Twitter is banning 1m accounts a day to keep your timeline clean
Posted by David Nield on 07 July 2018 01:30 PM
Twitter is getting serious about fake and abusive accounts on the network – as in really serious. Reports say the powers-that-be on the platform have suspended some 70 million accounts over the course of May and June, which works out to more than a million a day, and the purge is apparently still ongoing.
That's according to a report from The Washington Post, which says Twitter has been stung by recent criticism and is taking stronger action than ever before. The downside is, of course, that it's going to have to report lower user numbers as well.
The clean-up is apparently focusing on automated and spammy accounts, the sort that are run by software or designed to funnel you through to affiliate links that can make a few pennies for their owners. If you start seeing less junk in the feed when you open up the Twitter app, now you know why.
Fight the spam
Gizmodo reports that Twitter is also cracking down to stop spam accounts from being set up in the first place – it says it's now blocking more than 50,000 dodgy accounts a day from ever being created.
Twitter itself says around 5% of accounts are spam accounts, and up to 9% of accounts are bots – some of which serve useful and legitimate purposes of course. Third-party analysts reckon those numbers could be a lot higher, which means the action being taken now will really hit the social network's user numbers.
At the last count, Twitter reported having 336 million active users who log into the platform at least once a month. It remains to be seen just how much the spambot crackdown is going to affect those numbers, but it should improve the experience for the rest of us.
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Xbox Two vs PS5: predicting the future
Posted by Bill Thomas on 07 July 2018 01:00 PM
Beyond the fact that the next-generation consoles will exist, however, we don’t really know anything else beyond that. We know of a few games that have been teased for the next generation, sure, but in terms of what these consoles can actually do, it's anyone's guess.
This has led the minds of gamers to wander, imagining what's possible for the next-generation of upcoming consoles. What will they look like? What kind of hardware will they be packing? What kinds of games will be made possible by this hardware? Will Sony or Microsoft have the upper hand?
We don't have the answers outright, but in order to explore these questions, we decided it would be good to step back and ponder the future while looking at what Sony and Microsoft have done in the past. The results of this exercise are pure speculation, of course, but one that we hope will provide some good analysis on what the future holds for the two most dominant console platforms on earth.
Facts and expectations
So what do we know for a fact?
We know that the Xbox Two is already in the works – as Phil Spencer stated at the Microsoft E3 2018 event. We know that it has the internal codename of Scarlett, even, thanks to a leaked report. We're not sure if it's just a single console or, in fact, a whole family of them, but reports suggest the latter.
As for an exact release date, aside from some speculation that points towards a 2020 or 2021 launch window, we don’t have any concrete information about either the next Xbox or the PS5. That said, we don’t think that Microsoft will be able to put out the next Xbox without a Sony console to give it some competition.
Given where we are right now in the gaming landscape, VR is probably going to be a huge battle ground for the next generation ... even if Microsoft has said that VR and Mixed Reality support wouldn’t be coming to the Xbox One.
While we don't know for a fact that Microsoft will support VR on consoles in the future, it's likely that Xbox Two will be VR-ready. In fact, with the power of the next generation of consoles, VR has to be supported by both console makers.
Beyond VR, we’re expecting native 4K support from both consoles, as that's already a key feature of the Xbox One X. And, if they pack in AMD Navi technology (which we haven’t even seen in the PC space yet) and Ryzen CPU tech on top of that and the PS5 and Xbox Two could be packing some serious heat.
Now, because the PS3 used the Cell processor, it was virtually impossible for the PS4 to embrace backwards compatibility. And, while the Xbox One found a way to implement it through emulation, the PS5 and Xbox One basically have no excuse to not include full backwards compatibility at launch – it would take virtually no effort to implement it.
Possible specs for the Xbox Two and PS5
Here's where things get murky. We have an idea of what the two consoles should have under the hood, but not much of an idea what's in the dev kits right now. Tthat being said however, because they got rid of the proprietary hardware that the PS3 and Xbox 360 used and instead opted for what was essentially PC hardware in the PS4 and Xbox One, we don’t see any reason that the PS5 and Xbox Two wouldn’t follow the same approach.
The Xbox One and PS4 both rocked AMD GCN GPUs and Jaguar CPUs, and speculation points to the next generation utilizing AMD tech again. However, the best processors and GPUs have come a long way in the last 5-6 years, so we could be seeing an absolutely massive boost in performance.
Just going off of recent technology, the next generation may be using a low-power Ryzen Chip and the upcoming 7nm Navi chips, which will be designed for the next generation of processors, according to a report from Wccftech. One of the most important things to note about these Navi chips is the fact that they’re being manufactured using a 7nm process, which means both increased power and efficiency over even the Xbox One – hitting 4K native shouldn’t be an issue.
Then there’s the memory. Both the Xbox One and PS4 launched with 8gb of memory. However, the PS4 utilized the higher-bandwidth GDDR5, instead of the DDR3 in the Xbox One. This was one of the main factors in the PS4’s initial superiority over the Xbox One at launch. Eventually the Xbox One X would come out using 12GB of GDDR5 and absolutely destroyed the PS4 Pro in terms of sheer power.
The next generation, though, could go one of two ways: We could see the next consoles sticking with 12GB of RAM, opting for the ‘next-generation’ GDDR6 RAM. Or, they could play it safe and use DDR4 and up it to 16GB. We do know that if the PS5 and Xbox One are going to be going for native 4K, so 8GB of RAM simply won’t cut it – 4K textures will eat up a ton of VRAM.
4K games will also require a ton of storage space, so we don’t think we’re going to see SSD storage on the next generation – the prices are still too high to implement 1TB of SSD storage in a console that costs less than $500. Instead, we’ll probably see a 1TB hard drive as the baseline, with maybe a 4-8TB model at the top – we’re already seeing games that take up 100GB of drive space.
What games will they play?
We could sit here all day and talk about the tech behind the next generation of consoles, but at the end of the day it’s the games that make or break any console.
This last generation saw an explosion of Open World games and free-to-play (and not so free-to-play) multiplayer experiences fueled by microtransactions and loot boxes, neither of which are likely to fade into non-existence in next-gen systems, especially since the first glance of next generation games has been The Elder Scrolls 6.
If that turns out to be the case, the power of the Ryzen processors, Navi GPUs and increased RAM will allow these open worlds to be absolutely massive in scale while eliminating the need for egregious loading screens. Just think about it – an open world even larger than The Witcher 3 with the visuals of God of War (or even better).
However, the whole ‘games as a service’ model that was so popular this generation likely won’t be going away any time soon either. Even after the massive controversy surrounding Star Wars Battlefront II’s monetization, this approach is still making an absolute ton of money. Activision Blizzard by itself made over $4 billion from microtransactions just last year, according to a report from Gamespot.
We might see mainstream publishers backing away from loot boxes – and we already are – but there will still be a lot of motivation to monetize the pants off of every game. This will be even more true if services like Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Now become a major component of the next generation – and we think they will.
If we had to predict a launch line-up – or, rather, create one of our own – it'd include The Elder Scrolls 6, Beyond Good & Evil 2, Cyberpunk 2077 and Halo Infinite on Xbox Two. It'd be nice to see a Horizon Zero Dawn sequel on PS5, but that's pie in the sky.
Should you buy a PS5 or an Xbox Two?
With every console generation, there’s an inevitable spirit of competition that springs up between Sony and Microsoft - as well as their respective fan bases - and we don’t think the next generation is going to be any different.
The question, then, is who is going to have the upper hand at the genesis of the next generation? Some people may want to point at Sony, because of its unrivaled success with the PS4, but we wouldn’t be too sure.
Just look back at the Playstation 2, it was the most successful console to ever exist – however, in the transition from PS2 to PS3, Sony got cocky and created a space-age console with a specialized processor and a $600 price tag. This move led to the Xbox 360 doing gangbusters during its lifespan.
We don’t necessarily think Sony is going to repeat the same mistakes it made with the PS3, but victory isn’t exactly assured.
Microsoft however, has an interesting starting point. For the last several years Microsoft has been moving away from the exclusive game paradigm, instead releasing its exclusive titles across the Windows 10 ecosystem. If Microsoft doubles down on this approach, and makes it so that the Xbox Two is just a device you can use to play games, rather than a requirement – it could be in an interesting position.
Sony and Microsoft both have subscription-based game services, but right now Microsoft has the upper hand over Sony in this regard. PS Now doesn’t feature new games upon release, while Xbox Game Pass does. And, once the install base is reset with the next generation of consoles, everything will be up in the air – as long as Microsoft doesn’t do away with physical media, we could see a much closer console race.
Keep calm and carry on
Even though we have a lot of speculation to draw off of when it comes to specs, games, and everything else, it’s all still up in the air. From here on out you can expect plenty of fake teaser trailers, screen grabs and hardware photo 'leaks', but until Microsoft and Sony come out and announce the next line of gaming consoles, don't put too much stock in anything you see.
Whatever the next consoles look like, gaming as a whole is about to see huge advancements, from visuals, to gameplay and even to how we buy them. A lot of the trends that we saw take off during this generation, and we’re excited to see how they pay off here in a couple years.
Whatever they end up looking like and whenever they come out, we'll be excited to see the next-generation of gaming consoles. Until we get them, though, there's always Red Dead Redemption 2.
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Best VoIP providers of 2018
Posted by Jonas DeMuro on 07 July 2018 12:15 PM
Few of us have a traditional (copper wire) phone service today. Leveraging the power of the internet to send data at high speeds, these days, we’re more likely to communicate via Voice over Internet Protocol, better known as VoIP.
Consumers for over a decade have tended to dump landlines in favor of mobile phones en masse. However, some folks continue to have a landline whether for a home business, for better reception and less dropped calls, or a redundant backup so they can make a phone call while their battery hungry smartphone sits in the charger.
There are plenty of options in the VoIP arena, with choices coming down to cost, support for other services such as e911, the required equipment, and your international calling needs. Let’s take a look at some handpicked choices for the best VoIP providers currently out there.
For those who are nervous giving up their copper phone line to head into this newfangled world of internet telephony, Vonage is a great choice, as they are quite well established, and offer a variety of plans to choose from, with plenty of support.
Their lowest tier plan, Vonage US & Canada 400, starts at $12.99 (£10) per month, and offers a modest 400 minutes monthly for calling in the two countries mentioned in the plan’s name, with included free shipping and activation.
The next tier up, Vonage North America includes unlimited calling to the US, Canada and Mexico, with a no-contract price of $24.99 (£19), which makes a good argument for the annual contract that brings it down to $9.99 (£8) per month with a 12 month commitment. The other benefit of the annual contract is that it includes the required hardware, known as a Vonage Box, for no additional charge.
Ooma uses its box to provide a VoIP service, and offers an affordable option. They include such useful features as HD Voice for better voice quality, encrypted phone calls, prioritization of voice data on your network, and advanced voice compression to decrease bandwidth usage by 60% compared to other VoIP services.
The basic box is the Ooma Telo, which is $99 (£76) and requires a wired connection. The upgraded box is the Ooma Telo Air, which costs $129 (£99), and allows wireless use.
There are two tiers, Basic which is free except for the required monthly landline taxes, and Premier that costs $119.99 (£92) annually. While they both have unlimited calling, the higher tier includes such nifty features as Amazon Echo connectability, a mobile app for inbound and outbound calling, and call blocking.
1-VoIP is a value VoIP provider that offers a solid feature set at an affordable price, and the hardware is included. Their US & Canada Unlimited calling plan offers unlimited incoming and outgoing calls throughout North America at an affordable $17.97 (£14) per month, without requiring a monthly subscription, with the hardware included and no commitment.
They also offer a lower budget tier that starts at $8.97 (£7) monthly, which has 500 outgoing minutes, but still offers unlimited incoming minutes, as well as the hardware and the same premium features of the higher tiers.
The firm also provides a compelling premium feature set, that includes sending PDF documents as virtual faxes, voicemails that get forwarded via email as an audio attachment, automatic rejection of anonymous phone calls, and a digital softphone that allows you to use your service from a computer or smartphone via an app. 1-VoIP has also partnered with Normorobo to filter out those truly annoying telemarketers and robocalls.
Lingo is solidly average across the board, but for your phone service that may be exactly what you are looking for, as their pricing is middle of the road, and so is the feature set.
The Lingo Essential plan starts at $9.95 (£8) per month without a contract, plus a $1.99 (£2) 911 fee, which includes the adapter (and its shipping) plus 500 minutes for the month. The step up offering is the Lingo Unlimited plan that includes unlimited calling, and costs $19.95 (£15) per month without the contract, and $14.95 (£11) per month with an annual contract for those willing to commit to a year of service.
Included in both plans are over twenty calling features. These include enhanced 911, anonymous call rejection, three-way calling and directory assistance.
Taking the ‘price club’ approach to VoIP calling plans is Voipo. Rather than selling the service month-to-month, they sell it as a two year deal for $149 (£113), which then works out at a dirt cheap $6.21 (£4.70) per month, for an unlimited amount of minutes.
For those that are commitment-phobic in terms of a longer contract, a 30-day money-back guarantee does offer reassurance. Sweetening the deal further are the 40 plus premium features, including online voicemail, telemarketer blocking, softphone access, a free rollover line, and even 60 minutes of included international calling monthly.
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Camera gear of the World Cup 2018: what the pros are using in Russia
Posted by Phil Hall on 07 July 2018 11:30 AM
Watch any match at the World Cup and you’ll see a bank of photographers stretching along the entire length of the pitch, clutching huge white or black lenses as they capture the action unfold in front of them.
But what exactly are the cameras and lenses these agency and press photographers using? Below we take a look at some of the key items of camera kit that’ll be the mainstay of most of theses photographers for the entire length of the World Cup.
(Main image: Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)
For jobbing sports photographers, resolution often plays second fiddle to durability and performance, which is why you’ll likely see large a bulky Canon EOS-1D series and Nikon Dx series cameras welded by pros pitch-side at the World Cup.
While the resolution of their sensors might not even be able to match cameras costing a third of the price, the full-frame sensors in these two flagship cameras are capable of delivering stunning results at high sensitivities that just wouldn’t be possible with most other cameras.
Essential if you’re going to be working in poor light and need to be able to freeze the action, while the highly sophisticated autofocus systems of both cameras means they can be capable of tracking even the most erratically moving footballer round the frame.
While photographers are likely to have a couple of flagship bodies like this slung over their shoulders, they’ll also potentially have a higher resolution DSLR or two at their disposal as well, with cameras like the 30.4MP Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and 45.4MP Nikon D850 ideal for commercial assignments where a higher pixel count is required.
Canon and Nikon don’t have things all to themselves, with the likes of Sony’s brilliant Alpha A9 starting to be used by pros thanks to its blend of fast shooting speeds, rapid AF and silent shutter. At the moment, it’s a little hampered by limited long lenses...
The main lens for sports photographers is a 400mm f/2.8. These large pieces of glass allow photographers to fill the frame with their subject, while the large and fast maximum aperture affords them plenty of flexibility.
Not only does it allow them to isolate their subject, but the fast maximum aperture also helps them keep shutter speeds high (when combined with the excellent high ISO performance of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and Nikon D5), while it also means photographers can attach 1.4x and 2x teleconverters to them to extend the reach without restricting AF performance.
The latest generations of 400mm telephoto primes are the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM II and Nikon AF-S 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR, while Sony’s also just announced the FE 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS, its first dedicated telephoto prime lens for its full-frame range of mirrorless cameras.
As well as a 400mm f/2.8, a second camera body is likely to have a 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom on the front. This means that photographers can easily swap to this should the action come in close.
It’s not all about telephoto lenses for shooting football. There’s likely to be a 16-35mm f/2.8 or 14-24mm f/2.8 likely to feature prominently in a sports photographer’s kit bag.
This has a number of uses, from capturing those scene-setting shots of the entire stadium, to the end of the match when photographers will scramble to get the reaction of players. These lenses will also be used when cameras are positioned remotely behind the posts, allowing photographers to capture a goal, even if they’re positioned at the other end of the pitch.
The humble 24-70mm f/2.8 also has its place - it may not be quite as glamorous as some of the other lenses her, but it can get incredibly versatile for a range of shooting conditions, and can be really handy when the action is right in front of the photographer.
Shooting with a large and heavy lens like a 400mm f/2.8 means that some form of support is essential, and a monopod is perfect for the job.
While a flashgun is impractical for shooting action with a 400mm in a floodlit stadium, a speedlight can be really handy when shooting player reactions at the end of the match, allowing photographers to easily freeze their subject and add a nice bit of illumination.
Another key accessory is some remote triggers like PocketWizard’s Plus IV system. This allows photographers to remotely trigger there cameras that they’ve positioned elsewhere round the pitch. Featuring built-in radio transmitters and receivers, they don’t require direct line-of-sight like infrared triggers do, while they can have an impressive range up to 500m.
Finally, one accessory that a sports photographer at a football match wouldn’t be without is a little fold away camping stall. Nobody wants to kneel for 90 minutes, so these allow photographers to shoot in relative comfort from a nice, low-down shooting position.
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Sweden vs England live stream: how to watch today's World Cup quarter-final online
Posted by Adam Marshall on 07 July 2018 10:46 AM
Sweden and England are just one match away from a FIFA World Cup last four place, all that stands in front of them is each other in this huge quarter-final at Russia 2018. Sweden vs England wasn't really in the script at the start of the World Cup, but now it's here and we'll tell you how to watch a free live stream from anywhere in the world.
So will be football coming home, or going to Stockholm? (And yes, we know we already used that joke, but we were really pleased with it!). Although both teams have clearly had a very good World Cup just to get to the quarter-finals, neither have been overwhelmingly impressive. Yes, there was England's 6-1 drubbing of Panama complete with Harry Kane hat-trick. And Sweden had that convincing 3-0 win over much-fancied Mexico in the group stage. But it's anybody's guess as to who will come through this one.
The last time Sweden and England met was memorable for that ridiculous Zlatan Ibrahimović goal in a friendly four years ago. And those with a longer memory will recall a fantastic Euro 2012 group game in which England managed to prevail 3-2. But it's anybody's guess as to who will come through this one and face the winner of the Russia vs Croatia World Cup quarter-final.
Keep reading to discover how to live stream Sweden vs England - and, indeed, every World Cup 2018 match - no matter where in the world you are. Below we’ll tell you exactly how to watch on your TV, mobile device and it doesn't have to cost you a thing.
Use a VPN to watch the World Cup 2018 from anywhere for FREE
You don't have to miss a single minute of World Cup soccer - even if the country where you are isn't broadcasting certain games. Because every second of action is being shown somewhere (the UK, for example, is televising every game for free - see below), you can simply use a VPN to login to a region that is broadcasting the game. And it's really easy to do:
How to stream England vs Sweden live in the UK
How to watch Sweden vs England: US live stream
How to live stream Sweden vs England in Canada
How to watch England vs Sweden: live stream in Australia
How to watch England vs Sweden: New Zealand live stream
Exclusive World Cup competition with VyprVPN
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The doctor on your wrist: how wearables are revolutionizing healthcare
Posted by Carrie Marshall on 07 July 2018 10:21 AM
If it weren’t for her smartwatch, 18-year-old Deanna Recktenwald might not be alive today. Her watch pinged to warn her that her resting heart rate was rocketing, and she immediately went to get checked out; if she hadn’t, she might have died from kidney failure.
Sarah-Jayne McIntosh had a similarly narrow escape. Her Fitbit warned her that her heart rate was three times normal; as she told The Mirror: “The doctors said that if I hadn't phoned for an ambulance when I did, and if I wasn't wearing my Fitbit to track my heart rate, I could have suffered a heart attack/cardiac arrest and could have died.”
Another Fitbit solved a medical mystery: a 42-year-old man was rushed to a New Jersey ER after a seizure, but couldn’t tell staff how long his heart had been racing. The doctors interrogated his Fitbit HR to determine when his heart rate had spiked, information that enabled them to decide whether it was safe to give him appropriate treatment.
William Monzidelis, 32, is certain that his watch saved his life. It urged him to seek immediate medical help; by the time he arrived at hospital 30 minutes later, he’d lost 80% of his blood. He’d suffered an erupted ulcer, and received life-saving surgery just in time.
A doctor on your wrist
We’re just scratching the surface of what wearable devices can do. For example, the Apple Watch is enabling large-scale research into heart conditions and can even detect diabetes – but in the longer term the Watch, and devices like it, will be capable of much more. Wearables will help to change the way we live, and the way we die.
One of the biggest causes of premature death is an unhealthy lifestyle – not just obvious things such as smoking or drinking, but poor diet and lack of exercise. Wearable devices can help nudge us towards improving those things, and in some cases there can be a financial reward: some insurers offer discounted premiums to customers who wear wearable devices on the grounds that they’re more likely to take positive steps to improve their health.
But wearables can do much more than track your steps or record the calories you’re consuming. Medical-grade health sensors are coming, and they can monitor all kinds of things. For example, Swiss firm Biovotion has a wearable that tracks heart rate, blood oxygen, skin temperature, sleep patterns and so on.
At the University of Waterloo in Canada, researchers are working on diabetes monitors that don’t require the wearer to prick their finger several times a day. The device uses radar and artificial intelligence and is being developed by Google and the German hardware firm Infineon. According to project head, Professor George Shaker, “I’m hoping we’ll see a wearable device on the market within the next five years.”
Even beauty firms are getting in on the wearable act: L’Oreal recently launched a wearable UV sensor to help protect against skin cancer.
L’Oreal’s device shows what future wearables might be like. It doesn’t need a battery, it’s only 9mm long and it fits almost imperceptibly on your thumbnail. It then transmits to your phone via NFC – the same tech used in contactless payment systems – where its companion app analyses the data and tells you if it’s time to get out of the sun.
And such sensors aren’t just useful for sun worshippers. People with Lupus can only be in the sun for so long before their symptoms flare up. Some sensors, such as Shade, are so sensitive that they can even they can even detect the UV rays from light bulbs.
What’s really interesting about wearables is that they can deliver continuous tracking. That means we can get a much better picture of our health than we could ever get from a 'body MOT' at the gym or doctor. By tracking multiple bits of data about your body all day every day, you can see the big picture of your health – and your doctor can use that data to spot patterns that might otherwise be missed.
When that data is combined with other people’s, it can save lives.
That’s what Apple’s ResearchKit is all about. It enables researchers to gather massive amounts of data (provided voluntarily) from people’s devices, and to use that data to gain insight into conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, autism, chronic heart conditions, skin cancer and epilepsy. And with that data, developers can create apps with CareKit to help people manage their conditions.
As Apple puts it: “Rather than relying solely on doctor visits, you’ll be able to regularly track your symptoms and medications, and even share the information with your care team for a bigger – and better – picture of your health.”
Lost and found
Wearables aren’t just about monitoring your vital signs. They can be of more practical use too. In Ireland, researchers have created a group called Carelink to create wearable technology for patients with dementia – something that affects more than 55,000 people in Ireland alone, with numbers rising every year. Patients with dementia can be prone to wandering, and Carelink is developing low-cost, energy-efficient sensors that connect to the cloud and enable wanderers to be located and helped.
Wearable technology can also be very useful for people with disabilities. The Wavio platform uses real-time sound recognition to create an electronic ear for deaf people, while South Korean startup Dot is developing smartwatches that communicate in braille.
Another big benefit to wearable technology is that it enables healthcare providers to monitor patients without requiring them to visit the doctor or stay in hospital. Miniaturization, and the relentless pace of technological advances, means that hardware you’d previously need to visit a hospital to be treated with can now be worn on your body and its data transmitted via an app. In the US, for example, Vitalconnect brings hospital monitoring of vital signs to a small sensor that transmits whenever it can get a mobile data signal.
It feels very much like we’re reaching a tipping point: ever-smaller, ever-smarter devices are making the previously impossible possible, enabling us to learn more about our bodies and how to look after them. Plenty of technologies promise to change your life, but wearables genuinely will.
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