It’s the beginning of the end for NASA’s Cassini spacecraft

Additionally, Cassini will continue investigating the mysterious “propellers” discovered near Saturn’s main A ring, grabbing high-resolution images that should reveal more details about their structure. The propellers’ existence means there are unseen moonlets hanging out around Saturn, which is important because “moonlet” is a deeply adorable word.

It's the beginning of the end for NASA's Cassini spacecraft

Cassini will prepare for its descent into Saturn’s atmosphere in April, and in September, it’ll make the final, fiery plunge. NASA launched the spacecraft on October 15th, 1997.

“After nearly 20 years in space, the mission is drawing near its end because the spacecraft is running low on fuel,” NASA writes. “The Cassini team carefully designed the finale to conduct an extraordinary science investigation before sending the spacecraft into Saturn to protect its potentially habitable moons.”

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2016/11/30/nasa-cassini-saturn-end-final-mission-rings/

NES Classic wireless receiver solves the short cord problem

This package includes the aforementioned Retro Receiver along with the company’s “NES30” wireless controller. It’s visually similar to the classic NES controller, but has four buttons on its face instead of the traditional two. More notably, the Bluetooth-enabled Retro Receiver lets you use many other controllers with the NES Classic, including the PS3, PS4 and just about any other Bluetooth controller you can think of.

There’s no doubt that this removes a bit of that “classic” experience from using Nintendo’s mini console, and we’re not talking about the experience of scooting right up to your TV to play. Nintendo has always made excellent controllers, and we’re guessing these 8Bitdo options won’t feel quite as nice as what Nintendo includes. And then there’s the price — $39.99 for a controller and receiver isn’t exactly cheap, especially when the NES Classic itself only costs $60.

But for a lot of people, being able to get off the floor and play comfortably from the couch will be worth the cost. The NES30 Retro Receiver bundle ships on December 16th, but if you can’t wait that long, remember there are cheaper solutions out there, like a simple extension cable that’ll only set you back about $10.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2016/11/30/nes-classic-8bitdo-wireless-controller-receiver/

Netflix’s offline viewing mode was inevitable


Users genuinely need it

There’s a reason Netflix subscribers have been demanding offline support. It’s becoming all but a necessity, and that’s largely Netflix’s fault. It’s turned on-demand video into a drug, and now we need our fix wherever possible, be it on the subway or a plane. Offline support will also be useful for people who don’t have lots of mobile data to waste on streaming video.

In a strange way, it also seems like a fitting feature to debut after the “Netflix Vista” spoof ad, a Black Mirror tie-in which showed people ignoring the beauty of the world around them in favor of watching Netflix directly in their eyes. That ad tries to push people to get out and live their lives, but in reality Netflix is making it easier than ever to ignore everything so you can catch up on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (which you should totally watch).

Netflix's offline viewing mode was inevitable

Amazon has been doing it for years

If you’re not a media addict, you probably didn’t know that Amazon has been letting its Prime customers download streaming videos for years. At first, offline viewing was exclusive to Fire tablet owners, but last year Amazon opened it up to iOS and Android devices as well. Amazon has, for some reason, done a poor job of marketing the feature (so much so that a few of our editors didn’t even know it existed). It’s also annoying to set up if you’re on Android, since it involves downloading Amazon’s app store just to grab the Prime Video app.

If you haven’t used it, Amazon’s offline mode works a lot like Netflix’s version: There’s a choice selection of shows and films you can download, and there’s also a time limit for how long you can keep content (there still has to be a reason for you to buy them, after all). It’s a particularly great way to catch up on Amazon’s original series (check out Transparent, Bosch and Mozart in the Jungle), but you can also download some shows and films from other studios as well.

Amazon is usually tight-lipped about metrics, but analysts estimate that there are currently between 54 and 69 million Prime members in the US. They also estimate around 60 percent of those subscribers actually watch Prime Video content at least once a week. Netflix, in comparison, has 47 million members in the US and 86 million globally. With more original content and better licensing deals heading to Amazon (it’s scored plenty of new films and TV deals), Netflix can’t afford to sit back and let a major competitor outdo it feature wise, as well. It’s hard to say if Amazon’s offline support directly influenced Netflix’s decision, but I’d wager it had some weight.

Netflix's offline viewing mode was inevitable

It’s an easy way to entice new subscribers and boost viewership

Netflix has done a remarkable (one could describe it as frightening) job of filling up our free time at home. It helped make “binge-watching” a reality, and at this point Netflix streaming accounts for more than a third of US internet traffic during prime time. But where does it go from here? So far, its price hikes haven’t affected subscriber growth, but who knows how long that’ll last. It’s also spending even more money on original content, and subscribers continue to criticize its inadequate film library.

By offering offline support at no extra cost, Netflix has an easy way to convince even more people to sign up. And, perhaps even more importantly, it could serve as a way to keep current subscribers onboard. And depending on how much people actually use the feature, it could also lead to significant viewership growth for all of its content. That could end up being useful when it needs to woo investors or potential content partners.

And yes, it’s necessary for international expansion

Netflix has already made this point pretty clear, but it’s one worth considering further. It’s true, that as the company expands to areas where internet access is spotty, it’ll need some way to ensure people can actually watch videos without interruption. Netflix will also be competing against other services in those markets that might offer downloads and cheap bootlegs. And, as usual, Netflix will have to deal with the omnipresent specter of piracy. If it doesn’t offer its own legal downloads, the pirates win.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2016/11/30/netflixs-offline-viewing-mode-was-inevitable/

Netflix says it is finally adding offline playback


Airplane mode. Road trip mode. Stuck-in-the-subway-for-20-minutes mode. Your favorite stories are now available for download any time. pic.twitter.com/g7QZA3TyE8

— Netflix US (@netflix) November 30, 2016

In a press release that just dropped, Netflix says that the feature will arrive later today in an app update for iOS and Android. The feature is pretty straightforward — when a show or movie is available to save offline, you’ll see a little “download” button. Netflix notes that many of its big shows, including Orange is The New Black, Narcos and The Crown, are available to download today. Notably, those are all Netflix original shows — we’re not sure if things from other studios will be made available just yet. And it most definitely seems like the entire catalog will not be made available all at once — but this is still a pretty big deal considering Netflix consistently rejected this feature in the past.

Oddly enough, Netflix publicly pondered offline playback pretty recently, but pitched it as a way to make the product more appealing in developing markets where the internet infrastructure doesn’t allow for continuous streaming like most of us in the US can experience. It’s probably a good idea not to restrict a feature that so many customers have been asking for, and that its competitor Amazon Prime has offered for years.

Update: the iOS app is live(Android too!), and so we’ve gotten a chance to see just what’s available. Netflix helpfully groups all of the offline content in a tab so you can see exactly what you can download. And it’s a mix of originals and content from other sources — a bunch of NBC shows including Parks and Recreation, The Office and 30 Rock are available, as well as movies including Boyhood, Dazed and Confused, Minions and many others. Obviously, we haven’t had a chance to dig through the catalog too much just yet, but rest assured that there is plenty of high-profile content you can save in offline mode.

Netflix also says that regardless of what plan you’re using, you’ll be able to use the download feature — it’s good to see they aren’t using this as a way to upsell people to its higher-priced plans. The one catch we’ve discovered thus far is quality. The default “standard” quality mode appears to be a pretty low-resolution mode, and bumping it up to “higher” quality still doesn’t make video download at the highest resolution available. Streams still definitely look better — but this will be less of a problem for those watching on a phone. If you’re on a tablet with a high-resolution display, however, be aware that things won’t look quite as sharp as usual.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2016/11/30/netflix-adding-offline-playback-mode/

‘Halo 5’ is getting an eSports reality TV show

The show isn’t coming completely out of the blue. ESL, Pilgrim and Lionsgate announced cooperation on eSports programming back in May, and the Halo show is the first project to emerge from the team-up. It’s definitely a gamble, though. While the eSports field is growing rapidly and has had its share of TV coverage, it’s hard to say how well conventional TV viewers will respond to a serialized show about competitive video gaming… especially for a title that’s a year old before production even starts. With that said, the fictional Halo web series Forward Unto Dawn got an Emmy nomination. At this point, we wouldn’t rule out another success.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2016/11/30/halo-5-esports-reality-tv-show/

‘Red Dead Redemption’ is coming to PlayStation 4 December 6th

Unfortunately, PlayStation Now is only available in North America, the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands. If you happen to live in one of those areas, expect to pay $20 for a month of game streaming or $45 for three months worth of access. Handing over those funds will allow you to play over 450 titles though, in addition to the aforementioned frontier adventures that are scheduled to arrive next week.


Red Dead Redemption and Undead Nightmare Coming December 6th to @PlayStation Now: https://t.co/96AY7OZgDO pic.twitter.com/T8HnJVVvqH

— Rockstar Games (@RockstarGames) November 30, 2016

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2016/11/30/red-dead-redemption-playstation-now-december-6th/

Lucid Motors building $700 million EV factory in Arizona

Factory construction will be overseen by Brian Barron, the company’s director of engineering. Lucid showed off its prototype, code-named Atvus, that was first (officially) unveiled at the LA Auto Show earlier this month. Not a lot is known about the car, other than that it’ll have at least 300 miles of range, autonomous features and roughly the same interior space as a BMW 7-series. The company will limit production to 10,000 units in late 2018, and ramp up by 60,000 per year, Lucid CTO Peter Rawlinson told The Verge.

Lucid Motors building $700 million EV factory in Arizona

The company has reportedly raised $131 million in funding, and will look for more cash early next year. Investors include Chinese electronics firm LeEco, Venture Rockefeller, Japan’s Misui & Co. and Beijing Auto, but Rawlinson says Lucid Motors is primarily an American firm. The company tested its electric powertrain using a modified Mercedes-Benz van, and released a video showing that it could hit 0-60 mph in 2.6 seconds, faster than a “Ludicrous”-equipped Tesla Model S.

LeEco is also behind two other electric car ventures: its own LeSee and Faraday Future. It recently unveiled plans for a $1.8 billion LeSee plant in China and Faraday Future has broken ground on a $1 billion factory near Las Vegas, Nevada. However, construction has temporarily halted at the Faraday Future site due to missed bill payments, according to state treasurer Dan Schwartz, and Jia recently admitted that LeEco was running out of cash.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2016/11/30/lucid-motors-building-700-million-ev-factory-in-arizona/

The Gate one-ups other smart locks with a built-in camera

The Gate is a WiFi-connected deadbolt that features video calling and a motion-activated security camera. Say your kid is a latchkey but forgot her keys at school. Rather than having to park her keister on the front steps to wait for you to get home, she just has to press the Call button on the Gate. This sends a notification to your phone and activates the 720p color camera. You can speak to her via the app (there are speakers and a mic embedded in the lock assembly) to remotely unlock the door for her. Problem solved.

And for routine guests like a dog walker or housecleaner, you can text temporary unlock codes to their phones that they can punch into the keypad and then easily enter the house. They won’t need to download any apps to use these codes either, since the code arrives via SMS.

Unlike the August Smart Lock, which relies on a proximity Bluetooth signal to activate, the Gate uses your home’s WiFi connection. It doesn’t use a gateway, which preserves precious router ports. Plus, all of its communications, video and audio recordings are 256-bit encrypted and stored in the cloud. Like other smart locks, the Gate is battery-powered, but rather than making you struggle with cramming AA batteries into the lock housing, the entire back plate of the Gate lifts off, exposing a micro-USB port with which to recharge the onboard Li-ion cell.

I was recently afforded a short demo of the Gate lock at the company’s office in San Francisco and came away generally impressed. The lock was as responsive to remote commands as the August I own. The camera resolution was great and maintained a clear image of my face in everything but immediate backlight. I would have liked to see the camera offer an infrared option, but that shortcoming can be fixed by simply leaving the front porch light on.

The Gate successfully completed its Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign yesterday, raising 291 percent of its initial funding goal. The company should have units out to both campaign backers and the general public by the first quarter of next year.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2016/11/30/the-gate-smart-locks-hands-on/

The Morning After: Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Put a tablet on itAmazon’s next Echo could include a touchscreen

The Morning After: Wednesday, November 30, 2016

In case you were wondering what’s next for Amazon’s Alexa-connected devices, a Bloomberg rumor suggests the answer is a 7-inch embedded touchscreen. The rumor points to a “premium” device with the display built-in, running (of course) a version of its Android-based FireOS, optimized to show info like forecasts, calendar events and news.


Timewasters that don’t involve fake newsFacebook Messenger supports 17 multiplayer games

Facebook’s Instant Articles have been joined by Instant Games, a suite of experiences built into its Messenger app and web experience that lets friends play together without installing anything extra. “Pac-Man,” “Words with Friends,” “Galaga,” “Arkanoid” and more are available, complete with leaderboards for maximum competition over bragging rights.


What a twist!SF Muni hacker gets hacked

In a turn of events, Brian Krebs reports that the hacker who attempted to ransom the SFMTA’s computers had their systems hacked, revealing quite a bit about how their business works. The data exposed indicates the individual has pulled this scheme on other companies running vulnerable Oracle server products. The transit agency told its attacker to kick rocks, however, restoring the systems from a backup instead of paying up. The lesson here? Back up everything regularly, and don’t use easily-guessed password reset questions.


It’s all about verticalityDinosaurs are a perfect fit for VR

The Morning After: Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Since we’re still in the early days of VR, everyone is trying to get a handle on what experiences work best. Plop on a headset, and you’ll quickly notice that many developers have picked an element straight from our kindergarten favorites list: dinosaurs. As Oculus artist Derrick Hammond explains, they “have an epic sense of scale that immediately makes you appreciate the potential of VR.”


Super Mario World, for realUniversal Osaka, Orlando and Hollywood are getting Nintendo video game areas

The Morning After: Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Now we know a bit more about the team-up between Universal Parks & Resorts and Nintendo, like where the integrated experiences will appear. According to execs, visiting the themed areas will make tourists feel like “they’ve walked into their favorite gaming platform.” Most of the details are still fuzzy but expect to see the new areas open up separately at each park over the next few years.


MDMA as a prescription drug? The FDA just approved large-scale trials using ecstasy to treat PTSD

The Morning After: Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has gained approval to expand its studies using MDMA as part of a treatment for people suffering from PTSD. They’re trying to find out if drug-assisted sessions combined with therapy can help patients when currently approved methods don’t work. If it’s approved, the “club drug” could be available for use in treatment by 2021.


The impact of these policies go far beyond businessExtremely competitive work-visa programs face an uncertain future under President Trump

The Morning After: Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The president-elect recently released his 100-day plan that says he will call upon the Department of Labor to investigate visa programs, but not much is clear beyond that. Cherlynn Low interviewed several lawyers about the future of H-1B visas as well as other programs tech companies rely on for hiring.

But wait, there’s more…

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2016/11/30/the-morning-after-wednesday-november-30-2016/

EPA could lock in emissions rules before Trump takes office

Today, the EPA proposed leaving those rules in place without any updates, citing technical analysis that shows automakers will be able to meet the deadline. In fact, the agency says those companies will be able to comply with the guidelines for the same cost — that $200 billion figure — or less than was expected in 2012. While the review found cause to raise the efficiency numbers even further, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said leaving the standards as is to help the auto industry plan for the years ahead.

The EPA further explained that if the new standards are fully implemented, 2012-2025 model year vehicles would keep 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases out of the environment over the life of those cars. A Bloomberg study earlier this year determined that EVs will cost the same as their gas-powered counterparts by 2025 which will certainly help cut down on emissions.

“It’s clear from the extensive technical record that this program will remain affordable and effective,” said McCarthy. “This proposed decision reconfirms our confidence in the auto industry’s capacity to drive innovation and strengthen the American economy while saving drivers money at the pump and safeguarding our health, climate and environment.”

Under the terms of the emissions proposal, the EPA had a midterm deadline of April 2018 to modify the timefram or details of the rules. After conducting a review, the agency found that automakers are implementing fuel efficiency and emissions-reducing tech much faster than expected. The EPA will hold a public comment period on the matter until December 30th. When that time is up, the agency will decide whether or not to lock in the 2022-2025 model year standards. That move could happen before President Obama leaves office on January 20th.

Of course, President-elect Trump could reverse or modify the guidelines once he arrives in the White House. Trump has been critical of President Obama’s environmental policies, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see changes from from the new administration. If the EPA locks in the standards for 2025 though, it could make the task of updating them a bit more difficult.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2016/11/30/epa-fuel-efficiency-standards-2025/