BitTorrent wants to change the way the web is built

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BitTorrent’s strong support for an open internet is a defining characteristic of the company. Its vision of a “distributed” internet where users retain more control over their data and personal information is at the core of every product it launches, from its original peer-to-peer networking protocol (which gained so much fame as a piracy tool) to BitTorrent Sync, the company’s answer to Dropbox.

Now, the company wants to apply that principle to the entire internet, starting with Maelstrom, a new web browser based on the BitTorrent protocol that launches today in a closed alpha testing phase. “Distributed technology can and does empower users,” says BitTorrent CEO Eric Klinker, “and can solve what we see as some pretty big problems…

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Earth’s water probably didn’t come from comets, Rosetta scientists say

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The researchers behind Rosetta, the ESA spacecraft currently orbiting the Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet, think they can help answer one of the fundamental questions about how water came to Earth: most likely not from comets. They published their findings today in Science.

Around 4 billion years ago, meteorites repeatedly slammed into the young Earth in a violent event called the Late Heavy Bombardment. This happened right after our planet’s crust had started to cool, so instead of burning up and disintegrating into the molten surface of an older Earth, these chunks of comets and asteroids made landfall. In the process they likely brought the first organic molecules to Earth and maybe even enough water to form oceans, setting the scene for…

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Asus ZenWatch review

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Smartwatches have a pretty bad reputation for being ugly, mini computers that prioritize function far above form. Much of that criticism is deserved — just look at the first two Android Wear watches released this summer. There have been a few bright spots in the otherwise dreary world of smartwatch design (Pebble’s Steel and Motorola’s Moto 360 come to mind), but if you care about how your watch looks, you’re probably not wearing a smartwatch.

That’s why I’m excited about Asus’ ZenWatch. The…

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Google brings custom Android Wear watch faces to the Play Store

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The Android dress code, says Google, is to simply wear what you want.

In the spirit of promoting endless customization and personalization, Google is today rolling out a big update to Android Wear that sees dozens of new watch faces added to the original set plus a whole new section to the Play Store dedicated to hosting watch faces. Designs from the likes of Rebecca Minkoff and Hugh Turvey mingle with ones featuring Pac-Man and Plants vs. Zombies. An official Watch Face API is also being…

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The Hemingwrite cloud-synced typewriter now has a real Kickstarter campaign

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The Hemingwrite word processing machine is a dubious beast in some ways: it’s got a terrible name, for one thing, and its creators initially promised a rock-solid piece of hardware that can last decades but will also connect seamlessly to cloud services, a high bar for any piece of electronics. But as we spend more and more of our lives communicating in text, it’s worth thinking about how the things we write on determine how we write. On that note, the Hemingwrite (conceived as an experimental prototype) is now officially on Kickstarter, with plans to release it in September of 2015.

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SimCity 2000 is free right now

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Still bitter about the disastrous launch of the new SimCity last year? Good news — you can grab the classic SimCity 2000 for free right now to make up for it. The city-building game is currently available completely free of charge through EA’s Origin digital store, thought it’s not clear how long the deal will be on, so you’ll probably want to grab it soon. The PC game originally launched back in 1993 to much acclaim, and will normally set you back $5.99. You can get it from Origin right here.

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Qualcomm, Intel, and others speak out against Title II net neutrality

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Much of the fight over how to handle net neutrality has been between the two industries that have the most obvious stake in it: cable companies and web services. Today, though, 60 tech companies, including Intel, IBM, and Qualcomm, have signed a letter opposing reclassifying broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act — a solution that’s favored by many of net neutrality’s supporters and President Barack Obama himself. The letter is addressed to members of Congress and the FCC, and it warns that this stricter regulation would stop companies from investing in broadband.

“For almost twenty years, national leadership, on a bipartisan basis, has nurtured the broadband internet with a wise, effective, and restrained policy…

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Minecraft is finally on Windows Phone

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Just a few months after Microsoft acquired Minecraft maker Mojang, the blockbuster block building game is finally available on Windows Phone devices. The Windows Phone version is the same slimmed-down “pocket edition” of the game that Android and iOS users have been enjoying since way back in 2011, and will cost you the same $6.99. Despite having been around for some time, the mobile version of the game continues to be a huge hit — it was the top selling iPad game of 2014, and second on iPhone. Since then, the game has moved to consoles like the Xbox One and PS4, and there’s even a movie in the works. With the addition of the Windows Phone version, Minecraft is approaching Tetris levels of ubiquity. You can get it right here.

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Marvel tried to get Spider-Man for the next Captain America movie. It didn’t work out

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In an alternate timeline, Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans would be fighting over civil rights while Andrew Garfield swings around them singing tra-la-la and offering snarky one-liners.

Buried in the massive leak of internal Sony Pictures documents, The Wall Street Journal has found emails between Marvel Studios and Sony over collaborating on future Spider-Man movies. According to the report, “extensive discussions” went all the way up the chain to Sony CEO Kaz Hirai and Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger. Specifically, Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman tells a colleague that Marvel wanted to include Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War, which kicks off so-called “Phase Three” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on May 6th, 2016.

I…

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Facebook’s Android app now includes the Trending section

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In its quest to be everything for everyone, Facebook is bringing Trending to mobile with a new slate of features. Introduced less than a year ago, the trending section on the right side of your Facebook feed is becoming a more powerful source for news and information on the desktop, and Facebook’s Android app will be the first to experience the feature on mobile.

When you click or tap on a trending topic, you will find five new sections giving topics more content and deeper context. Articles will show you posts from outlets that have been covering the topic; In the Story and Near the Scene provide context from people involved in or close to the event; Live Feed will show you a running stream of reactions from people around the world,…

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Elegy for a Dead World: I wrote this video game review inside a video game

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In all but the most heavily scripted games, the player is to some extent a storyteller. Every time you pull off a daringly anarchic heist in Grand Theft Auto, or finish a fashion shoot in Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, or win a chess match when you’re down to your last few pieces, you’ve created an experience that no one else will have in exactly the same way.

Elegy for a Dead World takes this quite literally. It was prototyped in 2013 as an experiment by members of Popcannibal and Dejobaan…

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Apple and IBM launch their business invasion with new iOS apps

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Apple and IBM are starting to deliver on their “landmark partnership” to transform business use of iPads and iPhones today. After a deal earlier this year, the first apps designed by the two companies will start being used by Citi, Air Canada, Sprint, and Banorte this week. The first round of 10 apps include a mixture of applications aimed at financial institutions, insurance businesses, and even government agencies.

IBM’s Incident Aware app for iOS is designed to turn an iPhone into a crime prevention aid for law enforcement officers. Incident Aware includes real-time access to maps and video-feeds of incidents, and the ability for officers to call for back-up or support. There are also two airline-focused apps debuting today that help…

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Amazon wants to sell mobile games the old-fashioned way: by charging money

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WayForward Technologies has been making video games for almost 25 years. In that time the studio has been trusted with some of the biggest names in the medium, making new Silent Hill, Contra, and Double Dragon games and working with big companies like Capcom and Disney. Some of WayForward’s own original games, meanwhile, have gone on to become cult classics, like the beloved Game Boy Color adventure Shantae.

But the studio’s newest game is also its biggest. Called Til Morning’s Light, the…

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Spotify and Rdio subscribers can now listen to whole songs in Shazam on iOS

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Shazam is updating its iOS app in hopes of not only serving “as a destination for music fans” but “becoming the center of their music world.” Users who pay for a subscription to Spotify or Rdio can link their accounts to the app to listen to full tracks for the first time, and browse charts of the most popular songs in their area. Recently identified songs can also be added automatically to playlists.

‘Shazam Hall of Fame’ lists the most often forgotten artists and songs

The updated app will include a new home screen offering “personalized music news and real time trending songs,” and the company is also launching a ‘Shazam Hall of Fame’ for the artists and songs its users have most asked the app to identify. The first four ‘platinum’…

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Dutch trains are testing lasers to blast rail debris

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Dutch Railways is testing to see if lasers are the solution for high-speed rail cleaning. The proposed system functions in two ways. Mounted just in front of the wheels, the lasers will not only remove organic material like pulped leaves, but also dry the rails in the process, temporarily preventing new accretions. This can help provide better traction, which will in turn allow for greater handling. The system is also capable of shutting off briefly if vibrations cause the lasers to miss the track.

Developed by the Delft University of Technology (TU) in partnership with Strukton Rail, the cleaning device can be used at speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour (about 50 miles per hour.) TU professor Rolf Dollevoet noted that the question…

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Google’s new Hangouts app introduces clever location sharing

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The Android Hangouts app is getting a major update today. 16 new sticker packs and a selection of classic video filters are the most visible of the new changes, but the addition of smart suggestions based on your location may end up being the most important. When a contact asks “where are you,” a new prompt now appears to let you share your location directly with a single tap. This contextual awareness saves a lot of hunting around and marks “the start of something new”, according to Google’s Rhett Robinson, who hints at a series of further smart suggestions based on the information you’re already sharing with Google.

You can now also associate your phone number with your Hangouts account, so that others can find you even if they don’t…

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Sony didn’t like how Seth Rogen treated Kim Jong-un’s head in The Interview

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Spoiler warning: this article contains information that might reveal plot points for The Interview.

Hackers released emails from Sony this week, which revealed Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai’s role in changing the ending of The Interview, which features North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un dying horrifically. Bloomberg writes that Hirai gave input on the changes and made it a point to keep Kim’s exploding face from appearing on international screens. He was responsible for providing the ultimate go-ahead after selecting a toned-down version of shot 337.

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Netflix hopes to have as many as 20 original series running in five years

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Netflix wants to be available everywhere within the next five years, with an even larger roster of home-grown media. In a conference yesterday, chief content officer Theodore Sarandos said the company hopes to have “as many as 20 original series” running alongside syndicated shows like Friends and original movies such as the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Sarandos explained that Netflix aims to premiere new content every two-and-a-half weeks or so. He was also quick to note that these shows won’t necessarily cater to everyone, but would instead be intended for different segments of Netflix’s viewership. The Netflix executive said that he doesn’t feel compelled to see the next crop of shows perform as well as House of Cards…

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