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Updated: 21 min ago

Samsung data center fire causes outage, errors on smart TVs and phones (update: fixed)

8 hours 20 min ago

Seeing an error message on your Samsung phone, tablet or Smart TV today? You're not alone, as the Samsung.com website appears to be down and owners worldwide have reported anything from error messages to being unable to access apps on their smart TVs. Reports have spread on Twitter -- mostly from a community news site called Wikitree -- that a fire at a Samsung SDS building in Gwacheon, South Korea is the culprit. We've contacted Samsung but haven't heard anything back yet, and while some of its social media pages have noted the outage, there isn't an official explanation posted.

Update: Naturally now that we've mentioned it, the outage that lasted several hours appears to have ended around 6:15AM ET. Many of the same users who were having problems with their smart TVs and phones seem to have full access again, and Samsung.com is back up and running. A Samsung SDS blog post confirms the fire and subsequent outage, while apologizing for the inconvenience. Despite some scary photos and video of the blaze (after the break) Korean news reports indicate there were no fatalities. The big question left? Why a fire at one location seemed to have such a large affect on the company's devices and services.

[Thanks, Mark & Martin!]

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Source: Wikitree, Samsung.com, Is It Down Right Now?, ICT Story, YTN (Korean)

AllCast's screen-mirroring magic arrives on Amazon's Fire TV App Store

April 19, 2014 - 7:46am

Been putting off sideloading AllCast's SDK to your brand new Amazon Fire TV? Well, friend, your procrastination has paid off. Now, all you have to do to install the casting and screen-mirroring app is download it straight from the Amazon App Store. So long as you also have AllCast installed on an Android device, you can beam photos, videos and music from your phone or tablet to Amazon's set-top box. Plus, you can use the app to view images and videos saved on Google+ and Dropbox. If you don't plan to pick up a Fire TV (waiting for the second one, eh?), you can still use AllCast with a number of other devices, including Chromecast, Xbox One, Roku, Apple TV and a smattering of smart TVs.

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Source: Koushik Dutta (Google+), Amazon

FCC sets up the 'incentive auction' that will lead to better wireless internet for everyone

April 18, 2014 - 9:36am

Last week at the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) show, FCC head Tom Wheeler pushed broadcasters to loosen their grip on spectrum that the agency plans to auction off to give wireless internet room to grow. Now, he's laid out a draft of the rules for the auction before it takes place next year. The upcoming incentive auction will be a three stage process that, once completed, should open up more wireless spectrum for high-speed services like WiFi. WiFi operates on "unlicensed spectrum" that's open for anyone to use, and similar networks or devices could take advantage of any new frequencies the FCC opens up, while reducing interference with existing networks. That's good and bad however, since they'd fill the space in between networks, it could be harder to build up something like WiFi.

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Source: Tom Wheeler

Stream: The Science of Soil

April 18, 2014 - 3:00am

Most people take soil for granted, assuming that if you shove a seed into some dirt and add some water, hey presto. Stick it under an electron microscope, however, and you suddenly see a whole microcosm that exists beneath our feet. Landscape gardener Chris Beardshaw takes us on a tour to see why soil is so important, what risks it faces and what happens to it when we're not paying attention. It may not seem like the most entertaining subject for a TV documentary, but there's plenty of useful facts about dirt that you'll be able to wheel out the next time you go for a walk. Unless you're a germophobe, of course.

Deep Down and Dirty, The Science of Soil is available to stream on BBC iPlayer.

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Source: BBC iPlayer

Orange is the New Black trailer promises a 'next level crazy' season two

April 17, 2014 - 7:53pm

House of Cards is probably Netflix's most-discussed original series, but fans of Orange is the New Black would argue it matches Frank Underwood & Co. in both deviousness and quality. As usual, the entire second season will premiere at once on June 6th, and it should be an even wilder ride than the first time around, as shown in this trailer (embedded after the break). The gang is back, including Piper, her ex Alex Vause played by Laura Prepon, Crazy Eyes, Pennsatucky and all the rest. Netflix isn't the only service or channel investing in original content to set itself apart, but over the last year or so it's been one of the most consistently successful, and with new additions like Sense8 and Marco Polo coming soon, those trying to catch up will face a tough job in prying any of its 30 million+ customers loose.

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Source: Netflix (YouTube), Netflix

Titanfall pushes Xbox One sales to 5 million total, but it can't pass PlayStation

April 17, 2014 - 4:09pm

Sony and Microsoft's console sales were neck and neck for awhile, but the gap is starting to widen: according to the latest NPD numbers, Sony is winning the race. Yesterday, the Japanese hardware manufacturer announced that it has moved more than seven million PlayStation 4s worldwide -- today Microsoft countered with a total of five million, trailing Sony in both monthly and lifelong sales. A stark difference, sure, but it's not all bad: the Xbox exclusive Titanfall is the industry's top-selling title right now, and the second highest selling for the platform overall. The new console is also outpacing the Xbox 360's first-year sales by more than 60 percent; it's doing well, it's just not top dog. The latest inFamous game (a PS4 exclusive) ranked the second highest selling game for the month of March, followed by multiplatform titles like South Park: The Stick of Truth, Call of Duty Ghosts and Dark Souls II.

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Via: Joystiq

Source: Xbox

Don't wait for SportsCenter, SlingPlayer update brings the highlights in real-time

April 17, 2014 - 2:06pm

Slingbox has pushed out a handful of updates for SlingPlayer on iOS and Android, adding new features on both platforms. On the Android side, Slingbox joined forces with sporting-app Thuuz. Now if you have to skip watching the Giants game for work, SlingPlayer will let you know Tim Lincecum is using his secret mustache powers to pitch a no-hitter. If you can sneak away from your meeting for a "bathroom break," a link within the app will instantly tune you into the hair-raising action. The sports app won't be integrated into the iPhone version of SlingPlayer until this summer, but iOS users can still download it on its own to try out now.

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Via: Slingbox

Source: Google Play, iTunes

Amazon Fire TV's voice search expands to cover Hulu Plus and Showtime, but not Netflix

April 17, 2014 - 1:37pm

Fire TV came out of the gate with an impressive initial effort, however one of its rough edges is that the voice search is actually quite limited. At launch it could only provide results from Amazon's own movie and TV selections or music videos from Vevo, but the company is already adding new services to the mix. Hulu Plus, Showtime Anytime and Crackle are first up, which is a good list, but it's still missing Netflix. The new services will start popping up later this summer, which gives Amazon more than enough time to make sure a query for House of Cards pulls it up on both Netflix and Amazon video on-demand. This also makes it more competitive with similar features on competitors like Roku and Xbox, once it's filled out.

Amazon is also working on new features, including one that we hadn't noticed before called "Prime Browse." Joning FreeTime parental controls and MP3 music access on the "coming soon" list, it appears that Prime browse will solve one of our other initial frustrations, and filter a view for only the content that's included with the Prime subscription service. More games and services are also on the way of course, but if you have a specific request for Amazon's developers, feel free to leave it here.

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Source: Amazon

Chupacabra update makes the OUYA game console a better media center

April 17, 2014 - 9:25am

Go ahead and dust off your OUYAs, friends -- it's updatin' time. The little Android game console that could wasn't exactly the runaway hit its creators were hoping for, but some fresh features found in the new Chupacabra update help this thing stand a bit taller. As far as the team is concerned, the biggest draw is the addition of AC3, DTS and AAS audio passthrough support for the exceedingly popular XBMC media center app. The OUYA itself doesn't have the proper licenses to play certain bits of audio (say, a movie's surround sound audio track), but now it can pass them over to a user's home theater receiver that does have the licenses. In short, those of you using your tiny Android consoles as media centers can finally play some of the trickier videos in your collection.

Also tucked away in the update: a cleaner view at game information, a download manager and the ability to set certain games as favorites for easy access. Alas, it's not all sunshine and rainbows here -- OUYA said it would remove its free-to-try requirement, and that change has finally taken hold. Granted, the move basically neuters one of the most gamer-friendly parts about owning an OUYA (who doesn't love free game demos?), but we suppose the company's gotta do what it has to in order to keep those game developers happy.

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Source: Ouya

Batter up: Chromecast now live streams every pitch with MLB.tv

April 17, 2014 - 8:56am

Google's little $35 dongle is like a fine wine: it just keeps getting better with age. Today, the Chromecast is adding support for MLB.tv, letting you push out live out-of-market games right to your TV from a smartphone or tablet. The only caveat is that you'll need an MLB.tv Premium subscription to do so, but chances are most of you hardcore fans of America's pastime already have one of those. If you do, the only thing left to do is grab the MLB At Bat app from Google Play or the App Store -- an update that brings Chromecast support to these apps should be rolling out as we speak. And while you're at it, perhaps you may want to download R.B.I. Baseball 14, so you can have an all-baseball day to yourself.

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Source: Google, Google Play, App Store

Ahead of Supreme Court trial, Aereo opens lobbying and advocacy site

April 17, 2014 - 6:34am

The United States Department of Justice says that streaming TV service Aereo is violating copyright law. Aereo, unsurprisingly, disagrees. In five days, the US Supreme Court will hear arguments from both sides. The former has already made its case to the Supreme Court in a filing; today, Aereo fights back with its own lobbying effort: a website named "Protect My Antenna" that both makes arguments for Aereo's position and compiles various legal documents for the public to read. "We remain steadfast in our conviction that Aereo's cloud-based antenna and DVR technology falls squarely within the law," Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia said in an email to users announcing the site.

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Source: Protect My Antenna

You can now watch A&E and History live on iOS and the web

April 17, 2014 - 12:44am

A&E Networks is regularly finding ways to make its programming more widely available, particularly by having on-demand options through TV providers and its own apps. To help boost these efforts, the company's now bringing live streaming into the fold, at least with a couple of properties. As of today, viewers can now watch a real-time feed of A&E and History, via each channel's website and their applications on iOS -- no word on when, or if, the feature will head to Android. Naturally, you'll need a cable subscription to enjoy this, as is often the case for most services that use the internet to broadcast entertainment content.

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Via: Variety

Source: A&E, History

Sony pumps up its PS4 update with game pre-loading and SHAREfactory video editor

April 16, 2014 - 9:19pm

Sony just announced sales of seven million PlayStation 4 consoles and promised more details on its upcoming software update would follow soon, now here they are. We still don't have an exact timetable for when firmware 1.70 will arrive, but now we know more about its new "SHAREfactory" video editor and that game pre-loading is in the update. Many people are familiar with pre-loading via Steam and other PC services, which allows gamers to download pre-ordered games ahead of their release, then simply unlock the digital copy on the day it's "released." All it takes is enabling the PS4's "auto download" feature, and you're done, no more waiting while overloaded servers choke on release day.

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Source: PlayStation Blog

Google earnings focus on the search and ads that actually pay the bills

April 16, 2014 - 7:38pm

With all the modular phone concepts, balloon internet projects, robots and drones it can be easy to forget Google's main business angle: search and advertising. Google reported its first quarter earnings today and didn't have much to say about our favorite topics -- we'll hear more about those at Google I/O in June -- or even its pending sale of Motorola to Lenovo. Responding to an analyst's question, Google execs Patrick Pichette and Nikesh Arora mentioned the need to "keep evolving (search) results," as it increasingly serves up info (sports scores, TV listings, restaurant menus) on its own website instead of just providing links. That's probably also behind its push for Google Now results that bring up relevant info before the user even asks, on the desktop and mobile. In a brief reference to the Chromecast, Pichette called the $35 device a hit, mentioning the over 3,000 developers had signed up to build apps since the launch of the SDK.

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Source: Google Q1 2014 earnings

Sony sold seven million PS4s already, beating its own predictions

April 16, 2014 - 3:20pm

Sony was quick to pat itself on the back for passing five million PlayStation 4s sold more than a month earlier than it predicted, and now that the fiscal year is over there's more to celebrate. As of April 6th, Sony says it has sold more than seven million PS4s worldwide, covering more than 72 countries/regions. Games are moving too, with 20.5 million sold in stores or as downloads since launch, while players have already punched that Share button over 135 million times. We've had multiple updates on Sony's stats since the last time we heard specific worldwide numbers from Microsoft, which seems to still trail in the hardware sales race -- we should know more about the situation in North America after the NPD reports for March come out tomorrow. Despite relative radio silence on sales, updates on the Xbox One have added a number of features to its software recently, and Sony has revealed the PS4 will get a big update with external drive support, HDCP off and more soon. A post on the PlayStation Blog claims information on that is close by, but for now gaming fans (bored of Infamous: Second Son / Titanfall) can focus on what's really important: which system moved more units.

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Source: Sony, PlayStation Blog

Steam sales data shows that you don't play the games you buy

April 16, 2014 - 3:13pm

I am not ashamed to admit that I have taken advantage of Steam sales and Humble Bundles to amass a library of roughly 150 games for a fraction of the retail price. I am, however, ashamed to admit that I've only actually played about one-third of them (and that's probably being generous). Apparently, I'm far from alone. According to Ars Technica, just shy of 37 percent of registered titles have never been played. The site figured out a way to measure both the sales and number of hours a game is played through Valve's digital store. That's a huge deal when you're talking about an industry that avoids giving out concrete numbers at all costs. While the method used for collecting the data is Steam-specific and won't work for the entire industry, it still provides valuable insight into one of the largest game retailers in the world.

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Source: Ars Technica

Engadget HD Podcast 394 - 4.16.14

April 16, 2014 - 1:09pm

If you can't make it camping this year, perhaps Sir David Attenborough's upcoming wildlife TV project in VR will suffice. And for immersion in something with fewer dimensional dynamics, maybe Sony's lineup of 4K TVs will fit the bill. Yes, it's been a relatively slow week for HD, but Richard and Ben need a breather since Chromecast, Aereo and so many others keep dropping news bombs on a regular basis. Richard's been so busy lately that Must See TV recommendations are at a minimum, but Ben shares an interesting DirecTV ad to keep your eyeballs busy. So, please join us at the streaming links below, as we serve up another entertaining and informative episode of the Engadget HD Podcast.

Hosts: Richard Lawler, Ben Drawbaugh

Producer: Jon Turi

Hear the podcast:

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The animated GIF as art: Google puts six loopy images on display

April 16, 2014 - 11:23am

It's easy to sneer at the idea of artists piggybacking on the GIF craze, but Google is taking the whole thing pretty seriously, especially now that Google+ supports the animated file format. The search giant is collaborating with the Saatchi Gallery in West London to host a number of looped moving images, displayed on giant TV screens, which it feels are worthy of public recognition. There's a hint of competitiveness, as a panel of judges (including His Artiness, Baz Luhrmann) will select a single winning GIF tonight. In the meantime, we've embedded the finalists from six different image categories after the break, ranked according to how much we like them and whether any of the artists are mates of ours.

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Let the audience decide your fate in new Twitch-backed game

April 16, 2014 - 9:00am

When some 1.1 million people played Pokémon together via Twitch's game-broadcasting service, developer Studio Bean must've gotten inspired. Choice Chamber takes the idea of the audience deciding what happens onscreen to a new level and injects Twitch chat into the game's DNA; here, the peanut gallery has a direct impact on the player's progression. As you make your way through a series of randomly generated rooms, the audience (people watching you broadcast via Twitch, of course) takes a series of polls that alter the game's flow. It's a lot like playing as dungeon master with your Dungeons and Dragons crew, but with a 21st century twist. As cool as voting on what weapon the player gets, or summoning a giant fist that wipes across the screen to obliterate a boss monster sounds, though, the project is only halfway to its $30,000 Kickstarter funding goal. With four days left in the campaign, Twitch has announced that it'll step in and match the funds needed to finish the game.

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Source: Kickster, Twitch.tv

Microsoft's new keyboard is meant to be used with Smart TVs

April 16, 2014 - 8:00am

This fall marks 20 years that Microsoft has been making keyboards (make that "computer hardware," as it was quaintly called back in 1994). Ironically, though, as the company approaches this milestone, it's now making accessories not just for PCs, but... Smart TVs? Yes indeed. The company just announced the All-in-Media Keyboard, and while you could use it with a computer, it was designed to help you navigate your TV or media streamer from your couch. Chiefly, it features a built-in touchpad -- something we've seen on other devices -- meaning you won't need to balance a standalone mouse on your La-Z-Boy.%Gallery-slideshow187605%

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Source: Microsoft