The Hobbit cast says goodbye in exclusive featurette for The Battle of the Five Armies

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Bilbo Baggins and crew have gone on quite the journey through Middle-earth over these past few years, and the actors behind that journey appear to feel a little disappointed about finally leaving it all behind. In a new IMAX featurette that’s premiering exclusively on The Verge, Peter Jackson, Lee Pace, Evangeline Lilly, and Luke Evans look back at their time on set. “It actually felt like we were there,” Pace says. “It felt like we were in this extraordinary, mythic place.” The final Hobbit installment comes out this Wednesday.

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Bose might be building its own streaming music service

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Bose is a well-known player in music hardware — but just as Beats did, it looks like the company is trying to get into the content business, as well. As noticed by Hypebot, Bose currently has a job opening for a senior user experience designer, working under its “cloud music services” group. Rather than working to integrate Bose technology with existing services, the job listing says this candidate will “lead design and prototyping of our next generation streaming music platform and ecosystem of products.” Ideally, Bose’s ideal candidate will have previously worked for one of the leaders in online music such as Pandora, Spotify, Apple, Rdio, Google Play, or Beats, among others.

The posting also makes it sound like Bose’s product is in…

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You can now control your Nest thermostat with your voice

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Nest thermostat owners with Android smartphones are getting a treat today: Google has enabled Nest thermostat control within Google Now, letting you change the temperature with just your voice. Android Police reports that standard commands such as “OK Google, change temperature to”, “set Nest to”, “turn the thermostat to”, and others followed by a numerical degree will adjust the system. Presumably, voice commands through an Android Wear smartwatch will also let you change the temperature in your home. Android Police also says that Google Now will display cards when the system adjusts itself automatically. Droid-Life first reported that this functionality was close to launch late last week.

Owners of Nest systems will have to opt-in to…

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T-Mobile’s ‘Uncarrier 8.0’ event is happening tomorrow

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T-Mobile will try to force change upon the mobile world for the eighth time during Uncarrier 8.0 tomorrow morning at 7:30AM PT / 10:30AM ET. CEO John Legere will be back on stage for the latest edition of the quarterly event where Legere curses about the state of the wireless industry and how T-Mobile will be the company to fix it all. This time T-Mobile will stream the event live on Yahoo News, with Yahoo’s David Pogue moderating the discussion.

T-Mobile hasn’t hinted as to what may be announced during the event, but did note that it would be one of its “biggest and boldest moves yet.” Previous Uncarrier events have brought about the end of two-year contracts, unlimited data use for select music streaming apps, and free international…

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Indiegogo now lets you start free fundraising campaigns to help others

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Fundraising has become an increasingly common way to use crowdfunding sites, and today Indiegogo is making a big play to become the go-to site for running one. It’s launching a new section called Indiegogo Life, which allows fundraising campaigns meant to help yourself or others to be run for free, with fees only removed for credit-card processing. That’s a big advantage over other sites, which typically take a small percentage off of all funds received regardless of the campaign type. Indiegogo says that it can afford to operate this area of the site for free because of the success of its traditional crowdfunding section.

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Bitcoin was the worst investment of 2014, but that’s a good thing for Bitcoin

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One year ago this month I wrote a piece saying bitcoin was too cheap for its own good. The point of that piece was that Bitcoin was suffering from massive swings in price, a volatility driven by speculators trying to get rich investing in Bitcoin, and bad press that would cause the price to plummet. In the year that followed Bitcoin has seen some big swings in price, but the general trend has been down from its highs of last winter. As Matt Phillips points at over at Quartz, viewed against other investments, bitcoin has been the “worst” performer of 2014, declining a whopping 52 percent against the US dollar.

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Foursquare arrives on iPad with an emphasis on exploring

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Seven months after re-launching itself as an app for exploring neighborhoods, Foursquare is now available for iPad. The big-screen version of Foursquare is built to help you find bars, restaurants, and other points of interest nearby, and presents them in a photo-heavy, magazine-like layout. A carousel at the top of the app highlights recommendations for places both near and far, and you can tap a button to get travel ideas from cities around the world. The main feed showcases places that are popular this week, and you can filter them to find good places for breakfast, coffee, drinks, and other categories.

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This is how Jaguar Land Rover wants to eliminate blind spots

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It may be a while before self-driving cars fill the roads, but that doesn’t mean that smart technology can’t make roads safer now. Consider Jaguar Land Rover, which just announced an update to its previous augmented reality efforts with the new “360 Virtual Urban Windscreen” research project. The project takes the main idea from Land Rover’s original “Transparent Bonnet” concept — which uses cameras mounted on the grille to capture and relay video to a heads-up display in the windscreen, essentially making the car’s hood appear semi-transparent to the driver — and expands it to the blind spot-causing pillars between car windows.

Transparent pillars and “ghost cars” could make safer drivers

Each pillar — the two that surround the front…

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Uber briefly enabled surge pricing in Sydney during hostage situation

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Uber briefly raised fares in Sydney to at least four times their normal rate as people in the city’s Central Business District attempted to leave during the nearby hostage situation. Mashable reports that the minimum price for an Uber ride was raised to $100 at one point, after the service’s “surge pricing” was activated in response to the high demand. Uber automatically activates surge pricing as demand rises, thus offering rides to those truly willing to pay for them and encouraging more drivers to get on the roads to pick people up. But the practice has frequently irritated consumers, particularly when it’s been activated amid crises like this one.

Following Mashable‘s publication of the surge pricing rates, Uber dramatically…

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Uber’s bumpy road to world domination

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Uber is good at two things: running a taxi service and getting on regulators’ nerves. The car service’s entire history has been a series of back and forth battles between it and the cities that it’s trying to operate in, with Uber frequently ignoring regulations when launching in a new location. For the most part, that strategy has been successful. Major cities have reworked their taxi laws to account for Uber, as well as other services like it. But for every success, Uber seems to run into a new hurdle in another city or with another type of service. This StoryStream follows our coverage of Uber’s ongoing legal struggles.

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Watch this mashup for the ages: The Hobbit gets an Office job

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Two of England’s most critically acclaimed cultural exports — J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Ricky Gervais’ The Office — have been spliced into one by the Saturday Night Live crew in one of the best SNL parodies in recent memory. The connecting sinew between the two is actor Martin Freeman, who first rose to prominence playing the role of the self-deprecating Tim Canterbury in the original UK series of The Office, before going on to star as Dr. Watson opposite Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock and as the young(ish) Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s cinematic retelling of The Hobbit.

The SNL skit tells the anticlimactic tale of what happens to Bilbo after his dragon-fighting adventure is over, with general manager Gandalf making…

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Apple’s new holiday ad is another heartwarmer

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Apple’s been no stranger to iconic commercials over the years, and its newest holiday ad looks to follow in those footsteps. This year’s 90-second spot, titled “The Song,” features a girl using various Apple products to transform a vinyl recording of her grandmother’s voice with music of her own, creating a decades-spanning collaborative gift. It’s not meant to sell a specific product so much as it’s meant to tug at the proverbial heartstrings just as those last-minute holiday purchases are being made.

The ad is sure to bring up memories of last year’s popular (and Creative Arts Emmy-winning) holiday commercial, which followed a seemingly phone-obsessed boy throughout his family’s Christmas celebration only to reveal that he was making…

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France bans UberPop after taxis go on strike

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The French government today announced that Uber’s low-cost service, UberPop, will be banned throughout the country as of New Years Day, marking the latest in a series of regulatory setbacks for the company. France’s interior ministry announced the ban Monday, as three taxi unions blocked major highways around Paris in protest against Uber and the “unfair competition” it poses. On Friday, a French court ruled that UberPop could continue to operate within Paris — a decision that sparked today’s taxi strike — but the government today said the service will be banned nationwide in accordance with new regulations that go into effect next year.

At issue is the fact that UberPop drivers are not required to hold professional licenses or…

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Your wearable camera wobble is as unique as a fingerprint

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First person video appears to be a perfect way to broadcast footage without revealing an individual’s identity. It’s intimate but anonymous: hiding the filmmaker’s face and body while showing the world through their eyes. But now, as GoPros, Google Glass, and police body cameras make this sort of footage more common, Professor Shmuel Peleg and Yedid Hoshen of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have created a method of identifying first-person filmmakers solely from the wobble of their cameras.

“The idea of distinguishing one person from another comes from analyzing the person’s gait,” explains Professor Peleg in an interview with The Verge. “Everyone has a different body build, height, muscles, and skeleton, and so the body moves…

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There are just five northern white rhinos left in the world

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A northern white rhinoceros has died at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, leaving just five of the animals in the world. The 44-year-old male rhino, named Angalifu, apparently died of old age Sunday, the Associated Press reports. Conservationists at the park had hoped that Angalifu would mate with a female northern white rhino named Nola, but their attempts proved unsuccessful.

“Angalifu’s death is a tremendous loss to all of us,” Randy Rieches, the safari park curator, said in a statement. “Not only because he was well beloved here at the park but also because his death brings this wonderful species one step closer to extinction.”

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This spectacular home is at peace with the California desert

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The Desert House is simply a stunning example of architecture as art. Located in picturesque Joshua Tree — right in Southern California’s High Desert — the home is at a comfortable equilibrium with its barren desert environment. The structure is dominated by soaring concrete ribs, but the overall effect is similar to the Native American adobe pueblos that were once scattered across the American southwest. The concrete is understated, despite its impressive form, making it a perfect match for…

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Uber has an army of at least 161 lobbyists and they’re crushing regulators

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Just four years after launching in San Francisco, Uber has propagated across the world and could be worth as much as $40 billion. Part of that success — and what Uber makes headlines for — comes from its ruthless playbook to frustrate the competition and to invade any market it wants, even if it’s facing a government-protected taxi monopoly. Less glamorous but no less important: Uber appears to be completely dominating local politicians who get in its way.

A report from The Washington Post sheds some light on the scope of Uber’s political advocacy wing. According to the Post , local lobbying registration records indicate the company hired private lobbyists in at least 50 US cities and states and has hired at least 161 people to lobby…

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Samuel L. Jackson calls on Ice Bucket Challenge celebrities to sing against ‘racist police’

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On the day when thousands of Americans took to the streets to protest police brutality, Hollywood actor Samuel L. Jackson urged his fellow celebrities to contribute their voices to the popular movement. Calling out all he high-profile figures who poured buckets of ice over their heads for the Ice Bucket Challenge, Jackson sings:

“I can hear my neighbor crying ‘I can’t breathe,’ now I’m in the struggle and I can’t leave, calling out the violence of the racist police. We ain’t gonna stop till people are free.”

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Leaked Windows 10 build reveals new Xbox app and Cortana integration

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Microsoft is currently readying an updated preview of Windows 10 to focus on the consumer features of the upcoming operating system. While the company plans to detail those improvements at a January press event, a consumer build (9901) has leaked out onto the web today to provide an early look at the various changes Microsoft is making.

The biggest new feature since the recent technical preview is the addition of Cortana. A video demonstration leaked earlier this month, but the build itself shows how Cortana sits at the top of the search interface for Windows 10, responding to text and voice commands. It’s all very similar to the Windows Phone version, as you’d expect, with access to the notebook, reminders, and interests. It’s not…

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Father and son must face the unknown in this sci-fi short film

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More often than not, our minds unconsciously see an enemy in the face of the unknown. That’s precisely the case in The Landing, a finely-shot Australian short film that explores the bond between a father and his son after a UFO crash-lands on their midwestern farm in 1960. What’s inside the UFO is a surprise, but both father and son imbue the mysterious black sphere with meaning that says far more about themselves as human beings than the entity inside the craft.

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