You can pay for admission to national parks with Apple Pay starting in September

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Apple Pay is less than a year old, but it’s already coming to the federal government. Starting in September, you’ll be able to use it to pay for some government services, including national parks, Apple CEO Tim Cook said today. Cook, who is speaking at the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection, said Apple Pay would integrate with a range of government services. Government employees’ procurement cards will integrate with Apple Pay, Cook said. Apple is also working to integrate Apple Pay with Social Security and veterans’ benefits.

Cook said Apple was determined to end our reliance on physical wallets. “We can imagine a day the not-so-distant future when your wallet becomes a remnant of the past,” he said. “Your…

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Apple reportedly hiring car experts for secret project

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Apple is said to be hiring automative tech and vehicle design experts to work at a secret research facility in Silicon Valley, according to Financial Times. There are reportedly now dozens of employees working at the lab, which is said to have been set up some time late last year. It’s unknown exactly what Apple is working on there, but FT‘s sources speculate that it could be a car. That’s backed up by reports earlier this week from Business Insider and The Mac Observer, both of which point toward Apple working on a car. That said, these conclusions appear to be based in part on the type of experts that Apple has been hiring and not actual intel on its plans.

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Why Tesla’s battery for your home should terrify utilities

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Earlier this week, during a disappointing Tesla earnings call, Elon Musk mentioned in passing that he’d be producing a stationary battery for powering the home in the next few months. It sounded like a throwaway side project from someone who’s never seen a side project he doesn’t like. But it’s a very smart move, and one that’s more central to Musk’s ambitions than it might seem.

To understand why, it helps to look not at Tesla, but at SolarCity, a company chaired by Musk and run by his cousin Lyndon Rive. SolarCity installs panels on people’s roofs, leases them for less than they’d be paying in energy bills, and sells surplus energy back to the local utility. It’s proven a tremendously successful model. Founded in 2006, the company now…

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Pay whatever you want to see David Cross’s directorial debut today on BitTorrent

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BitTorrent has made little secret of its ambitions to be a serious content player, and today it’s releasing Hits, the first film directed by comedian David Cross. What makes this release a little different than most of the paid BitTorrent Bundles released thus far (like Thom Yorke’s solo album Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes) is that Cross is embracing the “pay what you want” scheme. You’ll have to ante up at least one dollar, but for that low price you’ll get an HD copy of the film along with a host of bonus material.

It’s been a long time coming for Hits, which received some fairly negative reviews coming out of its premiere at Sundance in 2014 — perhaps the reason why Cross ended up looking to BitTorrent to distribute it. However, despite…

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Facebook’s march to global domination is trampling over net neutrality

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Not satisfied with its 1.4 billion members — roughly half of the world’s internet-connected population — Facebook founded the Internet.org project in 2013 to spread internet access to poor communities around the world and thereby accelerate its own growth and reach. This week, the Internet.org app arrives in India, allowing locals free access to Facebook and a curated list of services that Facebook likes. On the surface, it seems like a net positive for India and for humanity, bringing more connectivity and information to people who might not otherwise be able to afford it. But every good thing comes at a price, and in the case of Internet.org, that price is net neutrality.

Despite its name, net neutrality is not a neutral concept. It…

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Your favorite movies have never looked so cute

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Some of film’s most memorable scenes are incredibly busy, filled with lots of people and even more action. There’s the huge brawl in Anchorman, where dozens of people fight it out in neatly pressed suits, or Beatrix’s bloody encounter with the Crazy 88 in Kill Bill. Artist Truck Torrence, better known as 100% Soft, decided to use these scenes as inspiration for his latest art gallery called “Mass Hysteria”: it takes your favorite crowded movie scenes and makes them a whole lot cuter.

“I had done several big crowd-based prints for some of Gallery1988’s group shows,” Torrence explains, “so when they asked me if I wanted to do my own solo show, I thought it’d be cool to see how far I could take that theme. I made a list of both all the…

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Dell’s XPS 13 is a look at the future of laptops

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The perfect portable computer is something we’ve been chasing for decades. Ideally, it’s an exceptionally light, incredibly thin computer that can fit comfortably on our lap and slip into a shoulder bag. It should easily last all day or more without needing to be plugged in. It needs to be powerful enough to justify carrying it around instead of just getting everything done with an even more portable smartphone or tablet. It really ought to look good, too. Oh, and could you put a flat-out gorgeous 13-inch screen on it too, please, without making it feel big? Thanks. No pressure.

Dell’s new XPS 13 is just the latest laptop that promises to check all those boxes. It’s technically a 13-inch computer thanks to its 13.3-inch display, but…

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Harvard and MIT sued for neglecting people with disabilities in online courses

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Advocates for the deaf are filing lawsuits against both Harvard and MIT for failing to provide adequate captions for their online educational material. The complaints, filed by that National Association of the Deaf (NAD), allege that both universities have “denied access to this content to the approximately 48 million — nearly one out of five — Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing,” and that in doing so have violated federal law.

“No captions is like no ramp for people in wheelchairs.”

“If you are a hearing person, you are welcomed into a world of lifelong learning through access to a community offering videos on virtually any topic imaginable, from climate change to world history or the arts,” said Arlene Mayerson, one of the…

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Hands-on with Google and Mattel’s View-Master of the future

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Google and Mattel today announced a View-Master for a new generation that swaps out the classic toy’s slide film for an Android smartphone. Based on Google’s Cardboard VR viewer, the new View-Master is made of plastic and will sell for $29.99 when it hits shelves this fall. One “reel” of content is included with the device and Mattel says that additional reels will be available for $14.99 per four pack. That’s right, even though the new View-Master relies on a smartphone and Mattel’s app, the company is still pushing a physical reel for new content.

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Addicted to Destiny? Give Monster Hunter a shot

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Destiny may have been last year’s biggest game launch, but it was also by far the most divisive. For everyone that got sucked in by its compulsive blend of Halo-style shooting with RPG levelling — count me among them — there were others that found the experience a huge letdown. Review after review criticized Destiny for its threadbare story, repeating environments, overpowered “bullet-sponge” bosses, and, above all, the need to grind obsessively to level up your character.

“What’s with these reviewers?” I thought to myself. “It’s like they’re not into Monster Hunter

Well, that’s the thing — if you’re in the West, you probably aren’t into Monster Hunter. But Capcom’s action RPG series — informally known as “MonHun,” just as Pocket…

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Google and Mattel partner to bring back the View-Master as a VR headset

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The retro-styled View-Master is back — and this time it’s been fused with virtual reality. View-Master maker Mattel has announced that it’s partnered with Google to create a new version of the device that utilize’s the company’s Cardboard VR tech.

The original View-Master utilized a small, colorful reel, which users placed in the device to see images with a 3D effect. For the VR version, you’ll need a smartphone running a custom Mattel app to recreate the effect (the device will also works with any other Cardboard-compatible app for more traditional VR experiences). The reels will still exist, however, and will be sold separately to provide different experiences, like giving you a view of Alcatraz or other iconic locations. According to…

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Apple promotes ‘Pay Once and Play’ games in App Store

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Apple is promoting “Pay Once and Play” games as part of the company’s regular refresh of featured App Store titles. “Enjoy hours of uninterrupted fun with complete experiences spanning the App Store’s most beloved genres,” says the blurb for the new collection. “Packed with thrills and unforgettable moments, these powerhouse games belong in every collection.”

this isn’t really a sign of Apple’s allegiance

It’s tempting to say that the promotion shows that Apple prefers pay-once titles to  freemium ones, but really, this is just one of the many angles that the company has taken with its App Store collections. It doesn’t really say anything about Apple’s wider motivation.

The new “Pay Once and Play” promotion.

There’s no doubt, of…

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Banned weed app returns to the Apple store with new location restrictions

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Apple has reversed its decision to ban Massroots, a social networking app for marijuana users. The app was originally pulled from the App Store two weeks ago under guidelines that forbid “apps that encourage excessive consumption of alcohol or illegal substances.” To keep to this rule, however, Apple is only permitting Massroots to return with new location-based restrictions: only users from the 23 US states that have legalized medicinal cannabis will be able to log in.

“We do not take this task lightly.”

The app’s creators announced the news on their blog, promising that they would not let their users (or Apple) down: “We do not take this task lightly. Over the coming weeks, we will be implementing new features to strengthen our…

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Legal weed earned Colorado $44 million in tax revenue last year

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Before Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana, it was predicted the state could earn around $70 million in tax revenue for freeing the weed. After the first stores selling cannabis opened in on January 1st, 2014, Colorado state officials have now confirmed how much drug money they received in a full year. That figure is $44 million — less than projected.

The discrepancy between expectations and reality has led to gloomy projections for the weed business from some corners, but others have argued the figure doesn’t take into account the additional revenue provided by medical marijuana. Add that number and the figure rises to $76 million. Animal notes that the $44 million also doesn’t factor in money earned from less direct…

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Why Xiaomi’s small first step into America is a big deal

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Xiaomi has become one of the biggest smartphone makers in the world, despite having zero presence in the United States. And while the company isn’t planning to launch its phones here any time soon —  international VP Hugo Barra made that very clear in Xiaomi’s first major press event in the US today in San Francisco — the company is getting ready to launch a US sales site in a few months and start selling some of its products here. It’s a small first step into the American marketplace, but one that could foreshadow a bigger presence here in the states.

Today’s event was a first step for Xiaomi to raise awareness of its brand in America — and to boast. The company doubled its revenue to $12 billion in 2014. “We felt that coming right…

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Pinterest is reportedly adding a ‘buy’ button

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Pinterest is planning to introduce a “buy” button that would let users purchase some items from inside the online scrapbooking service, Recode reports. The button will apparently allow users to order and pay for goods pinned to Pinterest boards without leaving the company’s app or website, a feature that could turn Pinterest into an online shopping powerhouse. Recode’s sources say the feature could launch in three to six months, but also noted that it may take a little longer, or roll out first in a limited trial.

Transactions would reportedly be handled by payments company Stripe, a San Francisco-based startup that has similar deals in place with both Twitter and Facebook. Both social networking giants beat Pinterest to the punch —…

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