Analogue’s Mega Sg is the Sega Genesis Mini alternative for the discerning retro gaming fan

The official Sega Genesis Mini is coming in September and hopes to capitalize on some of the retro gaming hype that turned the Super Nintendo and NES Mini Classic editions into best-sellers. But there’s already a modern piece of hardware out there capable of playing Sega Genesis games on your HDTV — plus Mega Drive, Master System and Sega CD, too.

The Analogue Mega Sg is the third in a series of reference-quality, FPGA-based retro consoles from Analogue, a company that prides itself on accuracy in old-school gaming. It provides unparalleled, non-emulated gameplay with zero lag and full 1080p output to work with your HD or even 4K TV in a way no other old-school gaming hardware can.

For $189.99 (which is just about double the asking price of the Sega Genesis Mini), you get the console itself, an included Master System cartridge adapter, an HDMI cable and a USB cable for power supply (plus a USB plug, though, depending on your TV, you might be able to power it directly). The package also includes a silicon pad should you want to use it with original Sega CD hardware, which plugs into the bottom of the SG hardware just like it did with the original Genesis. It includes two ports that support original wired Genesis controllers, or you can also opt to pick up an 8bitdo M30 wireless Genesis controller and adapter, which retails for $24.99.

Like the Nt mini did for NES, and the Super Nt did for SNES before it, the Mega Sg really delivers when it comes to performance. Games look amazing on my 4K LG OLED television, and I can choose from a variety of video output settings to tune it to my liking, including adding simulated retro scaliness and more to make it look more like your memory of playing on an old CRT television.

Sound is likewise excellent — those opening notes of Ecco the Dolphin sounded fantastic rendered in 48KHz 16-bit stereo coming out of my Sonos sound system. Likewise, Sonic’s weird buzzsaw razor whine came through exactly as remembered, but definitely in higher definition than anything that actually played out of my old TV speakers as a kid.

Even if you don’t have a pile of original Sega cartridges sitting around ready to play (though I bet you do if you’re interested in this piece of kit), the Mega Sg has something to offer: On board, you get a digital copy of the unreleased Sega Genesis game “Hardcore,” which was nearly complete in 1994 but which went unreleased. It’s been finished and renamed “Ultracore,” and you can run it from the console’s main menu as soon as you plug it in and fire it up.

Analogue plans to add more capabilities to the Mega Sg in the future, with cartridge adapters that will allow it to run Mark III, Game Gear, Sega MyCard, SG-1000 and SC-3000 games, too. These will all be supported by the FPGA Analogue designed for the Mega Sg, too, so they’ll also be running natively, not emulated, for a true recreation of the original gaming experience.

Analogue Mega Sg 8

If you’re really into classic games, and care a lot about accuracy, this is definitely the best way to play Sega games on modern TVs — and it’s also just super fun.

Uber lays off 400 as cost-cutting efforts ramp up

Uber is laying off about one third of its 1,200-person strong marketing department in an effort to slash costs and make operations more efficient following its public debut and first quarter losses of $1 billion.

The layoffs were first reported by The New York Times.

About 400 people in Uber’s marketing department were laid off across its 75 offices globally, according to the company. Uber’s latest public global headcount was 24,494 global employees as of March 31, 2019.

Jill Hazelbaker, who leads marketing and public affairs at Uber, and CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told employees Monday that the marketing team would have a more centralized structure, according to an internal email viewed by TechCrunch. 

The reorganized marketing team will be under the leadership of Mike Strickman, vice president of performance marketing, who joined from TripAdvisor a month ago, and another soon-to-be-hired head of global marketing. Strickman will oversee performance marketing, CRM and analytics, while the global marketing executive will manage the heads of product marketing, brand, Eats, B2B, research, planning and creative.

The layoffs are the latest cost-driven changes to occur at the company since it went public in May.

Many of Uber’s teams are “too big, which creates overlapping work, makes for unclear decision owners, and can lead to mediocre results,” Khosrowshahi said in an email sent to employees and shared with TechCrunch. “As a company, we can do more to keep the bar high, and expect more of ourselves and each other.”

Khosrowshahi said the restructuring aims to put the marketing team, and the company, back on track.

“Today, there’s a general sense that while we’ve grown fast, we’ve slowed down. You can see it in Pulse Survey feedback and All Hands questions, and you can feel it in much of our day-to-day work. This happens naturally as companies get bigger, but it is something we need to address, and quickly,” he wrote.

Uber’s first quarterly earnings report as a publicly traded company gave a snapshot of a growing business with stunning operational losses. Uber’s revenue grew 20%, to $3.1 billion, compared to $2.5 billion in the same period last year. And its gross bookings rose 34%, to $14.6 billion, in the first quarter, with Uber Eats driving much of that growth.

But its loss from operations exploded 116%, to $1 billion, in the first quarter compared to the same year-ago period.

In June, chief operating officer Barney Harford  and chief marketing officer Rebecca Messina stepped down as part of an organizational shakeup put into motion just a month after the ride-hailing company went public.

At the time, Khosrowshahi explained in an email to employees that the changes were prompted by his decision to more directly control core parts of the business. Khosrowshahi told employees that he wants to be even more involved in the day-to-day operations of its biggest businesses, the core platform of Rides and Eats, and has decided they should report directly to him.

How to Take Advantage of the Black Supermoon for Optimal Stargazing

Photo: Alyssa Boobyer (Unsplash)

If stargazing is on your summer agenda, then dust off your telescope: thanks to black supermoons, the next two weekends will be ideal. Here’s what that means and how to make the most of these extra-dark nights.

What is a black supermoon?

Each lunar cycle has a new moon—the point at which the sun and moon are aligned, so that the sun and Earth on opposite sides of the moon. There’s typically one new moon every month, but sometimes our modern calendar doesn’t totally synch up with the lunar cycle, so sometimes, one month can have two new moons. When that happens, the second new moon of the month is called a “black moon.” According to the Farmer’s Almanac, “black moon” isn’t an official astrological term, isn’t particularly well-known, and doesn’t come with folklore traditions associated with other colorful moons, like blue moons or blood moons.

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The upcoming black moon is also technically a supermoon, Travel and Leisure reports, because the moon will be near the closest point to Earth while it orbits the planet:

“That happens every month, so in theory there’s a “supermoon” once per month. This month, the moon comes closest to Earth while also being a New Moon. Since a New Moon is almost directly between Earth and the Sun, only the far side of the Moon is illuminated, so nothing is visible from Earth. This kind of “supermoon” is one you cannot see.”

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What happens during a black supermoon?

Like other new moons, black supermoons will basically be invisible to the naked eye, because, as the Farmer’s Almanac says, “the moon is not illuminated by the sun and seems to disappear from the night sky.” In other words, without the light from the moon the sky will be super-dark, so if it’s not cloudy, conditions will be perfect for stargazing.

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When is a black supermoon?

It all depends on where you are. If you live in most of North America, the next black moon will be this Wednesday, July 31, 2019, at 11:12 P.M. ET. But if you’re located in the Canadian Maritimes, Europe, or anywhere else that’s east of the Eastern Time Zone, the next black moon will occur on August 30, 2019.

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What to look for during the black supermoon

According to Travel and Leisure, there is a 10-day period around the black supermoon where it’s going to be darker at night than usual, making it easier to see things like galaxies, constellations and shooting stars. If you’re in the zone where the black supermoon is occurring on Wednesday of this week, now is the time to get out at night: the optimal stargazing nights are July 25 to August 3.

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It just so happens that this summer is a particularly good time to see the Milky Way, because the Earth is tilted towards it right now. Your best bet of spotting the arch of the Milky Way is to go somewhere as dark as possible—ideally somewhere at least 40 miles outside of the nearest town—so not having a moon around will definitely help make it more visible. In this environment (and again, assuming there are no clouds) the Milky Way should be visible from around 10 p.m. If you don’t see it right away, make sure to give your eyes time to adjust to the darkness for at least 20 minutes.

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And if that wasn’t enough, it also just so happens to be a good time to spot some shooting stars, courtesy of the Southern Delta Aquariids meteor shower. Though only around 15 shooting stars are expected each hour during the night, they should be pretty bright, and without all that moonlight, should be even easier to spot.

Instant Ramen Makes a Superior Breakfast

Photo: Claire Lower

Traveling can open your eyes to so many things. Just recently, on my way to a sous vide conference, I saw a woman eating a full-blown thing of Cup Noodles at 5:10 in the dang a.m. Obviously, this woman is a hero, and should be revered as such.

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Why eat instant oatmeal (which is mushy and bland), when you could eat instant ramen (which is toothsome and packed with umami)? Much like savory oatmeal, breakfast ramen can be customized almost endlessly, but I highly recommend topping it with some sort of egg, be it poached directly in the broth, or boiled and marinated. If you go the poached route, remove the noodles with tongs first, set them in a bowl, then poach your egg in the simmering broth for three minutes. Make a little dent in the center of the ramen and, using a wooden spoon, transfer the egg to the dent. Pour the broth into the bowl along the edge so as not to disturb the egg. If you go the ramen egg route, simply slice and serve.

If you’re enjoying a more leisurely morning, I recommend frying some bacon lardons, and frying some sliced mushrooms in the rendered bacon fat, before adding both to your breakfast noodle soup. If you’re in a hurry, chopped ham and blistered cherry tomatoes are two quicker but still delicious options, as are last night’s roasted vegetables.

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Photo: Claire Lower

If you don’t feel like sipping hot broth for some reason, I encourage you to embrace fried noodles, and I implore you to fry them (once again) in rendered bacon fat, along with whatever vegetables you desire, top your creation with a fried egg, and garnish with finely chopped scallions, sesame seeds, and hot sauce, if you’re into that kind of thing.

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A guide to Virtual Beings and how they impact our world

Money from big tech companies and top VC firms is flowing into the nascent “virtual beings” space. Mixing the opportunities presented by conversational AI, generative adversarial networks, photorealistic graphics, and creative development of fictional characters, “virtual beings” envisions a near-future where characters (with personalities) that look and/or sound exactly like humans are part of our day-to-day interactions.

Last week in San Francisco, entrepreneurs, researchers, and investors convened for the first Virtual Beings Summit, where organizer and Fable Studio CEO Edward Saatchi announced a grant program. Corporates like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft are pouring resources into conversational AI technology, chip-maker Nvidia and game engines Unreal and Unity are advancing real-time ray tracing for photorealistic graphics, and in my survey of media VCs one of the most common interests was “virtual influencers”.

The term “virtual beings” gets used as a catch-all categorization of activities that overlap here. There are really three separate fields getting conflated though:

  1. Virtual Companions
  2. Humanoid Character Creation
  3. Virtual Influencers

These can overlap — there are humanoid virtual influencers for example — but they represent separate challenges, separate business opportunities, and separate societal concerns. Here’s a look at these fields, including examples from the Virtual Beings Summit, and how they collectively comprise this concept of virtual beings:

Virtual companions

Virtual companions are conversational AI that build a unique 1-to-1 relationship with us, whether to provide friendship or utility. A virtual companion has personality, gauges the personality of the user, retains memory of prior conversations, and uses all that to converse with humans like a fellow human would. They seem to exist as their own being even if we rationally understand they are not.

Virtual companions can exist across 4 formats:

  1. Physical presence (Robotics)
  2. Interactive visual media (social media, gaming, AR/VR)
  3. Text-based messaging
  4. Interactive voice

While pop culture depictions of this include Her and Ex Machina, nascent real-world examples are virtual friend bots like Hugging Face and Replika as well as voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. The products currently on the market aren’t yet sophisticated conversationalists or adept at engaging with us as emotional creatures but they may not be far off from that.

Ordermark, the online-delivery order management service for restaurants, raises $18 million

Los Angeles-based Ordermark, the online delivery management service for restaurants founded by the scion of the famous, family-owned Canters Deli, said it has raised $18 million in a new round of funding.

The round was led by Boulder-based Foundry Group. All of Ordermark’s previous investors came back to provide additional capital for the company’s new funding, including: TenOneTen Ventures, Vertical Venture Partners, Mucker Capital, Act One Ventures, and Nosara Capital, which led the Series A funding.

“We created Ordermark to help my family’s restaurant adapt and thrive in the mobile delivery era, and then realized that as a company, we could help other restaurants experiencing the same challenges. We’ve been gratified to see positive results come in from our restaurant customers nationwide,” said Alex Canter, in a statement.

A fourth generation restauranteur, Canter built the technology on the back of his family deli’s own needs. The company has integrated with point of sale systems, kitchen displays, and accounting tools, and with last mile delivery companies.

As the company expands it’s looking to increase its sales among the virtual restaurants powered by cloud kitchens and delivery services like Uber Eats, Seamless/Grubhub and others, the company said in a statement.

Although the business isn’t profitable, Ordermark is now in over 3,000 restaurants. The company has integrations with over fifty ordering services.

Porsche Taycan reservations surpass 30,000 ahead of world debut

Porsche has secured 30,000 deposits for the Taycan more than a month before the German automaker will unveil the all-electric sports cars, numbers that suggest there’s enough to demand to support the company’s plans to produce 40,000 units in its first year.

The latest reservation numbers were cited by Bloomberg and Porsche HR head Andreas Haffner in an interview with German business publication Handelsblatt.

Porsche initially targeted 20,000 Taycan electric vehicles for the first year of production. But interest in the vehicle prompted the automaker to double its planned annual production to 40,000 in its first year. Reservations require a 2,500 euro deposit ($2,785).

If Porsche is able to produce and then deliver 40,000 Taycans in its first year of production, the electric sports car would leap ahead of some of its iconic internal combustion models, including the 718 Boxster and the 911. Porsche sold 35,573 911s and 24,750 718 vehicles globally in 2018.

The Taycan would still trail Porsche’s other popular crossover and SUV models such as the Cayenne and Macan.

The Taycan could also put pressure on the Tesla Model S, the popular luxury electric sedan that has long dominated this niche in the industry. Tesla combines Model S and X delivery numbers. In 2018, the company delivered 99,394 Model S and X vehicles.

The Model S has had a number of updates since production began in 2012, but it hasn’t had a significant facelift since April 2016 when the front fascia was changed to look more like the Model X.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said earlier this month that the company doesn’t plan to “refresh” its Model X or Model S vehicles. In automotive speak, refreshed typically means small revisions to a vehicle model that extend beyond the typical yearly updates made by manufacturers. A refresh is not a major redesign, although there’s often a noticeable change to the vehicle model.

The company will make minor ongoing changes to the luxury electric sedan and sport utility vehicle, Musk said at that time. Even with those continuous updates, potential customers could opt for the newer Taycan.

Porsche isn’t resting on the novelty of its first electric vehicle to drive sales. The company is rolling out other incentives, notably plans to give owners of the Taycan three years of free charging at hundreds of Electrify America public stations across the United States. Electrify America is the entity set up by Volkswagen as part of its settlement with U.S. regulators over its diesel emissions cheating scandal.day.

The automaker also is making an additional $70 million investment to add DC fast chargers to Porsche dealerships.

When Is Your Samsung or Motorola Phone Getting Android Q?

Now that we’re on Beta 5 of Android Q, we’re getting very close to the official release of the new version of the operating system. Google has only intended to release six total betas before the final release candidate goes live, and the company has narrowed the Android Q launch window down to the “third quarter” of this year. In other words, Android Q is hitting soon, but with an important caveat—just because Google releases Android Q doesn’t mean that you’re going to get Android Q as soon as it comes out.

If you’re on a Pixel phone, you’re set; expect to see Android Q sometime in August, when Google is likely to release the final version (based on past releases). If you’re using any other manufacturer’s Android smartphone, however, your results may vary wildly—just scan through Android Authority’s timeline for Android Pie if you want to see how crazy the delays can get.

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While we have no idea when each manufacturer is going to launch Android Q for their various devices—ahh, fragmentation—it’s possible to make a few educated guesses based on how this process has gone previously. PhoneArena’s Peter Kostadinov has crunched the timelines and come up with a few suggestions for both Samsung and Motorola:

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Samsung

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If you’re expecting to pull down Android Q for your fancy-new Galaxy S10 or S10+ in August, think again. Unless Samsung performs a holiday miracle, you probably won’t be able to try out its customized version of Android Q until early 2020.

Looking back at Android Pie and the latest Samsung handsets available at the time, the S9/S9+ and Note 9, Samsung rolled out the operating system between December of 2018 (international versions of the S9/S9+) and March of 2019 (unlocked, Verizon, and T-Mobile versions of the Note 9). Owners of the Galaxy S9/S9+ on AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon seemed to get Pie a little earlier than those on T-Mobile or those with unlocked devices; AT&T subscribers with a Galaxy Note 9 got Android Pie earlier than the other carriers.

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Going forward, Kostadinov doesn’t expect the timeline to change for Android Q:

Galaxy S10/S10+

  • International: Late December 2019 / Early January 2020
  • US Unlocked: February 2020
  • Verizon: Late January 2020
  • T-Mobile: Late January 2020
  • AT&T: Late January 2020
  • Sprint: Late January 2020

As for the upcoming Galaxy Note 10, that is expected to ship with Android Pie come its August debut. It will probably receive Android Q along a similar timeframe as the Galaxy Note 9 and Android Pie: around February/March of 2020 for everyone but owners of the international version of the device, who might see Android Q in mid-January.

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And, yes, your slightly older Galaxy S9/S9+ and Galaxy Note 9 are also expected to get Android Q, slightly after the release of the operating system for Samsung’s newest Galaxy-class smartphones.

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Motorola

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The company took some time to roll out Android Pie to its various devices—starting in November of last year with the Moto One Power, and ending in July for the Moto Z2 Force and Moto Z3 (Verizon’s versions). To this, Kostadinov said it best: “Motorola is all over the place when it comes to software updates.”

Accordingly, here are his estimates for when various Motorola smartphones might get to play with Android Q:

  • Moto Z4: January/February 2020
  • Moto Z3/Z3 Play: March/April 2020
  • Moto G7 smartphones: February 2020
  • Moto G6/G6 Play: March/April 2020
  • Moto Z2 series: May/June 2020

If you compare the timelines, you’ll note that the estimates for some of these phones are pushed out a bit for Android Q versus Android Pie. That’s because Motorola will probably prioritize updating newer devices, like the G7, over older devices like its Z2 series of smartphones. This makes sense to us, even though it doesn’t make waiting any more fun.

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How to Protect Yourself From Infections While Swimming

Every summer, there are scary news stories about people who catch infections—and sometimes die—from germs in the water. Here’s what you should know about some of the high-profile (but rare!) infections that have been in the news lately.

Brain-eating amoebas

Yep, there’s really an amoeba that crawls up your nose and destroys your brain tissue. Naegleria fowleri normally lives in warm water and eats bacteria. It can’t harm you if it gets on your skin or even if you swallow it, but if it’s in water that gets splashed or snorted up your nose, it’s possible to become infected.

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It’s an especially scary illness, because by the time a person shows symptoms, they’re usually seriously ill. There is no medication that’s known to be effective, although there are a few things that doctors will try. The CDC has more information on N. fowleri infection here.

The good news is that it’s extremely rare—so rare that every time somebody dies from it, they make the news. There were only 145 reported cases between 1962 and 2018. If you want to be extra cautious, avoid swimming in warm freshwater, or at least wear nose clips and do your best to keep water out of your nose.

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Vibrio infections

Several species of Vibrio bacteria live in the ocean and can make you sick. Most commonly they cause food poisoning (one of the risks of eating raw shellfish, including oysters) but they can also infect skin if you go swimming with an open wound. Vibrio infections can range from mild to serious, and in some cases can lead to death or require amputation.

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Vibrio is most common in warm salty (including brackish) water, with the risky season extending from May through October in many places where it occurs. Thanks to climate change, warm waters and thus Vibrio infections are becoming more common.

To protect yourself when swimming, the CDC recommends that you avoid salt or brackish water if you have open wounds, or cover them with a waterproof bandage.

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Update Your Android Nougat, Oreo, or Pie Device to Block Video Malware

It’s time again for another PSA about updating your old- to semi-old Android devices, this time to protect your smartphones and tablets from a newly discovered exploit that could let hackers take control of an Android device via malicious code embedded in video files played on the device.

The vulnerability—described in detail in a recent Android Developers security bulletin—affects all Android devices running Nougat (version 7), Oreo (version 8), and Pie (version 9). Google rolled out a security update on July 5 that patches the exploit, and it’s worth downloading and installing your device for some extra peace of mind. (So far, Google hasn’t seen any evidence of this vulnerability being exploited by attackers, and updating your device is the best way to ensure it stays that way.)

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You don’t need to worry about playing videos in apps like Messenger, YouTube, or WhatsApp, since they modify the original video file, thus disabling the hack. If you’re downloading random videos from the web to watch on your phone, however, Google’s latest patch is a must-have—just in case.

How to install Google’s security patch

Screenshot: Brendan Hesse

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To check if your device is already up to date, go to System > About Phone, then tap “Android version.” (note: this may be different depending on which version of Android you’re running and your specific device). If your device has installed the July 5th security update or later, then your device is safe. If not, you should update Android immediately to patch the security bug.

As with finding your version number, downloading and installing the new patch will vary slightly based on your device and OS version. However, those with a Pixel running Android 9—which is what we’re using—can download the patch by going to Settings > System > Advanced > System update. Tap “Check for Update” and install the update if one is available.

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