TIME Autos

This State Is Becoming a Self-Driving Car Haven

Transportation Sec'y Foxx Discusses Future Transportation Trends With Google CEO
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (R) and Google Chairman Eric Schmidt (L) ride in a Google self-driving car at the Google headquarters on February 2, 2015 in Mountain View, California.

It's not just a west coast thing anymore

If you want to get ahead of the game on owning a self-driving car, you should head to the Old Dominion State — because it turns out Virginia is becoming a mecca for self-driving cars, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The highways of Northern Virginia are often considered some of the most congested in the country — something this NoVa-bred writer can attest to. So it makes perfect sense that these highways, specifically Interstates 95, 495 and 66 and U.S. routes 29 and 50 are being used as testing grounds for automated cars, which are designed partially to take some of the tension out of commutes.

Myra Blanco, director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s Center for Automated Vehicle Systems, told the Times-Dispatch why Virginia is going to be a great state for automated cars:

“Other states are saying you need to prove that independently you can do all this testing. What we are trying to do is show them how to do the testing and how to facilitate the process as well,” Blanco said.

“I think this is going to help us advance the technology and even more important, to attract companies and satellite offices in the Northern Virginia area to develop these new concepts.”

The automated cars could be tested on roads in Virginia within a year. Still, we’re a ways off from you actually being able to drive one regularly.

TIME Video Games

Fallout 4 Is Finally Happening, and Yes, There’s a Dog

After years of noise and feckless speculation, finally some signal: Fallout 4 is happening, says open-world gaming magnate Bethesda Softworks. Insert a tunnel, oncoming train, and someone expounding about the sound of inevitability.

Bethesda’s servers appear to have fumbled the news about an hour earlier than expected, briefly lifting a Fallout-themed countdown curtain, due to zero out at 10:00 a.m. ET. At that point, we learned the game was in the offing for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Also: that there’s (still) a dog. Because everybody—hey Fable 2, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Grand Theft Auto V!—has a dog nowadays.

And now that the countdown’s complete, we can say it’s definitely happening. See the official trailer above.

(Yep, that’s another Ink Spots tune; this time they’re crooning “It’s All Over But The Crying.”)

Bethesda Softworks

It’s impossible to say without asking Bethesda, but just watching the trailer, I’d wager Fallout 4‘s still using Bethesda’s Creation engine (created for Skyrim), doubtless souped up, but still looking more like a tricked out, high-resolution version of Fallout 3 than a radical graphical leap (as you’d generally see when this much time’s passed between installments). That could be by design, of course: an attempt to establish visual continuity between 3 and 4. Whatever the case, it still looks terrific.

Our last trip to post-apocalyptic North America (by way of the mid-20th-century), was developer Obsidian’s glitchy but beautifully crafted Fallout: New Vegas in 2010. Fallout 3, Bethesda’s first and to date only in-house vamp on Interplay’s beloved late 1990s GURPS-inspired roleplaying duology, appeared way back in 2008.

Not that all the in-between waiting’s a bad thing. Bethesda fashions worlds roughly analogous to actual worlds, so sufficient prep time’s essential. No annual CallofAssassin’sCryNFL for Todd Howard—Bethesda’s bigwig producer/director on both the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series—and gang.

My guess? The big surprise at Bethesda’s E3 press event, which I’ll be attending on Sunday, June 14 in Los Angeles, is that Fallout 4 could ship by year’s end. Note the option to preorder the game right now from the official website.


Streaming Is About to Beat DVD Sales For the First Time

Netflix is feeding the frenzy

A report released Tuesday said that the money spent to download movies and stream videos will rise above that for buying and renting DVDs for the first time ever, according to Bloomberg.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers study found the revenue from downloading and streaming is expected to jump 13% to $9.5 billion in 2015 as sales of physical DVDs lower to $7.8 billion. The firm added that streaming will become a $12 billion industry in 2017, rising above the money spent going to movie theaters.

The report comes as streaming service such as Netflix have been booming in recent years. In April, the streaming service saw its revenue soar 24% for the last quarter, while the number of subscribers rose to over 60 million around the world. The company’s stocks have also been rising, helping it beat out competitors like CBS and Viacom, Fortune wrote in April.

TIME Skype

This Single Message Can Crash Skype

Mobile World Congress 2015 - Day 2
David Ramos—Getty Images The Skype logo.

And it's only 8 characters long

If you’re sending someone a link in Skype, be careful — a simple typo could crash the program for them.

These eight characters — http://: — when used in any message, can crash Skype for the recipient and, in many cases, require reinstalling the application.

A Skype user discovered the bug by accident and posted about it in a Skype community forum, leading technology blogs to pick up the news. As VentureBeat reports, Skype for Windows is more affected by the issue than Skype for Mac; on the former, receiving or even sending the string of characters will crash the program so badly that it requires reinstallation.

This may remind you of a different messaging bug that was big news a week ago: a specific message, with Arabic characters, that will crash Messages on an iPhone. The difference here is that the string of text that can crash Skype could very easily be sent accidentally.

Apple took a full day to respond to the news of its bug, and it has now released a temporary fix; a Skype team member has already written in the same forum that the company is “aware of the problem and… working to provide an resolution.” For now, reports indicate that the best you can do if you receive the message is ask the sender to delete it, and then re-download the program.

TIME Video Games

The 15 Most Anticipated Video Games of Summer 2015

Check out our list of the games to watch for summer 2015

Check out the most anticipated games for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U and Nintendo 3DS due this year, including Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Knight, Konami’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and Blizzard’s Heroes Unlimited.

  • ARK: Survival Evolved

    Hey look, another dinosaur game! What are the odds? Better still, it has nothing to do with LEGO, so viva la difference, then head over to Steam Early Access, where the game’s now available in beta. What’s it about? You, naked and starving on an island, hunting for resources, fending off primeval critters and either cooperating with or warring against hundreds of fellow players.


    June 2

  • Heroes of the Storm

    Blizzard’s newest idea is a team-brawler mashup, where you skirmish online against other players as one of several heavy-hitters plucked from the publisher’s iconic Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo franchises.


    June 2

  • The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited

    Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series was always arrowing toward a massively online multiplayer installment, and ZeniMax Online Studios’ freshman effort wasn’t half-bad when it launched on PCs in April 2014. But the delayed console versions stand to benefit from substantial extra time in the oven, as well as the company’s shift from a monthly subscription fee to free-to-play.

    PlayStation 4, Xbox One

    June 9

  • Kholat

    In February 1959, nine hikers in the Russian Ural mountains died; to this day, the cause of their death remains unknown. Kholat, an open-world, first-person “horror experience,” imagines what might have happened, dropping players years later into the spot where the mysterious event unfolded. Top that off with actor Sean Bean handling the story narration.


    June 10

  • LEGO Jurassic World

    Why haven’t we had more dinosaur games? No idea, but we can thank whoever green-lit director Colin Trevorrow’s upcoming Jurassic World popcorn-chomper for tugging at Warner Bros. purse-strings, thus giving Traveller’s Tales another chance to uncork its goofball LEGO shtick, this time taking on Isla “four films later and no one’s learned a thing” Nublar.

    PC, PlayStation 3 & 4, Xbox 360 & One, Wii U, 3DS, PS Vita

    June 12

  • Batman: Arkham Knight

    The eponymous villain in developer Rocksteady’s third (and final) engagement of DC’s Batman mythos should hopefully breathe a little life into a series long overshadowed by the Joker. The biggest change, aside from the biggest sandbox version of Gotham we’ve seen and shift to new consoles, is the inclusion of the Batmobile—like a grim vamp on Insomniac’s dualistic Ratchet & Clank, as you shift between the Dark Knight and his tricked out ride to solve puzzles or assist you in battle.

    PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows

    June 23

  • Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

    It’s the first expansion to the hands-down best MMO on consoles (and in the top two or three on PC) today. The usual things apply: new areas to explore, a new playable race and the level cap’s been upped to 60. But you’ll also be able to build airships and fly to floating stratospheric continents, plus Square Enix is adding support for OS X (Apple) computers.

    PlayStation 3 & 4, Windows

    June 23

  • God of War III Remastered

    It’s God of War III (originally for PlayStation 3) jacked up to full 1080p at 60 frames per second, and sporting a new feature that lets you take, edit and share in-game photos.

    PlayStation 4

    July 14

  • Feist

    Feist, a beautiful, otherworldly sidescroller that’s been in development forever, is about a tiny fuzz-covered creature (think Fizzgig from The Dark Crystal) exploring spooky chiaroscuro forests, mountains, caves and swamps.


    July 23

  • Until Dawn

    A group of twenty-somethings, a secluded mountain hangout, and one horror-filled night. You’ve seen it a million times, but Supermassive Games is pushing the idea that each time you play through Until Dawn–and you’ll have to complete it repeatedly to figure out what’s really going on, apparently–you’re following one of thousands of possible paths.

    PlayStation 4

    August 25

  • Madden NFL 16

    This year’s Madden once more overhauls the controls, tweaking QB maneuvers (body-relative throws, touch and roll out passes) and adding what EA’s calling a “risk/reward catch and pass-defend system.” The emphasis, along with de facto visual, online and backend refinements, appears to be on helping you create splashy, photographical moments.

    PlayStation 3 & 4, Xbox 360 & One

    August 25

  • Mad Max

    Mad Max, an open-world vehicle combat game, could be another bland movie-game tie-in…or, like the film itself, it could surprise us all. Current odds are on the latter: its developer, Avalanche Studios, has yet to drop the ball, and it’s already hit a few out of the park (see their acclaimed Just Cause series).

    PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

    September 1

  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

    “The Phantom Pain” makes Metal Gear Solid V sound a little silly, like a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys book, but publisher Konami’s stealth-gaming sandbox spree Metal Gear Solid V promises to deliver smarter enemies and a game world “200 times” that of last year’s prologue, Ground Zeroes.

    PC, PlayStation 3 & 4, Xbox 360 & One

    September 1

  • Mighty No. 9

    A Mega Man rethink by another name, Mighty No. 9 takes that 2D platforming classic’s ideas—a robotic protagonist, clever weaponry and crazy end-level boss battles—and adds unique transformational abilities gathered from defeated enemies.

    PC, PlayStation 3 & 4, Xbox 360 & One, Wii U, 3DS, PS Vita

    September 15

  • FIFA 16

    With the FIFA scandal ongoing, the cleanest way to get your football fix (that’s “soccer” for Americans) may be FIFA 16. But the biggest news this year is EA’s inclusion, long overdue, of female footballers (the first FIFA Women’s World Cup was held back in 1991), including 12 women’s national teams.

    PC, PlayStation 3 & 4, Xbox 360 & One

    September 22


This App Teaches Rebels Fighters Not to Commit War Crimes

Geneva Call hope militants can be educated about the laws of war

The next time Syrian-Kurdish fighters want to launch an attack on the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria they may need to consult their smart phones.

Hundreds of combatants from the YPG, a Kurdish militia in northern Syria, now have a new app that guides them through the rules of wars.

“We thought about doing something more like an encyclopedia,” says Nicolas Sion a spokesman for the NGO Geneva Call, which helped develop the application. “But we thought armed groups won’t read something like that.” Instead, in the ‘Fighter Not Killer’ app, your fictitious militia gets a new recruit named Zako. With him you face 28 scenarios common in guerilla warfare.

Fighter Not Killer app

“A local TV journalist is using his show to send
out propaganda against your organization,” reads one question. “Can you target the journalist?”

Fighter Not Killer app

Especially in Syria, a large number of rebel fighters have smart phones and already use them to post on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. With the app, the user answers questions that test his or her knowledge of topics ranging from the treatment of detainees to targeting enemy combatants in civilian areas, and the use of prohibited weapons and child soldiers. Militants able to answer the questions correctly, advance to the ‘Commander’ level of the game. But Mehmet Balci, Geneva Call’s Program Director for the Middle East, says for most of the militants he’s introduced the app to, reaching the ‘Commander’ level is difficult. “They said, ‘no, no, we know everything…this is very simple’” recalls Balci. “And then they get red points.”

The app is part of a wider ‘Fighter Not Killer’ campaign by Geneva Call. Its primary target is Syrian rebel factions, many of whom battle both the Syrian government and ISIS. Armed conflict is now rarely between national armies of countries that are signatories of the Geneva Convention. It’s almost always government forces versus militias, or fighting between armed non-state actors. Because of this, Geneva Call works with over 35 militant groups around the world, raising awareness about the humanitarian norms of war, based on the Laws of Armed Conflict .

Non-state armed groups can’t sign on to the Geneva Conventions, so instead they make a commitment to Geneva Call to abide by the rules. Every four years, representatives from some of the world’s most notorious militant groups meet in Geneva to discuss the laws of war and how they affect their struggle.

Fighter Not Killer app

Many of the scenarios featured in the app are based on questions commonly asked by militants and developed with a legal advisor. Despite this, Balci says some militias try to dispute the answers in the app, particularly in the section called ‘Conduct of Hostilities.’ “We believe that some modifications could take place,” Redur Xelil, a spokesman for the YPG. Many groups point out that they are fighting enemies — government forces or militant groups — that don’t abide by these rules themselves, making it difficult for the militias to comply.

“Your logistics officer has acquired some rocket launchers on a recent trip abroad. They have sufficient range to hit the nearby enemy town of 50,000 inhabitants,” reads one question. “Can you launch these rockets towards the military headquarters in the center of the nearby town?”

Fighter Not Killer app

Of course they can’t, but as Redur points out few in Syria follow the rules of war and often station their units in civilian areas. “It’s difficult to separate the fighters from the civilians, especially when ISIS or other fighters use the civilians as human shields,” says Xelil. The YPG iself has been accused of using child soldiers and other abuses in Syria.

Fighter Not Killer app

“We have distributed these applications among fighters and they are obliged to abide with its content,” says Xelil. Other Syrian-Kurdish officials suggested the app be installed by mobile phone shops on all smartphones sold in their territory. The application can be used in in Arabic, French and English and has been downloaded more than 1,200 times since its launch on May 19. Geneva Call says they plan to expand distribution in Syria and provide the application as a file to those who don’t have internet access.

For groups like the YPG, international support and recognition are important. Syrian Kurds, like many rebel groups, have nationalist ambitions making international legitimacy important. “For all of them the first incentive is to take care of their reputation,” says Sion.

Are you a fighter or a killer? The correct answers for the first two questions is no but it is permissible to fire on a 15-year old if he or she is firing at you.

Correction: The text was amended to show that it is permissible to fire on a 15-year old if he or she is firing at you.

TIME streaming

Everything You Need to Know About Spotify

Spotify Spotify

Now it's much more than just music

It’s a fact: no one makes good music anymore. Okay, that might not be a fact, but it’s not my opinion alone. According to neuroscientist, musician, and author Daniel J. Levitin, musical tastes begin forming at 14 and peak at 24, which means if you’re older than that, the new sound is total garbage. Perhaps that’s why you can’t name the latest Pearl Jam album, even though you waited for hours to buy “Vs.” at a record store in 1993.

Then again, who buys physical music these days anyway? Music buying on the whole is declining thanks to streaming services like Spotify, which gives subscribers instant access to millions of songs for the cost of one CD a month. If Spotify is as unfamiliar to you as Skrillex, here are the big questions to fill in what you’ve been missing about the streaming service (not the dance music artist).

What is it? Quickly supplanting meatballs and flat-pack furniture as Sweden’s most adored export, Spotify was launched in 2008 and has completely changed they way people listen to music ever since. By allowing users to play music directly from the cloud — rather than by downloading it first — Spotify became wildly popular, and as a startup gave entrenched music industry players like Apple’s iTunes a run for its money.

Part of the allure for Spotify’s users is that the service (currently) boasts more than 30 million tracks, and save for some high-profile holdouts like The Beatles, it has pretty much every song you’d ever want to listen to. Another attractive feature is that people can use Spotify for free, though that experience is interrupted by ads, doesn’t have high-definition quality, and mobile phone users can’t just play any song they want (though they can skip five songs per hour).

Soon, Spotify plans to add an entirely new service to its repertoire — video. The company recently announced it will start to stream video clips. But it’s not competing with the likes of Hulu and Netflix, yet. Instead it will have content similar to what you’d find on YouTube’s channels, such as video podcasts and online-only programs.

How do I use it? Spotify runs on all manner of smartphones, tablets, PCs, and even television-connected set top boxes (including gaming consoles). While Spotify has different capabilities on all of the these platforms, each are centered on playing music (and, now, videos). For instance, Spotify’s mobile app, available on everything from Android to Windows phone, is all about the tunes, from singles to albums. Meanwhile, the PC version is a platform unto itself, with companion apps for everything from song lyrics to visualizers that layers to the musical experience. Set top box versions of Spotify aren’t particularly easy to use or feature-laden, which makes them a good accessory for mobile or PC users, but they don’t make good primary interfaces.

Who uses it? A better question to ask is, who doesn’t? Reaching 58 countries worldwide from Andorra to Uruguay, Spotify has 60 million active users, 20% of whom pay for the service. Compared to Pandora’s almost 80 million actives, Spotify would seem like the underdog, but Pandora only has 3.5 million paying customers.

Artists, however, have mixed feelings about Spotify. At the beginning, Spotify boasted about the revenue it shared with musicians, but eventually it was revealed that these payouts were much lower than expected. Because Spotify makes its deals with the record labels, everyone gets a cut along the way, leaving little for the people who actually perform the music.

Lesser-known artists have justified this by valuing the exposure that Spotify’s large user base brings. Meanwhile, some more popular musicians, like Taylor Swift, have pulled their work from the service in protest of the way they get paid (or don’t) through streaming.

Yet despite lacking Swift, Spotify’s vast collection still manages to cater to almost everyone’s musical taste. This is never more evident than when you’re paying attention to Spotify’s social media feed. A major part of the service, it lets users share with friends everything from favorite playlists to tracks they’re currently listening to. This, in turn, helps with music discovery. And according to data polled by Spotify and The Echo Nest, the age of when people stop listening promiscuously is 33, not 24 as Levity discovered previously. So, maybe this new way of listening is working — it seems to be keeping interested in cooler music even longer.

TIME Apple

Apple’s Tim Cook Accuses Facebook and Google of Violating User Privacy

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection in Stanford, Calif. on Feb. 13, 2015.
Jeff Chiu—AP Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection in Stanford, Calif. on Feb. 13, 2015.

Blistering speech stresses Apple as a company “that doesn’t want your data”

Apple boss Tim Cook lashed out at Internet giants and government Tuesday, calling them out for undermining constitutionally-guaranteed rights to privacy.

In a speech seemingly aimed at differentiating Apple’s corporate culture from some of its biggest rivals in Silicon Valley, Cook stepped up his criticisms of those who fund their business models by monetizing users’ data.

Although he stopped short of naming them, there was no mistaking Cook’s targets–Facebook Inc., Google Inc. and Twitter Inc., among others.

“Some of the most prominent and successful companies (in Silicon Valley) have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information,” Techcrunch reported Cook as telling an audience in Washington. “They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.”

“We at Apple reject the idea that our customers should have to make tradeoffs between privacy and security,” Cook said. “We can, and we must provide both in equal measure. We believe that people have a fundamental right to privacy. The American people demand it, the constitution demands it, morality demands it.”

It’s not Cook’s first attack on companies that are competing increasingly directly for customers in area like Cloud storage. But his comments were arguably even stronger than previous ones on the subject in, for example, his interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose last year.

“We don’t think you should ever have to trade it for a service you think is free but actually comes at a very high cost. This is especially true now that we’re storing data about our health, our finances and our homes on our devices,” Cook went on, getting even more explicit when talking about user privacy.

Cook’s attack included a thinly-veiled swipe at Google’s new Photos service, which critics say allows the company to analyse images of family life in order to optimize its advertising.

“You might like these so-called free services, but we don’t think they’re worth having your email, your search history and now even your family photos data mined and sold off for God-knows-what advertising purpose,” Cook said. “We think some day, customers will see this for what it is.”

Cook didn’t stop at attacking his competitors. He also saved some ammo for the government and its attacks on the encryption of private data. The Department of Homeland Security has warned that encryption allows terrorists to communicate too easily in secret.

“Removing encryption tools from our products altogether, as some in Washington would like us to do, would only hurt law-abiding citizens who rely on us to protect their data,” Cook said. “The bad guys will still encrypt; it’s easy to do and readily available.”

Taking away encryption, he said, “has a chilling effect on our First Amendment rights and undermines our country’s founding principles.”

Cook delivered his speech remotely to the “Champions of Freedom” event hosted by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a non-profit organization that focuses on privacy issues.

This article originally appeared on fortune.com

TIME Comcast

How Comcast is Trying to Make Nice Over Latest Internet Outage

comcast van
Robert Galbraith—Reuters

The company is making a small peace offering to customers impacted across the West

Comcast is making a peace offering to subscribers across the West who lost Internet access for around three hours Monday night — $5.

“We know that having a fast, reliable connection to the Internet is vital and that interruptions of this sort are unacceptable,” the company wrote in a blog post Tuesday. “We’re sorry that we didn’t live up to that last night. We are giving a credit to customers who were impacted.”

Comcast blamed the outage on an equipment failure compounded by problems with the backup system that automatically reroutes Internet traffic. An overload disrupted service for many customers.

Comcast has a reputation for customer troubles. Various snafus and repeated promises by top executives to improve service has made the company a dart board for criticism.

Customers impacted by the recent service interruption will receive a credit in their regular bills. Anyone the company misses can apply for the credit online (the company plans to publish a link online for those customers to do so).

(This story was updated with additional information from Comcast)

TIME Amazon

Amazon Introduces Free Shipping for Small Items

Amazon's latest move comes as the online retailer wars intensify.

Amazon has introduced free shipping on all small lightweight items, with no minimum purchase necessary.

The online retailing giant’s new initiative means that all shoppers can buy thousands of products like cosmetics and phone accessories without having to fork over extra for delivery, according to a Bloomberg report. Until now, only subscribers to Amazon’s Prime membership or those whose orders totaled at least $35 qualified for free shipping.

Now, even certain $5 orders will reach your doorstep with you having to pay for postage.

One difference, however, is that shipping will take five to seven days instead of the two days Amazon offers to Prime members.

Amazon seems to be targeting cost-conscious shoppers who are more reluctant to commit to the Prime membership’s $99 annual fee but who will likely shop more from Amazon because of the free shipping. The move can also help Amazon remain competitive in the face of other retailers like Walmart and Target recently announcing their own fast-shipping programs for low fees.

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