Samsung, Facebook’s Oculus Plan November Launch For $99 Gear VR Headset

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An anonymous reader writes: Samsung has unveiled a new version of its virtual reality headset, the Gear VR, that it plans to sell starting in November for $99. The headset will be compatible with all of Samsung’s flagship smartphones. “With mobile VR, you only need a great mobile game device and a smartphone,” said Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe, speaking at the company’s developer conference.

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Facebook Finally Delivers On the VRML Dream With Immersive Star Wars Video

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An anonymous reader writes: Facebook has launched its 360-degree video feature, with an eye to virtual reality and next year’s release of the Oculus Rift. Among the showcase videos is a specially rendered ‘fly-through’ of a scene from new Star Wars movie ‘The Force Awakens’, allowing the viewer to pan laterally and horizontally as the movie progresses. This kind of immersive video was made possible with Apple’s QuickTime VR in the 1990s, but was hampered by the same technological bottlenecks of the period as VRML.

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Selfies Kill More People Than Shark Attacks

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HughPickens.com writes: The Independent reports that so far this year more people have died while trying to taking a ‘selfie’ than from shark attacks. So far, 12 people have lost their life while trying to take a photo of themselves but the number of people who have died as a result of a shark attack was only eight. Some recent selfie-fatalities: A 66-year-old tourist from Japan recently died after falling down some stairs while trying to take a photo at the Taj Mahal in India, a Mississippi woman was gored to death by a bison while visiting Yellowstone National Park, and in August a man trying to take a selfie was gored to death during a running of the bulls in Villaseca de la Sagra, Spain. Some groups have been trying to get on top of the wave. In June Disney banned selfie sticks in its amusement parks. And foreseeing the selfie crisis in a very specific way, New York State passed a bill in June 2014 to prohibit people from having their photo taken (or taking it themselves) while “hugging, patting or otherwise touching tigers.”

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Groupon Is Closing Operations In 7 Countries, Laying Off 1,100

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New submitter joesreviewss writes: Groupon is laying off about 10% of its workforce and is shutting down operations in seven countries. 1,100 people worldwide will be let go and the company will take a pre-tax charge of $35 million in the process. A Groupon statement reads in part: “Let’s be clear: these are tough actions to take, especially when we believe we’re stronger than ever. We’re doing all we can to make these transitions as easy as possible, but it’s not easy to lose some great members of the Groupon family. Yet just as our business has evolved from a largely hand-managed daily deal site to a true ecommerce technology platform, our operational model has to evolve. Evolution is hard, but it’s a necessary part of our journey. It’s also part of our DNA as a company and is one of the things that will help us realize our vision of creating the daily habit in local commerce.”

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Another Pharma Company Recaptures a Generic Medication

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Applehu Akbar writes: Daraprim, currently used as a niche AIDS medication, was developed and patented by Glaxo (now GlaxoSmithKlein) decades ago. Though Glaxo’s patent has long since expired, a startup called Turing Pharmaceuticals has been the latest pharma company to ‘recapture’ a generic by using legal trickery to gain exclusive rights to sell it in the US. Though Turing has just marketing rights, not a patent, on Daraprim, it takes advantage of pharma-pushed laws that forbid Americans from shopping around on the world market for prescriptions. Not long ago, Google was fined half a billion dollars by the FDA for allowing perfectly legal Canadian pharmacies to advertise on its site. So now that Turing has a lock on Daraprim, it has raised the price from $13.50 a pill to $750. In 2009 another small pharma company inveigled an exclusive on the longstanding generic gout medication colchicine from the FDA, effectively rebranding the unmodified generic so they could raise its price by a similar percentage.

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Microsoft and Others Mean Stiff Competition For Apple iPad Pro

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MojoKid writes: When Microsoft first announced the Surface Pro back in 2012, many Apple fans snickered. Here was Microsoft, releasing a somewhat thick and heavy tablet that not only had a kickstand, but also an odd cover that doubled as a keyboard. And to top things off, the device made use of a stylus. Steve Jobs famously said in 2010, “If you see a stylus, they blew it.” But Microsoft forged ahead with the Surface Pro 2, and later with the Surface Pro 3. Not only were customers becoming more aware of the Surface but competitors were also taking note. We’ve seen Lenovo introduce the ideapad MIIX 700, which incorporates its own kickstand and an Intel Skylake-based Core m7 processor. And most recently, we’ve seen Apple pull a literal 180 on this design and platform approach, announcing the iPad Pro — a device that features a fabric keyboard cover similar in concept to the Surface Pro and a stylus. Dell and ASUS have also brought compelling offerings to the table as well. However, the big head-to-head competition will no doubt be between the Surface Pro 4, which is set to be unveiled early next month and Apple’s iPad Pro when it finally goes on sale.

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One Day After iOS 9’s Launch, Ad Blockers Top Apple’s App Store

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HughPickens.com writes: Sarah Perez reports at TechCrunch that only one day after the release of Apple’s newly released version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 9, ad blockers are topping the charts in the App Store and it seems that new iOS 9 users are thrilled to have access to this added functionality. The Top Paid iOS app is the new ad-blocker Peace, a $2.99 download from Instapaper founder Marco Arment. Peace currently supports a number of exclusive features that aren’t found in other blockers yet. Most notably, it uses Ghostery’s more robust blocklist, which Arment licensed from the larger company by offering them a percentage of the app’s revenue. “I can’t believe how many trackers are on popular sites,” says Arment. “I can’t believe how fast the web is without them.” Other ad blockers are also topping the paid app chart as of today, including the Purify Blocker (#3), Crystal (#6), Blockr (#12). (Ranks as of the time of writing.) With the arrival of these apps, publishers and advertisers are fretting about the immediate impact to their bottom lines and business, which means they’ll likely soon try to find ways to sneak around the blockers. In that case, it should be interesting to see which of the apps will be able to maintain their high degree of ad blocking over time.

It’s no surprise that advertisers and publishers who make their money from advertising aren’t exactly fans of blockers. What is surprising is that no one seemed to disagree with the argument that online ads have gotten out of control. “I think if we don’t acknowledge that, we’d be fools,” says Scott Cunningham, “So does that mean ad blockers are good or right? Absolutely not. Do we have an accountability and responsibility to address these things? Absolutely — and there’s a lot that we’re doing now.” Harry Kargman agrees that in many cases, online ads have created “a bad consumer experience — from an annoyance perspective, a privacy perspective, a usability perspective.” At the same time, Kargman says that as the industry works to solve these problems, it also needs to convince people that when you use an ad blocker, “That’s stealing. It’s no different than ripping music. It’s no different than pirating movies.”

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Apple’s First Android App, Move To iOS, Is Getting Killed With One-Star Reviews

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An anonymous reader writes: Apple today launched Move to iOS, the company’s first Android app built in-house. As we noted earlier, “It should surprise no one that the first app Apple built for Android helps you ditch the platform.” The fact that the app is getting flooded with one-star reviews is not particularly surprising, either. At the time of publication, the app has an average rating of 1.8. The larger majority (almost 79 percent) are one-star reviews, followed by five-star reviews (almost 19 percent).

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Apple’s First Android App Makes It Easy To Move To iOS

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Mark Wilson writes: Apple has released its first ever Android app. No, there’s not an Android version of Safari or anything like that, but a tool designed to simplify the process of switching to iOS. The predictably named Move to iOS will appeal to anyone who was persuaded to switch allegiances by the release of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, or indeed iOS 9. The app can be used to move contacts, messages, photos and more to a new iPhone or iPad, and is compatible with phones and tablets running Android 4.0 and newer. It works slightly differently to what you may have expected. Rather than uploading data to the cloud, it instead creates private Wi-Fi network between an Android and iOS device and securely transfers it.

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Microsoft Backports Start Menu To Windows RT

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jones_supa writes: Windows RT devices, such as the Surface RT and the Surface 2, won’t get an upgrade to Windows 10, but instead Microsoft has been working on a platform update that brings the original Start Menu which the company introduced in the first Windows 10 builds. This means that it is technologically based on DirectUI, instead of an XAML-based menu which shipped with the RTM PC version of Windows 10. Aside from the Start Menu, the update is expected to include some minor tweaks and performance improvements as well.

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Are Non-Technical Certifications Worth Earning?

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Nerval’s Lobster writes: Everybody knows that certain technical certifications can boost your career. For developers and others, though, is it worth earning non-technical certifications such as the PMP (Project Management Professional), CRISC (which certifies that you’re good at managing risk)? The short answer, of course, might be, ‘Yes, if you plan on moving into management, or something highly specialized.’ But for everybody else, it’s hard to tell whether certain certifications are worth the time and money, on the nebulous hope that they’ll pay off at some point in the future, or if you’re better off just focusing on the technical certifications for certain hard skills.

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Nintendo Names Tatsumi Kimishima As New President

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RogueyWon writes: Following the death of Satoru Iwata in July, Nintendo has announced the appointment of Tatsumi Kimishima as its new president. The 65-year-old Mr. Kimishima has been serving as Nintendo’s human resources director (PDF), following a previous stint as the CEO of Nintendo of America and earlier work on the management of the Pokémon franchise. Kimishima takes up post at a time of considerable change for Nintendo, with the company beginning a tentative step into the mobile games market and preparing for the launch of a new console, codenamed “NX”, in 2016.

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Sony Decides Its Waterproof Xperia Phones Are Not Actually Waterproof

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Mark Wilson writes: Sony seems determined on confusing its customers by giving very conflicting advice about its Xperia smartphones. If you’re familiar with the range, you’ll no doubt be aware of the advertising material that appears to show users taking photos in the rain and even (seemingly) underwater at the pool. Take a look at the picture above and you’d probably assume that a) it depicts someone shooting a video or taking a photo in a swimming pool, and b) you can do the same with your phone. But you’d be wrong (at least on b) because Sony has changed its mind about what waterproof means. Or it doesn’t know. It really depends on where you look on the Sony website.

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Can We Trust Apple To Make a Good Games Console?

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An anonymous reader writes: The Apple TV took center stage at the company’s recent press event. It’s getting its own operating system, better support for watching movies and listening to music, and full integration with Siri. All to be expected. But Apple is also pushing for the device to become a hub connecting mobile gaming with your TV. This article questions whether Apple has the chops to become a serious contender in living room gaming. Quoting: “[T]he subtext was clear: Apple thinks it can take on Nintendo for third place in the console market. The problem is, even while it’s parading game developers on stage, it’s still not clear if Apple actually wants to take on the console market. The inconsistency within the company when it comes to games is painful to see, and shows no sign of abating any time soon. … The iPhone is the largest games store on the planet, and it’s managed by a company whose attitude to the medium is ‘go write a book.’ That hasn’t stopped magnificent art being made for Apple’s platforms, but it has stopped some, such as Sweatshop HD, which was pulled from the app store in 2013.”

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Google’s Android Pay Mobile Payments Service Arrives In US

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An anonymous reader writes: Google is rolling out its digital payment system Android Pay in the U.S. today. The new system will allow users to make payments in stores using their phone. Existing users of the Google Wallet app can access Android Pay through an update. According to the blog post: “Android Pay works with all NFC-enabled Android devices (running KitKat 4.4+), on any mobile carrier, at every tap and pay ready location across the US. Android Pay will support credit and debit cards from the four major payment networks: American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa. These cards are issued by many of the most popular US banks and credit unions, including American Express, Bank of America, Discover, Navy Federal Credit Union, PNC, Regions Bank, USAA, and U.S. Bank. Wells Fargo will be available in the next few days, Capital One and Citi are coming soon, and we’re adding new banks all the time.”

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Ellen Pao Drops Appeal of Gender Discrimination Suit

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McGruber writes: Jeff Bezo’s newspaper is reporting that Ellen Pao is dropping her appeal of the gender discrimination suit she lost against her former employer, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Pao sued KPCB in 2012, claiming that women were not given fair consideration in the male-dominated workplace. She also said that a male colleague with whom she had an affair unfairly cut her out of e-mail correspondence and upper management did nothing about it. She was fired soon after filing her suit. After a bruising month-long trial in which her personal character and work performance were repeatedly brought into question, a jury of six men and six woman ruled that there was no evidence of gender discrimination.

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Why Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program Is a Bad Deal For Most

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Mark Wilson writes: You may have heard that Apple had a little get together today. There were lots of big launches — the iPhone 6S, the iPhone 6S Plus, and the iPad Pro. Those waiting for an iPhone fix were given quite a lot of get excited about, but like your friendly local drug dealer, Apple has a ‘sweetener’ to help ensure its customers just keep on coming back for more: the iPhone Upgrade Program which lets you upgrade to a new iPhone every year as long as you keep paying each month. On the face of it, it might seem like a good deal — particularly as the price includes Apple Care — but is that really the case? What Apple’s actually doing is feeding the habit of iPhone junkies, keeping their addiction going a little bit longer, and a little bit longer, and a little bit longer. In reality, Apple would like you to perma-rent your iPhone and keep paying through the nose for it. Ideally forever.

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Adblock Plus Returns To Android and Arrives On iPhone For First Time

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Mickeycaskill writes: Adblock Plus has returned to Android — two and a half years after ad blocking services were removed from Google Play — and has been released on iOS for the first time. Adblock Browser for Android has been in beta since late May, with well over 300,000 people downloading the beta in the browser’s first week. Meanwhile the arrival of the app on iPhone means developer Eyeo has beaten Apple to the punch, as the company has confirmed iOS 9 will feature an adblocker built into Safari. “With the popularity of the iOS platform in places like the US, we considered it critical to offer an app in the Apple App Store,” said Till Faida, co-founder of Adblock Plus. “We’re thankful to Apple for working with us on this project and we look forward to their new iOS 9, which will give web developers additional ad-blocking tools. It’s a big step for this industry.”

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The Story of Oculus Rift

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An anonymous reader writes: A lengthy new article details the history of the Oculus Rift, from the VR headset’s stereotypical beginnings in a hacker’s parents’ garage to its $2 billion acquisition by Facebook. “Luckey got into VR by way of computer games, which he was obsessed with for a time. After building what he recalls as a “beautiful six-monitor setup,” for extreme visual saturation, he wondered, Why not just put a small screen directly on your face?” At just 19 years old, Luckey built a prototype good enough to impress John Carmack, which brought him all sorts of further attention. Investors came running, and eventually Mark Zuckerberg took an interest. “When Zuckerberg arrived, Luckey introduced himself and then quickly walked away. ‘I’m a big fan,’ he said, ‘but I actually have to get back to work.’ … Zuckerberg seemed taken aback by Luckey’s brusqueness but also charmed. ‘They definitely have the hacker culture that we have,’ he says.” As the device approaches release, they’re all wondering how much VR will change the world.

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Amazon Reportedly Aiming For the Low End With a Loss-Leader $50 Tablet

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Amazon has been dogged with criticism for its high-end, somewhat oddball phone, but done rather better with its high-end Fire tablets, and has mostly defined the market for e-ink book-reading devices with its long-lived Kindle series. Now, according to a report in the WSJ echoed by Fortune (and by Ars Technica and many others), the company is said to be working on a tablet aimed at the low end of the market, with a 6-inch screen, a mono speaker, and a tiny pricetag — which could be as low as $50. “At the bottom end of the range at least, the devices won’t be priced to make a profit,” writes Fortune. “The dirt-cheap price tag is intended to maximise the reach of its e-book and Amazon Prime video streaming content.”

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