Pump Up the Volume With Razer's Leviathan Sound Bar, Now Cheaper Than Ever

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Razer Leviathan Gaming Sound Bar, $130

Razer made a 5.1 sound bar designed specifically for gaming, because of course they did, and it’s marked down to an all-time low $130 today. Just be careful with that subwoofer if you have neighbors in your building, or like, within a half mile or so.


Modding a Porsche 911 to Play Doom Is Absurdly Dangerous

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By now, it seems safe to say that Doom can be played on any device a person wants. It’s been adapted for printers, ATM machines, calculators, the Apple Touch Bar and many others. But none of those devices have 370 horsepower to send you careening down a road, honking like a maniac while you blow demons back to hell.

A YouTuber going by the name vexal uploaded this video tutorial showing what he claims to be a step-by-step guide to playing Doom on the console screen of a Porsche 911. That would be moderately interesting on its own but as he explains, the cars shifter, horn, accelerator and steering wheel all control the game—meaning you drive while you play.

According to his steps, take a flash drive that contains a single file with the car’s VIN number on it. Insert the drive into the Porsche’s USB slot and start the car. That should take the computer system into debug mode. Then, insert the game (he shows Doom II but says it works with the original as well) and select it on the console screen.

Once the game is fired up, start driving, start shooting and start praying because this isn’t safe. In fact vexal says that this video was shot on private property and warns not to try this on public roads. We’ll go further and suggest no one tries this at all. Even on private roads you could hurt yourself or your incredibly expensive sports car.

[YouTube]

Give Your Eyes a Break With These Discounted Gunnar Computing Glasses

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Gunnar Optiks PPK Glasses, $37

While Gunnar glasses are marketed towards gamers, they can be effective at reducing eyestrain for anyone that spends their day staring at a screen. The problem is that they’re typically pretty expensive, and rarely go on sale. Today though, one set is marked down to $37 on Amazon, from their usual $53-$60. That’s an all-time low, but we don’t expect them to last long.


Trump's FCC Chair Praises Amazon Prime, Possibly Violating Same Ethics Rules as Kellyanne Conway

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GIF: Getty/Gizmodo

In what appears to be a violation of the federal ethics rule that prohibits a government employee from using “his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product,” Ajit Pai, the controversial new chair of the FCC, tweeted and subsequently deleted praise for Amazon’s PrimeNow service. “Needed something in pinch & decided to try @amazonprimenow. Very impressed! Item was cheap & arrived early. May not leave the house again,” Pai posted to on his official FCC Twitter account, only to delete moments later.

Screengrab via Ethan Chiel on Twitter

Pai’s tweet appears to violate the same rule from the Code of Federal Regulations that Kellyanne Conway got into trouble with last week, when she encouraged viewers to buy Ivanka Trump’s clothing line on live television. The code clearly prohibits employees from using their “Government position or title or any authority associated with [their] public office to endorse any product, service or enterprise,” so tweeting Amazon praise from his government Twitter account seems in conflict with that, which is perhaps why he swiftly deleted the tweet. Considering Pai chairs an organization that is in charge of regulating cable, radio, satellite, TV, and the internet, showing favoritism toward any technology company is neither a good or an ethical look. Then again, Pai used to be a lawyer for Verizon and plans to get poor people access to wifi using “significant tax incentives,” so a corporate endorsement should come as no surprise. This is far from the first time Pai has tweeted praise for Amazon, but it is the first time he’s done since taking office.

This guy really loves Amazon, eh?

Pai has already made rolling back Obama-era FCC regulations top priority, denying nine companies approval to provide broadband internet at a subsidized cost to low-income people, already betraying his promise to close the “digital divide.

It remains to be seen whether Conway will actually be disciplined for her ethics violation. (On top that she also recently found herself embroiled in a tweet scandal after tweeting “I love you” at a white nationalist account.) Considering Pai is much less public than her and quickly removed the tweet, he could very well slip through the cracks. Is it good that politicians and government officials tweet because it allows the public to more easily see their ineptitude and corruption? Although the whole thing seems like a huge liability, Twitter isn’t going anywhere. After all, Conway and Pai are really just emulating the behavior of their boss.

[Ethan Chiel via Twitter]

New York's City-Funded Tech Hub Looks Like a Prison Built by Ikea

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Union Square Tech Hub Mockup via NYC Mayor’s Office

On Friday, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio released the latest designs for the Union Square Tech Hub, a $250 million project that aims to “create a central convening point for technology training and networking” as the Big Apple tumbles into the increasingly digital future. As evidenced in the designs released by the mayor’s office, 14th street’s new tech tower looks like what would happen if you asked Ikea to build a white-collar prison.

According to the mayor’s office, the hub—also known as 14th @ Irving (its cross streets)—“will generate 600 good paying jobs, and serve as a new home for Civic Hall that will include a digital job training facility for all New Yorkers.”

This massive broken Rubik’s cube will be erected in the heart of New York City’s Union Square, which in recent years has become home to Best Buy, Whole Foods, Forever 21, and Sephora. The tech hub will be erected between NYU’s Palladium dorm (once home to a famous nightclub of the same name) and a Trader Joe’s. It will take the place of P.C. Richard & Son, a local family-owned TV and appliance chain that’s been in business for over 100 years, which will move into the basement of 14th @ Irving. The Union Square Tech Hub—its facade glistening in the light of dusk, like a spreadsheet about virgins—is a symbol of the direction that New York has been heading in for a long time.

Union Square Tech Hub Mockup via NYC Mayor’s Office

Announced by de Blasio in December, the “fluid space” for startups—which the city plans to break ground on in 2018—will also have a 36,500 square foot tech training center that “facilitates formal and informal learning, networking, collaboration, and real-time feedback about industry needs.” De Blasio wants New York City to be a beacon of innovation.

Many of the world’s most famous tech companies—Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft—were founded in a garage. Having grown up on the very street that will be home to the Union Square Tech Hub, I know all too well that New York City kids are mostly garage-less, void of a space to innovate. This large, sweaty hunk of glass, illuminated in the digital future, could become a garage of sorts for average New Yorkers as well as a home for thriving tech companies. Hungry for a chalky, Soylent-flavored sip of Silicon Valley’s tech riches, de Blasio said the building “represents this City’s commitment to a strong and inclusive tech ecosystem.”

“It’s about protecting democracy,” the mayor added, taking it way too far.

He also called the hub “beautiful.” Yes, a “beautiful” void with sharp edges, a hollow maze of New York City’s sanitized cyber future.

Union Square Tech Hub Mockup via NYC Mayor’s Office

[NYC.gov via TechCrunch]

Ex-Uber Engineer Says the Company Has a Culture of Sexual Harassment

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Image: Getty

Uber is not known for treating its drivers particularly well, but it gets worse: According to allegations from an ex-engineer Susan J. Fowler, the ridesharing app has a culture of misogyny, and threatened to fire her after she reported sexual harassment. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has already responded to the allegations, saying in a statement to Gizmodo, “What she describes is abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in.”

In a blog post titled “Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber,” Fowler alleges that when she began as the Site Reliability Engineer in late 2015, her boss solicited her for sex. In her own words:

On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn’t. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn’t help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with. It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR.

When Fowler first met with HR, she says they told her “even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man’s first offense ... he ‘was a high performer’” meaning upper management wouldn’t punish him with anything more than “a warning and a stern talking-to.” She transferred teams. When she later became friends with other women at Uber, she says many had experiences similar to her own. Fowler claims they told her “stories about reporting the exact same manager [she] had reported, and had [also] reported inappropriate interactions with him.”

After that, Fowler alleges, she and some other women engineers at Uber scheduled new meetings with HR “to insist that something be done.” She describes her meeting:

[T]he rep I spoke with told me that he had never been reported before, he had only ever committed one offense (in his chats with me), and that none of the other women who they met with had anything bad to say about him, so no further action could or would be taken. It was such a blatant lie that there was really nothing I could do. There was nothing any of us could do. We all gave up on Uber HR and our managers after that.

In a statement Uber sent Gizmodo, CEO Travis Kalanick promised to investigate Fowler’s claims and fire “anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK.” Kalanick’s statement below:

I have just read Susan Fowler’s blog. What she describes is abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in. It’s the first time this has come to my attention so I have instructed Liane Hornsey, our new Chief Human Resources Officer, to conduct an urgent investigation into these allegations. We seek to make Uber a just workplace and there can be absolutely no place for this kind of behavior at Uber — and anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired.

Fowler’s claims about the chaos of working at Uber extends beyond ignored sexual harassment claims. She writes, emphasis ours:

[T]here was a game-of-thrones political war raging within the ranks of upper management in the infrastructure engineering organization. It seemed like every manager was fighting their peers and attempting to undermine their direct supervisor so that they could have their direct supervisor’s job... The ramifications of these political games were significant: projects were abandoned left and right.

Not only this, but she says that after receiving a great performance review, she requested again to transfer teams. Higher-ups allegedly told Fowler that her “performance review and score had been changed after the official reviews had been calibrated,” and it was now negative, meaning she had to stay put. Although Uber wouldn’t specify what performance problems Fowler had—she claims she “completed all OKRs on schedule, never missed a deadline even in the insane organizational chaos”—the company told her not to worry because it had no real-world consequences.

But of course it did, aside from its impact on her salary and bonus, Fowler says she was enrolled in an Uber-sponsored Stanford CS graduate program for high-performing employees, which she no longer qualified for thanks to her now shitty performance review. Then she found out the reason why it was changed:

It turned out that keeping me on the team made my manager look good, and I overheard him boasting to the rest of the team that even though the rest of the teams were losing their women engineers left and right, he still had some on his team.

After filing many more HR reports due to this sort of treatment, Fowler says her manager threatened to fire her because she was speaking out. When she told him that was illegal, and reported it to the CTO and again, HR, “none of them did anything.”

“I had a new job offer in my hands less than a week later,” she writes. Currently Fowler works as an engineer for Stripe. Gizmodo reached out to Fowler to further inquire about her time at Uber, and did not get an immediate response.

These new allegations are more bad news for Uber, which has not been having a great year. After a massively successful #DeleteUber campaign, which protested Kalanick’s weak response to the Muslim ban and his involvement in Trump’s business advisory council, the company lost 200,000 customers. After that, the CEO severed ties with the president in an attempt to earn back customers, but the company is seemingly unable to avoid scandals.

The company has also been accused of union-busting, had to pay out $20 million to workers after promising drivers “exaggerated” wages, lost $2.2 billion in 2016, has a murder problem, and doesn’t always do a great job of handling customers’ sexual harassment claims.

In his response to Fowler’s claims, Kalanick said, “We seek to make Uber a just workplace and there can be absolutely no place for this kind of behavior at Uber.” Even if Uber somehow fixes its internal culture of sexual harassment and misogyny, how can the company be a truly “just” workplace if it continues to refuse to treat its drivers as employees?

This post has been updated to include the full statement from Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

How Previous Owners Can Potentially Still Access Their Cars Long After They've Sold Them

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Photo credit: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

As technology further integrates into the car industry, doing things from the car continues to get easier. You can have Volvo drop off packages, talk to Amazon’s Alexa and all sorts of things. But technology can also allow people to access cars long after they’ve sold them, which is enough to leave any buyer uncomfortable.

According to CNN, IBM researcher Charles Henderson says he sold a car several years ago and can still control it from his phone. Henderson can also see exactly where the car is, if he decides to check. Being a researcher, Henderson tested the situation on cars from four major manufacturers and found the same to be true.

The CNN story did not name Henderson’s former car nor the manufacturers he tested, but it’s still creepy to think about the various breaches in privacy we open ourselves up to by simply purchasing such connected devices. From CNN:

“The car is really smart, but it’s not smart enough to know who its owner is, so it’s not smart enough to know it’s been resold,” Henderson told CNNTech. “There’s nothing on the dashboard that tells you ‘the following people have access to the car.’” ...

At the RSA security conference in San Francisco on Friday, Henderson explained how people can still retain control of connected cars even after they resell them.

Manufacturers create apps to control smart cars — you can use your phone to unlock the car, honk the horn and find out the exact location of your vehicle. Henderson removed his personal information from services in the car before selling it back to the dealership, but he was still able to control the car through a mobile app for years.

CNN reports that in Henderson’s research on how to combat this kind of thing, he found out that a factory reset of the car—such as the kind you’d do on a smartphone before giving it up—doesn’t revoke access of former devices used with it. At the time being, Henderson’s research found that only authorized dealerships have the ability to see which devices have access to the car and to manually remove a device from it.

It may seem like the obvious answer to let people revoke access from the vehicle themselves, but Henderson told CNN things aren’t that simple. If a non-owner, such as an acquaintance or a valet person with bad intentions, had access to the vehicle, the rightful owner’s access and control over the car could be removed.

Henderson suggested a system that requires owner authentication could help, but told CNN that car companies were still hesitant about owners being able to use the system without user error. That’s odd, considering that it would be an easy fix as an owner with, you know, the ability to authorize further changes.

But the worst part here isn’t necessarily the privacy. Imagine buying a used car from someone who intends for you to not know that he or she still has access to it, for the purposes of gaining access to your location and your interconnected devices. What weird, futuristic territory for criminal activity.

If all of that freaks you out, as it probably should, Henderson told CNN that owners should always check “user management” on smart devices to see who has access to their data and devices.

Good luck out there, everyone, because it sounds like technological privacy is actually a lot more complicated than putting a piece of tape over the built-in camera on your computer.

Transformers Monopoly Is a Work of Art You Can Actually Hang on a Wall

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You can find a copy of Monopoly tailored to almost any interest, hobby, or pop culture property. The most popular board game in the world has been endlessly licensed, but this magnificent Transformers version from Winning Solutions raises the bar all the way to Cybertron.

Featuring original artwork inspired by the packaging of the ‘80s toy line, Transformers Monopoly replaces all of the game’s classic properties with Transformers characters. Where you’d normally find Park Place and Boardwalk, you’ll instead find Bumblebee and Optimus Prime as the game’s most valuable spots to buy up on the board. And players don’t Pass Go to collect $200, they instead “Roll Out.” Perfect.

Monopoly’s traditional houses and hotels are also gone in this version of the game. Players collect money to buy energon cubes instead which powers up the characters they’ve purchased to increase the ‘rent’ when other players land there.

Even the game’s money will have you wishing the US Mint created a similar design for the country’s official currency, with Autobot and Decepticon logos featured on each bill.

What really steals the show, though, are the game’s tokens. Hasbro recently reached out to the internet to help vote and decide what all the new tokens for the classic version of the game will look like. But had the options included Optimus Prime, Grimlock, Rodimus Prime, and the Allspark, which all come bundled with Transformers Monopoly, they would have easily swept the voting.

The game is a work of art, so Winning Solutions has designed the game board so that collectors can actually hang it on a wall if they want. Hinged aluminum panels surrounding the board can be folded in (or transformed) to cover everything except the Transformers artwork in the center. Is it a little over-the-top? Without a doubt. But when the game is finally available sometime around July 1 later this year, it’s going to come with a price tag somewhere around $500-$600, so the last thing you’d want to do is shove it back into a closet when you’re done playing.

[Winning Solutions]

The Most Amazing Marvel Figures Seen at Toy Fair This Year

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Hasbro revealed a ton of new Marvel toys at Toy Fair this year—covering everything from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to comic book favorites. The thing I might be most excited by however is this A-Force six pack, but with both Monica Rambeau and Elsa Bloodstone, it might as well be the Nextwave figure set of my dreams.

Nextwave is, unequivocally, one of the funniest Marvel comics ever released—so the fact that Toys R Us is getting this collection of female Avengers from the spinoff Secret Wars series that includes both Auntie Monica and Marvel’s premiere British monster hunter as they appeared in the classic Warren Ellis/Stuart Immonen book makes this a total must have in my book. The fact you also get She-Hulk, Lady Sif, the female Loki, and A-Force newcomer Singularity is just an added bonus. While I go and desperately pray for Aaron, Tabitha, and the Captain to get 6" figures too, here’s the rest of the totally awesome Marvel figures teased by Hasbro this year.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

With the movie fast approaching, Hasbro had a ton of toys featuring the cosmos’ favorite a-holes on display. First up were two exclusive sets—the Entertainment Earth Star-Lord and Ego pack we saw yesterday, and another Toys R Us pack, the “Evolution of Groot”.

The triptych of Groots includes a 6" scaled version of Groot from the first movie, baby Groot in his plant pot, and “toddler” Groot as he appears in the sequel.

Also on display were the second wave of figures inspired by the film. The 7 figure-roster includes four characters from the movie—Star-Lord in his long coat, Gamora, Nebula, and an all-new-and-improved Rocket Raccoon (who also comes with a tiny Groot, in his Ravager uniform)—and three comic book characters from the world of the Marvel cosmic—Adam Warlock, Death’s Head II, and super-obscure Ex Nihilo.

Collecting the full wave of toys will get you the parts to build a Mantis figure, based on her appearance in the new movie.

12 Inch Marvel Legends

The jumbo-sized version of Hasbro’s action figures got a hearty shot in the arm in the form of three new additions: Thor, Hulk, and Deadpool, who all come with a bunch of accessories, ranging from alternate heads to, yes, chimichangas (bet you can’t who comes with that one).

Also revealed was a new alternate paint job for the 12" Spider-Man exclusive to Target—this time clad in all black for his iconic symbiote suit.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

We’ve already seen the movie side of the first wave of Spider-Man: Homecoming figures—the Vulture, Spidey with his web-wings, and the wonderfully rubbish-looking “prototype” suit Peter builds—but Hasbro also announced the comic book figures that will pad out the rest of the wave at Toy Fair this year.

The Marvel Now! version of Moon Knight, Tombstone, Beetle, and the Captain Universe Spider-Man will round out the set—and as we previously learned, collecting all the figures won’t give you a figure as per usual with the Marvel Legends waves. This time it’ll build the humongous wing pack for the Vulture figure.

Marvel Comics

Aside from the A-Force pack, Marvel also teased a few more action figures directly inspired by the comics. First up, Walgreens will get not one, but two exclusive Fantastic Four figures—Sue Storm, complete with HERBIE the robot, and also her brother Johnny, the Human Torch.

Most wonderfully of all though, was a teaser for the Thor: Ragnarok line coming later this year: the confirmation that, finally, the Jane Foster incarnation of Thor would be getting her own 6" figure.

Netflix Marvel Legends

Finally, although we’d already seen both Jessica Jones and the Punisher at San Diego Comic-Con last year, Hasbro revealed two more figures in its wave based on the Marvel Netflix shows—Daredevil in his updated season two look, and Elektra. Hopefully Luke and Danny Rand will get to join in on the toy fun soon enough.

All these new Marvel figures are expected to be out by the end of this year, so start girding your wallet now if you plan on picking a few up.

Some Good News About the Worst Mass Extinction in Earth's History

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Image: Wikimedia

If the fact that the Earth is careening toward a sixth mass extinction event makes you uncomfortable, good news: it turns out, the biosphere may have rebounded “quickly” after the worst mass extinction in history. That, at least, is the implication of one remarkable fossil assemblage formed less than 2 million years after the so-called Great Dying.

The asteroid-supervolcano tag team that annihilated the dinosaurs 66 million years ago gets all the attention, but the deadliest mass extinction in Earth’s history took place 186 million years earlier, at the boundary between the Permian and Triassic geologic periods. For reasons that are still unclear, but likely include a combination of intense volcanism and climate change, up to 96 percent of all marine life and 70 percent of all terrestrial vertebrate species went extinct in a geologic blink. After the Great Dying, Earth remained biologically impoverished for 10 to 20 million years—or so paleontologists assumed.

“It’s been thought for, really since people have been considering it, that it takes a long period of time to come back from one of these major mass extinction events,” Dan Stephen, paleontologist at Utah Valley University told Gizmodo.

Stephen and his colleagues are now challenging that idea, by bringing to light an remarkable trove of fossils: the so-called Paris Biota from southeastern Idaho. In the latest issue of Science Advances, the researchers describe the seven phyla and 20 orders of life they’ve identified in this ancient seabed so far—a mixture of primitive creatures from the Permian, and more modern organisms from the early Triassic, including algae, sponges, squid, lobsters, fish and marine reptiles. The most astonishing aspect of the fossil find, however, is its age: 250.6 million years old, according to radiometric dating of nearby rocks.

This prehistoric seafood buffet was kicking around just 1.3 million years after the Great Dying, when most scientists assumed the ocean was still a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Graphic depicting types of organisms present in the Bear Lake are of southeastern Idaho in the Early Triassic. Image: Brayard et. al 2017

“Unlike previous works that suggested a sluggish postcrisis recovery and a low diversity for the Early Triassic [seabed] organisms, the unexpected composition of this exceptional assemblage points toward an early and rapid post-Permian diversification for these clades,” the authors write in their paper. “Overall, it illustrates a phylogenetically diverse, functionally complex, and trophically multileveled marine ecosystem.”

Right now, it’s unclear whether the Paris Biota was unique, or indicative of a broader pattern of rapid recovery. Fossil beds from the early Triassic are rare, and, while most features a lower degree of diversity than the Paris Biota, preservation issues could be skewing the record.

“Part of the tricky thing here is that the things that have hard parts are more likely to get fossilized than the things that are soft,” Stephen explained. “And it turns out, this particular locality in Idaho has really good preservation of softer critters,” which could help explain its unusually high diversity.

To build out the story, Stephen and his colleagues are on the hunt for other high-diversity fossil beds from the dawn of the Triassic. “There’s a handful of places around world that have this indication of diverse ecosystems,” he said. “Right now, we’re not entirely sure if it was just an isolated phenomenon or more widespread.”

Either way, the study strikes a hopeful note into what’s generally a pretty dismal topic, by hinting that complex ecosystems can emerge anew shortly after a mass extinction—even if the creatures that inherit the Earth bear little resemblance to those of the past.

The relevance to our present-day situation, at the dawn of the Anthropocene, in which species are disappearing at an estimated 1,000 times the background extinction rate, is not lost on the scientists who study deep time.

“For a lot of us paleontologists, we look at what’s going on in the present day very seriously,” Stephen said. “We see in the fossil record how large these disruptions are. 1.5 million years [to recover] is pretty fast for the geologic record, so perhaps [this study] does offer hope for the planet. But perhaps not so much for us humans.”

[Science Advances]