A review of Monitor-IO, a little gadget that wants to talk about your Internet

Monitor-IO is a $100 IoT gadget that tells you whether your Internet is working well, poorly, or not at all. The idea is you put this little black box next to (and plugged directly into) your router, and a quick glance at its color-coded screen will let you know if the Internet’s working solidly,  if it’s having some problems, or if everything is just plain out. Monitor-IO even promises to tell users granular details like how long a connection has been up, or sketchy, or out.

All of this begs the question: do you need a gadget for that?

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ROLI Songmaker Kit mini-review: Rediscover musical roots with fancy new tech

Samuel Axon

I’ve been a musician for the past 20 years, but I’ve been an electronic musician for a lot less than that. I use Apple’s Logic Pro and a variety of software synthesizers to record songs these days, but coming from an electric guitar, I’ve missed the natural expressiveness that comes from playing a traditional instrument—particularly a stringed one.

Yes, you can create amazing expressive sounds with software, but there’s just something about having that direct connection from your fingers to the amp or speakers that can’t be replicated.

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Workhorse brings an electric pickup truck, helicopter to Manhattan

Enlarge / Workhorse’s electric helicopter looks less like a traditional helicopter and more like an oversized drone. (credit: John Timmer)

I wasn’t sure entirely what I expected an electric helicopter to look like, but what I found waiting for me at New York’s Flatiron Plaza wasn’t it. It’s not because it didn’t look like a helicopter; to an extent, it did. It just looked more like a grossly oversized drone with seats.

Workhorse, the company that makes the helicopter, wasn’t giving anyone rides in the hardware, which is still undergoing FAA testing. But company CEO Steve Burns was there to talk about the ‘copter, which is being called the SureFly. And, for good measure, he also showed off an electric pickup truck, which went by the less dramatic monicker W-15.

If pickup trucks and helicopters seem largely unrelated, it’s only because they’re at opposite extremes of the company’s business interests.

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Dealmaster: Some last minute back to school sales on laptops and more tech

Enlarge / The latest Dell XPS 13 in the new white and rose gold finish. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back this weekend with another round of deals to share. This time, we’re putting our focus on back to school sales; yes, the little Arsians are heading back to campus in the coming weeks (if they haven’t left already), which means it’s time for the annual rush of students and parents looking to find the proper gear.

Ars’ Jeff Dunn curated a buying guide of recommended back to school tech earlier this week, but if the goods there don’t work for you, it’s worth noting many retailers are still running gadget sales that could prove useful to college students. Various laptop makers are running deals on their notebooks, Amazon has kicked off another round of discounts on its Fire TV and Echo devices, and Best Buy is

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Next Windows 10 update nearing completion as it gets its official name

Enlarge (credit: Peter Bright / Flickr)

The last few Windows Insider preview builds of Windows 10 have offered few new features; instead these have focused on fixing bugs.

The latest build, released today, takes a step towards completion: it’s changed the operating system’s version stamp. Until now the previews have called themselves version 1803, the release from earlier this year. Today’s build updates that version label to 1809, showing that Microsoft intends to wrap up its development in September with an October release likely to follow.

Version 1809 will be the last of the five Redstone-codenamed Windows releases. The next release, likely to come in April 2019, is codenamed simply “19H1,” with Microsoft opting for date-based codenames to go with its date-based releases.

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After employee revolt, Google says it is “not close” to launching search in China

Google’s employees and Google’s management are clashing over ethical issues again. Just two months after Google’s “Project Maven” military drone project was seemingly resolved, Google’s employees are now up in arms over company plans to create censored products for China. The internal protests resulted in the issue being addressed at an all-hands meeting, and we got to learn a bit more about Google’s China plans.

Reports from earlier this month claimed Google was working on products for the Chinese market, detailing plans for a search engine and news app that complied with the Chinese government’s censorship and surveillance demands. The news was a surprise to many Googlers, and yesterday an article from The New York Times detailed a Maven-style internal revolt at the company. Fourteen hundred employees signed a letter demanding more transparency from Google’s leadership on ethical issues, saying, “Google employees need to know what we’re building.

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20 years of the iMac at Ars Technica, in reviews and pictures

Enlarge / The original iMac was hardly a workhorse. It was designed to be a relatively affordable, visually pleasing consumer desktop, and that’s what it was. (credit: Apple)

Apple released the first iMac on August 15, 1998—that makes this week the 20th anniversary of the often divisive, always popular, and ever iconic all-in-one. That first iMac was a revolution in terms of design—an important part of the history of not just Macs but personal computing generally. But some of the choices Apple made haven’t aged that well and were controversial even at the time.

It all began with the iMac G3, which was the first product created under the watchful eye of a returning Steve Jobs. Jobs resigned from Apple in the wake of a reorganization by then-CEO John Sculley in the ’80s, but he returned to the company in the late ’90s and oversaw the iMac and other

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Google reportedly plans flagship retail store (again), this time in Chicago

Enlarge / A rendering of 851 W. Randolph Street In Chicago. (credit: Newcastle Limited)

As Google makes more and more hardware products, it makes more and more sense for the company to have some kind of retail arm to show off its stuff. Google has a few “stores within stores” at places like Best Buy in the US and Currys PC World in the UK, setups where the company pays for a premium demo area specifically for its products. Google also has the occasional temporary “pop-up store” for holidays. A standalone brick-and-mortar Google Store has never materialized, though, despite several attempts.

A new report from the Chicago Tribune claims that Google is starting up its standalone retail ambitions again, this time with a flagship retail space in Chicago’s Fulton Market district. The report says Google is “close to finalizing a lease” for an almost 14,000 square foot space

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Intel’s 10nm Cannon Lake chip gets another outing in new NUC mini PC

Intel

Intel has updated its range of small form-factor PCs that it calls NUCs. We’ve generally liked the systems in the past; with a footprint of about 4 inches by 4 inches, they’re pretty compact, and their feature set makes them versatile for home theaters, digital signs or other embedded industrial uses, workplace productivity, and in some cases, even gaming.

First up is a quintet of NUC kits named Bean Canyon, built around Coffee Lake-U processors. These range from a $299 i3-8109U at the low end (two-core, four-thread, 3.0-3.6GHz) to a $499 i7-8559U at the high end (four-core, eight-thread, 2.7-4.5GHz). All the chips are 28W processors, and all have Iris Plus graphics—128MB of eDRAM memory on the processor itself. The eDRAM is primarily there to boost graphics performance, but it can also help a lot in non-graphical workloads, too, as it acts as an enormous cache.

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Intel’s 10nm Cannon Lake chip gets another outing in new NUC mini PC

Intel

Intel has updated its range of small form-factor PCs that it calls NUCs. We’ve generally liked the systems in the past; with a footprint of about 4 inches by 4 inches, they’re pretty compact, and their feature set makes them versatile for home theaters, digital signs or other embedded industrial uses, workplace productivity, and in some cases, even gaming.

First up is a quintet of NUC kits named Bean Canyon, built around Coffee Lake-U processors. These range from a $299 i3-8109U at the low end (two-core, four-thread, 3.0-3.6GHz) to a $499 i7-8559U at the high end (four-core, eight-thread, 2.7-4.5GHz). All the chips are 28W processors, and all have Iris Plus graphics—128MB of eDRAM memory on the processor itself. The eDRAM is primarily there to boost graphics performance, but it can also help a lot in non-graphical workloads, too, as it acts as an enormous cache.

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Twitter gives Alex Jones one-week time out for inciting violence

Enlarge / Alex Jones (credit: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

After holding out for a few weeks, Twitter joined the chorus of social media and tech giants that have punished conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for questionable content. Twitter suspended Jones from his account on Tuesday after he tweeted out a link to a video in which he calls for his supporters to get their “battle rifles” ready for the media and others.

But the catch is that Jones’ ban will last just seven days—the InfoWars host will not be able to tweet or retweet from his personal account during that week. The InfoWars Twitter account has not been affected by this suspension.

According to a report by The New York Times, Jones tweeted a link to a Periscope live broadcast video (which can be viewed in part in a Media Matters tweet) in which he urged his supporters to ready

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Alexa and Cortana integration starts rolling out today

Enlarge (credit: Amazon)

Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa digital assistants can now talk to each other. The collaboration between the two assistants was announced last year and was originally due to become available by the end of 2017.

Microsoft showed how the integration would work at its Build conference earlier this year, and what’s rolling out today seems little changed from that demo. From a Cortana-native device (a Windows 10 PC, an Xbox, the Harman Kardon speaker), “Hey Cortana, open Alexa” will switch you to speaking to Alexa. From there, you have access to Alexa’s full range of shopping (not that anyone seems to really care about that), music, weather, and so on.

From an Alexa-native device, the opposite incantation—”Alexa, open Cortana”—will open Microsoft’s digital assistant for you to check your calendar, manage your to-do list, or listen to some emails.

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Intel’s SGX blown wide open by, you guessed it, a speculative execution attack

Foreshadow explained in a video.

Another day, another speculative execution-based attack. Data protected by Intel’s SGX—data that’s meant to be protected even from a malicious or hacked kernel—can be read by an attacker thanks to leaks enabled by speculative execution.

Since publication of the Spectre and Meltdown attacks in January this year, security researchers have been taking a close look at speculative execution and the implications it has for security. All high-speed processors today perform speculative execution: they assume certain things (a register will contain a particular value, a branch will go a particular way) and perform calculations on the basis of those assumptions. It’s an important design feature of these chips that’s essential to their performance, and it has been for 20 years.

But Meltdown and Spectre showed that speculative execution has security implications. Meltdown (on most Intel and some ARM processors) allows user applications to read the contents

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Dealmaster: Take $50 off Bose’s flagship noise-cancelling headphones

Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our friends at TechBargains, we have another round of deals to share. Today’s list is headlined by a deal on Bose’s QuietComfort 35 (Series II) wireless noise-cancelling headphones, which are currently down to $299 at Walmart, Amazon, and various other retailers. That’s a $50 discount and the lowest non-promo-code price we’ve seen to date.

We’ve explained the deal with the QC35s before. While Bose’s bass-boosting sound doesn’t offer the accuracy or balance of other $300 cans (or even some below that), it’s at least smooth. If noise cancellation is your top priority, though, the QC35s are simply stronger at silencing the outside world (particularly low-end frequencies) than their peers. They’re also highly comfortable.

The Series II model here is actually a bit less effective at noise-cancellation than the older Series I model mentioned in the link above, but the difference isn’t so huge

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Google Pixel XL users say Android 9 Pie causes quick-charging problems

Enlarge

Despite a lengthy beta period that lasted around fives months, it seems Android 9 Pie managed to ship with a few bugs. As first noticed by Android Police, Pixel XL owners are saying that updating to Google’s latest mobile OS is causing problems with quick charging.

Pixels (and many other Android phones) use USB-PD for quick charging. Assuming you have a compatible phone, charger, and cable, users should see greatly increased charging speeds. Android doesn’t show the exact power transfer, but it differentiates between normal charging and quick charging with a “charging rapidly” message on the home screen. Some Pixel XL owners on Android Pie say that the “rapidly charging” message never pops up anymore after updating to Pie, while others say that the phone has gotten pickier about what chargers can provide rapid charging. Users are reporting slower charging, too, so it’s not just a messaging issue.

A

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The Ars Technica Back to School buying guide

Enlarge / A few gadgets we think will be appreciated this school year. (credit: Jeff Dunn)

College is a time for meeting new people, opening up your worldview, taking in new experiences, reading (please, for the love of God, read), and generally experiencing the last years of a life untainted by taxes and a daily job.

It is not a time to care about things—if I could just write “books” and leave this buying guide at that, I would. But a modern student requires a few equally modern gadgets to get through the school year, and there are certainly a few pieces of technology that can make their life on campus feel a little less overwhelming and a little more enjoyable.

So, as we’ve done a few times already this year, we’ve dug through our recent reviews to put together a list of preferred gadgets, this time aimed at

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Lenovo’s new P1 workstation packs Xeon, 64GB ECC RAM, 4TB SSD into 0.7 inches

If you need more power than the typical 13-inch Ultrabook can handle, Lenovo’s new mobile workstations might be the answer.

The ThinkPad P1 looks like a 15-inch Ultrabook, 0.7 inches thick and under 4lbs, but inside, it has a mobile Xeon processor, up to 64GB of ECC RAM, and as much as 4TB SSD storage. A discrete GPU, up to the Nvidia Quadro P2000, drives that display (either 1920×1080 300 nit, 72 percent of NTSC, or 3840×2160 400 nit 10-bit-per-channel supporting 100 percent of the Adobe color gamut and touch). It has a good selection of ports—two Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C, two USB 3.1 generation 1 Type A, HDMI 2.0, mini-gigabit Ethernet (with a little dongle), 3.5mm headset, and microSD, and it has 802.11ac and Bluetooth 5. The battery is a substantial 80WHr.

Lenovo

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Just like iOS 11, Apple is delaying a key feature of iOS 12: Group FaceTime

Enlarge / Apple demonstrates Group Facetime at WWDC 2018. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Apple released the seventh beta build of iOS 12 today. The update is focused on performance improvements on older devices—a tentpole promise of iOS 12—but the beta release notes reveal something unexpected about the public release of iOS 12 later this year: the Group FaceTime feature won’t make the cut.

Demonstrated prominently in Apple’s WWDC keynote event earlier this year, Group FaceTime would allow more than two people to participate in a FaceTime video call at once, with a presentation similar to that of longtime conference-call staple Google Hangouts. Apple has said Group FaceTime will support up to 32 simultaneous participants and that it will be supported on both macOS and iOS.

Apple’s iOS 12 beta 7 release notes (PDF) note the removal of Group FaceTime from the beta (and from the eventual public release) with the

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The Roku Channel is now available on the Web without a Roku device

Enlarge / The Roku Channel on the Web on an iPhone. (credit: Roku)

The Roku Channel, a platform for streaming TV and movies, is now available on the Web in the United States. Previously only available on streaming hardware running Roku software, the channel offers a free, ad-supported library.

Roku launched this channel on hardware running Roku OS in October 2017 as a first step in offering content of its own after years of positioning itself as a neutral platform through which Amazon, Netflix, and others could offer their content. Roku licensed mostly movies that are more than 10 years old from studios like Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures, and the library still has that character for today’s Web portal launch: the top-billed items on the homepage are currently the three Matrix films from 1999 and 2003.

Starting earlier this year, Roku began streaming live channels from third parties like

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Galaxy Note9 hands-on—Samsung ships a bigger battery, not much else

Ron Amadeo

NEW YORK CITY—I have touched a Galaxy Note9, and I’m back to talk about it. Samsung’s flagship smartphone for the back-half of 2018 was announced earlier today, with headline features like, uh, a new S-Pen? Bixby? It’s “new,” and Samsung hopes that will be good enough.

There’s not much to say on the hardware front. Anyone who has put a finger on a Galaxy S8, S9, or Note 8 will immediately be familiar with the Note9. It’s all glass, and it feels really solid, but the back is also fragile and a fingerprint magnet. The display is huge and beautiful, although the 0.1-inch increase this year is something you’ll only notice by looking at the spec sheet.

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