TIME video

Here’s a 5-Minute Amazon Fire TV Walkthrough

TIME Software

WWDC 2014: Apple to Announce New Goodies at June Developer Conference

WWDC Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces iOS 7 at a keynote address during the 2013 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference at the Moscone Center on June 10, 2013 in San Francisco, California. Kimberly White--Getty Images

There’s an old saying that tech bloggers like to use: “It wouldn’t be June without an Apple developer conference in the earlier part of June. Let’s wait to see what Apple announces and then either type about it or make videos about it, or perhaps both.” Ask any tech blogger about that saying, and if he or she denies it, the appropriate response is, “You’re either with us, or you’re against us.” Maintain eye contact the entire time you say that phrase, too.

Anyhoo, this year will be no different. Apple has just announced the dates of WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) – it’ll run between June 2 and June 6, almost certainly with an opening keynote where Tim Cook and friends will unveil what’s next for Apple.

The announcements skew heavily to the software side – this is a developer conference, after all – but previous WWDCs haven’t been without hardware announcements. Last year, we saw the totally redesigned and very-cylindrical Mac Pro and revamped MacBook Air models; the Retina MacBook Pro was unveiled in 2012; the iPhone 4 debuted back in 2010; there was the unibody MacBook Pro and the iPhone 3GS back in 2009; the iPhone 3G was revealed in 2008. But the point of the conference is software, software, software. Last year it was a heaping helping of iOS 7.

That’s not a bad thing, by any means. Without software, all you’ve got are paperweights. You could argue that software’s far more exciting than hardware nowadays: Phones are rectangles, tablets are rectangles, laptops are rectangles that fold down on top of other rectangles. Software is the soul of our gadgets.

We’ll have plenty of WWDC coverage right here – make sure to check back in early June.

Apple Worldwide Developers Conference [Apple.com]

TIME Amazon

Fire TV: Amazon’s Television Set-Top Box Revealed

Amazon Fire TV
Doug Aamoth—TIME

The online giant's small television set-top box, which costs $99 and begins shipping today, will stream movies, TV shows and music from users' Amazon libraries, services like Netflix and Hulu, and apps like Pandora and iHeartRadio

Amazon has announced the Fire TV, a small television set-top box for streaming movies, TV shows and music.

The box is slimmer than a dime (standing up, that is), and can either sit in an entertainment center or mount behind the television. A small Bluetooth remote has a handful of buttons for media playback and navigation, similar to an Apple TV remote, but it also has a microphone for voice search.

As with Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets, the software is partly based on Android, but it also uses HTML to support easy porting of apps from other television platforms. Apps for Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, WatchESPN, MLB.tv, NBA, Crackle, Bloomberg TV and others will be supported at launch, and of course Amazon will have its own services on board, such as Amazon Prime Instant video and a store for purchasing and renting videos.

Beyond video, Fire TV will stream music from users’ Amazon libraries and from streaming apps such as Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn. Users can view photos as well, as long as they’re stored in Amazon’s Cloud Drive services.

Kindle Fire users can see information about what’s on the TV using Amazon’s “X-Ray” feature. Users will get a notification on their tablets, letting them tap to learn about actors and other information on a video, and see lyrics for music. Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited service is supported as well, allowing parents to set time limits for their children and get recommendations on kid-friendly content.

As rumored, Fire TV will have a gaming component, and Amazon lists Disney, Gameloft, 2K, Ubisoft and Double Fine as some of the publishers that are on board. An optional Fire Game Controller will sell for $40, but users can also play games through the remote control or with a companion phone and tablet app. The games are mostly adaptations of mobile titles, such as Gameloft’s Asphalt 8, Minecraft Pocket Edition and Disney’s Monsters University; many are free to play, and the average price of a paid game is around $1.85.

Amazon did recently acquire a game studio, Double Helix, and Amazon is now building games specifically for the Fire TV and Kindle Fire tablets. One example Amazon demonstrated is Sev Zero, a third-person shooter that includes some tower defense elements. (Amazon’s website shows how a second player can use a Kindle Fire tablet to view the map, collect resources and launch air strikes.)

Fire TV’s components are similar to that of a smartphone or tablet, with a quad-core processor, a dedicated graphics processor, 2 GB of RAM and dual-band Wi-Fi. It supports 1080p video and offers Dolby Digital Plus Surround Sound via HDMI or optical output.

Amazon says it set out to fix a few common complaints with existing TV boxes: Performance can be laggy, search is too difficult on a typical remote control, and closed ecosystems don’t always offer the services users want. The Fire TV’s powerful specs and remote control microphone may solve the first two problems, but with the exception of Apple TV, many other set-top boxes are open to competing music and video services. Still, the gaming element is a unique feature, and the focus on a simple, speedy interface could help Amazon stand out.

Amazon’s Fire TV costs $99—same as an Apple TV, but twice the price of the cheapest Roku device—and is shipping today.

TIME Gadgets

BlackBerry Sends a Breakup Letter of Its Own to T-Mobile

T-Mo BlackBo
A BlackBerry Bold 9900 smartphone sits on display for sale at a T-Mobile store on June 28, 2012. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

Let’s talk about Seinfeld. In season three, episode 16 (“The Fix-Up”), Jerry and Elaine get in a heated argument. Kramer steps in and abruptly ends the argument by saying, “Now can’t you two see that you’re in love with each other?”

Really makes you think.

I’ll draw no such parallel between T-Mobile and BlackBerry, although with both companies pulling up the rear in their respective categories, you’d think that maybe they’d be able to find enough in common that they’d try to make it work.

Looks like the sun has set on this relationship, though. The April 1 date-stamp on BlackBerry’s press release aside (if this is an elaborate April Fools’ joke, it’s more sad than funny), BlackBerry head honcho John Chen is quoted as saying the following:

“BlackBerry has had a positive relationship with T-Mobile for many years. Regretfully, at this time, our strategies are not complementary and we must act in the best interest of our BlackBerry customers. We hope to work with T-Mobile again in the future when our business strategies are aligned. We are deeply grateful to our loyal BlackBerry customers and will do everything in our power to provide continued support with your existing carrier or ensure a smooth transition to our other carrier partners.”

Perhaps this sounds like sour grapes, but put yourself in Chen’s position. First T-Mo stops selling BlackBerry devices in its stores. Then it sends mailers out to current BlackBerry owners to try to get them to upgrade to the iPhone 5s. Then T-Mo CEO John Legere pokes fun at Chen for not having a Twitter account, suggesting he’s on MySpace instead.

Now can’t you two see that you’re in love with each other? No? Neither can we.

BlackBerry dumps T-Mobile following “ill-conceived” ad campaign [Ars Technica]

TIME Diversions

One of the Web’s Best Cartoons Finally Gets an Update

Homestar Runner has been dormant since late 2010, but it’s back. Hopefully “back” means more than this lone update, but we’ll see.

Aside from the various sites I’ve worked at over the years, I can safely say that HomestarRunner.com is the site I’ve sunk the most time into. That it hasn’t been updated in three and a half years is sad, but there’s just so much there already. I’m baffled that the Chapman brothers were able to keep it going for as long as they did.

As far as the most recent update goes, everyone’s favorite walking speech impediment plays host to a slew of additions to various blasts from the past – the payoff at the end is a pair of downloadable Homestar and Strong Bad themes for Windows 98. Yes, Windows 98 – complete with desktop backgrounds, icons, startup and shutdown sounds, and more.

We’ll see if this is a sign of more to come. I hope it is, but I’ll understand if it isn’t. If it’s an issue of funding, sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo didn’t exist back in Homestar’s heyday, and the Chapman boys could probably raise a small fortune nowadays if they wanted to resurrect the site for good.

Here’s a fun TIME-themed diversion, too: At the end of Strong Bad Email #202, click on the words “duct tape him to the ceiling” to get a peek at Strong Sad and his imaginary friend playing TIME Magazine: The Game. “Spiro Agnew’s favorite slacks! That’s right!”

Homestar Runner [HomestarRunner.com via The Verge]

TIME Computers

The 5 Best Apple MacBook Laptops on the Market Right Now

Here are the five best MacBooks you can buy right now, based on data from our friends at FindTheBest. Each ranking is based on FindTheBest’s Smart Rating, which aggregates scores from gadget review sites along with specifications and benchmarks for each laptop.

Watch the video above and then click on any of the laptops in the below graph to learn more about each model:

Related:

TIME Smartphones

Well-Lit Selfies: Fancy Phone Features Front-Facing Flash

T2-Lumigon
The Lumigon T2 HD Android phone features a front-facing flash and is water-resistant. Lumigon

Why should the world only get to see your drop-dead gorgeous selfies when you have adequate light?

Do you have at least $1,000 to spend on a smartphone? Are you good-looking? If so, congrats, for starters.

Second, this fancy Android smartphone features a front-facing flash for its front-facing camera.

Why should the world only get to see your drop-dead gorgeous selfies when you have adequate light? You spend a lot of time in exclusive, sexily-lit clubs, yes? They’re too dark for selfies! Until now, that is.

On paper, it could be – could be – argued that the Lumigon T2 HD is slightly underpowered, with a dual-core processor and a 720p screen bobbing around in a sea of quad-core, 1080p competitors. That all-important front-facing camera is only a 2.4-megapixel jobber, too, although as every savvy shopper knows, megapixels aren’t everything.

Those qualms aside, the phone has a few tricks up its immaculately-pressed sleeve. It’s water resistant, which comes in handy considering all those exclusive, sexy, oops-I-spilled-my-drink clubs you frequent. And it’s ensconced in stainless steel and damage-resistant glass, which comes in handy if you drop the phone while showing it off to all the lesser people in the already-exclusive club. Oh, and it’s dust resistant. Let’s get real, though: You have people to handle your dust.

The phone also comes with a dock that can be programmed to turn off the phone’s visual and audible notifications when it’s docked, so you can make sure to sleep in without being bothered.

Pricing will start at around $1,000 (unlocked, off contract), and you’ll need to order it from Denmark when it’s available sometime in the second quarter.

If you’re looking for another phone with a front-facing flash, check out the Acer Liquid E3. Note, too, that there are so-so workarounds for the iPhone and other Android phones that basically entail blasting you with the white light of your phone’s screen as a photo’s being taken.

(Side note: I just had to add “selfies” to my blogging software’s dictionary. The end is near, friends.)

Lumigon T2 HD [Product Page via Digital Trends]

TIME Gadgets

Danger! Computer Simulates 1,500 People Walking and Texting at a Busy Intersection

So here’s what would apparently happen if 1,500 people all started crossing the street at Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing while they were looking down at their phones.

You’ll notice a handful of things:

  • A total disregard for crosswalks! These mouth-breathers are just walking right out into the middle of everything.
  • Two of them just walk in place when they run into each other. The last time I did that, mall security Segwayed me out by my shirt collar.
  • One of the guys gets run into and then bows as though it’s his fault! Sack up, man!
  • Only one guy drops his phone, which seems really low for 15,000 hoopleheads all running into each other.
  • Two fall down and get right back up, all while still looking at their phones (probably accurate).
  • It takes an eternity for the street to clear when it’s the cars’ turn to go again (probably accurate), yet only a couple horns honk (maybe accurate in Japan; absolutely not accurate just about anywhere else).
  • The guy at the very end appears to fall down at the top of a subway entrance and, instead of getting back up, he’s does the Worm for a bit. I’d grab a simulated beer with that guy any day.

According to Kotaku, the video is a joint effort between one of Japan’s major wireless companies – NTT Docomo – and Aichi University of Technology, which cobbled the simulation together. The message? I can’t read Japanese, but I’ll bet it’s three-fold: Don’t text and walk, watch where you’re going, and remember that the Worm will never, ever, ever go out of style.

Computer Simulation of 1,500 People Looking at Smartphones and Walking [Kotaku]

TIME Video Games

‘My Girl’ Movie Turned into a Game Where You Try to Avoid Being Stung by Bees

mygirl
MyGirltheGame.com

If you remember watching My Girl back in the early ’90s and thinking how much you’d love to play a video game based on the movie, you’re apparently not alone: Someone has gone to the trouble of creating a version you can play in your browser right now. (In case you’re wondering, this wonderfully weird game is clearly not sanctioned or otherwise licensed by the people behind the actual movie.)

You play as Thomas J. (Macaulay Culkin’s character). You’ll recall he was allergic to bee stings, yes? Well, the game entails little more than walking around a hastily-built side-scrolling level that loosely resembles the small town from the movie.

The object of the game is to avoid being stung by bees. Each time you’re stung, your mood ring turns darker and darker until you’re eventually stung to death. At that point, you’ll see a faux-digitized image of Vada (Anna Chlumsky’s character) and hear her sobbing as she peers bleary-eyed through the banister rails of the funeral home, trying to coax Thomas J. back to life while her father (Dan Aykroyd’s character) consoles her.

That’s the game – sorry for the spoiler. If you haven’t seen the movie, go ahead and do so this weekend. I assume you like crying? If not, maybe don’t see it.

MyGirl [MyGirltheGame.com via BuzzFeed]

TIME How-To

30-Second Tech Trick: Get Facebook Hack Notifications for Your Account

Here's how to sign up to receive an email or a text message if a stranger logs into your Facebook account.

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