Google brings play and pause buttons back to the Home Mini

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Google is bringing play and pause buttons back to the Home Mini today, after initially removing them due to an issue that could cause the device to constantly record users.

Instead of tapping the top of the Home Mini to start and stop playback as had been originally planned, owners will now be able to long press the volume buttons on either side of the device to control whatever’s playing. That extends to music, news, alarms, phone calls, and so on. If it’s playing, you’ll be able to press and hold to stop it — which can be a lot more convenient than using your voice if you’re already right beside the device.

The update will roll out to Home Mini units that are enrolled in Google’s software p…

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The first trailer for Robert Rodriguez’s Alita: Battle Angel falls squarely into the uncanny valley

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For more than a decade, James Cameron was working on an adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s manga Battle Angel Alita, before handing off directing duties to Spy Kids / Machete / Sin City director Robert Rodriguez. That project is finally moving forward: Alita: Battle Angel is scheduled to hit theaters next year, and today, 20th Century Fox released an initial trailer, in which its main character falls squarely into the uncanny valley.

The story is set in the 26th century, and is about a female cyborg, Alita (played by Maze Runner: The Death Cure’s Rosa Salazar), who is rescued from a trash heap and repaired by Dr. Dyson Ido (Inglourious Basterds / Downsizing star Christoph Waltz). She discovers that her adopted father moonlights as a bounty…

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Pikachu absolutely eviscerates Mimikyu in freestyle rap battle

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The world’s first pokémon rap battle was gifted unto us today in a promo video for the new Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon. While it’s difficult to parse exactly what devastating burns are being exchanged, because they’re rapping in Japanese / pokémon language, it’s clear that MC Mimikyu suffered a humiliating loss against crowd-favorite MC Pikachu. It’s another trauma to add to Mimikyu’s tragic backstory of dressing up as Pikachu, because it, too, wants to be a beloved icon.

The video features the original Pikachu voice actress Ikue ?tani, with Mimikyu voiced by actual Japanese rapper Dotama, accompanied with beats by DJ LIBRO.

Pokémon Japan was kind enough to transcribe the rap battle in full under the video, and it’s mostly this:

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Seven things HQ Trivia should fix while it’s still hot

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HQ Trivia, the fast-growing game show app built by two of the co-founders of Vine, has built an audience of hundreds of thousands of people for each of its two daily shows. Its daily cash giveaways, in which winners split cash prizes of up to $8,500, have attracted a loyal following and turned at least one of its hosts, “Quiz Daddy” Scott Rogowsky, into a minor celebrity.

But each day when the push notification announcing a new show arrives, I find myself wishing the game were a bit further along in its evolution. For a few weeks, HQ’s shambolic DIY vibe was part of its charm. But the more I play, the more I wish it would grew up. I know its founders, do, too; we tweeted back and forth about one particular issue last night. But in an…

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Google Home job listing is another hint at touchscreen device

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Google is rumored to be developing a touchscreen device that would join the company’s Home lineup of consumer products. A recent job posting for a “touch sensor hardware engineer” spotted by Variety confirms that the company is looking to add multi-touch products to its repertoire. “In this role, you’ll work on the next generation of Google Hardware to enable the best multi-touch user experience,” the listing says.

That can be read as an obvious sign that multi-touch products — like Google’s spin on the Echo Show — are in the pipeline. Seems reasonable. Multi-touch gestures could also find their way to speakers like the next revision of the Home and Home Max.

But keep in mind that Google had to address a humiliating hardware defect with…

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The backpack of the future has magnetic straps to catch your AirPods

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Backpacks are great at carrying stuff around, but even the nicest bags are still just canvas and leather sacks that we wear on our backs.

But there’s no product that crowdfunding won’t try to make “smart,” which brings us to Visvo. It’s a new company that’s looking to get funding on Kickstarter for a line of smart backpacks, and it has some interesting ideas of what a technology-focused bag should look like.

For example, there’s the usual integrated USB battery pack, which lets you recharge your gear on the go, but it also powers both external lights for biking, internal LEDs for lighting up the inside of the bag, and even an optional GPS tracker in case your bag gets stolen. One of the models even includes a wireless Qi…

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VR pioneer Jaron Lanier on dystopia, empathy, and the future of the internet

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Jaron Lanier is one of virtual reality’s most recognizable figures. He’s credited with popularizing the term itself, and he co-founded VPL, a short-lived but groundbreaking company that built some of the first commercial VR headsets. Since then, Lanier has been better known for his writing on digital ownership and internet ecosystems, with the books You Are Not A Gadget and Who Owns the Future? But his most recent work revisits the world of ‘80s and ‘90s VR, as well as the rest of Lanier’s life — including his early years on the Texas-Mexico border, his childhood living in a self-designed geodesic dome, and the tumultuous process of founding VPL.

Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality debuted last month,…

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Bungie responds to Destiny 2 backlash by handing out overpowered, game-breaking gun

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The Destiny 2 community has been up in arms this week, even more so than usual, over the release of the new expansion, Curse of Osiris, and longstanding complaints with the way developer Bungie has handled its online-only shooter. The developer has a long list of changes it’s making, many coming next week in a post-update patch. But the community, which gathers mostly on the Destiny subreddit, isn’t having any of it. They feel that the game is irredeemably inferior, and many have expressed how fed up they are with the state of the series.

Bungie’s response: let’s sell Prometheus Lens. The gun, a laser beam-like solar-powered trace rifle, shipped apparently with a game-breaking bug that makes it the most powerful weapon in the game by a…

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Amazon Echo expands to 28 more countries

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The Amazon Echo is coming to 28 more countries and so is Amazon’s music streaming service, the company announced today. The service is called Amazon Music Unlimited, and it offers a little over 40 million songs and thousands of playlists and stations.

The countries that the service and Amazon Echo are now coming to include Belgium, Bulgaria, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, and more.

Commands like “Alexa, play music” work on voice assistant-enabled devices, and Alexa can generate personalized stations built with data from machine learning. The service plays on the Amazon Music app on iOS, Android, desktop, and Fire TV.

Amazon Music Unlimited has three…

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One Video: Motorsport by Migos, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B

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Every week, a slew of new music videos hits the web. Watching them at your desk is not time theft because you deserve it; think of it as a nice reward for surviving another work week. But what if you don’t have time to watch every video — maybe you have a deadline, a hungry pet, or other grown-up concerns. In consideration of your schedule, Lizzie and Kaitlyn bring you a series called One Video. Each week we’ll tell you “one video” you need to watch, why, and for how long.

This week’s video: “Motorsport” by Migos, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B

Kaitlyn: Congratulations to everyone on all the money they made this week! If you made some, that is — I don’t want to assume. But I know for a fact that Migos, Nicki Minaj, and Cardi B made a whole bunch,…

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Ron Swanson tells Ajit Pai he has no honor for killing net neutrality

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Even FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s heroes can’t stand him.

Ron Swanson, the ornery small-government hero of Parks and Recreation, despises public officials who abuse their power. So when Pai showed off his signed “Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness” to Vice News, Swanson put him on notice.

Here’s what Nick Offerman, the man who played Swanson’s iconic role, had to say:

Pai plans to kill net neutrality next Thursday. Too bad he’s not making friends.

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Inside Elsagate, the conspiracy-fueled war on creepy YouTube kids videos

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In June, a moderator from a little known subreddit who goes by TheLocalGamer decided to sound the alarm on something strange he was seeing across YouTube. The title of the post was simple: “I think it’s time more people knew about Elsagate

“Elsagate is a conspiracy in the works, being hosted on YouTube,” TheLocalGamer wrote. At the time, r/ElsaGate had just a handful of subscribers and even fewer true believers. But TheLocalGamer proceeded to lay out the problem, hiding in plain sight on some of YouTube’s most popular children’s channels: creators were drawing children in with familiar characters — most notably Elsa from Frozen, but also Spider-Man and the Joker — then arranging them in bizarre situations involving cheating spouses or…

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Go behind the scenes on Game of Thrones in this featurette from the season 7 box set

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Winter has come, both in the sense that it’s December, and in the sense that Game of Thrones has wrapped for 2017, and we’re all doomed to share a two-year slog through the Game Of Thrones-less wilderness before the final season comes around. Not much to do now except look for other fantasy epics to fill the gap, talk over the past season, and revisit it on video, free of the frantic rush to be the first to comment on every plot development online. The seventh-season Blu-ray and DVD sets of the series arrive on December 12th, which will make that last part easier. And as a bonus, they’ll come with the usual round of cast commentaries, an animated history of Westeros, and some behind-the-scenes featurettes. Here’s a short exclusive…

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Vergecast: ARM-powered PCs, Amazon vs. Google, and CryptoKitties

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This week, Dieter Bohn runs the show with Paul Miller and Natt Garun, and it’s been a wild week of news. Amazon and Google are basically feuding right now: Google is pulling YouTube from the FireTV so the podcast trio ponders what this frightening predicament means for the streaming and the open web. Also, Microsoft launched some ARM-powered Windows 10 PCs, so you bet these tech luminaries are going to talk about it.

There’s lots more in between that, like Paul’s weekly segment (say it with me) “Color me surprised,” so listen to it all and you’ll get it all.

05:00 – Microsoft launches ARM-powered Windows 10 PCs with ‘all-day’ battery life

17:44 – Qualcomm announces the Snapdragon 845 processor

22:40 – How Messenger Kids takes more…

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Should you blow into your video game cartridges?

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Blowing into cartridges. The practice has basically been around as long as video games have existed — almost like a magic formula. Cartridge isn’t working? Blow into it, and it’ll work again. But does it actually help?

Looking around on the internet, it’s pretty clear the answer here is “no,” as this MentalFloss article goes through. Nintendo even starting printing increasingly specific advice on the backs of its cartridges. On the SNES, it said to only use a proper cleaning kit. On the N64, it stated outright on each game: “DO NOT BLOW ON THE EDGE CONNECTOR.”

To get to the bottom of why this is a bad idea, I called up Christopher Grant, the editor-in-chief of Polygon and an expert in retro gaming…

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EA’s Battlefront II changes highlight the disconnect between gameplay and progress

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This week, EA rolled out the first of what the company promises will be larger and more drastic changes to the in-game economy of Star Wars Battlefront II. It’s a game that has been plagued by fan outrage over loot boxes and progression systems since just before launch. When details about how microtransactions would work in Battlefront II emerged, it led to a series of late-minute changes that culminated in EA temporarily removing microtransactions entirely from the game the night before it hit stores.

I’ve been playing a fair amount of Battlefront II both before and after this week’s update. And while the increases in credits and crafting parts are certainly…

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What’s the most environmentally friendly Christmas tree you can get?

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For the first time in my life, on the day after Thanksgiving, I went to a tree farm in Waterford, Pennsylvania. As I walked through rows and rows of Fraser firs, looking for the perfect seven-foot-tall Christmas tree for my boyfriend’s family, I couldn’t help but feel pangs of guilt. I love nature, and I feel bad about cutting down an eight-year-old tree just to use it as a decoration for a few weeks.

My family, like most Italians I know, always used a fake tree for Christmas; the same 11-foot plastic fir has decorated our living room since I was a kid. At first, I thought that was better for the environment, since it didn’t kill a tree yearly for decor. But my European sense of superiority took a hit as I did a little bit of research.

R…

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This 13.3 inch e-reader costs $800 but doubles as a monitor

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If you like your e-readers huge with a touchscreen and the ability to draw with a stylus, the new Onyx Boox Max 2 Professional is something designed for you. The device features a big 13.3-inch e-ink display (with a 2200 x 1650 resolution and 16-level greyscale) and Wacom digitizer that allows you to sketch or make notes on your documents. There’s also an HDMI connection so you can use the device as a secondary monitor.

The company claims the dual mode function (acting as both a reader and a monitor) is a world first. Other specs include a built-in mic and headphone jack, a 1.6 GHz quad-core processor of unknown origin, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Under the hood you’ll find Android 6.0 and it’s compatible with…

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Take a moment to admire this origami Ethernet jack

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Just look at that would you. Take a moment to admire the mechanical overkill of the pull-out Ethernet jack on this “new” Fujitsu laptop. It doesn’t matter which Fujitsu laptop because the computer’s not important, and Fujitsu has been doing this for years. What matters is that we pay our final respects to this marvel of excessive engineering before it disappears completely under a tsunami of Wi-Fis, or, you know, breaks.

Steve Paine

Pull out Ethernet jack on the Fujitsu Lifebook U904 from 2013.

The Ethernet jack went semi-viral recently after Twitter user decryption tweeted out photos of the “crazy origami port.” The internet was quick to point out similar feats of engineering around the RJ45 plug.

Dell’s…

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