There’s a place for us: New research reveals humanity’s roles in ecosystems

There’s a place for us: New research reveals humanity’s roles in ecosystems

In two back-to-back symposia at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, Feb. 17 at 1:30 and 3:30 PM respectively, a cross-disciplinary cohort of scientists will present the first comprehensive investigations of how humans interacted with plant and animal species in different cultures worldwide through time. By compiling and comparing detailed data from pre-industrial and modern societies, the researchers are sketching a picture of humans’ roles and impacts in sustainable and unsustainable socio-ecological systems.

“Almost all food webs that have been compiled and studied have been put together without including humans,” says Jennifer Dunne (Santa Fe Institute), an ecologist and complex systems scientist who is leading the project with archaeologist Stefani Crabtree (Santa Fe Institute and Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity). “It takes a lot of time and effort to put these kinds of detailed data together. So even though ecologists have been studying food webs for decades, we’re only now in a position where we can start to rigorously compare human roles and impacts across different systems to understand sustainability in new kinds of ways,” says Dunne.

What do we learn when we do include humans?

As part of her presentation during the second symposium, Dunne will reveal initial results from a comparison of food webs that explicitly include humans across several socioecological systems. Three are pre-industrial systems — the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, the Pueblo U.S. Southwest, and the Western Desert of Australia, and one is modern — the Tagus Estuary of Portugal. Given the diversity of cultures, ecologies, climates, and time periods represented in the data, Dunne suggests that we can start to learn “something more general about human roles in, and impacts on, ecosystems” by comparing these systems. For example, humans are often super-generalists compared to other predators — they feed on a huge variety of different species.

In some systems, humans as super-generalist predators can fit into ecosystems without causing extinctions or major environmental degradation. For example, according to Dunne’s pioneering analysis published in Scientific Reports in 2016, the Sanak Island (Alaska) Aleut fed on a whopping 122 of 513 taxa in the nearshore marine ecosystem. However, like other predators, they switched from their favorite prey — sea lions — to shellfish, kelp, or whatever was readily available when the weather did not allow them to hunt in open water. “Prey-switching is very stabilizing for food webs,” Dunne explains, “because it allows prey taxa populations to recover from exploitation, as the predator’s focus shifts to other prey that are easier to forage or hunt given current conditions.” That, plus limited use of hunting technology and other factors helped to minimize potential negative impacts of humans on the Sanak ecosystem — during approximately 7,000 years of human habitation, there is no evidence for any long-term local extinctions.

Humans also stabilized the desert ecosystem of Western Australia, where Crabtree and Rebecca Bliege Bird (Pennsylvania State University) are examining how the Martu Aboriginal foragers are embedded in their surrounding ecosystems. According to Crabtree, Martu Aboriginal foragers stabilized their ecosystem by providing several ecosystem services such as lighting small brush fires to expose the burrows of small prey. The scorched patches left on the landscape served as natural fire breaks against larger, more devastating wildfires. When the Martu were removed from their homeland in the mid-20th century, wildfires increased dramatically in size, and several small mammals, like the Rufous Hare-wallaby, went extinct.

Bird will present a newly published network analysis for the Aboriginal foragers during the first symposium, following Andrew Dugmore (University of Edinburgh) and George Hambrecht’s (University of Maryland) presentation of how Norse people in Iceland and Greenland used governance to mitigate anthropogenic degradation of the ecosystem.

Just as humans can have a stabilizing effect on their ecosystems, they can also play a destructive role. In the first symposium, archaeologist Jennifer Kahn (College of William and Mary) will present her ongoing historical analysis of the French Polynesian islands, including two cases where human interactions with their surroundings led to markedly different outcomes — both for the ecosystems and the societies embedded within them.

Crabtree, in the second symposium, will present her analysis of the 700-year trajectory of the Ancestral Pueblo people in the Southwest U.S., and the extent to which human interactions with the ecosystem eventually led them to depopulate the region.

Iain McKechnie (University of Victoria and Hakai Institute) will then present anthropological and archaeological data that illustrates the resilience of the indigenous peoples of the North American Northwest Coast as they interacted with both marine and terrestrial species.

In the final talk, Dunne will cross-compare these and other systems and synthesize what we know, so far, about humanity’s roles across ecosystems and time periods. In addition to presenting new results about human roles in food webs, she will also discuss new work that moves beyond feeding interactions to consider the myriad ways that humans interact with biodiversity in both simple and complex ways, for example by using species for medicine, shelter, tools, clothing, fuel, ritual purposes, and trade.

“Understanding ecosystems with humans as part of them is essential,” Crabtree says. “We’re not going anywhere. We are here to stay. We are going to keep impacting ecosystems, and we need to understand the ways that our impacts can lead to more sustainable and resilient systems.”

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CBS reached its streaming subscription target two years early

CBS reached its streaming subscription target two years early


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With cord-cutting on the rise, it seems there’s enough room at the table for more internet-only services. CBS is now reporting that its streaming platforms, CBS All Access and Showtime, reach 8 million subscribers — up 60 percent from the 5 million reported last year. The number is split evenly between the two, marking a four-fold increase from July 2016. Like its counterparts, CBS is spending big on originals, including high-profile genre and cult fare like CBS All Access exclusives Star Trek Discovery and The Twilight Zone and Showtime’s Twin Peaks. And its strategy is paying off, with the company boasting it hit streaming targets two years ahead of schedule.

CBS is now upgrading its forecast to target 25 million domestic streaming subscribers by 2022. Comparably, Netflix hit 60.55 million domestic subscribers in its fourth quarter last year, though it’s been around much longer, has a larger library and the biggest streaming content budget.

But CBS shouldn’t have any issues stockpiling more content. Looking ahead, the broadcaster says its online and cable TV service will compliment each other. The example CBS boss Joe Ianniello used on its Q4 earnings call was taking season one of The Good Fight — a CBS All Access exclusive — and possibly putting it on CBS broadcast network. “They’re are not leaving the ecosystem; they just want more,” Ianniello said of streaming viewers, reports Deadline. “So let’s give it to them.”

There’s bad news, however, for those looking to watch CBS All Access exclusives on other streaming platforms in the US. Ianniello pointed to Star Trek: Discovery (which was only on Netflix internationally) as a guide to its ongoing approach to licensing.

The CBS boss also assured investors that the NFL isn’t going anywhere either, despite reports claiming Amazon and Google could look to swoop in on rights when its deal ends in 2022. “We’ve been successful three times in renewing our [NFL] rights and I would expect to do so again,” Ianniello said. CBS will “do what is necessary to make sure the NFL stays on CBS.”

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LG’s G8 uses its OLED screen for audio too

LG’s G8 uses its OLED screen for audio too


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Even though we’ve likely seen all of the outside of LG’s next flagship phone, there’s still a lot to learn about the G8 ThinQ and the company is sticking to its custom by slowly releasing info as we near its MWC 2019 launch. Tonight LG has revealed more about its audio setup, which includes a “Crystal Sound OLED.” Similar to LG-developed OLED technology we’ve seen come to market in Sony’s TVs, it vibrates the screen to produce sound, with an effect that the company claims increases volume, with musical notes more discernible and voices clearer.

This doesn’t mean the phone’s screen will be shaking all the time, however, as LG explains that in speakerphone mode it will deliver audio through the bottom speaker, and step up to two channels with the top part of the screen. Other audio features we’ll need to experience in Barcelona include support for emulated 7.1 surround using DTS:X with or without headphones, and its “Boombox Speaker” design that uses space within the phone as a resonance chamber to fill out its sound. It even supports the Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) encoded audio that Tidal uses and has a Hi-Fi Quad DAC.

Catch up on all the latest news from MWC 2019 here!

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‘Tetris’ is now a battle royale game exclusive to Nintendo Switch

‘Tetris’ is now a battle royale game exclusive to Nintendo Switch


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Forget Apex Legends, there’s another new free-to-play battle royale game now: Tetris 99. This version of the classic puzzle game is launching today on Nintendo Switch with 99 players trying to outlast each other. Players can attack each other with “garbage” that pushes you closer to the top of the screen and out of the game. You rack up “KO” badges for each opponent you knock out, and Nintendo promises there will be online events soon.

Announced today during the Nintendo Direct stream, it’s available exclusively for Nintendo Switch Online members.

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Facebook: No, we don’t limit your News Feed to 26 people

Facebook: No, we don’t limit your News Feed to 26 people


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There’s no shortage of weird copypaste memes and fake news circulating on Facebook, but it seems to be sick and tired of one in particular. In a blog post, the social network has clarified that a meme claiming its News Feed only shows posts from 26 of your closest friends is categorically false. It’s an old copypasta that’s been circulating on the website since 2017 and has been debunked again and again. However, the company has taken the time to address it now, because it apparently still keeps on popping up. Facebook-owned Instagram recently issued a similar statement to put an end to a nearly identical meme going around on the platform.

Ramya Sethuraman, Facebook’s product manager for ranking, said:

“The idea that News Feed only shows you posts from a set number of friends is a myth. The goal of News Feed is to show you the posts that matter to you so that you have an enjoyable experience. If we somehow blocked you from seeing content from everyone but a small set of your friends, odds are you wouldn’t return.”

That said, Facebook admits that there’s a grain of truth in that old copypasta (see below), which includes a plea to leave a comment on the post. Its algorithm determines the content you’d like to see on your News Feed based on nature and level of interaction, after all.

Live videos are more likely to show up at the top of your feed than recorded ones, for instance, and you’re more likely to come across status updates from people you regularly Like or engage with on the comments section. Meanwhile, you’d usually have to scroll down quite a bit to see posts from friends you don’t usually talk to.

In other words, you might see the same people again and again — to someone who doesn’t know how the algorithm works, that 26-friend limit could seem plausible. If you’d like to know if you missed anything from your other friends, you can always switch up your News Feed order. Simply click the three dots beside News Feed on Facebook’s left-hand desktop menu and choose “Most Recent.”

Here’s a copy one of the meme’s permutations:

“How to avoid hearing from the same 26 FB friends and nobody else:

Here is a post explaining why we don’t see all posts from our friends….

News feed recently shows only posts from the same few people, about 25, repeatedly the same, because facebook has a new algorithm.

Their system chooses the people to read Your post. However, I would like to choose for myself, Therefore, I ask you a favor: if you read this message leave me a quick comment, a “hello”, a sticker, whatever you want, so you will appear in my news feed.

Don’t just “Like”, Facebook requires a “Comment”. Even one word! Thanks!!!

Otherwise Facebook chooses who to show me and instead I don’t need facebook to choose my friends!

Do not hesitate to copy and paste on your wall so you can have more interaction with all your contacts and bypass the system. That’s why we don’t see all posts from our friends!”

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Nest reminds owners to secure their cameras after creepy scares

Nest reminds owners to secure their cameras after creepy scares


Engadget

In recent weeks, there’s been a number of fairly alarming reports coming from Nest users about cameras being taken over by “hackers” who use their access to broadcast potentially terrifying messages (or even asking Alexa speakers to play Justin Bieber). The more tech-savvy among us may recognize that this isn’t a security failure on Nest’s part, but rather tricksters finding that they’re able to log in to strangers’ Nest accounts with usernames and passwords that have been gathered and distributed around the internet.

It turns out these stories have gained enough traction for Nest to address the issue: Nest VP Rishi Chandra sent an email to users today to reiterate that the company’s devices have not been hacked and that there are some simple tips they can take to increase security. Foremost among those is turning on two-step verification and, of course, using a strong and unique password for your Nest account.

Chandra also clearly walks users through how their cameras could be compromised without it being Nest’s fault:

For context, even though Nest was not breached, customers may be vulnerable because their email addresses and passwords are freely available on the internet. If a website is compromised, it’s possible for someone to gain access to user email addresses and passwords, and from there, gain access to any accounts that use the same login credentials. For example, if you use your Nest password for a shopping site account and the site is breached, your login information could end up in the wrong hands. From there, people with access to your credentials can cause the kind of issues we’ve seen recently.

His message also suggests setting up family accounts, rather than sharing an email and password with multiple members of the family who might need access to Nest. Similarly, he also says users should keep their routers secure and up-to-date and to keep eyes peeled for phishing email schemes.

These are all reasonable tips, and one all users should take heed of, but the fact that it was necessary for Nest to send this email in the first place suggests the company let this story get away from it to some extent. Still, there isn’t much the company can do about its customers re-using insecure passwords. Indeed, Chandra said in his email that Nest proactively alerts customers. when their credentials are found in data breaches and temporarily disables access to accounts.

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Uber will give free rides in the city that loses the Super Bowl

Uber will give free rides in the city that loses the Super Bowl


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There’s good news and bad news for people who will spend Sunday watching their favorite teams play in the Super Bowl. The good news is you can get a free ride home from Uber after the game. The bad news is if you’re getting that free ride, it means your team lost. The ride-hailing service is offering Uber Rewards members in Los Angeles or Boston a free lift after the game, but only the losing city will be eligible.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Uber will send a promo code to Uber Rewards members in Boston and LA that can be redeemed for a free ride. The code will only work after the final whistle, and only in the city that loses. Just open the app, apply the promo code in the Payments section and request a ride.

The free ride can be up to 60 minutes long or cost up to $50. (Considering that it will be a busy time in one of two bustling cities and surge pricing will likely apply, it’s possible that $50 won’t get you too far). Anything beyond that and you’ll have to cover the cost. It’s also worth noting the promotion will only work with UberX, UberXL, UberPOOL, Express Pool and WAV trips and will only be available on rides requested within 60 minutes of the game ending.

Uber’s promotion will only be available to Uber Rewards members. There is no requirement for being a member of a certain tier within the program to receive the promo code, you just have to be signed up for Uber Rewards, which you can do through the Uber app.

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Researchers Show How Not to Waste Waste  

Researchers Show How Not to Waste Waste  

There’s been a lot of crap in the news lately, and for a change I mean that literally. Let’s start with the study presented last November 18 at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics entitled “How Do Wombats Make Cubed Poo?” Yes, wombats produce dicelike discharges. The marsupial’s unique ability attracted the attention of researchers who looked at the innards recovered from two wombats lost in the everyday carnage of roadways around the world.

“In the final 8 percent of the intestine,” the dung detectives wrote, “feces changed from a liquid-like state into a solid state composed of separated cubes of length 2 cm. This shape change was due to the azimuthally varying elastic properties of the intestinal wall.” After that inspection, they emptied the intestines and inflated them, presumably not by mouth.

“We found,” they wrote, “that the local strain varies from 20 percent at the cube’s corners to 75 percent at its edges. Thus, the intestine stretches preferentially at the walls to facilitate cube formation. This study addresses the long-standing mystery of cubic scat formation and provides insight into new manufacturing techniques for non-axisymmetric structures using soft tissues.” At long last, 3M meets BM.

Back in March 2018, Israeli researchers published a study in the journal Applied Energy stating that poultry expulsions could be pressure-cooked into a burnable powder that might replace some coal in electricity production. Or even be pressed into briquettes for cooking. Just before Thanksgiving, NPR did a story about this research and pointed out that someone could theoretically collect a turkey’s droppings over its lifetime, turn that mess into fuel and then use it to cook the very same turkey. Perhaps selective breeding could even get the hapless bird to go pluck itself.

In the December 20th edition of the Journal of Cleaner Production, the same Israeli group published a similar study with human excreta. To quote: “It is postulated that hydrothermal carbonization of human excreta could potentially serve as a sustainable sanitation technology.” Perhaps your future energy-efficient home will be able to connect the toilet directly to the furnace.

Last November, Tech Insider dredged up and tweeted video related to a story first reported in 2015 about Antarctica’s Gentoo penguins getting together to relieve themselves en masse. Their warm guano helps to melt the snow and ice. Having thus cleared the field, the birds can build nests on beaches or small patches of vegetation.

In the same month the news site Crosscut ran a piece about the University of Washington’s Conservation Canines program. Reporter Hannah Weinberger wrote that “a rotating cast of 17 lucky dogs … [are] taught to approach scent detection as a game, where they are rewarded for learning how to track the scents of dozens of species’ feces.”

The samples that the dogs then locate in the field give researchers valuable information about local animal populations—more data than could be generated by camera traps or hair snares. So what’s it like to sniff out scat for a living? One dog allegedly described it as “rough.”

Also in November the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health ran a study entitled “Everything Is Awesome: Don’t Forget the Lego.” Six pediatric health care professionals swallowed a plastic Lego minifigure head, representing the myriad small objects little kids swallow, and then pawed through their own stool to see how long it took for the head to emerge. The time between ingestion and elimination was dubbed the Found and Retrieved Time (FART), which averaged 1.71 days.

The authors noted that “it is likely that objects would pass faster in a more immature gut.” Therefore, they “advocate that no parent should be expected to search through their child’s faeces to prove object retrieval.” In other words, trust the process—these things have a way of working themselves out.

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My other life as a Kickstarter scammer

My other life as a Kickstarter scammer

I have the process down to a tee. I start by browsing Kickstarter, looking for projects with active campaigns. There’s no specific selection criteria. Perhaps I find one that’s just gone live, or one coming to the end of its fundraising window. I reach out with a message, explain who I am and invite the project contact to book in an interview. On the call, I feign interest, ask the right kind of questions and promise a write-up on Engadget in the near future. I leave it a day or two and reach out again, saying I’ve heard great things from others about a specialist that can increase a project’s exposure for a daily fee. A highly unethical move for a journalist, but I set to profit from it, so what do I care? The Engadget article never materializes, of course, because this person isn’t me.

I first found out about my impersonator, who I’ll call Fake Jamie, from a LinkedIn message that popped up in late August last year. “Did we speak today?” the first line of the message read in bold. The person who contacted me had just launched a Kickstarter project, and apparently, I’d reached out to “help spread the word.” I’d even pledged over $100 to show my enthusiasm. We’d set up an interview and on the call, I’d mentioned I know a guy that can improve the reach of Facebook ads. He’s worked with various successful campaigns, and his service fee ranges from $150 to $250 per day.

The project creator was seriously considering it but had done the research. Before the interview, they looked me up; they knew what I sounded like, and the voice on the end of the Skype call was not me. They wanted to believe they were about to get press exposure, and that perhaps this highly recommended marketeer could give the project another boost. Still, they were glad they hadn’t been duped.

I didn’t think much of this first event. If anything I was flattered. Someone out there thought I had enough clout to be the frontman for an elaborate Kickstarter scam. But then the emails started coming in… one after another after another. Clearly I was naive to think, Once thwarted, twice shy.

I’ve received the odd LinkedIn message from suspicious project creators, but primarily they forward me email exchanges they’ve had with Fake Jamie, adding the question: “Is this really you?” The formula is always the same: Reach out on Kickstarter, follow-up via email, conduct interview, then talk up the services of someone that can give the campaign a better shot at meeting its funding goal.

Some of the finer details change. Fake Jamie has said on occasion that he wants to feature the project in new crowdfunding roundup column he’s spearheading for Engadget; sometimes he says he’s just going to cover it outright. He originally began plugging a Felix Benson as the magic-worker, but in the most recent example, it’s Brett Pearson. The service they offer changes, too. Sometimes it’s the promise of better Facebook reach, maybe, or a more prominent spot on the Kickstarter site.

Fortunately, Fake Jamie raises a bunch of red flags. For one, recommending the services of a marketeer is a bizarre if not entirely unethical move on behalf of a journalist. He also targets a variety of campaigns, several of which, such as fashion projects, would obviously fall outside of the purview of a consumer-tech publication. Not to mention that Engadget rarely covers crowdfunding campaigns anyway, given the inherent risks.

The most obvious red flags, though, are that Fake Jamie doesn’t use an Engadget email address nor, for reasons I’m still completely stumped by, my picture. The Kickstarter profile image he originally used isn’t me, though it is one of a nerdy type with rectangular, black-rimmed specs similar to ones I wore until recently. But you only have to Google me or go to my Engadget editor page to find an official-looking headshot for all your scamming needs. And as I’ve said, Fake Jamie doesn’t sound like me — he isn’t even British — but you would have to go out of your way to find an Engadget video I’ve fronted to note that inconsistency.

Jamie Rigg

Actually me (ignore cheesy pose thanks)

Beyond these cracks in Fake Jamie’s facade, I’ve learned that many Kickstarter project leads are wary by default. I’ve come across various questionable Kickstarter campaigns in the past, from straight up money-grabs to attempts at selling white-label Alibaba wares for twice the price. Then there are the ones where the updates just stop coming one day, and products that are eventually delivered fall short of the original promise. I’ve had the pleasure of throwing money at a few of these myself. Kickstarter is a risky place, but that applies to project creators, too.

You can understand why they’re targets. Many will have quit jobs and/or blown savings to make this product or that company happen. And they need help, hence turning to crowdfunding in the first place. If someone crawls out the woodwork and says they can drive traffic to a campaign, it’s within the creators’ interests to listen. Some of the Kickstarter landing page is manually curated, but other parts are algorithmically filled. From what I’ve read, aspects like how much traffic your campaign page gets, and how quickly it approaches its funding goal factor into your Kickstarter ranking, as it’s called. But the so-called services I’ve found online that claim to game the system look sketchy at best. Then again, any seller of likes, clicks or fake reviews can be characterized as “sketchy,” I suppose.

One creator told me about a project that employed one of these services, and with excellent results. What they thought was genuine engagement, however, turned out to be dummy accounts that canceled their pledges just before the end of the funding window. Fake Jamie, then, isn’t really doing anything new, he’s just adding another layer and an air of legitimacy by promising a write-up on this site alongside his completely impartial advice.

My initial flattery quickly turned to frustration, among many other emotions, as Fake Jamie grew more prolific. The fact he was using my name made me feel strangely responsible, and I began spending an increasing amount of my time responding, day or night, to the suspicious creators who were reaching out. I offered my phone number and spoke at length with people and teams that wanted a side of explanation with the main course of me dashing any hopes they had of appearing in Engadget.

Identity theft is something we’re all supposed to be wary of. But I had always pictured it as someone trying to socially engineer my mother’s maiden name out of me or stealing my passport from a hotel room drawer. I never imagined someone would take my name and my work, purely to use as a tool to scam others. That’s a special breed of violation: Not opportunistic, but premeditated. And the deeper I went down the rabbit hole, the stronger that feeling of violation became.

Fake Jamie hasn’t just been pretending to be me but has also established a paper trail of sorts. I discovered a Facebook profile, for instance, that was set up around the time this all started last August. Again, the picture isn’t me, but it’s another dude with rectangular, black-rimmed specs that could pass as me at a very cursory glance. And I know the Facebook account is supposed to be me because the header image is the same one Fake Jamie has plastered on his website. Yes, he registered a fucking website, jamierigg.co.uk, in order to have a semi-legit email address to run the scam from. The stones on this guy. The banner image on Facebook and the site, I’ve managed to trace back to royalty-free stock image library rawpixel.com. Once more, it doesn’t look unlike me, and it’s shot in a convincing setting.

The color version of the stock photo used on jamierigg.co.uk (Photo: rawpixel)

Obviously, I began fighting back as soon as I received that first LinkedIn message. I started up a dialogue with Kickstarter, which immediately banned the account he was probing from. Days later, he had an identical account that was registered several years prior to the banned one. You can change Kickstarter account details, though, so I assume he must’ve bought one, if that’s something you can even do. That second account was also swiftly banned, but Fake Jamie was evolving. He began setting up accounts in other names, including one impersonating Amber Bouman, our Community Content Editor. Others sported more generic names like “Linda from Engadget,” but the initial outreach would always lead back to Fake Jamie eventually. Kickstarter has kept broadening its net, killing accounts claiming to be associated with Engadget, and it appears the game of whack-a-mole has worked, at least for now.

I informed Indiegogo about the situation as a matter of course, but Fake Jamie seems to have limited his activity to Kickstarter. I also got Oath (now Verizon Media), Engadget’s parent company, involved. After all, Fake Jamie is only impersonating me is because of the brand I’m attached to, and I figured a huge corporation might be better equipped to find the killswitch. I’ve also logged a cybercrime case with the UK police, but there is little anyone can do or has done beyond the top-level investigating I’ve performed already.

I know the Skype account he uses (or has used); I even have a recording of an “interview” he conducted with a Kickstarter project creator. But technically he doesn’t exist. He is me, albeit with an Australian accent, so there’s no telling where he’s actually based. And all I have to show are indications he’s impersonating me for the purposes of defrauding people. Since I only hear from those suspicious of Fake Jamie, I have no concrete evidence he’s ever succeeded. Only email threads with people he’s failed to defraud.

The profile picture used on Fake Jamie’s Facebook account
Facebook

Even his website leads to a dead end. Technically, every .co.uk domain must have a named registrant, as per the rules of regional registry Nominet. But Fake Jamie purchased the domain in August last year through name.com, so that third-party is listed as the registrant. And the website itself is hosted by DigitalOcean, but contacting its “trust and safety team” has been a thoroughly fruitless exercise. “Just because the domain is hosted on our network, does not mean the emails originated from our network,” a line in the latest email I received reads. I’ve provided what I believe is enough evidence of abuse, but from the tone and frequency of Digital Ocean’s responses, I see that the company has little to no intention of taking the matter seriously. Business is business, I guess.

The point might be moot now, anyway. So far this year, I haven’t had another “is this you?” email come through, and towards the end of last year they were already becoming few and far between. Between Kickstarter banning accounts and contacting those who may have been targeted, plus a now-deleted KickstarterForum post and Reddit thread that warned of the scam at its peak, the jig might well be up. Or perhaps another journalist now has a pestilent online double masquerading as them.

I wasn’t sure when exactly to publicize this on Engadget, in the same way one doesn’t release details of an exploit until it’s been patched. While I rarely think about Fake Jamie these days, the whole episode still doesn’t sit well with me. Most of all, it makes me uncomfortable to think about all those who perhaps didn’t reach out — the ones that took it all at face value and were defrauded for their trust. After all, Fake Jamie wouldn’t be doing this, or keep doing it, if nobody was falling for the charade.

So beware of the internet, and if you find yourself talking to me online, remember it might not be me. Unless it’s on a dating app. Then it’s almost definitely me.

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Meizu crowdfunds its port-free smartphone on Indiegogo

Meizu crowdfunds its port-free smartphone on Indiegogo

There’s a lot of talk right now about how much is too much for a smartphone in these increasingly tight times. Meizu is hoping that there’s enough folks out there with fat wallets to justify splashing out on the Zero, its “holeless smartphone.” The company won’t just sell you one, however, and has instead slapped the device onto Indiegogo for users to pre-order. The price? $1,299.

If you’re unfamiliar, the Meizu Zero is the company’s first holeless device, with no button or port visible anywhere on its body. The only cuts into its skin are a small hole for the microphone and a pinhole for when you need to hard reset the device. Otherwise, you’ll need to use eSIM, as well as wireless headphones and charging to get the most out of this phone.

The Indiegogo page has 100 of the devices priced at $1,299, each one labeled as an “exclusive engineer unit.” One wealthy early adopter has already laid down and claimed the single “exclusive pioneering unit,” which was priced at $2,999. That one phone is expected to be shipped within the next five days, while everyone else will wait until April — assuming that the phone hits its $100,000 crowdfunding goal.

When asked, a Meizu representative said that there was no current indication if the company would add more than the 100 phones to the allocation. It’s potentially the case that, if you want one of these devices, you’d better get moving (or get one imported direct from China).

You can have some legitimate questions as to why a company of Meizu’s scale would turn to Indiegogo for a sales platform. A company that sold $3.1 billion worth of devices in 2017 certainly wouldn’t need to leverage a third-party platform, you might think. That said, this isn’t the first time Meizu has turned to Indiegogo: in 2016 it used the platform to successfully sell a wireless speaker.

Source:
Indiegogo

After training to be an intellectual property lawyer, Dan abandoned a promising career in financial services to sit at home and play with gadgets. He lives in Norwich, U.K., with his wife, his books and far too many opinions on British TV comedy. One day, if he’s very, very lucky, he’ll live out his dream to become the executive producer of Doctor Who before retiring to Radio 4.


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PUBG’s new tool will show you kills caught on Twitch streams

PUBG’s new tool will show you kills caught on Twitch streams


Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

There’s a huge number of PUBG streamers out there, so if you want to know if your kills have been broadcast on Twitch, you’ll need something to help you out. Like PUBG Report: the online multiplayer game’s new tool that gives you a way to search for Twitch streamers that either killed or were killed by that player. All you need to do is look for someone’s username on the website to see a list of kills they were involved with that had been streamed on the video platform. And yes, you’ll be able to click on the results to watch them — the videos even begin right before the kill.

PUBG

While it could be amusing to find out that you owned a famous streamer, the tool could be a double-edged sword. Players could use the website for stream sniping — targeting specific streamers to, say, make a fool out of them — especially since it shows broadcasts right as they’re happening. To be fair, PUBG Report is far from the first search tool for streams, but it’s the first one the game developers themselves have endorsed.

At the moment, the tool only supports Twitch streams for PC players, though it will soon add support for console players and Mixer streams. In the future, its homepage will also feature a collection of highlight clips showing impressive achievements, such as the longest kill caught on stream.

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Now there’s a handheld filter to kill your massive vape clouds

Now there’s a handheld filter to kill your massive vape clouds


Philter

If you made the switch from “analog” tobacco to e-cigarettes, congratulations, you’ve likely done your lungs a solid. The rest of the world? Not so much. Despite growing evidence that the clouds vapors produce are less toxic than tobacco smoke, they still have an antisocial effect and can reduce air quality. That’s fair: No one wants to be blinded walking through someone else’s exhale. And while it doesn’t stink like smoke, not everyone’s into your blueberry cheesecake vibes. Enter Philter and its “Pocket” device — a $15 widget you breathe into to eliminate cigarette or vape clouds.

According to Philter, the Pocket is loaded with some futuristic-sounding tech. There’s a “kinetic energy multiplier” for starters, along with a “phase transition chamber.” All you need to know, though, is that you take a drag on your vape/cigarette as you normally would, exhale through the Pocket and voila, no eye-watering clouds or wretched cigarette smoke. If you’re a considerate nicotine user (and you should be), this might be a handy addition to your everyday carry.

Having an accessory for your vape might seem like a recipe for forgetting it or a burden (double fisting as you walk). To combat this, Philter also makes something called the “Phlip.” The Phlip appears to be a case that fits popular, smaller e-cigarettes (like Juul, or gas station disposables) on one side, and a Pocket on the other. The idea being that you inhale from one end, “flip” it, and exhale into the other. Phlip costs $30 and also includes a Pocket.

Philter Pocket

The first thing to consider is the longevity of the Pocket. Philter claims it’s good for about 200 exhales. This means if you hit your vape around 10 times every time you reach for it, and, say, use it 10 times a day, the Pocket will only last two days. Of course, you likely won’t need it every single time you’re smoking or vaping, only the times when you might annoy other people — so it’ll depend on your usage. Handily, Philter offers a subscription service which will ship three Pockets every three months, for $30 (a saving of $15 over purchasing individually).

The second thing to consider — if you’re using this with tobacco cigarettes — is that this likely doesn’t counteract all the negative effects of secondhand smoke, so it’s not a solution for keeping family members in the clear. Not least because you’ll still have the secondary smoke runoff from the lit cigarette itself. Philter said in a statement: “While our proprietary technology is exceeding initial expectations during internal testing, our products are now undergoing controlled performance evaluation testing with an independent accredited laboratory.” In other words, once those tests are in, we’ll have a better idea.

So, is this a practical way around the social stigma of vaping and smoking? I imagine it might help, even if it does feel a little goofy. Just don’t get any ideas about using this as a way to vape in places you normally cannot.

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‘Detective Pikachu’ already has a sequel in the works

‘Detective Pikachu’ already has a sequel in the works


Warner Bros. Entertainment

Detective Pikachu won’t be in theaters until May of this year but there’s already a sequel in the works. According to The Hollywood Reporter, production company Legendary has already started work on a follow-up film and has tapped Oren Uziel to write it. Uziel worked on an upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog film and is credited as a writer on 22 Jump Street and The Cloverfield Paradox.

Details on the sequel are still limited, but the fact the studio is already exploring the possibility might speak to its confidence in Detective Pikachu. Historically, most movies adapted from video games have been, well, not great. But that hasn’t prevented them from racking up big numbers at the box office. The Tomb Raider movie received a lukewarm critical reception but grossed $274 million worldwide. The Angry Birds Movie was actively bad but still made $352 million at the box office — enough to get it a sequel. Assuming Detective Pikachu makes money, it seems likely there will be at least one more story told within the animated gumshoe’s universe.

Once Detective Pikachu actually does hit theaters, it’ll be the start of an upcoming run of video game films. A Minecraft movie is set to premiere in May and a live-action version of Sonic the Hedgehog starring Ben Schwartz and Jim Carrey is scheduled for the fall. There is also an Uncharted movie in the works, but it has been plagued with problems that have kept it from getting off the ground.

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Chromebook instant tethering comes to non-Google phones

Chromebook instant tethering comes to non-Google phones


Nathan Ingraham/Engadget

Chrome OS’ Instant Tethering is very handy if you need to keep your Chromebook online, but there’s still a major gotcha involved: you need a Nexus or Pixel phone for that automatic hotspot to work. Things appear to be loosening up, however. Numerous users talking to Android Police have reported that their Beta and Dev channel versions of Chrome OS now support Instant Tethering with non-Google smartphones. It’s not clear how many devices are compatible, but readers have had success with multiple OnePlus and Samsung models.

The barriers to using the feature aren’t especially high. Google officially requires Chrome OS 70, Android 7.1, a data plan with tethering support and the same Google account on both devices. That could change with third-party phones in the mix, but it’s a positive sign.

This doesn’t appear to be universally available, and you might need to enable a flag (chrome://flags/#instant-tethering) to make it work. You’re also unlikely to see this reach a stable version of Chrome OS for a while. Nonetheless, it could be a big deal if you like the thought of an always-connected Chromebook and would rather not jump through hoops just to stay online.

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Nintendo scraps ‘Metroid Prime 4’ development and starts over

Nintendo scraps ‘Metroid Prime 4’ development and starts over

Nintendo announced Metroid Prime 4 all the way back at E3 2017, but there’s hardly been a peep about the game since. The Japanese giant finally offered an update, but it’s one that fans won’t be happy to hear.

Shinya Takahashi, Nintendo’s head of development, said in a YouTube video the company wasn’t happy with how development was going and that it hasn’t met Nintendo’s standards. As such, it’s scrapping all the work carried out so far and essentially starting over from scratch.

Producer Kensuke Tanabe and his team will work with US-based Retro Studios, which developed the previous Prime games. They’re going back to the drawing board in the hopes of crafting a game that will live up to fans’ expectations. “It will be a long road until we the next time we will be able to update you on the development progress, and development time will be extensive,” Takahashi said.

He noted the decision wasn’t made lightly, so something must have been deeply wrong with Metroid Prime 4 as things stood. Whatever the exact reasoning for Nintendo’s drastic move, Samus fans are likely in for a long, long wait before she makes her Switch debut.

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