around the corner from the company.

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UK police to get more powers to curb drone misuse after Gatwick fiasco

The UK government has announced new powers for police to tackle illegal use of drone technology, including powers to land, seize and search drones.
This follows the recent Gatwick drone fiasco when, just before Christmas, a spate of drone sightings near the airport caused a temporary shutdown of the runway, and disruptive misery for thousands of people at one of the busiest travel times of the year.
“The police will have the power to search premises and seize drones — including electronic data stored within the device — where a serious offence has been committed and a warrant is secured,” the government writes in a press release today, trailing its plans for a forthcoming drone bill.
Police powers to ground drones had already been announced as incoming in late 2017. But the Gatwick chaos and some trenchant criticism about government complacency about the risks posed by misuse of the technology appears to have concentrated ministerial minds on finding a few extra deterrents for police.
Such as the power to demand drone owners produce proper documentation for their craft, tied to an incoming national registration scheme which will apply to all drones weighing 250 grams or more.
“The vast majority of drone users fly safely and responsibly, and adhere to the rules and regulations that are in place. However, if a drone is used illegally we must ensure that the police have the powers to enforce the law, and that the most up to date technology is available to detect, track and potentially disrupt the drone,” the government writes today in its official response to a public consultation on drone safety regulation, adding that: “The recent disruption to Gatwick airport operations, affecting tens of thousands of passengers in the run up to Christmas, was a stark example of why continued action is required to make sure drones are used safely and securely in the UK.”
Under the new plan, police forces may in future only need “reasonable suspicion” that an offence has been committed to request evidence from drone owners.
The government is also planning to give police the ability to issue fixed penalty notices of up to £100 for minor drone offences.
It says the new powers will be set out in detail a (long delayed) draft drone bill now due this year — having failed to materialize last Spring, as originally promised.
“The new measures proposed in the consultation, such as giving the police the power to request evidence from drone users where there is reasonable suspicion of an offence being committed, were met with strong support from respondents,” the government also writes.
In another post-Gatwick development, it is planning to beef up stop-gap flight restriction rules by expanding the current 1km flight exclusion zone around airports to circa 5km.
The 1km zone had been widely criticized as inadequate.
(Screenshot, from: Taking Flight: The Future of Drones in the UK Government Response document)
All drone operators will be required to ask permission from an airport’s Air Traffic Control to fly within the larger exclusion zone, per the document.
The government says it does not believe the ~5km exclusion zone will prevent what it dubs a “deliberate incident” in itself. But suggests it will “help protect all arriving and departing aircraft using our aerodromes and avoid potential conflict with legitimate drone activity”.
Its response document also confirms the date for the previously announced drone registration scheme — saying this will come into force in November.
The government revealed the plan for a drone registration scheme in late 2017, when it said that owners of drones weighing more than 250 grams would in future be required to register their devices. But at the time of the Gatwick incident the scheme had not yet come into force.
Registration will apply from November 30, 2019, the government says now.
In a further announcement today, it say the Home Office will begin testing and assessing the “safe use” of a range of counter-drone technology in the UK.
“This crucial technology will detect drones from flying around sensitive sites, including airports and prisons, and develop a range of options to respond to drones, helping to prevent a repeat of incidents such as that recently experienced at Gatwick,” it writes.
Military grade counter-drone tech enabled Gatwick to reopen its runway despite continued drone sightings, according to the BBC, which reported last week that the airport had spent £5M to prevent future attacks (Gatwick did not disclose the exact system it had bought).
Commenting on the new policy measures, UK aviation minister, Liz Sugg, said in a statement: “Drones have the potential to bring significant benefits and opportunities, but with the speed of technological advancement comes risk, and safety and security must be our top priorities.
“That’s why we are giving the police powers to deal with those using drones irresponsibly. Along with additional safety measures these will help ensure the potential of this technology is harnessed in a responsible and safe way.”

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Samsung releases a Chromebook-like Windows 10 Home laptop

Samsung is announcing two new laptops at CES. The company is launching a pro-level laptop called the Notebook 9 Pro and a laptop for student called the Notebook Flash.
The Notebook Flash is an entry-level laptop with a textured design. It looks like fabric but it’s made out of plastic. The screen doesn’t look great to be honest — it has a narrow viewing angle.
And specs aren’t that great. 64GB of storage, 4GB of RAM and entry-level Intel CPUs. The good news is that it has a bunch of ports — two USB-C ports, two big USB ports, an HDMI port, etc.
But it’s a laptop for schools and students who just want something basic. The Intel Celeron N4000 version is going to ship for $350 on January 15.
It’s slightly more expensive than Windows 10 S laptops, but you get a full version of Windows for that price.

The 13-inch Notebook 9 Pro features a slimmer bezel and an updated backlit keyboard. There’s a fingerprint reader on the side of the device. You can convert it into a tablet by pushing the screen all the way. And the laptop comes with an Active Pen.
The default configuration comes with 256GB of flash storage, an integrated Intel GPU and 8GB of RAM. There are two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one USB-C port and a microSD slot.
Samsung is swapping the rounded edges for a sharper metal design. It looks more like a MacBook Pro now, but with a touch screen. Pricing hasn’t been disclosed yet.

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Move over Microsoft, Amazon is the most valuable public company in the US

Last year, Amazon joined the exclusive $1 trillion club. This year, it’s continuing to exude its stock market dominance.
Jeff Bezos’ e-commerce giant accumulated $797 billion in market value on Monday, ending the day trading up 3.4 percent at $1,629.51 per share and overtaking Microsoft to become the most valuable publicly-traded company in the U.S.
Microsoft, which shot past Apple to nab the title on Nov. 28, closed up .1 percent at $102.06 per share Monday with a market capitalization of $783 billion. According to Fortune, November was the first time in eight years that Microsoft successfully outpaced Apple in the stock market, following concerns surrounding Apple’s growth.
Apple, for its part, may not see itself at the top of this particular list again any time soon. The company’s chief executive officer Tim Cook issued a letter last week revising guidance for the company’s first quarter fiscal results. Revenue estimates fell from an initial projection of between $89 billion and $93 billion to $84 billion, sending the company’s stock spiraling downward. Today, Apple failed to crack the top three most valuable companies, with Google parent company, Alphabet, grabbing the third spot instead. Alphabet had a roughly $756 billion market cap Monday afternoon, while Apple’s hovered around $700 billion.
“While we anticipated some challenges in key emerging markets, we did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China,” Cook wrote in the letter. “In fact, most of our revenue shortfall to our guidance, and over 100 percent of our year-over-year worldwide revenue decline, occurred in Greater China across iPhone, Mac and iPad.”
As the largest U.S. stocks duke it out for the top spot, we can expect to see Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and Alphabet continue to trade places in 2019.

Apple’s trillion dollar market cap was always a false idol

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Samsung just announced a 98-inch 8K TV because why not

TV makers love to use CES as a launch pad for TVs that they don’t actually expect a ton of people to buy. This year’s “eh, why not?” swing from Samsung: a 98-inch 8K QLED TV.
“Wait, is there even anything to watch in 8K yet?”
Nope, not really. Hell, even content natively shot in 4K still isn’t as common as anyone would like. There’s always upscaling (Samsung says they’ve built some pretty fancy, machine learning-based upscaling here), but if nearly everything you’re watching is upscaled anyway, you probably would have been better off waiting a few years and saving a small mountain of money. I’m all for being an early adopter, but maybe wait until there’s something to adopt.
Like the rest of Samsung’s 2019 lineup, this model should support Bixby (Samsung’s voice assistant) and will be controllable via both Alexa and Google Assistant.
Samsung has yet to disclose a price (we’ll update this post if they drop it somewhere), but their previously announced 85-inch 8K tv costs $15,000 so expect the price on this one to come in somewhere between “lots of money” and “all of the money.”

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Google apps are coming to Bixby

Bixby took centerstage at today’s big Samsung CES presser. The company has been pushing to make its smart assistant a kind of connective tissue across devices, and the the fruits of that labor may finally be taking shape this year.
Third-party partners have been a long promised addition, and the company just announced a pretty big one. Sure Google’s pushing its own assistant, but the company will also be bringing some of its top apps to Bixby. The list includes Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps and Google Play.
The news follows today’s earlier announcement that Samsung TVs will be compatible with Google Assistant by way of Google Home and other other smart speakers/screens. This move, meanwhile, should offer a bit more legitimacy to a smart assistant that stumbled out of the gate and ultimately had some trouble picking up speed.
Details about the timing and other implementation have yet to be announced.

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Apple’s trillion dollar market cap was always a false idol

Let’s face it, we love large numbers. We are obsessed with them, whether it’s Forbes list of wealthiest individuals or tech unicorns, if it’s a big number we can’t get enough. Such is the case with the somehow magical trillion dollar mark that Apple briefly reached last summer. We splashed the headlines and glorified it as though it mattered…but it didn’t.
It was just a number.
Sure it showed the tremendous value of the Apple stock, but it was a moment in time fueled by an overheated stock market, full of sound and fury, but in the end adding up to nothing. Fast forward 4 months and the company has lost more than a third of its stock value. Last week, it lost $75 billion with a B in market cap in a single day. We got a hard lesson in stock market physics — what goes up eventually must come down.
Hard lessons
In that light, the trillion dollar mark was fun, but it didn’t mean much in the end. Ultimately, Apple stock still has value. It may be make a few less billion next quarter than it predicted, but it’s still got plenty of cash on the books, and chances are it will be just fine in the end.

Apple lowers guidance on Q1 results, cites China trade tensions

As long as the US-China trade war rages on and the US economy continues to cool, it’s probably not going to approach that trillion threshold again any time soon. Investor enthusiasm for tech stocks in general has waned considerably since those heady dog days of August.
Just as Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or Jeff Bezos may have a few billion more or less on the books on any given day, it just doesn’t matter all that much. It’s not as though they’re going broke. Just as Apple isn’t going to shut down because it might have a bad (less good) quarter than it was projected to have.
Nobody grows forever, not even Apple. It had to cool off at some point, and if this is cooling off, 87 billion instead of 91 billion, it’s a drop-off that investors should be able to understand and live with. If it became a troubling pattern and an ice age set in, that would be another matter, but Apple is still selling product hand over fist, tens of millions of iPhones is still a lot of iPhones. Wall Street should probably take a chill pill.
Tech stock doldrums
It’s worth noting that Apple has hardly been in alone taking a huge hit on its stock price, especially tech stocks, which have been taking a beating since November on Wall Street. Want to talk a trillion dollars, how about the biggest names in tech losing a trillion (that’s with a T, folks) in value in one stretch in November. When Apple halted trading last week to announce lower than expected revenue, the stock dove even further, as it confirmed the worst fears of investors.
Worse, Chinese consumers have driven iPhone sales just as the Chinese economy has hit a massive speed bump this year. In June, Reuters reported shockingly weak growth. In November, Bloomberg reported that the Chinese economy was slowing down long before the president started a trade war. .
Apple also appears to be having more trouble selling the XR worldwide than it had projected, and fluctuating currency rates are also wreaking havoc — not to mention the trade war — but analyst Horace Dediu from Asymco sees Apple generating strong revenue from non-iPhone hardware, as the chart he shared on Twitter recently shows:

How does Apple’s business look if you exclude the iPhone?

— Horace Dediu (@asymco) January 6, 2019
Whatever the future holds for Apple and other tech stocks, we clearly like to throw around large numbers. Yet companies don’t tend to live and die by their market cap. It’s not a metric that matters all that much to anyone, except those of us who like to marvel at the size of the biggest numbers, and then click our tongues when they inevitably fall to earth.

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Kohler put Alexa in a toilet so Happy New Year

Kohler, the company established in 1873 and best known for its plumbing products, has shown little restraint in the connected home era. The company debuted a connected appliance platform called Kohler Konnect at CES 2018, and the push continues this year.
Feast your eyes on the Kohler Numi 2.0.

This is an intelligent toilet that uses surround sound speakers and dynamic ambient lighting systems to hopefully immerse you in an environment so tranquil, so idyllic, that you actually forget you’re sitting on a toilet. The Numi 2.0 also comes with personalized cleansing and dryer functions as well as a heated seat. Plus, the Numi 2.0 also provides a little company in the form of Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. (If Instagram isn’t enough.)
This is also the first year that Kohler is releasing an entire collection of products that work together on the Konnect platform. The Veil Lighted bathroom collection includes a freestanding bath, lighted mirror, and lighted three-piece vanity alongside the Numi toilet and an integrated lighting system, all powered by voice.
With the complete collection, users can create various ‘moods’ within the app, which will then be automatically conveyed via audio and lighting within the bathrooms based on the users’ own parameters. The Veil Lighted bathroom collection also comes with support for both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Kohler is also pledging to actually release a few of the items it hyped at CES 2018, including SmartFill technology on some of its bathtubs, and a voice-powered shower interface that allows customizable presets around sound, light, water and steam.
Still no word around pricing for these new smart bathroom products, but interested humans can check out the Kohler website. (Be forewarned: the website autoplays rather dramatic music.)

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